Please join me in welcoming Hope Family Village’s new President, Lisa Thomas.
Lisa is well known within our community, working for CDR for most of her professional career. On our board, she has been steadfast in her commitment to leading the village team. This has been a multifaceted role. Part of it is the huge job of accomplishing legislative support to develop an agreement to secure the property at Eastern State for a 25-acre, 25-family cohousing community for caregivers, their family members, and those living with a serious mental illness. A true innovation and adaptation in mental health care.
She has given presentations to civic groups and organized family dinners to recruit future residents. Developed a newsletter. She has written and won grants to support Hope Family Village, a special talent and necessity for our growth. Importantly, she has endeavored to self-educate herself on the cohousing model, which is a mature form of community that our board strongly believes will be beneficial to James City County and Williamsburg in not only improving mental health care, but in improving our community.
As most of you know, since my son Collin was diagnosed with a serious mental illness in 2011, envisioning an innovative approach to mental health care became a major of focus of mine. Looking back, it is hard to imagine how quickly 10 years pass. But when something is a passion, one’s love for a son, family, and then community, you wake up every day excited and keep driving for accomplishment.
Cohousing, as a useful approach, was obvious. It was my son Collin who helped to discover it the year of his diagnosis. Subsequently a college friend introduced me to the Fairweather Lodge model which addressed the needs of peers in a special way, optimizing mutual support and autonomy. Putting 2 and 2 together, our new board realized that building a neighborhood would take time, so we sought to establish the first Fairweather Lodge in VA. We are in our third year of operations.
I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with the members for 7 years, in the case of Steve Uzelac, as their lodge coordinator. Since opening in 2019, notably and gratefully we have had no hospitalizations, the members are working, volunteer in the community, have fun together on game nights, and mutually support one another during rough times.
In September 2021 the lodge hosted a reception for over 50 people associated with the 37 Annual Fairweather Lodge Conference. The event wowed not only the neighborhood, who came, but also the Coalition for Community Living folks who attended the conference. Never had a conference begun with an event in a lodge that also included the neighbors.
What Hope Family Village proves is that what seems impossible can happen with dedicated people. Lisa Thomas was involved CDR in the early days. She has seen and been part of something that progresses from an idea to one of the area’s top nonprofits. For me, during my period of grief, she stepped forward to lead. I am excited that the board selected her as Hope Family Village’s new board President.
It has been an honor and pleasure, working with so many wonderful people, to envision and then establish Hope Family Village. Our family will be doing our best to support Lisa and the organization as it moves into the next stages of growth. Many thanks to all who have sent cards, letters, and donated to the organization in Collin’s honor.