Skip to main navigation

Catalogue Blog

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

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.

The Catalogue Team

A Note from the Catalogue about Our Response to COVID-19

Dear Friends,

We recognize these are tough times for members of this and other communities, and we wanted to take a moment to share with you what we are doing at the Catalogue to support our nonprofit partners and to keep everyone as safe as we can.

  • Out of an abundance of caution, we are moving our Learning Commons trainings and workshops online so that our partners can attend virtually. For those convenings that lend themselves to an in-person format only, we will postpone them and reschedule at a later date.
  • We will stay on top of the news to determine if it is appropriate to take any further actions related to our programming and will give our partners at least 24-hours’ notice of cancellation of any convening.
  • We will continue our regular webinar offerings and will expand access to any nonprofit (CFP network or not) as a way of better supporting all community organizations during this challenging time.
  • Our online review process for applicant nonprofits will proceed as usual.
  • Work on the 2020-21 print Catalogue will also continue as planned.

We encourage all of you to take care of yourselves. Doing just that is one of the best ways to prevent further spread of the virus and a great way to help take care of others. And please take seriously all of the precautions being recommended by the CDC, WHO, and the various local Departments of Health.

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 and events may be at risk, including arts organizations whose patrons may be fearful of attending events and whose very existence may be at risk. We encourage donors to support these organizations as they continue to support the most vulnerable among us and to keep this city, and this region, culturally alive. 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 are all in this together.
The Catalogue Team

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Shepherd’s Table

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator of Catalogue for Philanthropy

Imagine that you wake up on the street one morning. You have no job, no home, no bank account, no food, no blanket, and you’re running out of your prescription medication. It’s getting cold and you’re hungry. Where do you turn?

Located in downtown Silver Spring, nonprofit Shepherd’s Table is often the first place individuals experiencing homelessness go for help. For over 35 years, this local institution has been providing a broad array of free services, such as clothing, referrals, information, toiletries, bus tokens, and even mail boxes. As their name indicates, they are best known for their meal service, delivering 3 nutritious meals a day during the week and 2 meals a day on weekends. This past Valentine’s Day, I was honored to join them for lunch as a volunteer.

The kitchen was a hustle-bustle of moving bodies and dishes when I arrived for my 11:30-1:15 shift. Plus, there was a camera crew! WUSA9 was filming a news segment on Michael’s Desserts. Michael is a 14-year-old who started his baking company in 2017. That lunch, he was handing out free Valentine’s cupcakes to the guests of Shepherd’s Table.

Shepherd's Table 1

I signed in on the volunteer computer (it shoots out personalized nametags!), grabbed an iconic Shepherd’s Table green apron (one of the nice ones since cameras were rolling), scrubbed up, put some gloves on, and was introduced to fellow volunteers and staff members. Given that Shepherd’s Table has been around so long, it’s no surprise that lunch was run like a well-oiled machine.

Their highly capable head chef assigned me to the section of the buffet line next to Victoria, another veteran volunteer. Next came my 30-second volunteer orientation: two pieces of garlic bread, one scoop of vegetables, keep your station clean. Down the buffet, other volunteers served salad, rolls, and beverages. At the end, Michael served his cupcakes along with cookies that had been decorated and donated by Silver Spring Cares the day before on “Galentine’s Day.”

Shepherd's Table 2

Soon, the lunch rush was upon us. Guests of all ages, genders, and colors filed through the line; when a family with small children came though, we used smaller kids’ plates for their meals. It was fast-paced work! I took people’s preferences (only bread, no green beans, etc.) and filled their plates as quickly as possible, wishing them a Happy Valentine’s Day as they went along. When a pan began to run low on food, I shouted back into the kitchen for a refill and tried to swap it out as quickly as possible to not hold up the line. The spaghetti sauce was incredibly heavy — I’m relieved that I didn’t drop the whole thing on the floor!

Because Victoria has been a volunteer for a long time at Shepherd’s Table, she knew many of the guests by name and cheerfully chatted them up as the line went along. Volunteers are under strict instructions to not provide anyone with seconds lest we run out of food for late-comers. Some people tried anyway, but Victoria’s sharp memory helped us remember who had already gone through the line once already.

Shepherd's Table 3

The cafeteria filled up quickly. One volunteer’s role was to stand near the front door with a clipboard to take a headcount. (That lunch, we received 119 guests. An average lunch serves about 135 guests.) Another volunteer accompanied guests through the line, helping them carry their plates or find a seat. As guests finished their meals, they bussed their trays and dishes to a hole in the wall where cleanup volunteers were cleaning dishes.

After guests had departed – many thanking us as they left – it was time for cleanup. Many hands make light work and we certainly needed many hands! We packed away leftover food, wiped down tables and countertops, swept the floor, and put up chairs. Back in the kitchen, I started methodically rolling silverware, using muscle memory from my time as a waitress. After an adrenaline-fueled lunch rush, Shepherd’s Table could take a breather. Only a few hours left before the dinner rush!

