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LCNV’s Distance Learning Platforms are Providing “Joyous Times”

Written by Shuyang Wang, Communications Coordinator of Literacy Council of Northern Virginia

The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV), complying with social distancing policies during this evolving situation created by COVID-19, has replaced in-person classes with Distance Learning programs to continue providing basic English education to students, minimizing the disruption to their learning process. The classes have been reported to be “joyous times” that give both the instructors and students an opportunity to socialize and concentrate on something positive.

LCNV serves 1,500 adult learners annually throughout all of Northern Virginia with its mission to teach the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English so they can access employment and educational opportunities and more fully and equitably participate in the community. LCNV is one of only a few non-profit organizations in Northern Virginia that complies with federal education standards as it serves the most beginning-level adult learner, those that understand English at a 6th grade level or lower. Since April, LCNV has provided instruction tailored to students’ technological and time restrictions. Instruction is provided via various platforms:for students with internet and computer access, LCNV is offering virtual instruction in the form of live classrooms with teacher-led instruction, interaction, and whiteboard capabilities;for those with only cell phone and data access, LCNV offers distance learning instruction through Cell-Ed and USA Learns, two online learning apps approved by the Virginia Department of Education; for those that only have voice capabilities on their phone, instructors are scheduling sessions with students for one-to-one conversations to practice English. So far, a total of 21 classes are running for LCNV’s Beginning English, Family Learning and Destination Workforce programs. Over 75% of LCNV’s students that enrolled in January are benefiting from instruction, with the number increasing each day.

 
LCNC Zoom Screenshot

These outcomes could not have been achieved without LCNV’s dedicated force of 500 volunteers and devoted instructors, who called and helped the learner community to understand and set up online learning technologies one-on-one. “The LCNV team has been heartened to see incredible enthusiasm for our efforts to turn to distance learning by instructors, volunteers, and students,” says Roopal Saran, LCNV’s Executive Director, “Their desire to work hard to make sure instruction and learning is uninterrupted affirms that there is great value in continuing to offer English instruction at this unprecedented time.”

Based on the current situation, LCNV is also exploring future distance learning possibilities and optimizing various platforms. To support the expansion of class offerings, LCNV holds Professional Learning Communities (PLC) virtual sessions each week for teachers to discuss their classes, pain points, and successes. To support the learner community, LCNV also created a resource page on its website for those in need to navigate free learning resources, as well as community information on food banks, financial aid, healthcare and more.

Much is unknown at this time, but one thing we do know is that however hard the current situation is on community residents, it will be even harder on those with limited resources. Many of LCNV students are low income workers who are less likely to have sick leave, have options to telework, and to keep their social distance. They are the essential service workers preparing and delivering your meals, stocking the supermarket shelves, providing patient care, and cleaning up hospitals along with many more who will be out of work because their businesses have had to close. We cannot fully comprehend all the challenges that we will be facing in the coming year, but LCNV understands that the lives and well-being of learners are vastly impacted by their ability to read, write, speak and understand English, especially during this unconventional time.

The current semester has been extended from April 23 to June 30th at no additional cost to students. While the current sessions are for enrolled students, LCNV is working diligently to open registrations to the public starting in the Summer. For more information about upcoming sessions, please call LCNV at 703-237-0866.

Restoring Rock Creek as it Restores Us

Written by Jeanne Braha, Executive Director of Rock Creek Conservancy

There is something magical about running down the middle of a road in the middle of the day, hearing a creek burbling nearby, without having to worry about passing traffic.

As the last several weeks have provided any number of new things to worry about, having a little magic in our days has been a balm to the soul. There is ample data to support the notion that green spaces improve physical and mental health; Dr. Stacy Stryer, a physician with Park Rx America, shared many of these studies at an online virtual discussion hosted by Rock Creek Conservancy last month. She highlighted the ways in which living near a green space is linked to decreased levels of anxiety and depression, and increased resilience, well-being, and rejuvenation.

Photo by Frank Gallagher

Photo by Frank Gallagher

It’s a little harder to quantify that magic – the thrill of hearing the first wood thrush in spring, the delight of seeing your favorite wildflower on a walk, or the joy of sharing all of those things with a child experiencing them for the first time. And, of course, the feeling of being on the sections of Beach Drive closed to vehicles all week long.

