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A Day in the Volunteer Life: Housing Initiative Partnership

It was a hot, Saturday morning in August. I was fanning myself with a brochure seated at a table under a tent, one among many, in a church parking lot. In between greeting people walking by, I took in the smell of hotdogs, the sound of blaring hip hop, and the sight of kids jumping on a moon bounce. If it sounds like I was hanging out at a barbecue, you’re right! But it was also my most recent volunteer experience with another one of the Catalogue’s nonprofit partners, Housing Initiative Partnership.

Housing Initiative Partnership (also known by their fun acronym “HIP”) has been a Catalogue nonprofit partner since 2013. Their mission is to revitalize neighborhoods and create economic/housing security in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. They renovate foreclosed homes and develop new multifamily and single family homes to provide low and moderate income families with environmentally-friendly and high-quality affordable housing. Additionally, they provide financial counseling, helping some people prepare for first-time home ownership, and helping others avoid foreclosure.

I first found HIP while looking for volunteer opportunities on the Catalogue website. I reached out via email and got in contact with Lesia Bullock, their new Director of Resources and Communications. HIP has been a vital community resource for over 30 years and yet is still a “best kept secret” that many people don’t know about. Lesia doesn’t want it to be a secret anymore. So, she actively looks for opportunities to improve HIP’s community outreach and raise public awareness about their services.

She invited me to be her volunteer helper in promoting HIP at the Palmer Park Back to School Block Party and Community Resource Fair, hosted by Maryland State Delegate Alonzo T. Washington. Delegate Washington had invited HIP and other local nonprofits to set up tables at the fair to share their resources with community members. My role as volunteer was to help her set up the table, hand out written materials and swag to passersby, and answer questions about HIP’s programming.

It was already hot when I arrived at the Park View Baptist Church at 10:30 in the morning; I bathed myself in sunblock and donned my massive skin-cancer-prevention straw hat. Lesia got delayed at the thrift store where she was buying goodies to hand out to kids, so I went ahead and picked our table out for us. (Turns out I picked poorly — we were situated right next to the DJ, which meant that we would end up having to sometimes yell about HIP’s wonderful services into people’s ears.)

Once Lesia arrived, I helped her unload her car and set up the bright blue and green HIP collateral for our table. The wind was strong that day, which required some cleverly situated weights and clips to avoid HIP branded papers from flying everywhere.

Nancy and LesiaSome of these papers advertised HIP’s upcoming housing opportunities just around the corner in Palmer Park. Right now, nine new NetZero Ready certified townhomes are already under construction. People interested in buying must take required homebuyer education courses with HIP.

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Lesia was in her element tabling. Not only did she know a thorough answer to every question asked her, she also seemed to know just about everyone at the block party (or at least that’s how it felt to me).

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In addition to having a good relationship with our block party’s charming host, Delegate Washington, she also knew US Representative Anthony Brown who swung through the event for a while to shake hands and give a speech. It was a pretty neat surprise to meet a member of Congress that morning. See, this is why you should volunteer! You never know who you’ll run into.

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I recommend volunteering at community events and parties, because parties are fun! There were speeches, games, line dances, giveaways, and even a karate demonstration by a local studio.

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Around 2 pm, I helped pack up and carry HIP materials back to Lesia’s car and thanked her for the opportunity to learn more about HIP and help run the table with her. All in all, the block party/resource fair had been an easygoing volunteer experience. I enjoyed visiting a new community, seeing civic engagement in action, and learning more about one of our nonprofit partner’s contributions to their community.

As Lesia continues to look for more ways to spread the word about HIP’s work, you can potentially join her as a table volunteer at future public events like the one I helped out at, or their upcoming 30th Anniversary Networking Reception in November. Also, HIP can benefit from weekly administrative volunteers at their Hyattsville and Germantown offices to help take the load off of their hardworking counselors. If you’re passionate about affordable housing and financial literacy, you can help out a trusted, community-based nonprofit by visiting HIP’s website.

This post was written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator of the Catalogue for Philanthropy

 

Is Democracy a Verb?

School is back in session and students are learning about nouns & verbs, new mathematical equations, and the periodic table.

And democracy!

