Richmond is a city of givers and volunteers, all year long. Perhaps we see it more at Christmas because we’re aware of the blessings of giving at this time of the year but Richmonders reach out, give back, dig deep and do it without fanfare. Quietly. The way the Bible says we’re to give…

The WRVA Salvation Army Shoe Fund has been providing shoes for kids as long as I can remember. My father always sent a check and my brother faithfully contributes every year. I only know he gives because he and my aunt now make donations to the other’s chosen charity instead of giving each other a Christmas gift (his idea). I can remember Alden Aaroe (Mr. WRVA to most Richmonders!) asking listeners to contribute and they did, giving 2,500 children new shoes each year. This year the Salvation Army has asked for a different kind of help so go to and see how you can be part of a Richmond tradition.

The Salvation Army works tirelessly year-round in countless programs but one of them is particularly dear to my heart. Almost 30 years ago, my best friend, Nancy Ittner, called me one day and said “I saw in the paper where the Salvation Army dresses dolls and bears for kids at Christmas.” I replied “That sounds like a good program.” “Good,” she said. “Because I signed you up for 12 bears.” And thus my career as bear dresser began. When Nancy’s brain tumor prevented her from dressing her own dozen bears, I dressed hers as well. It has been a way to remember the “conscience” I lost when Nancy died. I always said I didn’t need to think much about what I should volunteer to do…Nancy would tell me. And sign me up…


The Salvation Army was also a partner for years in the Richmond Pops holiday concert, which is on December 20th this year. Richmond Pops is a totally volunteer orchestra that performs several times a year and the amazing programs are free. You simply have to request the tickets in advance. It’s a low-technology method…send a self-addressed envelope to their mailing address and they mail the tickets back. Supported by donations and populated by an incredibly dedicated group of talented musicians, this is Richmond at its best. Everyone that I have taken to one of their programs has started ordering their own tickets for the next performances.  It may be too late to get tickets (you might be able to pick them up since it’s too late for the mail) but I’ll give you the information if you get in touch.

I mentioned the Carillon Christmas Pageant in my last entry but they deserve another comment. For 80 years, volunteers of all ages (including “baby Jesus”) have braved the weather, attended rehearsals and worked to present a traditional Christmas pageant, complete with narration from the Book of Luke and the classic carols we love. It’ll bring tears to your eyes to watch the crowd of “townspeople” climbing to the stage to see the Christ child. December 23rd, 7:00 PM. Dress warmly.

Richmond lost a Christmas legend in 2010 but his legacy continues. Sergeant Santa (Ricky Duling) WAS Santa to thousands of kids for over 30 years.  He headed up collections of toys and personally made sure that those kids knew Santa was very familiar with each of them. When he retired from the Richmond Police Department, it was to work full-time on his organization. You can find the elves at Sergeant Santa of Richmond, 3023 W. Marshall Street, Richmond, VA 23230 (804 358-7281) where the giving never stops.

I haven’t even touched on the countless programs through churches, schools, other organizations that notice needs and then fill them. We could list generous givers for days and still not mention them all. We all are so blessed. Whatever we have, whether it’s a lot or not, there is someone who needs a hand and someone here in Richmond who is offering that hand. Find someone you can help today. You’ll be blessed by the giving and you’ll know that you are part of the generous spirit of Richmond. Virginia may be for lovers but Richmond is OF givers.