If you were driving along Macdonald Avenue last night, you might have noticed something going on. Outside of 3109 Macdonald Ave. stood tables draped with red satin tablecloths, and heat lamps added a warm glow to the cool night air. Around them gathered a who’s who of Richmond city politics and society.
The event: a community reception hosted by the non-profit organization For Richmond. Kyra Worthy, For Richmond’s executive director, explained the organization’s purpose like this, “I think we’re here to help the community help themselves.”
Worthy, in a flowing maroon dress and her distinctive black-framed glasses, greeted guests with smiles and hugs. These guests included city councilmembers Nate Bates, Corky Booze, Jael Myrick and Jim Rogers. Over the course of the evening, more than 100 community members stopped by to lend support and hear about For Richmond’s plans for the coming year. Young people circulated throughout the gathering, passing out hors d’oeuvres.
“I was so happy everyone came,” Worthy said.
Staff working at a table out front handed out glossy pamphlets asking the public to support the fiscally troubled Doctors Medical Center, West County’s only public hospital. Dr. Desmond Carson, an emergency care physician for the hospital and chair of For Richmond’s Health Committee spoke to guests about the need to keep the hospital from closing.
Worthy detailed the work that For Richmond accomplished in 2013, which included helping kids go to college, the installation of cameras along 23rd St., and providing resources to new parents in Richmond.
For Richmond, which receives most of its funding from Chevron, is viewed by some community members with skepticism. Critics say the organization is a tool for Chevron, the massive oil company. Chevron has a tumultuous history in Richmond, which is home to its second-largest California refinery.
The organization was formed in 2012 shortly before a fire at the refinery in August that year sent more than 15,000 people to area hospitals and spawned a flurry of fines, investigations and lawsuits. As a 501(c)(4) group, the group doesn’t have to say where its money comes from, but has been forthcoming in acknowledging that the bulk of its funds come from Chevron.
Worthy said she has no response to For Richmond’s critics beyond pointing to the positive work the group does in the community.
“People try to pull politics,” said Hector Esparza, Richmond Police Officers Association president and chair of For Richmond’s Public Safety Committee. “It is not more complicated than trying to do good things here in Richmond to improve the lives of its citizens.”
Esparza said he has some ideas for public safety projects for the coming year, including a citizen’s academy that could help train people how to prevent crime in their neighborhoods.
Worthy said she plans to keep her organization transparent, so she can integrate the community’s voice along the way. “We want to make sure everyone feels included.”