At Mikva Challenge DC, we believe that the best way for young people to learn about democracy is to “do democracy!” So even though democracy might not technically be a verb, our back-to-school season will be full of young people engaging in democratic action!

This year, we will be recruiting 25 high school students from across DC to be part of our “Elections in Action Youth Leadership Team.” Through hands-on voter registration, campaign work, and interactions with candidates and elected officials, our Elections in Action Fellowship empowers young people to become informed about and engaged in elections — even before they are old enough to vote.

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In a recent report, The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE,) recommends that we move from a “paradigm focused on merely mobilizing voters, to one centered on Growing Voters.” As the CIRCLE report states, “We don’t automatically become engaged, informed, and empowered to participate in our democracy when we turn 18.”

The report further states, “school clubs, youth organizations, and other extracurricular activities can be important ‘incubators’ of civic behaviors, but depending on their race and ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, young people may have very inequitable access to those opportunities.”

We agree! And that is why Mikva Challenge DC provides opportunities for DC youth – from across every race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and ward – to actively participate in our electoral process even before they reach voting age.

This year, Mikva DC’s Elections in Action Youth Leadership Team will:

  • learn about the history of voting rights and how those rights affect them and their communities,
  • survey their peers about the issues they care about in this Presidential Election,
  • create a Youth Guide to the 2020 candidates, and
  • travel to Iowa to volunteer on a variety of presidential campaigns before the Iowa Caucus.

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Last fall, we launched our Elections in Action Youth Leadership Team with 26 young people to create opportunities for more DC youth to directly participate in the electoral arena of local politics. For example, for a week in October, EIA students canvassed neighborhoods around high schools in NW, NE, and SE Washington, DC knocking door-to-door to register community members to vote. In this process two students discovered that they were old enough to register to vote and did so for the first time. The fall programming culminated with EIA students serving as election poll workers in precincts around the city. Students greeted voters, learned the mechanics of ballot machines, verified voters’ personal information, and instructed voters on how to cast ballots on their full day of work, and in the process saw the electoral process first-hand and up-close. From last year’s Elections in Action Youth Leadership Team, 100% of students felt more knowledgeable about the political process after being part of Mikva DC programs, and 90% want to participate in elections in the future.

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Nationally, 88% of Mikva alumni are registered to vote compared to 53% of their peers, and 77% of Mikva alumni believe they have a responsibility to be involved in solving community issues, compared to 36% before the program.

Want to get involved in this project to make “democracy a verb” for DC youth? Here’s how you can help…

  • If you know of a high school student in DC who would be interested in this unique leadership program, please reach out to Voncia Monchais at voncia@mikvachallenge.org.
  • We are always looking for guest speakers from the political world to come meet with our students. If you, or someone you know, has a job in politics, and would be willing to talk with our students about your work, contact Voncia at voncia@mikvachallenge.org.
  • Have other ideas about ways to support Mikva DC’s Elections in Action Youth Fellows? Reach our Mikva DC’s Executive Director, Robyn Lingo, at robyn@mikvachallenge.org to share your thoughts.

Help us “grow” a new generation of informed, empowered & active civic leaders!

This post was written by Mikva Challenge DC, a Catalogue nonprofit partner

Back to School Means Healthy Relationships For Children… and Adults

With triggering stories of abuse in the news each day, and movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp still gaining momentum, children and adults alike are feeling the need to share their stories, talk about traumas they have suffered, and get help from trusted sources such as Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA)’s Helpline. In fact, the number of calls to JCADA increases daily with clients seeking culturally and faith sensitive counseling and legal services.

Ideally, we would like to catch unhealthy relationships before they even begin, so our counseling and legal services aren’t in such high demand! JCADA’s Prevention, Education and Training team provides workshops on a variety of topics with the goal of preventing abuse and harassment before it starts. Our AWARE programs, Education and Training workshops and Building Better Allies (BBA) initiative utilize the latest research and best practice to create an impactful, age appropriate experiences in multiple doses, with a comprehensive approach.

