Home, forever

More than a dozen family members will gather at Lisa Brooks’ Henrico County home this Christmas.

Her mom and dad from New Jersey will be there.

Some of the children that she raised as a foster mother during the past 20 years will be there.

Her biological daughters, Ashley, 25, and Taylor, 14, will be there.

And her three-year-old grandson, Tyler, also will be at the two-story home off Parham Road, along with Brooks’ newest daughter, Alexis.

Brooks adopted Alexis, 17, last year after she became her foster mother through KidsPeace, an agency that serves children with special needs.

It wasn’t long before Alexis made it her “forever home.”

Brooks, who works for Verizon, was surprised to learn that she was eligible to adopt even though she was single. As soon as she learned the news, she talked with Alexis about becoming her mom.

“I sat down with Alexis and asked her, ‘Would you like for me to adopt you? Do you want to change your name to my name?’”

Alexis recalls how it felt to become part of the Brooks family.

“I was really excited because it’s been awhile since I’ve been with a family. I felt welcome. When I found out I was going to be adopted that made things a thousand times better.”

‘Family tree’
Since being adopted, Brooks said Alexis has made tremendous progress. She gets good grades, has an after-school job and recently earned her driver’s license.

Alexis said she loves being part of the Brooks family and this time of the year is extra special.

The house is filled with decorations. Stockings hang near the railing leading upstairs. A tree decked out in burgundy and gold fills a corner of the living room.

This year, the children decorated the tree by themselves.

“It was kind of hectic because no one knew where everything was supposed to go. This was the first year we got to do it by ourselves. It turned out better than what we expected,” Alexis said.

The ornaments adorning the tree are unique.

“Each ornament has [a name] on it to show that we belong,” Alexis said. “It’s basically a family tree.”

On Christmas morning, Brooks will cook a huge breakfast. The kids will insist on opening presents before they sit down to eat.

The rest of the day will be spent munching on treats, playing games, doing skits and just hanging out with the family.

Brooks will have time to savor all that comes with having an open home and an open heart.

“I had a two-parent home. I had a beautiful childhood and I just want to give back. I love children. My doors are always open.”

Other children need forever homes
James is 14. His mother and father have passed away in the last year.

He is one of at least six children in Henrico County who are still hoping to find homes for Christmas and beyond.

Hundreds of children in Virginia are waiting for adoptive families.

While the county finds homes each year for about 12 children, finding homes for teens like James can be difficult.

“We have a shortage of available families to adopt our teenagers,” Shawn Rozier, assistant director of Henrico County Social Services wrote in an email. “Teenagers still want a forever family and they still need the love and care [of a] family.”

For details about how to adopt or become a foster parent in Henrico County, visit http://www.co.henrico.va.us/dss/.

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This story is part of the series “Virginia Tapestry: Reflecting Our Rich Diversity,” produced by In Your Shoes Media.
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Henrico Schools to host College and Career Night Nov. 1


Students of all ages are invited to investigate options for life after high school at Henrico County Public Schools’ 2017 College and Career Night. The annual countywide event offers a chance to talk with representatives of more than 100 universities, colleges and professional programs, as well as about 50 representatives of career options such as businesses and branches of the military.

College and Career Night will take place Wednesday, Nov. 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Henrico High School, 302 Azalea Ave. > Read more.

Business in brief


Henrico-based nonprofit Commonwealth Autism recently received the Standards for Excellence Institute’s Seal of Excellence for successfully completing its accreditation program. Commonwealth Autism voluntarily opened itself to analysis by a peer review team during the last 18 months that examined the organization’s compliance with the “Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.” These standards cover areas such as: mission, strategy and evaluation; leadership – board, staff and volunteers; legal compliance and ethics; finance and operations; resource development; and public awareness, engagement and advocacy. Commonwealth Autism was one of six organizations in the Richmond region to be recognized and the first in the region to achieve full accreditation. In addition to this accreditation, Commonwealth Autism is recognized as an Accredited Charity with the Richmond Better Business Bureau and holds accreditation from the Code of Ethics for Behavioral Organizations (COEBO). > Read more.

Purify Infrared Sauna opens at GreenGate


Purify Infrared Sauna recently opened its second Henrico location at GreenGate Shopping Center in Short Pump.

Owner Mary Woodbridge opened her first Purify location on Patterson Avenue in July 2015. The new store is located at 301 Maltby Boulevard, Suite C, west of Short Pump Town Center. > Read more.

Henrico Master Gardener training program accepting applications through Oct. 27


The Henrico County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension is accepting applications for its next volunteer Master Gardener training program, which provides instruction in all aspects of horticulture.

Applications for the 2018 training program will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 27. Classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Jan. 16 through March 22. > Read more.

Henrico Schools to host Oct. 30 job fair


Henrico Schools will host a job fair Oct. 30.

The event, to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairfield branch library, is designed to attract potential full-time and substitute registered nurses, instructional assistants, bus drivers and school nutrition workers. > Read more.

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October 2017
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The Shops at Willow Lawn’s community event Mommy & Me and Daddy Too continues with Hope Harris and the Cousins Jamboree from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Enjoy a morning out with live entertainment, crafts, games and programs designed to enhance parent's interaction with their children. The program continues on the second Wednesday of each month. Admission is free. For details, visit http://www.willowlawn.com. Full text

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