Rock Creek Conservancy, through a philanthropic and stewardship partnership with the National Park Service at Rock Creek Park, protects that magic. By restoring the park and the watershed that surrounds it, the Conservancy is ensuring not just that Rock Creek can serve as the lungs for our region, but that the park will be resilient and be able to share its magic for decades to come.

The Conservancy’s model of people-powered restoration engages nearly 5,000 people each year in group events that clear invasive plants or litter from the park. These volunteers leave the park with the motivation and knowledge to serve as stewards of their portion of the watershed – protecting the park from the outside in.

Trout lilies (a spring wildflower)

Trout lilies (a spring wildflower)

Even though the Conservancy can’t host group events right now, park neighbors and friends can still enjoy and protect the park. Socially-distant stewardship is restorative to us as individuals and continues the Conservancy’s important work of removing invasive plants and litter to help restore the streams and parklands of the Rock Creek watershed.

Here are some actions individuals, families, or other household members can take at home, at work, and in our neighborhoods.

Host an individual cleanup. It’s just what it sounds like: you, a pair of gloves, a trash bag, and whatever patch of the Rock Creek watershed means the most to you. Litter many blocks from the park can get swept up by stormwater or wind and find itself floating down Rock Creek. Picking up litter in our own neighborhoods is one way to work stewardship and exercise into our daily routine.

A volunteer cleaning up in Rock Creek Park DC

A volunteer cleaning up in Rock Creek Park DC

Many of us are gardening with our time at home. Whether we’re doing this in a large yard or in planter boxes on a deck or window boxes, our choices impact Rock Creek. Non-native, invasive plant species can spread from our homes or building properties into the natural areas along Rock Creek. There are dozens of plant species that do not grow here naturally, but were brought to the area by people as ornamental plantings or for food.

For example, English ivy is a major threat to the health of the trees around Rock Creek in Montgomery County and the District. Though a common part of many of our landscapes, it spreads rapidly, can damage property, and can harm trees. The Conservancy works to remove English ivy from trees on park lands, but we need help to remove ivy throughout the watershed.

You can free a treetake the Conservancy’s English ivy pledge and trim the ivy from the trees in your yard or your building’s grounds (get permission from the property owner if that’s not you!). Watch this short video to learn the best way to #freeatree.

Removing non-native, invasive plants from your home garden, deck, or common area is the first step to prevent them from spreading into the city’s natural spaces. If you live in an apartment building you can take action by contacting your landlord, management company, or condominium board and asking them to remove invasive plants. Learn about five of Rock Creek Park’s most common invasive plants in this blog.

Planting native species is a great way to beautify your home and provide benefit to the surrounding ecosystem. Native plants often require less maintenance and can provide a habitat for native wildlife. Even greening your balcony with native potted plants can provide food and habitat to pollinators.

Take a moment to read our blog, “Choose This, Not That,“for some inspiration on what to plant in your green space. Or work with your apartment building to encourage choosing native species for plantings.

Remember, every step each of us takes will enable us all to keep enjoying the wonderful resource of Rock Creek, so central to our health and the health of our community.

A family doing a cleanup in Montgomery County.

Community Spotlight: Stream Team Leader Scott Lynch. Stream Team Leaders play a key role inspiring park friends and neighbors to help steward the watershed. One such community leader is Scott Lynch, a father who has been active with the Kensington-Parkwood Green Team. Scott was inspired to get involved when he heard local kids name a large debris dam “Trash Island.” Normally he organizes cleanups along the stretch of Rock Creek upstream of Cedar Lane (near current weekend closures for socially distant recreation!). The area, which is threatened by the proposed Beltway expansion, has a popular stretch of trail, sensitive wetlands, and plenty of stormwater drainage. Thanks to Scott’s socially-distant stewardship, his neighbors reported individual cleanups totaling 62 volunteer hours, with 18 bags of trash removed.

To learn more about the work of Rock Creek Conservancy and its mission to restore Rock Creek and its parklands as a natural oasis for all people to appreciate and protect, you can visit rockcreekconservancy.org and sign up here for regular updates on ways to get involved.

Girls on the Run – DC Goes Beyond the Classroom! #GOTRDCGoesBeyond

Written by Carly Abarbanel and Katie Von Schaumburg of Girls on the Run – DC

During this pandemic, so many aspects of all of our lives have been turned upside down. At Girls on the Run – DC (GOTR-DC), our in-person season was truncated just two weeks into programming, putting our program to the ultimate test: Can GOTR-DC go beyond the classrooms, persist beyond the parks, and empower over distance? The answer: Yes, we can! GOTR-DC developed virtual programming to persevere in our mission to empower girls to be joyful, confident, and healthy.