AWARE is a comprehensive abuse and harassment prevention initiative that engages over 3,000 people each year throughout the Washington DC Metropolitan area with interactive workshops for youth and young adults in grades 6-12, a campus training experience for college students and education and training for area congregations, public and private schools, youth groups, camps, and community organizations. AWARE is dedicated to empowering young people with the skills and knowledge they need to build healthy relationships, become active bystanders, understand consent and create culture change in their schools and communities.One student described her experience: “I learned that it is important to be aware of and understand the fact that not everyone has the same support options.”

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Along with AWARE, we are pleased to share our newest initiative, Building Better Allies (BBA). BBA is a certification program that helps organizations, agencies, and faith communities better understand, prevent, and respond to incidents of power-based violence. Through a series of interactive workshops, individualized consultations, and a review of internal policies and practices, BBA provides a training and education experience uniquely suited for each participating organization.

Together, we can help everyone in our community get empowered to advocate for their needs and feel safe!

Written by Laura Kovach, Prevention, Education & Training Director at JCADA

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Are you in love with dogs, but your apartment lease doesn’t allow animals? Do you wish you could have a pet, but your work schedule is too inconsistent? Do you want to help save a rescue dog from being put down? Then you should consider volunteering with the Catalogue’s nonprofit partner Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. That’s what I did recently, and it was a fantastic experience that I highly recommend.

The weekend was approaching and I considered two possible choices: watch Netflix or contribute to society. As much as I enjoy re-binging The Office, I decided to make the nonprofit-positive choice and began researching last-minute volunteer opportunities. I found a Lucky Dog adoption event just 7 minutes from my house. The signup process was really quick. How convenient!

Although Lucky Dog is based out of Arlington, they frequently host weekend adoption events all around the DC region. They rescue dogs from high-kill shelters, treat their medical needs, and place them with temporary foster homes while they search for forever families to match them with. Lucky Dog prides themselves on their matchmaking skills, placing their dogs with carefully vetted adoptive families that are perfect for them.

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At 11 am on Sunday morning, I arrived at the Rockville Petco, signed in, and received a brisk orientation from a more experienced volunteer, an Event Coordinator. My job for the day was a Volunteer Handler; I would learn my rescue dog’s bio, handle the leash, answer potential adopter questions, and keep the dog happy for the next several hours throughout the adoption event. If people had questions about fostering or adoption, I would send them to the informational tables outside. Some people had already gone through the pre-approval process, and others were stopping through on a whim.

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I was paired with Baloo, a 1-2 year old shepherd mix. He was a real cutie. My informational paper explained a little about his medical history and some behavioral comments from his temporary foster family. They said that Baloo is gentle, sweet, and loves belly rubs. Spot-on observations! During my entire service experience, I never once heard him bark. And he loved snuggles.

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The day in question was hot. Outside were generous amounts of water bowls and baths for the dogs to stay cool in. Volunteers and their doggies huddled under canopy tents or hugged the side of the building. Like many others, I spent the majority of my time inside the air-conditioned Petco; I told myself that it was purely motivated by concern for Baloo’s comfort, but really I also appreciated a break from the oppressive sun.

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Adoption events are bustling, crowded fun! Everywhere you went were dogs being pet, playing, and getting their leashes tangled up together. It was one of the easiest volunteer experiences I have had; I leisurely spent my time walking around, hanging with Baloo on the floor, chatting with other volunteers, promoting Baloo to prospective families, and even sneaking a peak at the puppies section.

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Baloo had been randomly assigned to me, but I became pretty emotionally attached very quickly. Although there were so many diverse types of dogs at this event, I became convinced that my doggie was the best one there. But although he was clearly a favorite of a few families that day, he didn’t make the final cut for any of them. I felt indignant on his behalf; couldn’t people see how amazing he was? A few fellow volunteers coyly mentioned that I could foster or adopt Baloo, but my housing doesn’t allow animals.

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At 3:30pm, I said goodbye to Baloo and he returned to his foster placement, still without a permanent home. I was sad to see him go. I enjoyed my experience volunteering with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. I got to meet both wonderful people and some wonderful dogs. It was rewarding yet stress-free “work,” and it gave me a chance to meet a new community of animal lovers. As much as I love The Office, this had been the superior choice for a weekend activity!

