In 2017, after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, a special fund was established by the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. They released a report detailing how the Heal Charlottesville Fund was able to help the community. WMRA’s Chris Boros spoke with the foundation’s CEO Brennan Gould and Chris asked her to describe how the fund got started.
Brennan Gould: The Heal Charlottesville Fund was a fund that was initially initiated immediately in the aftermath of the August 11th and 12th 2017 violence and attacks here in Charlottesville. We as a community foundation serving the region received quite an outpouring of generosity and support in those early days and we set up the Heal Charlottesville Fund as a way to receive those donations as we thought about what our community needed and how we would help to heal and to move forward from those really tragic and traumatizing events.
WMRA: And you’re releasing a report today that chronicles everything that you’ve done with the fund. What can people expect who read the report?
BG: Our response to the attacks in 2017 was a multi-pronged response. Partly because there were so many parts of our community that were impacted. There were survivors of the car attacks who needed immediate support and for some long term support. We also had a whole community that was hurting and needed to access trauma counseling. We also knew that our Jewish community was targeted by the attacks and the white supremacists so there was some very specific needs we responded to for the Jewish community. So the report talk specifically also about the way we invested in initiatives that were really getting at advancing equity in our country.
WMRA: You mentioned how the fund helped some people who were impacted by the car attack. Can you talk about Star Peterson who broke her back in the attack? You paid for her rent, right?
BG: Part of what we were thinking about a lot was that this fund and the resources through it would be flexible and nimble. We knew that survivors like Star were going to have changing needs at any given moment and we wanted to be able to be flexible to adjust as they were adjusting to their lives and to some of the challenges they were facing. So the fund covered things like rent, car payments, it supported families with food and a number of other costs including physical therapy. And we’ve heard from survivors that this fund, for a number of folks, really did fill in gaps and make it possible for them to navigate forward and adjust to longer term sources of support.
WMRA: I was surprised to read that the fund was also able to support some for-profit businesses. That’s rare, right?
BG: For a community foundation, we don’t typically support for-profit organizations. This was open to really all of our community members. It was our point of view that if you lived in this community, you had a perspective and a valuable vision for how to make it better. And part of those ideas about how to make our region more equitable came from business owners.
WMRA: When you started this fund, what was the response initially like? Were you surprised by it?
BG: We really didn’t know what to expect. We hadn’t responded to this kind of tragedy before, we didn’t have this kind of public and national attention to our community. But I have always been inspired by the incredible generosity in this community, regionally and ultimately nationally and internationally. We received gifts from across the globe. This investing and valuing in one another is really critical for us being able to thrive and contribute and belong and make our communities places where we all want to be.
WMRA: If there is one thing you hope the fund accomplished, what is it?
BG: It’s really inspiration and a message of hope and of love and generosity. I hope that when people view it, they see a community that has come together and to reckon with its own history and has really focused on how to move forward and chart a new path forward that is inclusive and equitable and just. And we hope that it inspires us all to address that and to be able to move forward together.