Category Archives: Community News and Events

UACC Kicks Off the Season with Market Days

UACC pano
The community garden at Friendship Court is just about to pop with summer fruits and vegetables.  This community garden, as well as several others around Charlottesville, are managed by the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville (UACC), a grassroots organization that promotes social equity through collective gardening and produce distribution. UACC is the continuation of an urban agriculture project called QCC Farms, started by the Quality Community Council (QCC). The idea for QCC Farms began with a group of residents at Friendship Court and 6th Street who were looking for a way to bridge the social barriers between their communities. The project started with a series of community conversations which culminated in breaking ground at the Friendship Court Garden in May of 2007 and the 6th Street garden in June. When QCC disbanded in 2011, committed local residents and volunteers formed UACC to continue the valuable work of bringing community members together through urban agriculture.Toni at UACC garden at Friendship Court

Toni Eubanks is one of several board members of the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville and has been volunteering her time to work in the garden for many years now.  Toni says she became interested in learning what was happening in her new backyard, and that’s when she approached Todd Niemeier, better known as “Farmer Todd,” to see how she could get involved. Toni adds, “Throughout the year, the garden helps engage the community and provide fresh produce to those that can’t afford it. People get to learn about plants and gardening, but it’s also a way to bring our diverse community together.”

UACC conducts many programs to help teach people about community collaboration and leadership, but a big part of what they do is distribute produce free of charge using a time-based, alternative currency called farm tokens. When someone volunteers in one of the UACC gardens, they earn a wooden farm token for every half hour of service. Volunteers can then use theirs farm tokens or share them with neighbors. Farm tokens are exchanged for garden produce at weekly, volunteer-operated distribution events called market days. During each growing season, UACC conducts 20 to 24 market days all held in community centers or on lawns in the Friendship Court, Crescent Halls, 6th Street, and South 1st Street communities. Depending on the time of year, one farm token is worth a bag of vegetables that would cost roughly $15 to $30 in the grocery store. Market days also serve as a place where people can share information and make connections. Guest chefs offer cooking demos and share recipes made with the weekly harvest. Other community organizations come from time to time as well to share information about upcoming events and happenings in the neighborhood.

Anyone in the neighborhood can volunteer in the community gardens which helps promote neighborhood engagement. With over 600 volunteers, comprised of both adults and youth, the gardens provide a great way to grow and share healthful food together, along while creating a strong foundation upon which to build a healthier community.  The Youth Leadership Team worked together with Farmer Todd last fall over several sessions to learn more about the Friendship Court Community Garden and envision and sketch what the new garden could look like after the redevelopment process.  While he doesn’t know exactly what form the garden will take in the future, Todd says he has started doing some research around the idea of creating rooftop gardens and that feasibility for the Friendship Court Community. While keeping affordable housing at the forefront, he still hopes that through careful research and open dialogue, the future garden will start to take shape.

UACC garden

For more information or to volunteer at one of the gardens, see UACC’s website.

And here is a detailed map of the Friendship Court Community Orchard.

The next market day is this Friday, June 16th at Friendship Court at 4PM.

Piedmont Housing Alliance and ReadyKids – Benefits Your Family Can Take Home

ReadyKids logo

ReadySteps session at Friendship Court

Shannon Banks, ReadySteps Program Manager, and Kelsey Lehman, CCQ Educator at Friendship Court Community Center

It all happens at the Friendship Court Apartments Community Center. Some call it pre-school for the whole family. It’s called ReadyKids, where children (birth through five years) and their caregivers (parent, grandparent, child care provider, etc.) get together for fun, learning, and bonding.

Shannon Banks of ReadyKids with Friendship Court kids

Together, children and adults participate in activities that include everything from math and music to reading, art, and just plain play. The Program Educator and Family Coordinator work together to provide a program that promotes mutual understanding and opportunities to socially mingle with other kids and caregivers, which is what connecting with the community is all about.

This is a rare benefit for caregivers, who can learn first-hand how their child is growing and developing. And kids learn that their caring adults can be supportive and fun. The overall goal is to extend this concept and experience from the community center into the home. The program includes developmental and other support services by trained professionals, such as counseling and intervention, finding a dance class for your three-year-old, or helping to locate adult education classes.

