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From the Field: Beautification Day 2012

By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

As yesterday’s blog post reported, this week marks the beginning of a new school year for Washington, DC students. The first day of school is a moment that stands out in most children’s and parent’s lives — one filled with excitement and eagerness, anxiety and nervousness. Since 2005, DCPS Beautification Day has aspired to make that moment a bit more … beautiful for DC’s public school students. For the past seven years, thousands of Washington residents have shown up at their local schools to “spruce up” the facilities in preparation for a new school year. The 2012 Beautification Day took place last week, on August 25, and saw a great turn out of volunteers at 115 different schools. This year, Catalogue nonprofit Hands on DC coordinated 75 volunteers at three schools to “beautify” in a variety of ways — from painting and gardening outside to cleaning and organizing inside.

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Back to School Days

As we know, this marks the first week of classes for the District’s public schools. And as Frazier O’Leary (a long-time English teacher at Cardozo Senior High) explained in the Washington Post: “The first week of school is probably the most important. It sets a tone.” Moreover:

To kids, this day might seem like a rapid-fire series of introductions and ice-breakers. But really, it’s about teaching routines — for entering the classroom, storing backpacks, going to the bathroom, moving around the room, turning in homework, joining in group discussions, using shared markers and glue sticks — that the kids will soon do automatically, as if breathing.

“These systems are not meant to limit them — they’re just to help them understand how to navigate their world, navigate the classroom,” Harrod said. “This way all they have to focus on is learning …”

And as we discussed a year ago at this time, this first day of routines (from packing a backpack to planning homework) can pose particular challenges for low-income students and their families. So do check out our 2011 list of Catalogue nonprofits that assist local students with their essential back-to-school needs! That list can be found right here, plus we have some important 2012 “wish list” additions:

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Back On Their Feet

By Jill Carmichael, Neighbors First Division Director
Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place

The day our staff found out that the Department of Veterans Affairs chose Friendship Place as a recipient of a $1 million Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant, the excitement in our office was off the charts. As the director of our Veterans First program, I of course am thrilled about our newly expanded grant to work with Veterans and their families. It’s so gratifying to think about how many people we will be able to help get back on their feet.

We launched our Veterans First program at Friendship Place about nine months ago, and in that time our staff learned invaluable information about working with this population. We now know what homeless Veterans’ unique needs are, and we’re using that information to tailor our expanded Veterans First program to be as effective and efficient as possible.

I’m particularly looking forward to rolling out our new specialist positions. Our Housing Specialist, for instance, will be fully trained in tenant rights and will create partnerships with landlords throughout the DC Metro Area. This will allow us to rapidly rehouse the people we?re working with while serving as a liaison between client and landlord.

The VA wants us to do our best to move our clients into housing with employment opportunities on the horizon. Our Employment Specialist will continue to expand upon the great employment services that Friendship Place already provides. This position will focus on job development as well as marketing to potential employers the special skills that Veterans bring to the table. We’re also creating specialist positions in benefits and outreach/intake.

Above all, we want to make a lasting impact on Veteran homelessness in DC. We are dedicated to working to prevent homelessness and to house those experiencing homelessness. This grant couldn’t have come at a better time — when the need for services continues to rise in our community. But in my eyes, seeing the dedication of my staff and the willingness of places like the VA to fund these efforts, I truly believe that we’re getting one step closer to ending homelessness every day.

The Architect

Very near my sunset, I bless you, Life [...]

Because I see at the end of my rough way
that I was the architect of my own destiny
and if I extracted the sweetness or the bitterness of things
it was because I put the sweetness or the bitterness in them
when I planted rose bushes I always harvested roses [...]

– from “At Peace” by Mexican ambassador & poet Amado Nervo, born today in 1870

Around Town: August 24-26

Have a relaxing final weekend of August, friends! We have some cool options for you …

Dance Place (3500 12th Street NE)

A 12-week public art celebration offering free cultural events and promoting creative expression, Artland Temporium features exhibits, dance, concerts, poetry readings, and games and free to the public. Check out the full schedule for this weekend right here.

District of Columbia Arts Center (2438 18th Street NW)

On Friday at 7:30 PM at “No Tea, No Shade” (presented by Sampson McCormick) comes to the DCAC theatre; and on Saturday at 10:00 PM, the Capital City Showcase brings together a great variety of comedians, musicians, and performing artists. Learn more here!

Anacostia Watershed Society (Bladensburg Waterfront Park) — EVENT NOW FULL

Join AWS on Saturday at 10:00 AM to water, weed, and mulch these tiny trees that, with your help, will grow to do great things for the River. More information this way.

Potomac Conservancy (Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove, 4940 Canal Rd NW)

Just bring a water bottle, sunscreen, and casual clothing — and help clean up the picnic area and surrounding trails at Fletcher’s Cove on Sunday at 10:00 AM. Learn more right here!

Groupon Doing Good

By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

“If ninety people give ten dollars each, we can provide a home full of furniture to a person transitioning out of homelessness.”

So reads Pathways to Housing DC’s convincing pitch in Groupon Grassroots this week. To date, Pathways to Housing DC (a Catalogue nonprofit that provides housing first, and then accompanying social services to individuals living in chronic homelessness) surpassed its goal of raising $900, with 140 vouchers purchased to support their project.

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In The News: America Gives

Do check out “How America Gives: Exploring philanthropy in your state, city, and neighborhood,” a new and interactive study from the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

A few interesting statistics from the Greater Washington region:

- Resident of the District give, on average, 7.7% percent of their income compared to 4.7% across the US
- Maryland ranks 11th in total contributions, with $3.9 billion donated in the past year
- Virginia was ranked just ahead in 10th, with $4.2 billion donated (and a median contribution of $2,790)

According to the Chronicle, the data in the study came “from a comprehensive study The Chronicle conducted to examine giving data by ZIP code and by income level in every city and town in the United States. The study is based on exact dollar amounts released by the Internal Revenue Service showing the value of charitable deductions claimed by American taxpayers.”

Which numbers jump out to you?

Tax For Arts

Just caught this Marketplace story on the way home today:

The Detroit Institute of Arts is joining a small group of museums experimenting with a new way to fundraise. They’ve asked local taxpayers to chip in. Voters in three Michigan counties passed a tax increase — known as a millage.

According to Annmarie Erickson, executive vice president and chief operating officer:

“A home that has a market value of about $150,000, those individuals will pay about $15 a year for this tax.” But that adds up quickly for the museum. She says the millage plan allows the Detroit Institute of Arts to take in $23 million a year for 10 years, and that money will be spent on the museum’s operating budget.

With the fundraising burdened eased, at least in part, the development staff could then focus on building an endowment to strengthen the 125-year-old museum for the future.

What do you think about supporting community nonprofits through community taxes? Would you vote for a similar millage in your city or county in order to support a local museum or theatre?

Infinite Objects

The writer of stories or of novels settles on men and imitates them; he exhausts the possibilities of his characters. The poet is alone with infinite objects in his own obscure sphere and does not know whether he should be indifferent or hopeful. Later that single face will multiply; those gestures will become approving or disapproving opinions. This happens at the publication of the first poems. As the poet has expected, the alarms now are sounded, for — and it must be said again — the birth of a poet is always a threat to the existing cultural order, because he attempts to break through the circle of literary castes to reach the center.

– Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo, winner of the 1959 Nobel Prize in Literature, born today in 1901