Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans – The Power of a Dollar

Do you have a dollar in your pocket or purse?  I do.  To be honest, I have fairly low expectations for my dollar.  I may spend it thoughtlessly here or there, but I doubt my dollar will make much difference.

Each February, Westminster Canterbury Richmond gathers to celebrate Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans, our greatest single benefactor. I’m fascinated by the power of $1 – a particular $1 spent by Lettie Pate’s husband, Joseph Whitehead, in 1899.

In the late 1800s, Joseph came home to tell his wife, Lettie, his latest great idea.  “Lettie, I was just down at the corner drugstore counter enjoying a Coca-Cola.  Boy, is that refreshing!” I imagine he said.  “Wouldn’t it be nifty if I could bring one home for you?  The only way you can have it is at the drugstore. It needs that fizzy water.  There’s got to be a way to sell that delicious refreshing drink so you can take it home and enjoy it whenever you’d like!”  The thought kept running around his head until one day, he decided to turn his lawyer skills to good purpose, and with Lettie’s blessing, Joseph travelled to Atlanta, Georgia, for a meeting with Asa Candler, the president of Coca-Cola.  Joseph took with him a concise agreement.  One short page that would give him the rights to bottle that delicious drink.

Sure enough, he got to Atlanta and had that now famous meeting with Mr. Candler, who signed only because he thought the idea foolish and unlikely.  Whitehead returned home with a signed agreement that cost him $1. Never underestimate the power of $1 in the right hands!

The startup of Coca-Cola Bottling proved a challenging and exhausting endeavor.  After eight years, Joseph was utterly worn out and ill.  He died at only forty-two years old, leaving behind his thirty-four-year-old widow and two young sons.  Not wanting her husband’s life and work to have been in vain, Lettie took up the reins, pushing forward with the business. That $1 grew into millions.

One day in the later years of her life, Lettie asked a neighbor about his involvement in an Episcopal home for elderly women located in Richmond, Virginia.  You see, Lettie well remembered the women of her family who struggled in poverty during her childhood.  She wanted to make sure others lived a better life.

Lettie became involved, helping to provide for the well-being of the women.  The Protestant Episcopal Church Home became part of Westminster Canterbury Richmond’s founding, bringing with it a tradition of blending excellence and compassion that still defines us.


Eventually, Lettie grew old and died.  By then, she had amassed quite a fortune and had established foundations that grew and provide generously to causes she cared deeply about. She wanted other women to be able to establish careers, so her foundations have provided thousands of scholarships at colleges and universities. She cared deeply about the well-being of women as they aged, and the foundations have helped Westminster Canterbury and a number of other senior living organizations provide financial aid for seniors-in-need.  Lettie’s legacy provides generously for Westminster Canterbury Foundation’s Fellowship Program that provides life care – housing, meals, medical expenses and vital living to seniors-in-need.

That original $1 investment, followed with investments of energy, innovation, dedication and hard work produced quite a high percentage return!

So what about my $1, my life?  What about yours?  What about our impact?  Who knows!  You may never see the impact one generous act makes in the life of one person and the person after them.  You may never know the impact of encouragement you offer when someone needs it most.  So keep taking the time to smile, to encourage your own dreams and the dreams of others.  Keep investing in one another – that is how good things begin and keep going.  We can trust God to bless our efforts and multiply them.

For more information about Westminster Canterbury Foundation’s Fellowship Program, contact Elizabeth Vaughan.

Story by Gayle Hunter Haglund, Director Resource Development, Westminster Canterbury Richmond.


Westminster Canterbury Richmond residents live life well in many ways. Here’s one story of a current resident.

Resident Doris Woodson grew up admiring art, a subject she admits she knew little about. “I was always fascinated by this one piece of artwork at my uncle’s house. How could someone be so talented to create that?”

When Doris went to college, after stints studying pharmacy and biology, she realized that art was what she was meant to pursue. She earned her undergraduate degree from Xavier University and a master’s in art from Virginia Commonwealth University. After having children, she began teaching at Virginia State University.

“I never wanted to teach, but once I started, I realized it was exactly where I belonged.” Doris taught painting, drawing and art appreciation. She exhibited her award-winning work around Virginia and beyond, including shows at VMFA, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, and the Richmond International Airport.

Upon moving to Westminster Canterbury, Doris didn’t stop teaching! She volunteered by offering classes and workshops in our McGue-Millhiser Arts Studio, teaching painting and drawing. “It was wonderful to teach my fellow residents. People really wanted to learn and put lots of effort into it. Sometimes I had to convince them that their work was really special by matting, framing and hanging one of their pieces so they could see it. Then they were in awe of what they accomplished!”

Doris loves being at Westminster Canterbury. “I can’t think of one instance where I’ve been dissatisfied. I never could have anticipated how much I would enjoy it.” Now the teacher has become the student! Doris has taken several memoir writing classes and is writing her own memoir for her children and grandchildren.

Could childhood Doris have imagined how much talent for creating art, teaching and writing she would have in adulthood? Westminster Canterbury is a place where you can enjoy using your existing talents and discover new ones!

Click here to learn how you can enjoy your hobbies and culture at Westminster Canterbury.


As we have delved into the successes, challenges and barriers of healthy aging in the Greater Richmond Region, it has been our joy and privilege to work with a number of community partners.  From each, we have learned more about what it takes to make our community better for people of all ages.  We’ve discovered tremendous infrastructure, programs, collaboration and resources for seniors throughout our area.  Westminster Canterbury Foundation is proud to be actively working with each of these partners to add our voice, our expertise, our volunteerism and even our investment – and most importantly continuing to learn from them.

WCR        vcusenior connect       leading age      henricorichmondHolleran        project homes_2

agewave        better housing        henrico library


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Community Study

Community Needs Assessment –  Westminster Canterbury Foundation partnered with Holleran Consulting to conduct a multi-phase Community Needs Assessment resulting in the thorough report available here. How was the study conducted?

Phase One: Holleran studied secondary data comprised of data obtained from existing reputable resources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For all demographic and health indicator statistics, data from Richmond City, VA, and Henrico County, VA, were incorporated.

Phase Two: Key informants – professionals working in senior services throughout greater Richmond – responded to a targeted survey to identify barriers and challenges to healthy aging in our region.

Phase Three: Seniors from greater Richmond responded to a targeted survey gathering their perspectives from a consumer point of view.

This data-rich report is full of testimony and identifies the key findings of this assessment. Feel free to use this information however you set fit.

Key Findings of Needs Assesment (Executive Summary)

Community Needs Assessment (Full Report)

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Symposium 2017

On October 25, 2017, Westminster Canterbury Richmond hosted the Live Life Well RVA Symposium: Exploring Healthy Aging. Speakers included:

Melissa Andrews, LeadingAge Virginia
Nikki Rineer and Mallory McCloskey, Holleran Consulting
The Honorable Levar Stoney, Mayor of Richmond
John Vithoulkas, Henrico County Manager
Dr. Thelma Bland Watson, Senior Connections
Dr. E. Ayn Welleford, VCU Gerontology

Imagine an RVA where all neighbors live life well. Leaders share ways to improve the lives of all citizens, particularly those entering elderhood, as we explore healthy aging in our region. Westminster Canterbury Richmond shares results from our recent community needs study.

Levar Stoney – Mayor of Richmond

John Vithoulkas – Henrico County Manager

Nikki Rineer and Mallory McCloskey – Holleran Consulting

Melissa Andrews – LeadingAge Virginia

Gayle Hunter Haglund – Director Westminster Canterbury Foundation

Dr. Thelma Bland Watson – Senior Connections

Dr. E. Ayn Welleford – VCU Gerontology