RICHMOND, Va. -- By day, Rudene Mercer-Haynes is a successful practicing attorney. After her long hours, she still finds time to put her faith into action and help others in the community throughout the pandemic.
Haynes is a breast cancer survivor who is passionate about sharing facts about women's health and community wellness.
When the pandemic hit, she didn't have to think twice about collaborating with the faith and medical communities. It all started with a phone call.
"We started addressing misconceptions and disinformation about how COVID was spread. So I said, how about Facts and Faith Fridays and from that, it really took on a life of its own," Haynes said.
Partnering with Dr. Robert Winn of the Massey Cancer Center and Dr. F. Todd Gray of the 5th Street Baptist Church, their collaboration morphed into something that gained national attention.
"Dr. Fauci, First Lady Biden got involved. Senators Tim Kaine, Mark Warner," Haynes said.
Since its founding, it is a conversation that has gone into an array of social issues impacting Black and Brown communities, from voting and education issues to criminal justice reform. Haynes still meets with local pastors on a weekly basis. This work landed her on the Valentine and Community Foundation's list of honorees for the 2022 History Makers award for promoting community health.
"Often, we think about history as just something that happened in the past and as you know, we are going to make sure that we understand history is always being made. And that we need to identify people in the community making history today," Bill Martin, the director of the Valentine Museum, said.
"It's special because someone took a look at what we were doing and realized it had an impact in the greater Richmond community. We were able to really, I think positively, impact people by making sure that folks got vaccinated, making sure that people took care of themselves and their loved ones. And I really do think that we saved a lot of lives just trying to spread accurate information," Haynes said.
Organizers said that last year's focus was on the COVID response. There was a public nomination process and graduates from Leadership Metro Richmond selected the honorees.
This year, six awards will be presented. The 17th annual Richmond History Makers event will stream live from Virginia Union University on March 8 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.