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ConnectVA Spotlight: Vicki Neilson, The Giving Heart

Vicki Neilson-wide

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Vicki Neilson, the Founding and Executive Director of The Giving Heart, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides food, fellowship and essential items to those in need.  Our two current programs consist of the annual Community Thanksgiving Feast (celebrating its’ 10th year) and Secret Senior Valentine Bags.


Community Thanksgiving in Richmond

What’s the need you’re addressing?

Much of our work is typically directed towards providing toiletries, food and even, on occasion, clothing.  We also focus on ways to celebrate “Community” and the Community Thanksgiving Feast is a vital aspect of that desire.  Our “all are welcomed” philosophy translates to an open invitation for the elderly, homeless, low income individuals and families…plus those who would otherwise spend the holiday alone such as our military neighbors, students not able to return home for the brief holiday period and anyone that simply wants to share in a meal.


What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of being involved with The Giving Heart is the realization that so many in our community truly have “giving hearts”.  The incredible response to volunteer needs…collecting items…making placemats or centerpieces…and simply showing up to help get things organized, is a true reflection of how many in our Community desire to serve.  This is especially true with being an all-volunteer organization that relies on those able to commit to many behind-the-scene needs.


Secret Senior Valentine Bags

What are some of the challenges that you face?

Like many nonprofits, we experience growing pains, funding needs and the desire to offer things that perhaps aren’t as readily available.  We’ve learned many lessons, especially in knowing our strengths and weaknesses.  Having wonderful volunteers that are not only appreciative, but who consistently return year after year, is a beautiful acknowledgement in supporting all that we do.

What’s coming up for your organization that excites you?

This time of year, The Giving Heart is in the thick of all things Thanksgiving.  Through ConnectVA, we hope to bring awareness to this special event of “food and fellowship”.  There is so much that can be accomplished by just one person or organization reading this “Spotlight” opportunity.  From the small effort of making copies of our event information to hand out to clients, items to make or donate, and even sponsoring a table…there are lots of ways to experience your own “Community Thanksgiving Feast” involvement!

Anything else you’d like to share?

For more information, visit www.thegivingheart.org or contact Vicki Neilson at 804-749-4726 between the hours of 9 am and 11 pm daily.

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