Kudos to Shannon Banks, program manager, Eleanor Hoppe, program educator, and Laura Somel, family coordinator, for their energetic and committed work. The big news right now is that they will be adding a second educator early in the New Year!

Call (434) 296-4118 to learn about more programs and services in support of early childhood education or parenting.  And don’t miss the ReadyKids website at, which will explain the mission, goals, and strategies behind the many programs ReadyKids promotes. ReadyKids is a proud partner of the Piedmont Housing Alliance, who supports local families with its mission to create housing opportunities and build community, and who is working with Friendship Court families on the transformational redevelopment of their community.

ACAC Coordinates Holiday Gift Drive for Friendship Court Families

PHA Friendship Court ACAC Holiday Gift Drive

The countdown has begun—just a few more days until Christmas is here. Kids here in Charlottesville join with those around the world teeming with excitement awaiting the holiday tradition of gift giving. Christmas is a special time when family and friends come together and remember the good things they have. Children especially get excited because it’s also a time to give and receive presents! Some families, however, are not able to give as much to their children as they would like around the holidays. Thanks to ACAC Downtown, families at Friendship Court are receiving gifts through a special gift drive organized by the local athletic center to help bring joy to neighborhood children.

PHA Tory Twitty Friendship Court Activity Coordinator Holiday Gift

Interested families at Friendship Court were able to sign up for the Christmas gift drive with ACAC. The drive, organized by Assistant General Manager Paul Kyriacopoulos, has been going on for several consecutive years. Claudette Grant, Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Community Organizer at Friendship Court, provided Paul with the names of 100 children. ACAC put each of these names on its own ornament that hung on a Christmas tree in the foyer of the club. Guests could pick an ornament containing a wish list from the child whose name was on the ornament. Patrons returned the gifts to ACAC and the staff there coordinated gift-wrapping and delivery to Friendship Court. There, families are picking up the gifts just in time for Christmas!

PHA Friendship Court Family receiving gifts

In addition to these generous community gifts offered through ACAC members, two neighboring businesses helped three additional Friendship Court families, and Piedmont Housing Alliance assisted by providing gifts for six more Friendship Court children not on the ACAC list.

acac logo

We thank our downtown neighbors and partners, ACAC, Downtown Family Health Care, b:core methods, and MADabolic, for their support in helping bring Christmas joy to families at Friendship Court.

Happy Holidays to all!

PHA Tory Twitty Claudette Grant Sheri Hopper Friendship Court Gift Drive

Tory Twitty, Claudette Grant and Sheri Hopper

Meet Daemond Nowlin, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Daemond Nowlin Youth Leadership Team Friendship Court

Daemond Nowlin is one of eight Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly after school since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is learning many skills to help better their community. The Youth Leadership Program is part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement process for the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The goal is to equip resident youth leaders with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. Youth participants gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.

Daemond, 14, attends Charlottesville High School. He is a dedicated football player and is hoping to become an NFL player when he is older. His favorite color is blue and when asked what he would do with a large gift of money, Daemond says he would buy a house and a reliable car. Daemond says he is learning a lot about being a leader while in the program.

Daemond was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because he wants to make a difference in his community.

Piedmont Housing Alliance Launches the Friendship Court Athletic Club for Boys

PHA-FCAC-Friendship Court Boys Running Program Training with Nick Berry

Piedmont Housing Alliance is offering a running program for boys ages 9-12 at Friendship Court.  The youth in the Friendship Court Athletic Club (FCAC) will work on athletic training through running activities and obstacle courses to build not only their stamina but also their self-confidence. The group kicked off its first meeting on Tuesday, October 25th and will train every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. until a culminating one mile race in December.

Tory Twitty, Friendship Court’s activity coordinator, and community organizer, Claudette Grant, have worked together with several community partners to bring the FCAC program to life.  Mark Lorenzoni, the owner of Ragged Mountain Running Shop, developed the running program.  Mark and his wife, Cynthia, are long-time Charlottesville residents who have been promoting distance running and fitness in the community since opening their running shop in 1982.  They have organized over 500 races for charity including the popular Women’s Four Miler event.

PHA FCAC Boys Running Program Friendship Court Boys Running

Nick Berry of Investure is one of the coaches who will be working with the FCAC boys. Nick, who coached last year through the Let Me Run program, will be helped by Madison House volunteers.


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.








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.