October 22, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Lea Whitehurst-Gibson, 36 

Executive Director, Virginia Community Voice

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Scott Elmquist

Growing up the oldest of four children just outside New York, Lea Whitehurst-Gibson says her family home’s extra bedroom was known as the “stray room” and was usually occupied by someone in need brought home by her pastor father.

“He had a big heart. That shaped my world view,” she says. “Life isn’t just for ourselves. It’s a community we’ve been shaped by, one that’s been poured into us and we need to pour it into others.”

Over a decade of community organizing, Whitehurst-Gibson knows when she’s making a difference by the reactions she gets. “It’s seeing the light bulb go on in the head of someone in a marginalized community when they realize that their voice does matter and what they feel about their neighborhood is important.”

As a mom, community organizer and executive director of Virginia Community Voice, a nonprofit organization that equips neighbors in marginalized communities to realize their vision for their neighborhood while preparing institutions to respond effectively to their needs, Whitehurst-Gibson rarely stops. Virginia Community Voice grew out RVA Thrives, a 2017 initiative she launched to increase neighborhood leadership over decisions affecting the Jefferson Davis Corridor community. Under her leadership, South Side neighbors identified three issues around which they’re taking collective action: jobs access, safety, and beautification and housing.

Whitehurst-Gibson and her husband Monty — whom she refers to as “my rock” - are foster parents to three young children who they’re in the process of adopting.

Raising them, she admits, is the hardest thing she’s ever done — and it makes her the most proud.

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