Jul 21, 2022 - News

Enrichmond Foundation's collapse throws nonprofits in limbo

Illustration of a spotlight moving over a dollar sign in the dark.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

City officials are calling for an investigation into the mysterious collapse of the Enrichmond Foundation, a nonprofit that handled finances for dozens of community groups.

Why it matters: Volunteer-led groups dedicated to everything from planting trees to neighborhood cleanups relied on Enrichmond to handle their finances, and now they're not sure when or if they'll get their money back.

  • The organization also owns two historic Black cemeteries, Evergreen and East End, for which it has received thousands of tax dollars and grants to purchase and maintain.

What they're saying: "Enrichmond was a bank, essentially, for 86 organizations, and they're hurt, they're disappointed, and they're angry," Councilperson Stephanie Lynch tells Axios.

  • Lynch and her colleagues say they have a meeting scheduled with the city auditor and inspector general to discuss a potential investigation.

Details: The foundation voted to dissolve at the end of June, according to a letter to partner groups shared with Axios, but so far has offered no public explanation.

  • The decision came two months after the departure of the group's longtime executive director, John Sydnor.
  • A lawyer representing Enrichmond, Kerry Brian Hutcherson, declined to comment.
  • Sydnor did not respond to an email seeking comment.

For now, community groups have no access to money they raised.

  • The foundation's board has not said whether it believes it will eventually be able to return money owed to the organizations under its umbrella.

Plus: The future of Evergreen and East End cemeteries, which are the burial site of some of the city's most prominent residents, is also uncertain.

The foundation had received more than $140,000 from the state to maintain the properties since 2017 and another $550,000 in grants from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, a state-affiliated nonprofit, according to public records collected by Brian Palmer.

  • Palmer, whose family members are buried in the property and was active in the restoration effort, tells Axios he hopes Enrichmond or its successor will hold community meetings to determine next steps.

What's next: John Mitchell, who had worked for Enrichmond as a point of contact for the cemeteries, tells Axios he has no idea what's to come. For now, he says his main goal is to keep the cemetery from becoming overgrown while the property is in limbo.

  • "I literally don't have any answers about what happened and what led us to this point," he told Axios.
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