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There were 68 dogs up for adoption this day, which is actually on the low end for Lucky Dog adoption events. Apparently some of their events have had up to 120 dogs! That means a big need for volunteers. There is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities at Lucky Dog that can accommodate just about any schedule or level of commitment.

In the week of the event that I volunteered, 27 Lucky Dogs (and 2 Lucky Cats) ended up getting adopted. A few weeks later I was delighted to learn that Baloo ended up getting adopted as well! I hope that he is giving his new family the same friendly cuddles that I got to enjoy during my brief time with him. If you are interested in adopting a dog in need of a home, you can also get started on their website.

 

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator at Catalogue for Philanthropy

The Most Critical Tool for Back To School? A Village of Support.

Every year during Back to School season, parents and caretakers dutifully stock up on school supplies to help their children thrive in the coming year, but there is another incredibly valuable, yet intangible, tool that many parents give their children as they head off to school: a network of support. This network can include parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends. These are the people the student will be able to rely on for homework help, a healthy snack after school, perhaps access to a specialist for a learning disability, or even a professional introduction when they’re looking for their first internship.

(Left to Right) Generation Hope Scholar Karen, Generation Hope Scholar Christina, and Generation Hope coach Sophie -

(Left to Right) Generation Hope Scholar Karen, Generation Hope Scholar Christina, and Generation Hope coach Sophie -

You may have heard of the expression “It takes a village to raise a child,” and this network — this social capital — is the secret sauce. But not every student heads into school with access to this kind of support.

At Generation Hope, we surround motivated teen parents and their children with the mentors, emotional support, and financial resources that they need to thrive in college and kindergarten, thereby driving a two-generation solution to poverty. I founded the organization on the belief — informed by my own experience as a teen mom — that young parents deserve to have their potential supported, and on a conviction that educational attainment can be transformative across multiple generations of a family.

The stories of hope and progress that I have witnessed at Generation Hope have confirmed what I know to be true from my own experience: when a parent walks across the graduation stage, the outcomes for their child and their family immediately skyrocket, opening doors that seemed impossible.

Just as parents try to ensure their children head off to school with a support network along with pencils, binders, and notebooks, Generation Hope connects our students and their young children who may not have access to that intangible but crucial network of support with “Resource Families” – volunteers who provide that critical social capital, which has such an impact on Scholars’ success. This is on top of the intensive parenting support for Scholars and early childhood interventions for their children through our new program, Next Generation Academy, and it’s one of the most impactful ways in which Generation Hope helps prepare families and children for the jump into kindergarten.

Karyn and her son at Alicia's graduation in May

Karyn and her son at Alicia’s graduation in May

Resource Families are a group of individuals, related or not, that act as a resource for a Scholar and their child. They make connections (perhaps recommending a reading specialist or introducing a Scholar to a professional in their chosen career field), provide tangible resources (Resource Families contribute $1,200 a year to our Education Fund, which allows Scholars to afford high-quality childcare for their children), and offer social support for their Scholar’s family — whether that is helping a Scholar learn how to prep healthy meals, or planning a visit to a museum with the Scholar and their children.

Resource Families build relationships with Scholars and their children through “family dinners” six times per year, where Generation Hope brings Scholar families and Resource Families together to learn from one another’s life experiences.

Resource Family Alex (left) and Karyn (right) with Generation Hope Scholar Alicia (middle)

Resource Family Alex (left) and Karyn (right) with Generation Hope Scholar Alicia (middle)

Sid Nazareth, who serves as a Resource Family with his wife and young sons, sees their role as providing unconditional support to their Scholar, and sharing their own lessons learned. “We forget how hard it was to be in college just by itself, and go through that change of learning. Knowing that we have resources that other folks may not have access to allows us to say, ‘Yeah, we went through that, and this is information we can share to help you out in any way we can.’”

Resource Families are key to our Scholars’ success. By sharing such a meaningful and authentic bond with not just a Scholar, but their family, Resource Families have the opportunity to truly make a substantial difference for two generations.

Can you be a connector for our Scholars and their children as they head back to school this fall? For more information on becoming a Resource Family or volunteering with Generation Hope, please contact Volunteer and Outreach Associate, Michelle Avelino, at michelle@supportgenerationhope.org, or visit our website at supportgenerationhope.org.

