Meet us Monday: Mark and Jen

Jennifer Wheless Campbell and Mark Wheless, a father-daughter duo, have been supporting REAL LIFE since our inception. This charitable fund was started nine years ago by Mark and his wife Barbara, and has been a part of the central Virginia community ever since. Mark was looking for something to put his efforts toward, post-retirement, and Jen was interested in a more flexible career path that would allow her to be at home with her kids more often. The Wheless Family Stewardship Fund focuses on helping people overcome their personal barriers to the four pillars of a thriving life; healthy family practices, meaningful work, community interaction, and practicing a personal faith. These core values are identical to REAL LIFE’s Pathway to a Thriving life, with REAL LIFE adding an additional core value of sustained sobriety.

Jen and Mark’s relationship began with our director, Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, when she was working at the jail under Sherriff Woody. Mark and Jen describe the circumstances of meeting Sarah as providential. Jen and a friend, who was working with Jobs RVA, were attending a meeting when Sarah began sharing her ideas for a workforce development program. They realized very quickly that they could use their various skill sets to work together towards something great. That “something” became the idea for a community center. Along the way, Jen and Mark stayed in touch with Sarah. As Sarah began looking for lease space for the original community center, she encountered resistance by many property owners with negative views about leasing to organizations involving people coming out of incarceration or drug rehabilitation. By what Jen considers another providential intervention, she met a commercial property owner at a Florida convention who owned a perfect commercial building that Sarah was considering at the time (unknown to Jen). When the owner connected the dots between Jen and Sarah, he immediately agreed to lease the facility to REAL Life at very favorable rates and conditions. With the facility secured, Mark helped REAL LIFE with strategic planning, and funding for the Center. The random coincidences and blessings along the way exemplified God’s perfect timing and Jen and Mark have been supporting REAL LIFE since.

The Wheless family supports REAL LIFE for many reasons. The common core values make these two organizations a perfect fit. Their faith and the belief that all of us have an innate desire to help others, starting at home with the family, and extending to our neighbors, is what drives this family to continue their work in the community. Mark states that “it’s about figuring out how we are best suited to help, and then figuring out how far we can extend that help.” Along with REAL LIFE, the Stewardship Fund supports roughly 20-30 other organizations in central VA. They love to work with early childhood education and out-of-school-time programs, as they believe setting children up for success has a positive life-long impact. They have supported efforts to double the number of children in after school programs, funded curriculum for OST programs, as well as helping start-up new schools in underserved areas.

The Wheless family has strong ties to the community and REAL LIFE is so grateful for their continued support. Their desire to use their skills and resources to promote start-ups and non-profits like us, shows the love and generosity that is the core of this family. Dr. Scarbrough shares that “the partnership with the Wheless family is like none other. Leading us to set strategic planning and frameworks, developing compelling stewardship within our budget, ensuring we have scalable models, and just working to make our community stronger is the basis of our strong relationship with the Wheless family, which we value greatly. The friendship that has been developed, along with the accomplishments we have made together is something we are extremely proud of.”

Thank you, Wheless Family, for all you do for REAL LIFE and the central Virginia community!