Piedmont Housing Alliance Leads Bus Tour to Early Childhood Education Centers


Alex Ikefuna, Charlottesville Neighborhood Development Services; Gail Esterman, ReadyKids; Ron Enders, PHA board member; Frank Grosch, PHA CEO; Ramona Chapman, PHA board member; Cathy Train, United Way; Sheri Hopper, PHA Advisory Committee member; Stephanie Massie, ReadyKids; Claudette Grant, PHA Community Organizer at Friendship Court; Myrtle Houchens, PHA Advisory Committee member; Erika Viccellio, United Way; Beth Kennan, PHA Project Manager; Sarah McLean, PHA Advisory Committee member; and Karen Reifenberger, PHA COO

On Tuesday, September 20, Piedmont Housing Alliance led a bus tour to explore exceptional early childhood education centers in both Norfolk and Richmond. The tour included Piedmont Housing staff, several board members, Friendship Court Advisory Committee members, and community representatives from the United Way, ReadyKids and the City of Charlottesville.

The group toured two schools: The New E3 School in Norfolk, and the Weinstein JCC in Richmond.   The schools were selected because they represent two ends of a spectrum in early childhood education philosophy. The New E3 School is based on a curriculum developed by the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning. The Weinstein JCC program is based around the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education.


The purpose of the trip is to gain information about early childhood centers that have successfully attracted a mixed income population, with an eye toward the creation of an early childhood center at Friendship Court, as an element of that community’s redevelopment, beginning in 2019.

While on the tour, participants were able to visit classrooms and play areas, talk with staff, learn about school philosophies and visions, as well as methods of operations. Key learnings from the operations help inform how multiple levels of income and tuition can be accommodated and attract a truly diverse population.

The team will compile their findings and continue the discussion with area early childhood education stakeholders, as plans for Friendship Court continue to evolve.








Youth Leadership Team at Friendship Court Visits City Hall

pha-youth-leadership-team-outside-of-city-hallThe new Youth Leadership Team at Friendship Court is quick to jump in and start learning. The eight-member team spent part of their day on Monday, September 26, downtown at Charlottesville City Hall.


The youth were given a tour of the building’s offices and the chambers where City Council meetings are held the first and third Mondays of each month at 7:00 p.m. The youth leaders sat in the City Councilors’ chairs, asked and answered questions, and imagined what it’s like to lead one of those meetings.


The group was joined by Claudette Grant, Community Organizer at Friendship Court as well as Toni Eubanks, Youth Leadership Program Coordinator at Friendship Court.

This was one of many opportunities these youth leaders will have to learn more about their community and develop additional leadership skills. They will continue to meet on a weekly basis as a team, a part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement process for the redevelopment of Friendship Court.

Youth Leadership Program at Friendship Court Gets Under Way

pha-youth-leadership-team-liz-ogbuOn Tuesday, September 13th, several teenagers met after school to celebrate their participation in the Youth Leadership Program at Friendship Court. Part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement process for the redevelopment of Friendship Court, the Youth Leadership Program equips resident youth leaders to provide input for the redevelopment, with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. It is also a program through which the youth will gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.


The kids welcomed to the meeting Liz Ogbu, architect and founder of Studio O, who has been the lead designer for the master plan process and has led several teen focus groups over the past six months. Liz talked with the teens about the latest design plan and the next steps for the redevelopment.  The kids also presented Liz with a cake as a thank you for all of her hard work and dedication to the planning process and the community’s future. Community Organizer Claudette Grant said, “Liz talked with the kids about what it’s like to work as an architect and left them excited to be a part of the redevelopment of their community.”pha-youth-leadership-team-cake-for-liz

The Youth Leadership Team will meet on a weekly basis for a period of two years.



Welcome to Toni Eubanks, Youth Leadership Program Coordinator at Friendship Court


Toni Eubanks is Piedmont Housing Alliance’s new Youth Leadership Program Coordinator at Friendship Court. Toni’s specific role will be working with Claudette Grant, Community Organizer, to help recruit for, plan, schedule and implement activities, including events, meeting and field trips for the Youth Leadership Program for the redevelopment of Friendship Court.  Toni has experience working with kids through her work at Sojourners Church where she has been the Nursery Director for almost 3 years.  Toni is currently working on getting her associate’s degree taking online classes at PVCC. Toni brings energy and experience to her role and says “I’m looking forward to pushing students towards an innovative and broader way of thinking.”

We are excited to welcome Toni to our team.

Light House Studio Holds 15th Annual Youth Film Festival Featuring Friendship Court Film


August 26th marked the day for Light House Studio’s 15th Annual Youth Film Festival.


Light House Studio hosted its 15th Annual Youth Film Festival at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville on August 26th. The event featured short films produced in collaboration with community partners, including Friendship Court.

The Friendship Court kids worked with Light House Studio to create Keep it REEL, a documentary about 3D printers.  Several of the young filmmakers attended the festival along with Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Friendship Court Activity Coordinator, Tory Twitty and Sheri Hopper, community outreach assistant.

Good news: Keep it REEL has been selected to be screened at the National Endowment for the Humanities’ History on the Silver Screen: Student Film Competition Screening Thursday, September 15th at 5:30pm at Vinegar Hill Theatre. The screening is open to the public and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Judges will choose the best documentary films, and the winner will receive a $500 prize, as well as VIP seating at a screening and Q&A of Freedom Riders at the September HumanTies Forum with award-winning director Stanley Nelson!

