Dorchester Square group seeks to pay it forward
Published 10:06 am Wednesday, August 20, 2014
FRANKLIN—When the Dorchester Square Reunion Group started in 2012, a lot of what they did for the community came from dues and out of the pockets of group members, said Lamar Barrett.
Wanting to give back more than they can reasonably support, the group decided to set a goal to bring in $25,000 annually, so that they can use it to help to give back to the community. That started Saturday morning during a breakfast event at the Sportsman Association club on South Street, with the Mistress of Ceremonies being Dr. Okema Bowers.
“It is all about paying it forward,” Barrett said. “We all at some point in our lives have been fortunate enough to have had someone help out when we needed it.”
The group seeks to help people in Western Tidewater by giving back in ways including handing out school supplies, feeding people, helping the homeless get set up, providing clothing and shoes, and they also give out scholarships.
“We can’t spend $4,000, $5,000 out of our pockets every year,” Barrett said. “We need help because we can’t do this by ourselves. We need help from different businesses and different organizations.”
On Saturday, community members were invited for a breakfast not realizing that it was going to be about fundraising until they got there. Despite that, after what people heard they wanted to give.
“We wanted them to see our vision,” Barrett said. “It is about changing lives. We had this so that they could see what we wanted to do about changing lives in the Western Hampton Roads area.”
To showcase, they gave out two $500 scholarships, one to Terrence Britt Jr., and the second to Ellis “Trey” Cofield III. For dedication to the Dorchester Square group, the organization also honored Shanda Harper, who donated to help set up the scholarships.
DSRG also recognized the Sportsman Association for 44 years of service.
People also came out to provide testimonials.
When Valtonia Shaw died last year in an apartment fire in the complex, she left behind two children.
In a video presentation, the godmother of those children agreed to talk about all of the help the group has given. Clothes and beds were presented, and around Christmas time the group came back with toys.
During a community cookout last year, the group noticed a young lady with four children hanging around, and after talking to her found out she was homeless. At the end of the cookout, they gave her the leftovers and also helped her get assistance.
The group also adopted a family to help out with different things throughout the year at Dorchester Square. The final testimonial came from the Franklin Cooperative Ministry following a food donation.
Group members also said that they help out with school supplies, books to help literacy, food baskets, job readiness training programs and scholarships to help with tuition assistance and to help students participate in cultural activities.
“That was kind of good for the community to hear, to be able to say, ‘You know what, my money’s not going to waste. They are doing good things. They are not just taking our money and partying. They are actually doing stuff for us,’” Barrett said.
The group adopted the pay it forward mantra for a good reason.
“We just felt like we were fortunate when we were growing up as kids that a lot of people helped us out,” he said. “We just felt like we wanted to get a group together to pay it forward. We felt like it was the right thing to do.”
When you look at the numbers, the poverty rate and see what people in the community have, it’s easy to get down. But Barrett said a lot of good comes out of Franklin, too.
“We feel like there are a lot of kids that are crying for help, and there are adults that ignore them as well,” he said. “A lot of them have not been taught right from wrong. And that’s the importance of education for them.
“That’s why we put this together, so that they can see there is a lot of good that comes out of Franklin, Virginia.”
Barrett, Anita Phillips, Patricia Pugh-Rooks, Tracy Brooks, Raymond Barnes, Temeka Walloe, Evonne Holiday and Jackie Coker had all been residents of the housing development, and the communities of the City of Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County had all helped in some way.
They’d talked about helping give back to people in the situation that they had been in before, and it finally came to fruition at an unlikely place — the funeral of Raymond Barnes’ sister.
“When we first set out, we just felt like there was a need,” Barrett said. “This was the time to start trying to invest into the community, in which we all came from.”
Donation levels are suggested at $25, which can help with school supplies; $50, which can help provide books to improve literacy; $75, which will help provide a food basket to a family; $100 to help provide job readiness training for the unemployed; $250 to help students participate in cultural activities including travel; and $500 to help with tuition assistances for deserving high school graduates. And of course you can set your own amount as far as the donation.
For more information, contact Barrett at 860-398-2686 or email@example.com. He can also provide you with a donation form.
To donate directly, the group’s mailing address is Dorchester Square Reunion Group, 158 Graystone Trace, Suffolk, VA.
As far as the future, Barrett said he thinks bringing in $25,000 a year and putting it back into the community is a good investment. And they got off to a good start on Saturday, bringing in approximately $5,000.
“We want children to be able to live their lives and know that there is a larger world with many opportunities out there,” he said. “We think we can do a lot of good things.”