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Volunteer groups affected by Enrichmond dissolution plan next steps

The 17th Street Market in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom
The Enrichmond Foundation managed finances for a number of projects throughout Richmond, including the creation of the 17th Street Market in Shockoe Bottom, which is now owned and operated by the city. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Volunteer groups affected by the dissolution of the Enrichmond Foundation are taking actions in light of uncertainty surrounding its finances. The umbrella organization and fiscal sponsor dissolved in July. 

After a Monday meeting in Byrd Park, representatives from more than a dozen volunteer groups agreed to form a collection committee to gather their financial records and correspondence with Enrichmond in the hopes that it could lead law enforcement to investigate the foundation. 

Volunteers said that Enrichmond held the groups’ money in its accounts, allowed the groups to fundraise and provided insurance. 

During introductions Monday, representatives listed the amount of money they said they no longer have access to or “lost” after working with Enrichmond. Some organizations claimed figures in the tens of thousands of dollars. 

“We're basically floating in thin air without Enrichmond. Without their legitimacy with the city, we can't operate,” said Mac Wood, the secretary of Friends of Pump House, in a Thursday interview. “We don't have access to our money, and Enrichmond won't give us any straight answers.”

Wood said the volunteers are in a bit over their heads while looking into the foundation’s operations.

“We're pretty desperate for any legal representation, especially pro-bono,” he said.

Colette McEachin, Richmond’s commonwealth’s attorney, attended the volunteers’ meeting and said three community groups were in contact with a Richmond police detective.

“If there’s an investigation, it’s at the very beginning,” she said. 

McEachin also outlined which law enforcement agencies might be able to investigate the issue. 

After VPM News left a voicemail with a lawyer the volunteers said worked with Enrichmond, a group identified as volunteer members of Enrichmond’s board responded via email. 

“During an audit review earlier this year, the Board became aware of irregularities related to Enrichmond’s financial position that contradicted information that had been previously presented to the Board,” the email read. “We wish there were some easy answers and that this could be resolved more quickly, but unfortunately it is going to take some time.  ... Additional information will be communicated once it becomes available.”

The Enrichmond Foundation’s dissolution caught the attention of federal lawmakers. 

In September, Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), who is married to Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin, wrote to the board asking for answers.

“As you undertake steps to complete the dissolution of the Enrichmond Foundation, you must ensure that all federal funds granted to the Foundation are fully accounted for and ensure that these funds were allocated according to agreements in place with the relevant federal agencies,” he wrote.

Rep. McEachin listed grants from the National Park Service and the Department of Agriculture. Enrichmond also received a grant in 2012 from the Agricultural Marketing Service Agency.

A spokesperson from Richmond’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities didn’t return a request for comment by publication.