GOTR at Home has been our solution to get girls (and their families!) up and moving, thinking, and creating while inspiring them with the core values of Girls on the Run.

Girls who registered for the spring season receive two GOTR at Home lessons per week through the end of our regular season. All lessons include instructions for exercise activities and for creative activities, all tying back to the big idea of the lesson; and each lesson has an accompanying video, making it easy for girls to do these activities independently or together with a guardian or sibling.

All of the GOTR at Home lessons focus on Girls on the Run Core Values such as celebrating our commonalities and our differences, standing up for ourselves and others, and tips for identifying our emotions and managing stress. All of the activities are designed to help our girls check in with her brain and body and practice strategies to find calm and be present.

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One of our favorite lessons is “Practice Positivity!” This lesson is focused on recognizing positive and negative thoughts and practicing positivity through words, thoughts, and actions. The exercise, or “Get Moving!”, component of this lesson encourages girls to take a lap outside, hold downward dog pose while slowly breathing in and out, spend five minutes doing something they love (e.g. drawing, listening to music, spending time with your pet, dancing, etc.), play their favorite song and have a dance party, or set a timer for one minute and list everything they are thankful for. All of these activities are focused on empowering our girls, physically and mentally.

GOTR-DC recognizes the importance of social interaction, even from a distance, and we therefore brought our girls and coaches together through GOTR Connect. These are optional, 30-minute sessions held once a week by a GOTR coach. Similar to what an in-person lesson would entail, GOTR Connect offers debrief questions for set teams of girls that align with the messages of GOTR at Home. Questions are designed to reach all girls and vary from serious to silly, helping girls continue to find commonality and appreciate difference, even while physically distant. GOTR Connect has been a great way for girls to maintain rapport with their peers and interact with their coaches who continue to act as positive and influential role models.
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GOTRDC 2

Beyond the lessons and the virtual check-ins, GOTR-DC values goal-oriented seasons and celebrating the conclusion of our girls’ intellectual, emotional, and physical effort. Therefore, we’re hosting a Spring 5K Virtual Challenge, giving girls, community participants, coaches, and families the opportunity to set goals and feel part of the bigger GOTR-DC movement. Interested in joining our Virtual Challenge from your home or safe outdoor space? Read more and register at gotrdc.org/5k!

While we’re thankful for our team of staff and coaches who have helped make our new virtual programming possible, our work continues to serve more girls with quality, virtual programming; and we look forward to the day when we can safely gather together to empower our girls in school buildings, parks, and recreation centers. While we’re physically apart for the safety of ourselves and our communities, we remain virtually together for our girls.

Caring for Kids in the Time of COVID-19

Written by Laurie Strongin, CEO of Hope for Henry Foundation

Hope for Henry Child Life Specialist Liz crouched in the hallway outside the room of a six-year-old, unaccompanied boy who she has worked with many times in the past and explained over the hospital room intercom that the young boy would have a test to make sure doctors could take the best care of him. He was going to get a nasal swab to test for COVID-19.

No one will tell you that the long swab inserted into a patient’s nose all the way back into their throat, rotated to collect any viral specimens, and pulled out is remotely comfortable. One TikTok user described it as “like being stabbed in the brain.” But Liz explained to the child that she and her friends at the hospital were doing everything they could to keep him safe, that there is a virus traveling around the world, and that he needed a quick test to be sure he was healthy. If he could sit and talk to her while the nurse put something in his nose quickly, the test would be over faster. Then, on the other side of the glass wall of this little boy’s hospital room, he watched through the open blinds as Liz demonstrated the test on her own little patient, a stuffed bear.

Hope for Henry Blog

The proliferation of COVID-19 has disrupted tens of millions of children’s lives. Instead of attending school, participating on sports teams, meeting friends for dinner, or playing in the park, kids across the country are housebound. Aside from the monotony of living in the same limited space for long periods of time, being quarantined can cause feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and fear in both kids and parents.

These feelings are not unfamiliar to chronically ill children whose treatment often necessitates years in and out of hospitals, but COVID-19 has made life far harsher for really sick kids. While otherwise healthy children tend to have milder symptoms than adults who contract COVID-19, the same isn’t true for a particularly high-risk group of pediatric patients — those with compromised immune systems who have had bone-marrow or solid-organ transplants or are being treated for cancer or a blood disorder.