The needs of the world can feel overwhelming at times, but the difference that each of us can make is powerful. Generation Hope was built on this premise — that each of us has the ability to change the world one person and one family at a time. We’d love to have you join us!

Written by Nicole Lynn Lewis, Generation Hope’s Founder & Chief Executive Officer. Generation Hope surrounds motivated teen parents and their children with the mentors, emotional support, and financial resources that they need to thrive in college and kindergarten, thereby driving a two-generation solution to poverty. Visit supportgenerationhope.org to learn more.

Back to School with Reading Partners

What would your life look like if you didn’t know how to read? How would it impact your ability to get around in this world? Your education, career, and social life? How would it impact your confidence?

Literacy is an essential life skill and the foundation of all future learning. The ability to read is the one factor that can so dramatically shape one’s life trajectory and future success. Nationwide, 80% of students from low-income homes are not reading proficiently by the fourth grade. Once students start to fall behind in reading, they tend to fall faster and further behind their peers every year. Alarmingly, students who are not reading proficiently by the end of fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

To help combat the literacy crisis in our country, Reading Partners works with schools and communities to provide individualized tutoring to students who struggle with reading. We use an evidence-based curriculum, delivered by trained volunteers, that has been found to have a positive and statistically significant impact not only on students’ reading proficiency but also on their social-emotional learning skills.

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Our work stems from the belief that every child has the right to learn how to read, regardless of where they live, their parents’ income, or any perceived biases regarding their abilities. We understand the tremendous impact the ability to read has on a person’s quality of life, and we are committed to providing young students with the opportunity to gain the critical reading skills that will put them on a path to success.

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This upcoming school year, Reading Partners will serve 925 students at 19 elementary schools across the District. However, we recognize that the lack of high-quality literacy intervention disproportionately affects students residing in Wards 7 and 8, which is why 11 of our 19 partner schools are located east of the river. Being deeply committed to educational equity in our city, it’s crucial we make literacy support accessible to students who need it most.

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Adam,* a first-grader from Nalle Elementary School in Ward 7, was enrolled in Reading Partners because he was reading far below his grade level. He struggled with fluency and comprehension, and, not surprisingly, lacked the confidence to speak in front of others. He was so quiet and timid in a classroom that he never got the opportunity to show what he was capable of.

The one-on-one attention Adam got from his reading partner was overwhelming for him at first. Yet he responded well to games and told his tutor he really liked aquatic animals, especially sharks. Playing games to reinforce his lessons, and having more control over them by being able to pick the games himself, turned out to really boost his confidence. Soon, he was engaged during the entire lesson, stopped guessing, started sounding out words he was unfamiliar with, and became really good at blending sounds. He even invented his own game which included (you guessed it) a shark and a fish.

At the end of the year, Adam was assessed by a Reading Partners site coordinator who told him that he was now on grade level. She was so excited that she told him, “Adam, you should tell your teacher!” Adam responded, “No, I don’t want to.” So she replied, “Well, I’m going to tell her myself.” And with the biggest smile she had ever seen on his face, he simply said, “OK.”

Adam’s story proves that when students are given the attention, support, and opportunities they deserve, they are ready and eager to unlock their own potential. As students’ confidence grows and they start to develop a love of reading, every week, they are getting closer to mastering the literacy skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

Reading Partners DC mobilizes over 1,100 community volunteers each year. We’re currently recruiting volunteers for the 2019-20 school year. If you want to make a difference in the life of a struggling reader, sign up to become a reading partner today! No previous tutoring experience is necessary (training will be provided). Please email volunteerdc@readingpartners.org or call 202-701-9110 to get started.

*Name has been changed to protect the student’s identity.
Written by Daniela Jungova, Development & Communications Manager at Reading Partners

“It’s surprising what I can do when I can understand the language.”

What makes you feel like an integral part of a community?

It is not only the ability to work, live, and support yourself through daily routines, but more importantly, it is being connected with the environment around you, and being able to easily access the lifestyle you want. These basic needs — which come so naturally that they often go unnoticed for many of us – can be a huge barrier for someone for whom English is not their first language.

