Hull Fellows Highlight: Kendra Jones
Over the past year, Richmond, Virginia, has been a hub of philanthropic activity and innovation thanks largely to the work and partnership of three SECF members: the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, the Robins Foundation and the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation (RMHF).
In Richmond and elsewhere, the impact COVID-19 pandemic has not landed evenly. Communities of color have disproportionately paid the health and economic costs of the crisis – an issue of chief concern to Kendra Jones, RMHF’s director for health equity, arts and culture.
“We know that the people we serve have incredible power, lived experiences that we can learn from and they persevere despite the system that was created to oppress them,” Kendra said. “However, they need resources – and we share our resources with them by the means of financial, intellectual and social capital.”
As director of the foundation’s Health Equity and Arts (HEArts) program, Kendra has helped offer community members opportunities for creative expression that help people be heard, bridge divides and collaborate on solutions to inequity.
“Communities have been able to advocate for criminal justice reform, neighborhood and pedestrian safety, to destigmatize mental illness, and so many other issues that affect their ability to achieve health equity,” she said.
Amid the pandemic and fight for racial justice, Kendra has added another learning experience: SECF’s Hull Fellows program. Kendra said she was interested in being a Fellow after seeing many Hull alumni speak at the Annual Meeting.
“I was motivated to apply because of the leaders that have gone through the program, whose work I am truly inspired by, and having the ability to build bonds with them and other up-and-coming leaders in philanthropy from the Southeast.”
Among those bonds is the one Kendra formed with her Hull Mentor, Wendi Everson, who formerly worked as a senior program officer at the Danville Regional Foundation and now runs her own consulting practice.
“Wendi has inspired me to plan and reach for goals that I once thought were out of my grasp,” Kendra said. “Her advice helped me confidently use my voice in rooms that often times undervalue it. Because of Wendi, I speak up anyway and work to change systems so that others can as well.”
During an incredibly busy 2020, the Hull program also helped remind Kendra of the need to take some time for herself.
“We had a spring retreat that kicked off with a session presented by Stephanie Cooper-Lewter on Care of Self and Care of Community,” Kendra said. “That session was so important for my mental health and for dealing with what was to come with the murder of George Floyd. I am grateful for SECF for taking the time out for us Fellows to acknowledge the moment.”
Completing the Hull program has strengthened Kendra’s commitment to her work, but it has made her skeptical of one thing: the boasting of previous Hull Alumni.
“I would see so many accomplished professionals in philanthropy give remarks at the SECF Annual Meeting and declare their class as the best Hull Fellows class ever – not true by the way,” she said. “Our class has proven how resilient we are by pulling together and working on our capstones during a pandemic, people!”