Keeping these vulnerable children safe during this challenging time requires hospitals to make adjustments that exacerbate their isolation from everything they are fighting so hard for — normalcy and connection. To limit exposure, nearly every child is isolated in his or her hospital room. Playrooms and shared spaces are closed. Art and music therapists are no longer in hospitals working directly with kids. Volunteers who previously rocked sick babies or played games with hospitalized kids have been forced to cease their quality-of-life saving work. These kids are left with one caregiver, at best, or none if they have a single parent with other children at home who need supervision. And they are still enduring the difficult, painful medical treatment necessary to save their lives.

When a hospitalized child shows symptoms of COVID-19, frontline staff have to “rule out” the diagnosis. To protect the staff and other patients in their care, the caregivers have to assume that the child is positive for COVID-19 until proven otherwise. Therefore, all medical staff who enter the child’s room must wear PPEs, including a gown, gloves, mask, and face shield. These precautions can be intimidating and frightening — even, and perhaps especially, for kids who have spent months in the hospital for whom this new gear is unfamiliar and an obvious sign that something has changed, and not for the better.

Thankfully, Hope for Henry’s child life specialists like Liz are still in the hospital and have figured out how to support patients during COVID-19 testing while respecting hospital rules that prevent them from entering the patient rooms to limit exposure and use of scarce PPE. The preparation, coping strategies, distraction, and verbal support before, during, and after the test, along with a selection of toys and games that reward patients for coping so well and successfully completing the procedure, make something difficult a little bit easier. It helps build resilience and arms patients for their continued fight to recover. It enables medical staff to provide care faster so they can move on to the next patient. Because during times like these, there is always a next patient.

JCADA’s Doors are Still Open for Victims of Power-Based Violence – How You Can Support their Efforts from Your Home

Written by Shana Brouder

Over the past month, most Americans have been put under some kind of “stay at home” order to keep them ‘safe’ from COVID-19 — better known as the coronavirus. But what does safe mean? For most of us, safe means simply staying inside our homes with adequate amounts of food and toilet paper, only leaving for essential goods. And maybe for the occasional walk around the block.

But, for the 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 9 men who experience severe physical abuse at the hands of a partner, home is the least safe place they can be — and yet, that’s exactly where they’re stuck. As a recent New York Times article described, helplines across the globe are lighting up frantically with calls from women in danger. NBC News’ investigation gave some more concrete facts and figures: of the law enforcement agencies who answered their call, Houston police received a roughly 20 percent increase in calls in March from February; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, police saw an 18 percent jump this March in comparison with March of 2019; while Phoenix police saw a nearly 6 percent in domestic violence related calls.

And that’s just the calls police are getting.

There is more to power-based violence than the severe physical violence. There is the emotional, financial, technological, sexual, and physical violence that goes unreported. And it is this relentless, yet unreported violence that eats away at a person, until they feel they are truly worth nothing. The Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Violence (JCADA) is dedicated to stopping this cycle of violence, even in these unprecedented times. JCADA remains open for business, fielding calls from their helpline, 1-877-88-JCADA(52232), during business hours throughout the closures. JCADA is counseling clients through HIPPA compliant remote telehealth and their attorneys and victim advocates can still help with Protection Orders and access to public health benefits through these hard times.

JCADA has also chosen to move its annual event, the JCADA 5K & Wellness Day, online. In a recent email to past participants, JCADA expressed how unfortunate it is that the event must be moved online, as social connection is in short supply these days. In an attempt to stay connected with their community, JCADA has come up with the following 5 ways you, or anyone you know located anywhere in the country, can support the JCADA 5K & Wellness Day.

Participants at the 2019 JCADA 5K & Wellness Day

Participants at the 2019 JCADA 5K & Wellness Day

1. Register for the JCADA 5K & Wellness Day ($50) to show your financial support for JCADA’s life-saving work.
2. Follow JCADA’s Empowerment Playlists on Spotify (for free)! Use either the JCADA Empowerment Playlist or the JCADA Empowerment Playlist — Podcasts* to listen to as you walk, run, clean, or simply take a break from your responsibilities from now until May 2, 2020.
3. Pick a physical activity to do in your home or in your neighborhood (Walk/Run a 5K, Run around the block 5 times, do 5 jumping jacks, high five your kids, etc.) and fundraise for JCADA in honor of your efforts!
4. Record all your activity here so JCADA can give you a shout out during our May 3rd Facebook Live event!
5. Join us at 10 am on May 3 on Facebook Live to hear who JCADA’s biggest fundraiser was, and hear the top 5 activities you all participated in.