During back-to-school season, we would like to share Diana’s story with you. As Diana first settled down in the United States, she felt “isolated” from the community and was not able to do anything without her fiance. However, after she started to learn English and improve her language skills, she could once again access what she enjoys in life. At the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV), we are delighted to see that as Diana improves her English and is able to access more resources, she is gradually more connected to the community she lives in, and can finally call where she lives “home.” Here is Diana’s story in her own words:

“Hi, my name is Diana. I’m from Colombia. I arrived here one year ago. I live in Springfield, VA, with my fiance. I’m going to get married soon. I’m so excited to be able to say my vows in English. My native tongue is Spanish. By learning English I can do many things that I couldn’t do in my community, school, work and my daily life.

“Since taking English classes, I can buy groceries, toiletries, shoes, clothes, and different things in many places. If my fiance can’t take me to work, I can take the bus or train and can ask how to get back home. Also, I like it when I go to restaurants and can get my favorite food the way I like it.

“Sincerely, by knowing English, I feel more confident talking with different people about the weather, news and hobbies. I like that I now understand movies or series from Netflix, TV, and theaters. I love to read so I can expand my knowledge with new vocabulary each day.

“In my job, I can be involved with the customers, friends, new people, and my boss, of course. My favorite part is that now I can hang out with friends and go out with them. It’s surprising what I can do when I can understand the language.

“English has transformed my life. If I keep learning it, I know that I’m going to college to validate my career to be able to get a better life to help my family, friends and society.”

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LCNV believes that by providing adults the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English, they can access employment and educational opportunities and more fully and equitably participate in the community. If you know someone who wants to improve their English skills to more fully participate in the community, visit our website and become a learner with LCNV this fall. View our Fall Schedule here and attend one of our many registrations, running now through Thursday, September 12.

 

The Meaning of “Back to School” – Horton’s Kids Operation Backpacks

It’s your first day of fourth grade. You wake up after a night of tossing and turning with excitement to meet your new classmates and put on your first day of school outfit. You’re heading out the door to hop on the bus and reach for your brand new backpack — but it isn’t there. When your new teacher asks you to pull out the three-ring binder listed as “mandatory” on your school supplies list, your desk is empty. Your classmates start to laugh. You feel defeated, and you’ve only been at school for half an hour.

Everyone is familiar with some version of the back-to-school dream. In one way or another, you’re unprepared for class, and your back-to-school dream becomes a back-to-school nightmare.

Horton’s Kids, a non-profit that works in one of the most under-resourced communities in Washington, DC, recognizes that a backpack and school supplies are an important first step in a child’s academic confidence and success. For some kids, back to school shopping is the most exciting time of the year. For others, it can feel overwhelming and impossible. The children we serve live in Wellington Park, a neighborhood without easy access to stores and public transportation. The average income in the neighborhood is $10,000 per year, and 80% of adults lack a high school diploma. As classroom supply lists get longer and longer, this can mean difficult decisions for the families we serve, between purchasing back-to-school supplies, and providing essential items the family needs.

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To help set the kids of Wellington Park up for success in school, Horton’s Kids hosts Operation Backpacks, a school supply drive that collects durable backpacks and other fundamental school supplies. With the help of donors across the DC area, 110 children in grades K-5 and 95 children in grades 6-12 can pick a backpack of their choice filled with all of the notebooks, pencils, and other necessities for the school year.

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A solid foundation is critical for children to succeed academically- and a backpack and school supplies are an important piece of that foundation. Supplies prepare kids physically and mentally for class; they walk into a new school year assured that they have the tools they need to learn. For kids without the binder or backpack on the first day, school can become more of an obstacle than a catalyst of growth.

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But what use is a backpack filled with paper and pencils and books if it doesn’t get opened after the final bell rings? As an organization, Horton’s Kids understands that there is so much more to back to school than supplies. This is why we provide year-round after-school tutoring with the support of more than 500 dedicated volunteers who tutor and mentor Horton’s Kids participants. Supplies are foundational to learning, but highlighters don’t help kids with reading comprehension or college applications by themselves. Development for Horton’s Kids participants outside of school relies on a lot people, including family members, staff, volunteer tutors and mentors, and hard-working participants. If you want to help support a child through tutoring, homework help, or mentorship, we want to hear from you! We are still in need of volunteers for the 2019-2020 school year. If you’re interested, fill out an application on our website or email volunteer@hortonskids.org.

