One Community, One Voice is Fueled by Volunteers and Dedication
Written by Alyssa Wilson, University of Lynchburg Bonner Intern
After Lynchburg native, Dr. James Camm returned home from working in Alaska, he looked around his Lynchburg community to find that many of the problems were still present as they were before he relocated.
As the founder and pastor of Living Word Ministries, Camm decided that through the church, some of these issues facing the community could be remedied, thus One Community, One Voice (OCOV) was started.
While the organization has been officially running for the past eight years, it has been 20 years of discussion and imagination to make it what it is today.
Camm says one of the objectives of OCOV is to “complete not compete” with other nonprofit organizations in the area. While there is no shortage of nonprofits in the greater Lynchburg area, there is also no shortage of people in need.
Two of the demographics that OCOV focuses on are school-aged children and the elderly. For school-aged children in the community, the organization offers a reading program within the elementary schools called “Ready to Read” which encourages kids to gain the reading skills that they will carry with them throughout their academic lives.
“From kindergarten to third grade you learn to read, and from third grade on, you read to learn,” says Camm.
In addition to its reading program, OCOV also has an annual Back to School Book Bags initiative that helps to start students on the right foot for the school year. Kids are supplied with everything they need, so that they can be successful throughout the school year.
Every holiday season, volunteers from the organization bring warm meals to the elderly in the community. A new push that OCOV is looking to launch soon is a program that will give elderly community members transportation to the grocery store and pharmacy. “There’s programs that give them transportation to any doctors, but there’s no transportation for them to get their prescriptions filled,” says Camm.
The organization is currently raising money to buy an accessible van to transport members to the grocery store and pharmacy twice a week, and then bring them back home.
One Community, One Voice is completely driven by volunteers, and several retired school bus drivers who have commercial licenses within Camm’s congregation are already up to the task of driving the van for the new initiative. “Let’s not let that license expire,” says Camm.
Without its volunteers, OCOV would be nonexistent, as even Camm himself is a volunteer executive director. “It’s amazing how this community wraps around purpose,” he says.
In fact, OCOV never really had to search for volunteers. Once they began to share their mission, volunteers began to flock in search of helping the organization. Camm notices the large number of community members who are always asking how they can help, saying it is not a common thing everywhere.
For example, one of its programs, E.N.O.U.G.H (Empowering Neighborhoods to Overcome undesirable behavior Gives us Hope) has hosted rallies in neighborhoods that suffer from gun violence. “I’ve had people, people you’d never expect, come up to me and say they are concerned about their community and want to help,” says Camm.
Volunteers are traveling out of their comfort zones and their own neighborhoods, in order to be there for the neighborhoods around them.
Over the years Camm became increasingly closer to a man named Clay Coleman. Coleman and Camm would always happen to be in meetings together but never spoke much until later on. Today, however, Coleman has become an influential volunteer and figure within OCOV.
“When he found out what we were doing he felt passionate and began to say ‘hey, let’s do it’ and always gives 100 percent,” says Camm.
One of the first things Coleman helped with was getting the Back to School Book Bags program together. Coleman and Camm figured out that they would need around $28,000 in order to purchase new book bags, shoes, snacks etc., for the children.
“He asked me ‘What’s our budget?’ and I told him we have about $4,000,” says Camm. Throughout continued meetings Coleman and Camm were able to raise the $28,000 in order to put on the event and help give back to the children in Lynchburg. “It floored him to see how our community volunteers even their funding… with that Clay never looked back and has such a passion and vision for what One Community, One Voice does,” Camm continues.
In addition to Coleman, Robin Robinson is another integral volunteer that keeps OCOV going every day.
“She had begun to see what we were laying out; she grabbed ahold of the mission and never let go,” says Camm.
Robinson volunteers as the organization’s executive programs manager and works tirelessly to serve OCOV.
“She is dead impactful and never complains. She gives time, and effort not looking for any celebration. She’s always going to be there, no matter what,” says Camm.
Throughout her time serving OCOV, Robinson has battled three different bouts of cancer and still is dedicated to serving the organization. Camm says that by the way she was giving to her community, you would have never known she was fighting a battle. “She has a passion for her community,” says Camm.
One Community, One Voice is in a great place with the volunteers that it has, but they are always looking for new volunteers to serve.
At the time of publishing, OCOV's upcoming event, the annual Blast off to Summer scheduled for April 22, 2-6pm has been canceled due to thunderstorms in the forecast. The event was going to be held at Camp Kum-Ba-Yah Nature Center, in part so that families are getting exposure to CKBY as it is a hub for summer programming.
For more information about One Community, One Voice, you can visit their SHARE Greater Lynchburg profiles.