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Week 41: Vanessa Diamond

Dear Batter Up friends—meet Vanessa Diamond, the Director of HandsOn Greater Richmond! (And her adorable daughter, too.)

Everything about this delivery was so cool and I’m not quite sure where to start. From the nominator, to the nominee, to the delivery venue, the entire thing was 100% aligned with Batter Up’s objective to honor those in Richmond who are doing something great for the community.

First, let me explain a little bit about HandsOn Greater Richmond (HOGR) because this is such a cool organization. HOGR began in 2005 under the name Activate Richmond and was the brain child of three women who simply wanted to volunteer in the community with their friends and coworkers. The idea quickly became a web-based network that allowed any community member looking for a volunteer opportunity to quickly access information about various needs and organizations that matched their interests and availability. With an easy sign-up process, the idea became a huge success and began connecting people all over the city. The national HandsOn Network, which essentially does the same work but on a much larger scale, came calling two years after Activate Richmond’s inception and boom: HandsOn Greater Richmond was established. Today, with a host of major sponsors, HOGR connects 7,000 people a year in meaningful and engaging volunteer opportunities throughout Greater Richmond.

Vanessa is not only the Director of HOGR, but she is also one of the original three women who founded the organization. Having been in charge of overseeing the daily operations, training, and supervision of over 200 AmeriCorps service members in Portland, OR before landing in Richmond, Vanessa is no stranger to the ins-and-outs of managing community service work. In addition to her work with HOGR she spent time directing VCU’s service-learning program where she facilitated partnerships between faculty and community organizations to help enhance VCU’s courses to include community service components. She also serves as the Vice President of the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence, an organization that provides nonprofits in Central Virginia with the tools they need to improve their effectiveness and efficiency for greater impact. (Whew—that was a mouthful!)

Vanessa was nominated by Sarah Milston, week 39 cake recipient, while Sarah was in the process of being battered. (That Sarah—always thinking about others!) According to Sarah, “Vanessa is truly a visionary in our region helping to make volunteering accessible and easy.”

Sarah was teaming up with HandsOn Greater Richmond to put on an incredible event during National Volunteer Week called the Power of Good. They reached out to nonprofits all over Richmond asking them to nominate their best and brightest volunteers and then honored them at an art show held at the Marvin Lang building. In addition to a silent auction with artwork donated from some of Richmond’s most popular artists, each volunteer’s likeness was captured in either a shrinky dink by artist Tiffany Ferrari or a photographic portrait by a photographer who’s name, I’m afraid, I do not know. (I’ll update this post as soon as I find out.) The nominated volunteers’ images were displayed at the event, along with a bio recounting their community service work.

Of course, it only made sense to batter Vanessa at the Power of Good event. As I arrived I saw several people lingering outside of the building. The word about Batter Up has gotten around so when people see me coming, holding a white cake box, there is this immediate excitement in people’s faces that just makes me love Batter Up more and more. I walked in and found Sarah who quickly started banging on the table to get everyone’s attention. She said a few words of thanks and then called Vanessa up to stand with her. As soon as she said she had nominated Vanessa to be battered there was laughter and applause. No matter how long I do this, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being surprised by how many people know about Batter Up. I said a few words of explanation for the handful of people in the room who didn’t know what I was doing and were confused. (Come to find out later, one lady thought we were actually going to throw cake on Vanessa and was ready to intervene, if necessary. Ha!) In the spirit of sharing, Vanessa put the cake right on the food table for anyone to have a piece. I spent about thirty minutes talking to people and looking at the show. When I left, the cake was completely gone.

And speaking of cake! This week, in the spirit of pairing people together, Sarah and I picked a cake that pairs two delicious flavors—lemon and blueberry! The recipe came from the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction. (recipe found here.) The cake got rave reviews from everyone that came up to me afterward. One person even commented on how much of an honor it was to try “the infamous and elusive Batter Up cake”. I swear, this project is just so much fun. I love meeting all of these people! And congrats to all of the volunteers that were honored at the event. You all deserve cake.