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Nonprofit started by Colin Powell helping hydrate students in Caroline County
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Nonprofit started by Colin Powell helping hydrate students in Caroline County

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When Alma Powell visited Caroline County in 2011 to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of Caroline’s Promise she lauded, the community for sticking with the effort it started in 2001.

Caroline’s Promise is an offshoot of America’s Promise, which was founded by Gen. Colin Powell.

Powell’s wife, Alma Powell, is the board chairwoman of the organization that pledges to provide five resources to youth in the nation: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to serve others.

As many around the nation mourned the death of Colin Powell on Monday, Caroline’s Promise Executive Director Shermeka Baker–Latney reflected on the impact his organization has made in her community.

“It’s tear-jerking because he’s done so much,” Baker–Latney said. “They’re like family members because of the connection to Caroline’s Promise, and he’s the backbone of us having this organization.”

Alma Powell’s visit 10 years ago was her second trip to Caroline.

She told more than 150 people gathered at the Caroline Community Services Center in Milford that “you can be proud of what you do, but you have to keep doing it.”

Baker–Latney has pledged to keep the vision alive.

The most recent endeavor for Caroline’s Promise is a collection of more than 4,000 refillable water bottles for students in the county.

Baker–Latney was inspired to start the project after she returned to school. She realized that because of COVID-19, all water fountains in the county’s five schools have been converted into bottle-filling stations. Students are unable to drink directly from the tap. Caroline’s Promise didn’t include water bottles on its list for an annual school supply drive in late July.

“We didn’t think about that one necessity,” Baker–Latney said.

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Baker–Latney contacted business partners who all donated at least 100 reusable water bottles. Caroline’s Promise has distributed half of the 4,000 bottles it received, with the rest remaining in Baker–Latney’s office. She said the “Keep the Children Hydrated Campaign” will be a yearlong effort.

“Kids are now walking around throughout the whole school system with water bottles with the names of the sponsors,” Baker–Latney said. “They know those are supporters of their livelihood.”

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative pledged 800 bottles and has supplied 400.

GEICO also made a pledge. Other donors include Oxford Mount Zion Baptist Church in Ruther Glen, Picture Perfect Lawn Care, Praise Temple Apostolic Faith in Woodford and Saint Paul’s Baptist Church in Richmond.

Caroline’s Promise sponsored bottles for the Caroline Middle School football team.

Baker–Latney was thrilled that one of the past winners of the Caroline’s Promise Young Entrepreneur’s Expo, Brandon Burgess, donated 100 water bottles from his Phat Boi Apparel business.

Burgess’ bottles feature his company’s branding image along with the logo for Caroline High School, where he is a freshman.

“It’s great just to see the kids pick which ones they want,” Baker–Latney said. “They’ll stop by my office or I’ll get calls or emails from teachers saying they saw the flyer and if there is any way I can donate 25 water bottles for their whole class.”

Baker–Latney’s involvement with Caroline’s Promise has also inspired her to provide community service opportunities for the National Junior Honor Society at Caroline Middle. The NJHS created cards and gift bags to distribute to students that are entering or returning from quarantine.

In addition to the water bottle drive, Caroline’s Promise will host the Young Entrepreneur’s Expo on Nov. 13 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Community Services Center.

The event is designed to provide a platform for entrepreneurs ages 4–18 to promote, network and sell their products. For more information on the event, email

“[Colin Powell] can rest in peace knowing that our future leaders’ success is deeply grounded in the Five Promises,” Baker–Latney said. “Caroline’s Promise will continue to strive to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of the youth in Caroline County.”

Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526


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