Forum discusses Foundation, sea level rise

Published 9:05 pm Wednesday, November 6, 2019

More than 130 people learned about the work of the Suffolk Foundation and about the impacts of sea level rise on Hampton Roads during the organization’s annual Community Forum and Luncheon.

The ninth annual event on Wednesday at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts brought together many community leaders.

The Suffolk Foundation was established in 2006. Since that time, it has given away nearly $12 million in grants to community organizations working in the areas of arts, culture and humanities, education, environment, health, human needs and other facets of life in Suffolk.

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“You are making a difference in the city of Suffolk,” the head of one of those organizations, Roseland Worrell of Suffolk Meals on Wheels, told the crowd.

Meals on Wheels is among the highest grantees throughout the Suffolk Foundation’s lifespan, and Worrell explained how important the Foundation’s funding is to its important work.

“At Suffolk Meals on Wheels, we nourish bodies and touch hearts,” Worrell said, adding its volunteers had delivered more than 40,000 meals last year. The meals helped people stay in their homes and helped prevent re-hospitalizations for those recently released from the hospital.

“We think nutritious meals are good medicine,” she added. “You are making a difference in the city of Suffolk.”

The Suffolk Foundation also moved offices this year and now is located in the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts at 110 W. Finney Ave.

The keynote speaker for the event was Skip Stiles, executive director of Wetlands Watch. He shared facts on sea level rise with the group and talked about what it means for the future of Hampton Roads.

“Sea level rise is not the same everywhere,” Stiles said.

Hampton Roads is poised to be more affected than many other communities due to many variables — its high number of waterfront properties and endangered federal facilities, land subsidence, its proximity to the Gulf Stream and more. It is the 10th most valuable set of assets at risk from sea level rise in the world, he said, and there are $40 billion worth of needs in Hampton Roads that need to be addressed to mitigate its effects.

He said the area has seen 8 inches of water rise but also 10 inches of land sinkage. By the end of the century, a total of 4.5 feet of sea level rise could be affecting the area, putting much of it under water.

Area localities, including Suffolk, are taking it seriously and actively planning for the future, Stiles said. Chesapeake is currently buying out two neighborhoods that frequently flood, and Virginia Beach declined a development based on future sea level rise.

The military also is paying attention.

“Department of Defense takes this seriously, because it impinges on operational readiness,” Stiles added, noting the military’s many facilities in the area including Langley Air Force Base, Naval Station Norfolk, Fort Eustis, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and more.

“There’s a lot of really important, cutting edge stuff that’s taking place in this region,” he concluded. “The big challenge is the funding. Lots of water, not enough money, maybe enough time if we all get together.”

For more information about the Suffolk Foundation, visit