From Contacts to Collaboration

James Davis, a recent graduate of the Leadership Quest Class of 2019, wasted no time tapping into the LMR network to help create jobs and find creative solutions for everyday challenges he saw in the community.  James is the human services assistant for the City of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB).  He was brought into this role by his mentor and former supervisor, Reggie Gordon (LMR ’02).  Outside of his role at OCWB, James created MySource, Inc., an organization which helps connect communities to resources.  Below he reflects on how the Leadership Quest experience brought him into a powerful network that now allows him to work faster and more efficiently in both professional roles:

“There are numerous connections I have made within the Leadership Quest Class of 2019 that have really helped to move my work forward.  I am currently working with Sheryl Adams (LMR ’19), Chief Operating Officer for GRTC, on a number of initiatives for OCWB including hiring 25 drivers.  My prep work with those individuals includes everything from mock interviews to acquiring the correct interview attire. With the help of GRTC, we have provided support to those needing to address the points on their driver’s license by assisting them with driving school fees and transporting them to Petersburg for class. GRTC will be providing these new hires with in-house training for their CDL license with P endorsement.  Eventually we would also like to ensure that every bus driver is trained to respond in case of an opioid overdose to administer naloxone (Narcan).

I am also working with Dr. Cynthia Minto (LMR ’19) through the OCWB to get 20 direct professionals hired with Richmond Residential Services, where Dr. Minto serves as the Chief Operating Officer. To do this, we are hosting job fairs all across town in search of talent.  Dr. Minto and her team attend these events and interview candidates on the spot.  They are also doing in-house training for those that pass the initial interview stage and would like to get licensed in the developmental disabilities field.

As a part of my work with OCWB, I manage the Ambassador Program for the City of Richmond.  This program engages 25 community members to volunteer in the low-income communities they came from and inform others about the resources that are available to those living in poverty. We also strategize around community events and do a lot of community engagement. I have discussed with Sarah Milston (LMR ’19), CEO of The Spark Mill, to have her strategic planning and nonprofit consulting firm come in and work with our Ambassadors.  I think this will be a major piece for our program to help empower the community.

To serve the youth of our city through OCWB, I am partnering with Cheri Dahl (LMR ’19), Executive Director for US Programs at ChildFund International.  We are working on creating an experience for inner-city youth to connect with youth from third-world countries through technology.  These Skype conversations will help them gain perspectives different from their own through conversations with students from across the globe.

Through my own organization MySource, Inc., I am finding other unique ways to assist communities with workforce opportunities and resources.  For example, I am currently designing an entrepreneurship center made from shipping containers.  While this is just in the early stages of ideation, I am already talking with my classmates Alan Davis (LMR ’19), Principal Architect at Baskervill and Ian Batt (LMR ’19), Vice President of Middle Market Commercial Banking at Atlantic Union Bank regarding the design process and feasibility.

Beyond workforce development, MySource Inc. is concerned about improving the overall quality of life within some the city’s most challenged communities.  My team and I are working towards building a solar farm to power Whitcomb Court, one of our city’s low income communities.  This idea surfaced while we were working to solve the heating crisis last year.  During that time, we restored heat to 75 homes in Creighton Court with the help of the residents.  After completing a solar project on a parking deck downtown, I then meet Orlando Artze (LMR ’94) who was then the interim CEO for the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA). He agreed to meet with me and my team in regards to this project. Mr. Artze has given us the electric bill for RRHA and later this month we will be meeting at Dominion Energy to discuss how they might support this project.  This meeting was made possible by Ruth Prideaux (LMR ’19), Director of Generation Construction in Renewable Energy for Dominion Energy.  Additionally, my organization will also be helping Dominion to hire more linemen.

The work of MySource Inc. spans beyond just job placement for adults, also working with our city’s youth.  After connecting with City of Richmond Fire Lieutenant Keron Tull (LMR ’19), we are now working together to create a path for young adults to become firefighters. Chris Frelke (LMR ’19), Director of City of Richmond Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities, has offered to assist us with space for an after-school program that will offer lessons in cosmetology and hairstyling. With the help of Nick Haltom (LMR ’19), Economic Education Director at Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, we are expanding the resources provided to high school students through our in-school, interactive entrepreneurship lessons.  Nick has agreed to host over 100 students at the Federal Reserve Bank for a tour and finance workshop.

The Leadership Quest experience has helped me broaden my network and start new initiatives with greater knowledge and more resources. I look forward to seeing these projects through and collaborating with others in the LMR network as more opportunities for creative solutions arise.”

James Davis
Founder, MySource, Inc.
LMR Class of 2019