It is hard to be stuck inside. Please consider joining JCADA in this new challenge to remember and empower those whose homes aren’t a safe place during this global pandemic. If you’d like more information on JCADA, please email their Executive Director, Amanda Katz, at amanda@jcada.org. Follow JCADA on Facebook and Instagram. And, most of all, join them virtually this year on May 3rd and show victims and survivors of power-based violence in this community — you are seen; you are heard.

Participants at the 2019 JCADA 5K & Wellness Day

Participants at the 2019 JCADA 5K & Wellness Day

*Trigger Warning: While the JCADA Empowerment Playlist — Podcasts has lots of motivational podcasts and guided meditations, it also has some episodes detailing sexual abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence that may not be suitable to all listeners. Please listen to these podcasts at your discretion

Network for Victim Recovery DC Continues to Battle for Crime Victims’ Rights Amid COVID-19

Written by Diane Dauplaise, Network for Victim Recovery of DC Bilingual Staff Attorney

NVRDC Blog Image

One of the things they don’t teach you in law school is that practicing law at a nonprofit is an exercise in creativity. But nothing in my previous five years of practice prepared me for the effect of COVID-19 on a caseload filled with some DC’s most vulnerable populations. As DC Superior Court began curtailing operations down to the most essential court functions, our organization worked overtime assessing the impact these changes would have on crime victims’ rights. As an organization we also anticipated that COVID-19 would affect correctional facilities’ ability to safely house inmates thus requiring the release of some inmates. The challenge would be to find a way to give victims a voice, balanced with the very real threat facing incarcerated men and women from this disease.

People who have experienced crime often struggle with a sense of powerlessness. Many people don’t realize the burden crime victims’ shoulders in the weeks, months and even years after their victimization. Consequences such as medical bills, hours missed from work, moving expenses can pile up on someone who is still trying to process the trauma of what has been done to them. This impact can be felt even more so when you are the victim of crime at the hands of a loved one. Suddenly child custody, housing, and public benefits are all called into question. Being a victim of any crime is a process full of uncertainties – and that was before COVID-19 changed the entire landscape of crime victims’ rights.

Cases in Washington, DC are covered by both the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3771, and the DC Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, DC Code Section 23-1901. These two pieces of legislation essentially guarantee crime victims’ rights such as being treated with “fairness and respect,” being notified of court proceedings, and receiving information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, detention, and release of the offender. While these rights do not allow a victim to “direct a prosecution,” they do ensure that victims are given reasonable notice about crucial decisions, such as charging, plea offers, or a defendant’s decision to elect a trial. These rights not only keep victims informed; they are also crucial in keeping victims safe. For instance, if a prosecutor alerts a victim that the defense will be seeking pre-trial release for a defendant that victim can then safety plan with an advocate and take additional precautions to keep themselves safe if the offender is eventually released. Courts and prosecutors work to strike a delicate balance between these rights and the rights of defendants facing a criminal prosecution.

This delicate balance became all the more challenging in light of COVID-19. Many defense attorneys expressed rightful concern that their clients who are elderly, immunocompromised, or had a variety of underlying health issues would not fare well in a correctional facility where many inmates live in close quarters. In response to these concerns the criminal division of the DC Superior Court issued an order creating a “Motion for Release from Detention Based on the COVID-19 Pandemic.” This pleading would allow defense attorneys to argue why an inmate’s condition made them vulnerable to the pandemic allowing the court to weigh that against the charges facing the defendant and the amount of time served. The motion further directed that defense attorneys shall notify the government when filing such a motion.

The team at Network for Victim Recovery DC (NVRDC) advocated to have this order amended to require that “the Government shall certify that is has made efforts consistent with its obligations pursuant to DC Code 23-1902 Notice to crime victims and 18 U.S.C. 3771,” essentially ensuring that prosecutors had to make efforts to alert crime victims if a defendant is even seeking release via a COVID-19 motion. NVRDC made similar arguments in a letter to DC leaders. Notice is crucial for crime victims especially in a time where quarantines have limited the safe places a victim can go and stay. Many victims rely on the homes of elderly relatives as a safer alternative of where to stay if they know their abusers are at liberty; however, in light of risks to older populations this isn’t a viable option for many of our clients. Advocates have been helping connect our clients to Crime Victims Compensation for housing alternatives when victims have expressed a concern for their safety. In additional to all of these reasons, the notice is important because it is a step in returning power to a victim who may have been left feeling powerless after an assault.

