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RIR’s NAS-CARing efforts

Chris Hardin, the 2006 Henrico Christmas Mother, accepts a check from Richmond International Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier.
There's a new charitable foundation in town, and it has hit the gas hard in only its fourth year of existence.

But the recurring theme at the inaugural Richmond International Raceway Cares Holiday Community Reception was that RIR has been fueling local community efforts for years; the foundation and reception have only made the help official.

Held at RIR's Torque Club, the Dec. 6 celebration highlighted just five of the recipients of more than $300,000 that RIR Cares donated to local non-profits this year through The NASCAR Foundation.

Kathryn Erhardt of Feedmore, Inc. said that RIR's $1,000 check would aid in its mission of feeding the needy by benefiting such services as the Central Virginia Food Bank (CVFB), Meals on Wheels for the elderly and disabled, and the Kids Cafe and weekend BackPack Program for schoolchildren.

"We couldn't do it without RIR," Erhardt told the crowd of vendors, community partners, and representatives of charities that included Big Brother Big Sister, Henrico Police Athletic League, Virginia State University, the Red Cross, and Victory Junction.

Chris Hardin, the 2006 Henrico Christmas Mother (pictured), was on hand to accept a similar check for the program, which benefits nearly 6,000 Henrico County residents with donations of food, gifts and clothing. Another check recipient, Bruce LaLonde of the USO of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia, told the crowd that in addition to maintaining centers at sites such as the Richmond airport, the USO supports military families by taking handicapped children to Kings Dominion and families to Disney World.

Marilyn Milio, executive director of the North Richmond YMCA, noted that the nearby Y is located in an area of concentrated poverty, and virtually all of the families served by the preschool, child care and sports programs require financial assistance.

"It's only through organizations such as RIR," said Milio, "that we're able to help our families.

"Even though RIR Cares is new, we've been receiving support for 10 years."

‘They are right there’
Track President Dennis Bickmeier is also new, as Roy Zeidman of Special Olympics Virginia (SOVA) pointed out.

"So we sort of ambushed him," said Zeidman, describing the tactics used to persuade the newly-installed president to participate in Over the Edge, a fundraising event that enlisted nearly 100 participants to rappel down Richmond's Suntrust Building in October.

"The fire chief had my back," said Bickmeier with a grin and a nod toward officials from Henrico Fire.

"He sent me a note that said, 'If you get stuck, give us a call.”

Bickmeier's rappeling feat was just one example of the ways that RIR has contributed not only funds, but also physical support to charitable causes.

A raceway staff of 34 members, said Bickmeier, invested nearly 500 hours of volunteer labor in such causes as Junior Achievement of Central Virginia, Meals on Wheels, CVFB, the North Richmond Y and Henrico County Operation Paintbrush.

"That's a lot of hours for only 34 [volunteers]," said Bickmeier.

In addition, said Bickmeier, RIR's NASCAR race weekends serve as fundraisers for local organizations, whose members raise money for their charities by selling programs and working in the concession stands.

Beth Rutherford of Rutherford Supply, which lists RIR among its clients, noted at the reception that the track staff doesn't help out only with regular charity events; they also have been known to respond to emergencies.

Whenever the staff at the janitor supply company learns of families in crisis, said Rutherford, employees make an effort to collect gift cards, donations and cleaning supplies to help out. In recent years, recipients of donations have included a couple of families with children who have lost their homes and virtually all the contents to fire.

"Whoever we find, we try to take them in," said Rutherford, whose business is located just across Laburnum Ave. from the racetrack.

"And any time we ask for help [from RIR officials], they are right there."

Toy for Toy
The Torque Club event was followed by the track's annual Christmas Tree Lighting, attended by residents of RIR's neighboring communities and students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School, who provided decorations for the tree. The Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors Band provided musical entertainment, and the Henrico High School Football Boosters shared hot chocolate and cookies.

Donations of toys and food were also collected at the tree lighting on behalf of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and the Central Virginia Foodbank.

And judging from announcements made at the reception, RIR Cares will be topping its 2011 contributions of more than a quarter million dollars with yet another sum before the year is out.

"Bring your donations to the tree lighting, or to the office by next Friday," Bickmeier told the crowd.

"The raceway will match everything brought – toy for toy, and food item for food item."
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

Lakeside microbrewery beginning to take shape

Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space

A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.

Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.

Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.

Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.

“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.

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