Shepherd's Table 4

My lunch shift had been a fun, rewarding, and straightforward experience. I got to share my Valentine’s Day with some lovely, caring people and contribute to my community. I highly recommend those living in the Silver Spring area to consider volunteering there! It was also great fun to watch the news segment on Michael’s Desserts afterwards.

Since 1983, Shepherd’s Table has never missed a meal. This has required a lot of manpower to pull off and wouldn’t be possible without the reliable flow of volunteer labor. Because there’s no time-intensive training needed to dish out food and clean dishes, just about anyone can help out with meal service! You can sign up for as many or as few shifts as you want, depending on your schedule.

However, if being a lunch lady isn’t your cup of tea, then good news — Shepherd’s Table needs volunteers for other projects as well:

  • Resource Center — If you’re willing to make a recurring commitment and attend a training, you can help staff distribute mail, supplies, and toiletries to clients as well as file paperwork.
  • Clothing Sorters/Distributers — Help sort clothing donations and help clients pick out outfits.
  • Food Pickup — If you have a vehicle, you can pick up and deliver food donations from local grocery stores and deliver them to the Shepherd’s Table kitchen
  • Eye Clinic — Provide administrative assistance to the Eye Clinic staff such as greeting clients and filing paperwork
  • Garden — Help Shepherd’s Table expand their garden for on-campus produce by weeding and helping them install new beds.

If you’re interested in learning more about giving back to Shepherd’s Table, visit their volunteer page.

Shepherd's Table 5

Why I Am a #1 Fan of Girls on the Run: From New York City to Northern Virginia

Written by Tyler Allen, Associate Board Member of Girls on the Run NOVA

Riding the Subway in New York, you can tell what line you’re on by the snacks the kids are eating. The L train from Williamsburg to Chelsea has kids toting dried fruit in reusable glass jars. The J/Z line from Queens to Downtown has kids drinking sodas and eating packaged cupcakes. It occurred to me that some more hands-on involvement and guidance might be helpful for some youth to understand a more holistic approach to their health and place in their community.

Thinking back to my youth, I fondly remember field hockey and lacrosse as the backbone of my routine that kept me in line with my schoolwork, gave me purpose and responsibility, and placed me in an uplifting social circle of encouraging friends and coaches. It’s true that youth involved in physical activity are not only taking care of their physical and mental health, but they perform better in school and social situations, too. I am lucky to have experienced the power that physical activity and female mentorship can have on your life. I am passionate about sharing that experience with as many girls as possible.

As a female runner, my eyes teared up when the Girls on the Run program came across on a volunteer forum. It seemed too good to be true. Here is a program that addresses not just health disparities, but also provides the tools girls need to be strong and confident. It works to level the playing field for youth wellness no matter their background and — bonus — it incorporates running!


Studies show that by adolescence, girls’ confidence drops about twice as much as boys’. Fortunately, Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl, regardless of background or the neighborhood she lives in, knows she has the ultimate power to be her best. The program is delivered over a 10-week season by trained volunteer coaches who guide and mentor girls through a research-based curriculum. Running is incorporated into each lesson to encourage physical wellness and teach life skills such as team building, creating a support system, standing up for themselves and others, and decision making. The girls prepare for a celebratory Girls on the Run 5K event at the end of each season.


Photo by Gabriella Sinicopi

I arrived at the Girls on the Run NYC office with my printed resume and writing samples in hand. “Could I please volunteer with you?” I begged. I was immediately welcomed in by an amazing staff and soon became a co-chair of the communications committee where I drafted press releases, videographed events, wrote blog posts, and reached out to media contacts. Running alongside girls from across all boroughs at the end of season 5Ks, gripping hands and smiling as we crossed the finish line, made my heart burst with joy.

Last year, I moved back to my hometown in Alexandria, Virginia and took on a leadership role with Girls on the Run of NOVA (GOTR NOVA) as a member of their Associate Board. The community of staff and volunteers are just as inspiring as the program itself. Each person–whether they are a coach, parent, board member, community runner at the 5K, or general volunteer– exudes the same passion for this program and knows the impact it has on local girls. This year, we are celebrating our 20th anniversary. That is, 20 years of a program that serves nearly 5,000 girls at local middle and elementary schools each year with now almost 40% of its participants receiving financial assistance or program fee subsidies to participate.


The GOTR NOVA Associate Board is in the midst of planning one of our most popular events of the year – LUNAFEST. An evening of short films by and about women that includes fun raffles, food and drinks — all while raising funds to support GOTR NOVA. The event will be held on March 26 at the Angelika Film Center at Mosaic in Fairfax. I encourage you to join us at LUNAFEST in March.

Please consider also joining us at one of our three end of season 5Ks in May. Take the opportunities to witness the power of this program. Cheer thousands of girls across the finish line. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself rushing to our Fairfax office with your own resume and writing samples in hand — just like me!