In addition to the DC Superior Court’s order the DC Department of Corrections also expanded the “good time credit” for inmates, which is a calculation that allows inmates to earn time off of their sentences for completing months of “good behavior,” i.e. no disciplinary violations. This change in calculations led to several of our attorneys finding out that defendants were to be released within a day. This presents an extra challenge because, unlike a COVID-19 Release Motion, good time credit is decided wholly within the Department of Corrections and many times prosecutors are not alerted when a defendant is released, meaning our crime victims’ rights attorneys are not formally alerted either. Our attorneys have been signing themselves up for automatic notifications available through Department of Corrections to at least be notified when a release occurs. This allows us to give our clients the most up to date information and take any precautions necessary.

As the avenues for a defendant’s release were expanding the DC Public Defender Service filed an emergency motion seeking the release of all inmates serving misdemeanor sentences. NVRDC responded with an amicus brief, not opposing the motion, but asking that the court treat cases of domestic and sexual violence. as well as stalking. on a case-by-case basis affording the victims notice and an opportunity to be heard. NVRDC specifically noted that domestic offenders who reoffend are most likely to do so quickly after their release. Giving victims the opportunity to be heard on these cases allows for case specific requests, such as GPS monitoring or stay away orders, which could directly impact the victim’s safety when there is an articulable basis for concern.

Throughout all of these challenges, NVRDC has recognized the potential safety risk to incarcerated defendants and has never sought to oppose the wide release of incarcerated defendants. The recurrent theme through our motions and briefings has been to give victims a voice in a confusing and uncertain time. It really all goes back to the powerlessness of being a crime victim. NVRDC truly feels that every time we can at least give victims notice, information, and an opportunity to be heard we are helping to replace the loss of power felt by victims of crime. By restoring power, dignity, and self esteem crime victims can thrive and provide thoughtful insight to help the criminal justice system function better, and help judges and prosecutors make the best decisions possible about defendants’ fate. I am proud to work for an organization using creativity, ingenuity, and teamwork to empower crime victims even through an uncertain and confusing time.

This blog post was originally published on April 14, 2020 on the NVRDC website.

Building Community through Virtual Peace Circles

Written by by MJ Park, Executive Director at Little Friends For Peace

Little Friends for Peace (LFFP) has been Circling Up with people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and stages for years. Despite the pandemic impacting the entire world, we made the shift to virtual circles in order to continue on with our “check-ins.” We feel now more than ever LFFP needs to help bring people together in order to connect and find tools to help navigate peacefully throughout this new journey.

Since the world has been put to a STOP, this has put added stress on our wellness wheels – impacting our mind, body, and feelings. From the teachings of Pema Chodron, I have learned and believe that when things fall apart we have choices to either fall apart or embrace the experience as an opportunity and time to reset, renew, and rewire ourselves.

During these past three weeks of adjustment to our new normal, LFFP has been doing virtual peace circles for different age groups. It has been amazing and full of connection, inspiration, and practices to help us. Not only to get through these times, but also to see this period as an opportunity to make changes in the way we live and care for ourselves and others.

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LFFP Virtual Peace Circle in Session

As said by one of our virtual peace circle participants: “I think that when the dust settles, we will realize how little we need, how very much we actually have, and the true value of human connection.”

People have been coming to the circle with anxiety, fear, concern, loss of center, feeling less grounded, and loss of connections within the community.

However, after the circles people are leaving the circle feeling more calm, grounded, hopeful, joyful, creative, energized, connected, and motivated to embrace the now. People are given time to reflect on the silver lining and enjoy what they can do and not what they can’t do.

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A Peace Circle Participant at The Father McKenna Center

With compassion and respect as the key ingredients in the virtual peace circles, the Zoom sessions turn into safe and welcoming spaces where everyone can share from the heart when talking about what they are thinking and feeling. To finish off our time together, LFFP leaves the attendees with a peaceful tool with ideas on how to use it in daily life. If put into practice, these tools will help bring yourself as well as others to a more peaceful state.

