Sometimes we come across a local organization that is doing such great work for the Richmond community we want to shout about them from the rooftops. The good news is that our friends at Richmond Cycling Corps don’t need much of our help in getting the word out: the founder of the non-profit, Craig Dodson, has been nominated for a CNN Heroes award for his work with the most at-risk kids living in Richmond, VA. We recently sat with Matt Crane, the Director of Development for Richmond Cycling Corps to catch up on the work the organization does and their vision for the future.
How did you get involved with Richmond Cycling Corps?
I came in as Craig’s right-hand man on the program side in 2013. I raced bikes professionally for a long time but retired with an injury. Mountain bike racing is a huge high school sort in the state right now, but cycling is very cost prohibitive. Most of the highly-ranked competitors are in elite private schools. RCC is the only public school team – and 100% of the kids come from public housing – and we’re ranked third out of all Virginia cycling teams. Our kids have won state titles, but at the end of the day, we’re not a cycling program, we’re an outreach program. The fact that our kids are talented cyclists is just the icing on the cake.
What are some of the challenges facing the kids in their day-to-day?
These kids attend the lowest performing high schools in the state of Virginia. Their environment is bleak and violent. The youth have lost many fathers and uncles. Drug use is rampant. More importantly, public housing is its own subculture is very separated from mainstream society. The upward mobility and hope and resources that you gain by being plugged into a system for jobs, extracurricular actives, and ways to get ahead are just not present. That’s the biggest disadvantage overall – the kids are marginalized.
How do you hope to grow the program?
We have big initiatives for 2017. We purchased and renovated a building that is seven blocks from Fairfield Court and seven blocks from Mosby Court, the public housing projects where our students live. It will be located in the heart of where we serve – we’re slated to open in January. It’s important because all of our resources and programming will be located centrally near our kids. The new headquarters will house our logistics hub and social areas, including a lounge, where the kids and volunteers can hang out. Many of our youth are close to graduating high school, and we’re thinking of their next steps as they move into the world. They’ve really grown up with them. And as they grow, so do we.
How can locals get involved with Richmond Cycling Corps?
Providing much-needed funding is the ultimate way to help. We’re in the business of empowering youth who are in poverty, and it takes resources to do that. We know what we’re doing, but the organization is dependent on us gaining support from the community. That said, we’re a very lean organization. If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities like data entry and office work, administrative support always helps us! If you’re curious about what we do, come visit us at our new headquarters at 2123 Fairmount Ave. in the East End of Richmond. We can grab a coffee and take a drive around the neighborhood.