Operation Backpacks helps fill the backpack with supplies, and the volunteers, staff, and participants at the heart of Horton’s Kids fill it with confidence and success both in and beyond the classroom. By the end of the year, even though their backpacks might be empty of supplies, Horton’s Kids participants are full of knowledge — This year, 100% of Horton’s Kids kindergarteners can read on grade level, and for the past two years, 100% of Horton’s Kids seniors have graduated from high school.

Imagine you’re back in math class. A backpack full of supplies doesn’t equal success alone, but a backpack full of supplies + dedication + support + a willingness and excitement to learn definitely does. Operation Backpacks is an integral part of that equation for Horton’s Kids participants, and we are so excited to see where it takes each of them this year.

Horton’s Kids empowers children living in one of Washington DC’s most under-resourced communities so that they can graduate high school ready for success in college, career, and life. The children we serve live in a community with one of the highest rates of violent crime in DC, where the average family income is less than $10,000 per year. Children in Horton’s Kids are twice as likely to graduate from high school.

After-School All-Stars Partners with DC Central Kitchen

One of the pillars of After-School All-Stars, Washington DC’s (ASAS DC) free after-school programming is community service. We will always strive to keep our students safe, healthy and provide them with opportunities to succeed at the high-school level and beyond. Just as important but sometimes lost in today’s world is the emphasis we place on students giving back to their communities. We could think of no better partner to fulfill this goal than DC Central Kitchen (DCCK).

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Aside from what is mentioned above, DC Central Kitchen is an ideal partner for ASAS DC because we both favor a comprehensive approach. The organization goes beyond simply producing meals for people experiencing hunger by also providing those same people a means to sustain themselves through its Culinary Job Training program. DC Central Kitchen has an established record of training and hiring some of the individuals that have previously received their services, supplying the foundation for a viable career path.

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With an established name and seamless volunteer system, it was easy to get in touch with DCCK through their website and schedule a date for ASAS DC students from Leckie Education Campus (Ward 8) to visit and donate their time and efforts. The majority of Leckie students in our program already have healthy cooking and food handling experience from the cooking classes we provide. This was another reason why this collaboration was so well received, as it combined our emphasis on service with our established healthy cooking classes. At the same time this was their first time in a real “restaurant style” kitchen environment. With that in mind they were provided a full orientation and overview of the kitchen, complete with proper safety/sanitation gear as well as guidance that they were familiar with around safe food handling and best practices. Similar to the success that our staff has had, the DC Central Kitchen volunteer leaders were extremely skilled at customizing their orientation to suit an adolescent audience.

The interest of the students combined with the passion and dedication of the kitchen staff is what made this such a successful collaboration. The students have already established interests and legitimate skills around healthy cooking, but they wanted to literally get their hands dirty in the act of service. As ASAS DC acts as a food site at some of our schools, and frequently providing snacks and supper for our students in need daily, the fact that DC Central Kitchen does the same thing with over a dozen DC schools had a tremendous resonance with the students from Leckie. The students jumped right into the messy work, arranging large quantities of chicken breasts with sauce, and preparing snacks.

Photo chicken

The first trip was so well received by the students that Leckie returned two more times before the end of this past school year, all within the 2nd semester. They completed orientations and food preparation at the main kitchen site as well as the location on Evarts Street NE. The return trips speak to the quality of the volunteer experience provided by the DC Central Kitchen dedicated staff, as well as the genuine interest of our students to want to give back and learn more about reputable community organizations. We are extremely grateful for this partnership, and in the coming school year we will look to connect hundreds of students to this volunteer experience from all 6 of our current schools located throughout the city!

 

Photo May 20, 2 00 00 PM

What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Have to Stay in Vegas: CFP Charity Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area (PFNCA) Honored by CVENT

Last month, I attended a global conference in Las Vegas for CVENT, a McLean, VA-based company that specializes in meetings, events, and hospitality management technology.

The Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area (PFNCA) uses CVENT’s software platform to manage its wellness and educational programs. We started using the platform four years ago, about 18 months after I arrived as President & CEO. When I was hired in this role, I was tasked with reversing years of operating losses and righting this special “ship” that helps people slow the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. In short order my team and I executed a turnaround and began planning for growth.

We were challenged in the areas of data management, program evaluation, marketing and more. Our migration to CVENT was a building block for our turnaround and subsequent growth. Since CVENT is such a big part of how we manage our service to the community, I decided to apply for one of the awards they present annually. To my happy surprise, we were named a finalist in our category, which was called The Achiever.

Other finalists in this category included:

  • Wolters Kluwer N.V., a Netherlands-based global information services company serving legal, business, tax, accounting, finance, audit, risk, compliance, and healthcare markets with operations in 180 countries, 18,000+ employees and revenue of $4.7B USD in 2018.
  • Morningstar, Inc., a global financial services firm headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, United States with 4,000+ employees. It provides an array of investment-research and investment-management services. In 2018, Morningstar had $1B in revenue.

At the time we applied for the award, PFNCA had a staff of 4 full-time employees and revenue of about $1M.

PFNCA provides more than 240 exercise and vocal cord strengthen programs each month at no cost for people fighting Parkinson’s. Programs are provided at 24 locations in 33 cities/towns in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

PFNCA also uses CVENT for its PFNCA’s Parkinson’s Pointers Lecture Series and our annual educational conference. Parkinson’s Pointers is a lecture series where people gather in various locations for a presentation and question and answer session by a physician or other person that specializes in Parkinson’s. Powerful practical information is shared in a positive setting. Lectures are live streamed to the locations and refreshments are served.

At an awards dinner on July 9, the lights dimmed, an announcer shared our award category and the finalists while a video was projected on large screens. I was so honored just to be a finalist. The Emcee opened an envelope and read “…and the winner is…” He continued, “Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area!”

Here is a video of the big moment.

PFNCA President & CEO Jared Cohen (center) accepts award from CVENT CEO & Founder Reggie Arggarwal (left). They are joined by PFNCA Medical Advisory Board Member Dr. Zoltan Mari

PFNCA President & CEO Jared Cohen (center) accepts award from CVENT CEO & Founder Reggie Arggarwal (left). They are joined by PFNCA Medical Advisory Board Member Dr. Zoltan Mari

I was overwhelmed with happiness. It had been a long journey for PFNCA. From board conversations questioning long term organizational viability to receiving an award while competing against global corporations with revenues in the billions. Our turnaround wasn’t only because of CVENT, but sometimes you have to take a chance on a new way of doing business and see how it goes. The CVENT platform, designed for event professionals, now manages all aspects our non-profit direct service work.

PFNCA?s CVENT Award displayed at its Silver Spring, Maryland office next to the 2018 Honorable Mention Award it received for the Center for Non-Profit Advancement?s AIM Award for Excellence in Non-Profit Management.

PFNCA’s CVENT Award displayed at its Silver Spring, Maryland office next to the 2018 Honorable Mention Award it received for the Center for Non-Profit Advancement’s AIM Award for Excellence in Non-Profit Management.

Do you know someone with Parkinson’s? PFNCA’s next Parkinson’s Pointers lecture will take place on September 12, 2019 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The speaker will be Dr. Fernando Pagan of Georgetown University. His topic will be Advances in Treatments for Parkinson’s. This program will be live streamed to about 30 locations. There is no cost to attend but registration is required because many sites fill to capacity.

Written by Jared Cohen, President & CEO of the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area

PFNCA is a local independent organization that is not affiliated with any of the several national organizations that focus on Parkinson’s. The organization’s annual awareness and fundraising program is called Walk Off Parkinson’s and will take place September 22, 2019 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The program includes lectures by physicians, exercise demonstrations and an inspiration walk that culminates with a lap on the field at Nationals Park. To learn more about Walk Off Parkinson’s visit www.walkoffpd.org

To learn more about PFNCA, please visit www.parkinsonfoundation.org