Nancy Taylor knew she had chosen her cause wisely when, back in 2015, she heard a young woman profess that Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond had helped her learn to love.
A first-year board member at the time, Nancy was helping judge the Club’s Youth of the Year competition, where she had the chance to hear powerful stories from young people about the role the Club had played in their lives. One young woman’s story, in particular, struck a chord.
“Grace* had been through a tremendous amount of adversity,” Nancy says, “and yet she was really positive and resilient.”
Nancy’s experience that day solidified her commitment to Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond; soon after, she struck up a mentoring relationship with Grace. She also dug deeper into her work on the board, and as of July 1, she’s taken on a new role: board chair.
“It was so inspiring to see the impact that the Clubs have on these kids,” Nancy says. “That was very compelling to me.”
When she started on the board, Nancy was serving as CEO of Tredegar Corporation. “When you’re running a company, you get asked by a myriad of nonprofits to serve on the board,” she says. “And a lot of them are just looking for your name and your money. I wanted to be more engaged than that.”
In working with Grace, Nancy has not only deepened her involvement but also gained perspective on the numerous hurdles children in disadvantaged circumstances face.
“My experience with her really dovetails with the strategy we’ve been developing to help transform the overall mission of the organization,” she adds. “It’s given me firsthand insights into the needs that we’re now trying to address.”
One of those needs is a basic one: support. Grace was a high school senior when she told her story during Youth of the Year. While youth thrive at Boys & Girls Clubs in elementary and middle school, their connection with the Clubs often wanes during their high school years and during their transition into adulthood. Strengthening that bond was a major focus of Create New Statistics, a comprehensive and highly successful capital campaign for Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond.
“There are gaps in the system that just don’t make sense,” Nancy says. “We’re looking at young adults because there’s really not a lot of support out there for them. A lot of people are working with preschools and elementary schools. But quite frankly, the problems get harder as these kids get older, and fewer organizations are doing work surrounding young adults.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, which has been working to provide teens with extra support, is among those organizations. The Club’s next major initiative is to open a teen space within the Market at 25th development in the East End. The Create New Statistics campaign has also enabled Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond to move toward constructing a freestanding teen center in the East End. These dedicated spaces will serve as resources for the community, both offering teens opportunities to practice on-the-job skills and helping promote college readiness through academic preparation.
And as she enters her new position as board chair, Nancy is happy to say that her mentoring relationship with Grace will continue.
“I tell her all the time that I get as much from her as she gets from me,” Nancy says. “She’s an inspiration.”
*We have changed the young woman’s name out of respect for her privacy.