Way to go Friendship Court and Light House Studio!

LH NEH 2016 Laurels


Welcome to Tory Twitty, Activity Coordinator at Friendship Court


Tory Twitty is Piedmont Housing Alliance’s new Activity Coordinator at Friendship Court.  Tory’s specific role will be to coordinate children’s afterschool activities and resident engagement which will have him working closely with Friendship Court Community Organizer, Claudette Grant as well as residents and other staff and volunteers at the Community Center.  Tory has experience working with youth at a camp where his focus was basketball and boxing.  He currently mentors kids through a special program that he and his friends named Brothers’ Keepers.  Started in 2009, Tory and other young men meet with high school kids and provide them with activities and mentorship. Tory calls Louisa home, and when not doing other things, he likes to spend most of his free time boxing.  “I’m looking forward to making an impact in kids’ lives”, says Tory.

We are excited to welcome Tory to our team.

PVCC Brings KidsCollege Summer Sculpting Class to Friendship Court


PVCC staff kept the kids at Friendship Court busy making all sorts of colorful creations during a week-long Sculpey Clay Creations class.  The class which ran from Aug 1-5 from 3-5 pm taught the kids the basics of hand sculpting, the use of sculpting tools and helped give them the skills to create their own unique designs. Polymer, or sculpey clay, was the basic material kids used to mold things from bowls to rainbows to other fun knick-knacks.  After the pieces were baked, the kids were able to paint them with acrylic paints before taking them home. PVCC instructor John Haverkamp has a background in artisanal crafts and computer software instruction for youth and adults.  Courtney Brown also assisted him with the class. Tory Twitty, the new Friendship Court Activity Coordinator, was on-hand to help out as was Community Outreach Assistant and Friendship Court resident, Sheri Hopper.


This Academy was the result of an ongoing partnership between Piedmont Housing Alliance and PVCC KidsCollege. During the past three years, dozens of Friendship Court students have been to PVCC for hands-on STEM and Arts Academies.

Friendship Court Community Receives Donations from BB&T to Improve the Community Center

Thanks to a generous donation from BB&T, Piedmont Housing is able to provide Friendship Court’s Community Center with some updated furnishings to help give it a little face-lift.

BB&T’s Bryan Thomas and his colleagues Steve Supple and Jennifer De Gaetano planned an afternoon to bring several new pieces to the center and helped Community Organizer, Claudette Grant, set them up. One item was a new area rug to use in the classroom as well as several colorful beanbag chairs that the kids can enjoy.  They also brought two benches, and badminton and volleyball sets.
Baskets for the bookcases and additional seating are forthcoming. The BB&T team spent the afternoon entertaining the youth while playing volleyball and badminton with them. The afternoon was capped off with the kids enjoying ice cream served up by Kirt of Kirt’s Homemade Ice Cream.   It was a real treat for all!

“The Friendship Court community thanks BB&T and Kirt’s Homemade Ice Cream for their generous support. The children greatly appreciate and are enjoying all the items provided,” notes Claudette Grant, Community Organizer at Friendship Court.

Bryan Thomas, Market President of BB&T, said “We have had the pleasure of working with Piedmont Housing Alliance this year.  Our BB&T branches and departments have continued to support our Lighthouse Projects, financially and with our personal involvement, to help our communities become stronger and better places to live.” Lighthouse Projects are community projects that bring financial resources and program support to community organizations or programs in need, such as Friendship Court.  They were started six years ago by BB&T.  Some other Lighthouse Projects supported in 2016 by other BB&T branches have been Claudius Crozet Park, Ready for Kids, and the Ronald MacDonald House.

Friendship Court Master Plan Update Covered by Charlottesville Tomorrow

FInal_FC_Logo_CMYKReporter Sean Tubbs published a story in yesterday’s Charlottesville Tomorrow about the latest update to the Friendship Court redevelopment process. The article covers the history of the project, which launched in the fall of 2015, and details some of the findings of the redevelopment team and Piedmont Housing Alliance as they’ve worked with residents and other stakeholders to learn the best way to approach redevelopment. Read the article. 

Meet Tamara Wright, Member of the Friendship Court Advisory Committee


Tamara Wright is one of seven residents of Friendship Court nominated and elected by her fellow residents, in February 2016, to serve on the Friendship Court Advisory Committee. The committee, which has been meeting regularly with the project’s design team, is providing guidance to Piedmont Housing Alliance in two primary areas: physical revitalization and community life.

A busy mother of three, Tamara still finds ways to be involved in her community, including her service on the advisory committee. She also serves on the Urban Agricultural Collective of Charlottesville (UACC) board of directors and is a member of the Friendship Court Residents Association. UACC has been a key partner at Friendship Court for nine years.  It is so important to have dedicated community members like Tamara involved in different aspects of planning Friendship Court’s future, including building on the vision for community life that Todd Neimeier (“Farmer Todd”) and UACC have developed with local residents over many years.

In addition to raising her children, as a single mother, and her community commitments, Tamara also works part-time, and has been pursuing a degree from Piedmont Virginia Community College.