As another virtual peace circle attendee states: “What I take from this beautiful peace circle is the peace circle per se, like how necessary it is to have more peace circles in the world, and how that can bring more peace culture & education to my country. I learned how necessary it is to do inner work. We need to seize this crisis as an opportunity to redefine what is really important for us and take more joy in the moments we live, in our own realities.”

LFFP will be Circling Up Monday through Friday at 3:00 PM EST with different groups. Check our website for more details and information to sign up. Hope to see you in the circle!

At-Home April: A Community Challenge for Daily Good

During this challenging and uncertain time, we know community is more important than ever. But for most us, that community has to be virtual right now. However, we know that the needs of the community don’t stop during a crisis – and we know many of you are wondering what you can do to help.

That’s why we are announcing a daily challenge for good during the month of April. Throughout the month, we have listed at least one “good thing” you can do each day. From supporting local nonprofits and businesses to helping those in need – there’s a way for all to get involved. Click on the calendar below to check out our daily challenges that you can accomplish from home.

Community is what will get us through this – even though right now it has to be a virtual one. We encourage you to participate in these small actions and more to continue making a difference, close to home. And like always, community is more fun with others so be sure to share!

Child Philanthropists Know the Importance of Play

Written by Melanie Hatter, Communications Coordinator of Homeless Children’s Playtime Project

If anyone knows the importance of play, it’s children and youth, so it comes as no surprise that Playtime resonates with young people who are interested in giving back to their community.

Back in 2006, before Playtime was even incorporated, one of our first major donations came from then 13-year-old Danny Schwaber, who donated money he received in honor of his bar mitzvah’s total of $6,000, which was, at the time, Playtime’s entire organizational budget for the year!

Since then, we have been fortunate to benefit from numerous philanthropic efforts by children. Most recently, Girl Scout Troop 42013 from Murch Elementary School in D.C., donated one third of their cookie earnings to Playtime. We were honored to be invited to their bridging ceremony from Daisies to Brownies in June at the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church where they presented us with $200.

Troop Leader Dana Hedgpeth explained that the 18-member troop decided to use their earnings in three ways: to give, to save, and to spend. They brainstormed several ideas for giving and after reviewing a variety of organizations, the group selected Playtime.

“They liked the purpose, and I think it was something they, at six and seven years old, could relate more to since Playtime helps kids specifically,” said Hedgpeth. “They understood that all kids want some fun toys and items to play with.”

Playtime Development Director Brandi Stanton, who attended the bridging ceremony, was awed by the Brownies’ responses when she asked them why play was important for children living in shelter. They intuitively spoke about Playtime’s research-based outcomes for children when they said play helps children do better in school and look forward to the next good thing in their lives.

Playtime Project 1

“I think it’s important for homeless children to be able to play the same as kids who have homes,” said troop member Noura Connor. “If I were homeless, I would want someone to play with me. I love seeing kids being happy, playing and having fun with other kids! I want homeless kids to have fun too!”

In 2017, we were impressed by one young man who started his own business and decided to donate part of his profits to Playtime. Nevan Brundage, 13, was a fifth grader at Grace Episcopal Day School at the time. He’s now a rising eighth grader at St. Anselm’s Abbey School in Northeast D.C. His business is called Nevan’s Neckties and Necklaces – you can find him on Etsy and at local business fairs. And he has continued to support us, sending another check in 2018.
Playtime Project 2

“I feel a lot better about helping the community because I’m not only helping kids have better childhood experiences, but I’m also making the world a better place,” Nevan said. He first learned about Playtime when we gave a presentation at his school. “I thought it was a great charity to donate to because it helps kids with tutoring and to make friends when they normally wouldn’t be able to due to their family’s financial situation. It gives them the childhood experiences that can help them have a successful and happy life.”

Earlier this year, third through fifth graders from Wood Acres Elementary School in Bethesda, Md., presented Playtime with a check for $1,000. They were participating in the Kids for Kids Fund, which is part of The Giving Square in Bethesda, where children learn about philanthropy and use “their empathy, sense of injustice, unique insights, and collaboration skills” to select an organization serving children to receive the donation. Most recently the Children in the Shoe Child Care Center, also in Bethesda, held a children’s art and bake sale with the proceeds going to Playtime. And last year, Gabby Lewis and her fellow second grade classmates at Mann Elementary School in D.C. held a bake sale to raise money for Playtime.

