Newer Hampton Roads nonprofit working to invest into the region

by: Kara DixonPosted: Sep 28, 2021 / 08:18 PM EDT / Updated: Sep 28, 2021 / 09:00 PM EDT

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A newer nonprofit organization in Hampton Roads is investing in the community and hoping others will join it.

Local Initiatives Support Corporation ( LISC) is a national nonprofit organization that works to bridge the gap between underserved and underinvested communities with organizations, businesses, agencies, and other non-profits that are looking to help.

LISC Hampton Roads is new to the region, according to senior programming officer Naomi Gunnell, and started operating here in early 2020.

Gunnell says what helped bring them here was a partnership between Sentara Healthcare and Optima Healthcare that invested $100 million to move the needle on social determinants that impact healthy lifestyles such as access to education, jobs, and affordable housing.

“When COVID hit, we had to pivot understanding that immediate need for small businesses,” she said.

So, the organization, along with others, partnered with the City of Virginia Beach to start the Virginia Beach Relief Partnership to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, LISC Hampton Roads has invested $8.2 million into the community to help with hardest-hit communities through their focuses.

Gunnell says through their partnership, they were able to help 700 small business owners with grants of $10,000.

“It really speaks to what LISC does to really be the bridge between resources that are available and this is the case with the City of Virginia Beach,” she said. “We’re really excited to have that as a paramount initiative introducing us to the Hampton Roads market. We’re looking forward to doing more of that work with more organizations, with partners, and funders to do that work.”

The organization is working to expand what was started through the relief partnership.

“We want to expand on that as it relates to small businesses with access to capital. But how do we create a more robust equal system for small businesses, development organizations, and resources that help small businesses grown and thrive in COVID and post-pandemic as well?” she said.

Gunnell says they are also working to help those in underserved communities in another way through Bridge757, which is a partnership between the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and the Urban League of Hampton Roads.

It’s a model from their national organization which helps train unemployed or underemployed adults for jobs as well as financial coaching to help with budgets and credit.

“We believe when we marry these services, folks can build wealth for their family,” she said. “It provides them a sturdy foundation to be able to build upon and ultimately build financial stability and wealth for their family.”

Gunnell hopes that organizations, especially those who are on the ground and know the community, will work with them to make positive changes. She’s also hoping businesses, philanthropists, and others will also team up with them to make a difference.

“We’re hoping to really impact the community in a way that is innovative and that’s transformative. To be able to be a mediator, to be that bridge, to bring much-needed resources to the community, that’s our hope and goal,” Gunnell said.

To learn more about LISC Hampton Roads, click here.

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