Henrico County VA

Home, forever

Adopted teen settles in with her new family
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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Community

MADD to host candlelight vigil Dec. 2 at UR

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will host a candlelight vigil of remembrance and hope Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the University of Richmond, outside the Cannon Chapel. The public is invited to attend and join MADD to honor victims of impaired driving crashes, while helping to remind the community to be safe during the holidays. > Read more.

Tournament supports adoption efforts

Among participants at the Seventh Annual Coordinators2Inc Golf Tournament and awards luncheon Oct. 3 were (from left) Rebecca Ricardo, C2 Inc executive director; Kevin Derr, member of the winning foursome; Sharon Richardson, C2 Inc founder; and Frank Ridgway and Jon King, members of the winning foursome.

Held at The Crossings Golf Club, the tournament will benefit placement of children from Virginia's foster care system into permanent families through Coordinators2. > Read more.

A.C. Moore to host winter craft day for kids

Event will help kick of Marine Corps' 'Toys for Tots' campaign
All 140 A.C. Moore locations will serve as drop-off centers this year for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, and all toys collected will stay in the local communities served by the stores in which they are donated.

On Saturday, Nov. 15, the Willow Lawn location will kick off the month-long program by hosting a "Make & Take" craft event for kids. Children ages six and older will be able to make a craft and take it home with them. Representatives from the Marines will be in-store to teach customers about the Toys for Tots program. A.C. Moore team members will be on site to help with the crafts. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Authentically Italian

Bella’s feels – and tastes – like Italy should
Short Pump is known for its share of chain restaurants and strip malls, but diners looking for something more distinct can certainly find it without heading downtown or to nearby Charlottesville.

In fact, local husband-and-wife restaurateurs Valeria Bisenti and Doug Muir brought a taste of Charlottesville (and Italy) to Short Pump when they took a chance and opened Bella’s second location in the same shopping strip as Wal-Mart and Peter Chang China Cafe. (Bella’s original location is on Main Street in downtown Charlottesville.)

For a local Italian restaurant, Bella’s is as “Mom and Pop” as its gets. Valeria is Mom, and Doug is Pop. Since its opening about six months ago, diners have been eating rich comfort foods and drinking Italian wines. > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

‘Sizing Up!’ opens at Cultural Arts Center

The Cultural Arts Center unveils a new exhibit – "Sizing Up!" – Nov. 20-Jan. 18 in the Gumenick Family Gallery.

Artist Chuck Larivey has spent the past three years "sizing up" – creating large-scale oil paintings that are designed to engage their viewers in a monumental way by using size to captivate them and make them a part of the artistic experience.

The exhibit is appropriate for all ages and is free and open to the public at the center, located at 2880 Mountain Road in Glen Allen. > Read more.

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The Virginia Repertory Theatre will present “Santa’s Christmas Miracle” Nov. 28 to Dec. 28 at the Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn. This musical comedy is set in Broken-Bone, Montana on… Full text

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