We have also been the lucky recipient of many donation drives organized by children and youth. In February 2019, Sara Lynn’s third grade class at Ashlawn Elementary School in Arlington, Va., collected birthday party supplies and snacks for the children of Playtime.

In 2018, we were touched when a young woman, Nava Mach, selected Playtime for her bat mitzvah project. She assembled 15 baskets filled with art supplies for teens and preteens and donated a variety of household items for their families, including towels and linens.

And the Megalim class of Temple Sinai D.C.’s nursery school collected almost $400 in gift cards for our Playtime children and families, to purchase food and household necessities. The pre-K class of four- to five-year-olds had been discussing homelessness as a result of the new Sesame Street character, Lily, with help from Barbara Duffield of SchoolHouse Connection. The youngsters also sent notes to the children of Playtime. One said, “I hope you find a home.”

We’re filled with inspiration and gratitude when young people find ways to support the importance of play for children experiencing homelessness! They give us much hope for the future.

This blog was originally published on August 5, 2019 at playtimeproject.org.

All of Playtime’s programs are currently on hold in response to COVID-19, but their staff is staying connected to families and providing “Playtime-to-Go” play kits to keep children engaged and entertained in the shelters. To find out more about how they are continuing to support families and children during this time of crisis, please read their response to COVID-19.

An Update on Our Response to COVID-19

At the Catalogue for Philanthropy, it is our mission to shine a light on and support those organizations that are on the ground doing the hard work to help our neighbors in need and make the Greater Washington region a better place to live for everyone. With the spread of COVID-19, our partners, and the nonprofit community as whole, are confronted with an unprecedented challenge, one that threatens not only the critical services they provide, but also the organizations themselves. And the Catalogue stands ready to help.

To meet the immediate needs of our partners and to expand the reach of our work, the Catalogue will be making the following changes to our programming effective immediately:

    • Webinars and Workshops. We recognize that the challenges presented by COVID-19 affect not only our nonprofit partners, but also other small-to-midsized organizations struggling to find their footing in this new reality. To help all those organizations looking for guidance and resources, we will be temporarily making our webinars available for free to any nonprofit interested in taking advantage of the tools we have to offer. This includes our Core and Elective workshops, which we have converted to virtual learning opportunities. You can view a full listing of our upcoming webinars and virtual workshops along with registration links by clicking here.
    • New Webinar Offerings. Social distancing presents unique challenges not only for programs requiring in-person interaction, but for fundraising as well, especially for those organizations forced to postpone/cancel events as a result of COVID-19. To help our partners and other organizations develop alternative approaches, we have developed and will be hosting a series of webinars addressing these issues. They are included in the list of upcoming offerings linked to above.
    • One-on-One Consulting. Our nonprofit partners often reach out to us seeking advice on specific issues or scenarios with which they are faced and their need for this type of resource is even greater now. To help meet this need, next week we will begin publishing “office hours” during which Catalogue staff will set aside time to be available by telephone and Slack to provide this type of advice and guidance.
    • Virtual Event/Campaign. We understand that the most immediate need most of our nonprofits have right now is funds and resources that will enable them to ensure their programs continue both during this crisis and after it has ended. One of the Catalogue’s greatest strengths is our ability to connect our partners with those who can provide those resources and we are working on a plan to do just that. We are considering our options for a virtual event and/or campaign that features the work and needs of our partners. As plans for this advance we will share more information with you about the event and how you can help. In the meantime, if you would like to make a contribution to one or more of these wonderful organizations, needless to say, we would be most grateful. You can click here to find a cause or causes that speak to you.

As the COVID-19 spread continues, we will constantly evaluate other ways that the Catalogue can help our partners and the nonprofit community during these challenging times – and we will keep you abreast of our efforts.

Our hearts go out to clients being served by so many of our nonprofits – people who don’t have access to healthcare, don’t have stable housing, and otherwise lack the resources to protect themselves and their families. Our hearts also go out to all nonprofits whose programs may be at risk and whose staff is courageously continuing to serve our communities during this trying time.

We encourage donors to support these organizations as they continue to support the most vulnerable among us and keep this city safe and vibrant. We are very much aware that the volatility of the stock market may make philanthropy seem like a luxury. We assure you that it is not. The healthier this community stays – all of its members and all of its important programs and institutions – the healthier we all stay, in body and in mind.

We thank you for your support and for all that you make possible. And we wish you, your family, your friends, and co-workers all the best.

Sincerely,
The Catalogue Team