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What does safety mean to us?

What does safety mean to us?

“Mass shootings happen in the U.S. with depressing regularity,” Saeed Ahmed wrote in an NPR article that counted at least 246 mass shootings since 2022 began — a tally that comes from the Gun Violence Archive, where you can view every incident plotted on an interactive map. This country ended 2021 with 692 mass shootings and 2020 with 610. Visually, this looks like the cover of The New York Times’ Sunday review section last month, the design a repetition of the line, “Authorities said the gunman was able to obtain the weapon legally.”

This June, March For Our Lives marched in Washington, DC and asked, “What will it take to create safe communities?” In their policy agenda, they state that “Violence is a complex and layered issue, but it is undeniable that the root causes of much of the violence in the United States lie in poverty, marginalization, exclusion, and glorification of guns in our culture.”

White supremacist violence occurs in instances of acute violence like the mass shootings that happened in a grocery store in East Buffalo in May. And it occurs as chronic violence in intentional, systemic disinvestment in communities of color, particularly in Black communities. As Rebekah Williams, Co-Founder of Food for the Spirit and the Buffalo Food Equity Network, said, “There is not just one solution to the issues of racism and food apartheid in Buffalo. There needs to be policies created to address issues of historic disinvestment and racism in the food system.”

These words echo what Zachari Curtis, Operations Director at Dreaming Out Loud, told the Catalogue in April. As a local, Black-led farm and food hub, they “(work) with a population that’s severely generationally under-capitalized and facing economic attacks.” It is about equity, but it isn’t only about equity. In institutional spaces, exclusion and barriers to access tend to happen in the fine print of “eligibility or non-eligibility.” Getting to the root causes of violence also necessitates interrogating our understanding of what violence looks like, and acknowledging that historic and ongoing disinvestment in working-class communities of color is violence in the fine print.

Though the pandemic has accelerated our reckoning with an ongoing history of state, carceral, economic, and systemic violence, and their very public relationships with interpersonal violence, we need to keep asking ourselves, “How do we want to live with each other?” In May, we spoke with Tenants and Workers United about their current campaign for affordable housing in the primarily Latino and low-income community of Arlandria. As Elsa Riveros, their Community Organizer, explained, in addition to the threat of mass displacement, it’s also about how our living conditions affect our self-esteem and how fighting disinvestment requires us to find our own value in our voices and stories.

What does it mean to describe everything — from mass shootings to food apartheid to medical debt to encampment clearings to the criminalization of abortion to unsafe conditions inside the D.C. Jail to over 1 million COVID-related deaths — as “American phenomena”? What are the realities we believe we have control over? Here, we offer the words of Avodah‘s New Orleans Program Director, Shosh Madick, who spoke out against the death penalty at an interfaith press conference in April.

“It seems very human to believe violence can result in liberation, though we (have) yet to see that actually function. I understand the inclination to confuse Justice and control. It (is) a tempting offer in our very human world, but I know true justice is possible. A justice that is sweet, connective, that acknowledges we might be individual worlds but we are bound to each other. Our job collectively, Jewish or not, is to look around and question: What systems have we set up and is it time to leave?”

To grapple with the complex intersections of violence,we need to move from a narrative of individualism to a narrative of collective responsibility. What does safety truly mean to us? How do we create spaces for joy? How can we grieve?

“Whether we have the “right” words or not, we do not have the luxury of saying nothing,” Samantha Wetzel, Executive Director of Common Good City Farm, wrote in a letter about the Buffalo shooting. In this spirit, we invite you to share your visions and definitions of safety, just as we share the words and work of our nonprofit partners who are actively reshaping our region. Together, we must drive toward a more nuanced understanding of the boundaries we establish between ourselves and others, the support system we need to build with each other, and the ways in which we can flourish if we feel safe.

Community-Rooted Public Safety

“We saw a lot of changes happen as a result of necessity during the pandemic that illustrated that we don’t need to be as punitive as we have been,” Patrice Sulton, Executive Director of the DC Justice Lab, told the Catalogue during a panel for our Give Local Gala in May. “We’ve seen changes to the number of people that we incarcerate without seeing a corresponding rise in crime, and so we know that we have people who are being subjected to arrest and incarceration who don’t need to be there.”

Understanding the root causes of violence is imperative to addressing it — we must embrace complexity and nuance in our fight for real safety. “The impact of gun violence on the lives of BIPOC communities is devastating, but so too is the over-reliance on a heavily punitive criminal legal system to address violence.” This statement comes from a Racial Equity Framework for Gun Violence Prevention report that the DC Justice Lab helped to produce, alongside March For Our Lives and other organizations. It also notes that, nationwide, the firearm homicide victimization rate is 11 times higher for Black people than for white people.

“When people dismiss abolitionists for not caring about victims or safety, they tend to forget that we are those victims, those survivors of violence,” Derecka Purnell wrote inThe Atlantic. Meaningful solutions come from the community. In DC, 94% of people sentenced for felonies, and more than 90% of people incarcerated in our local jails, are Black. In our narratives of criminalization and victimization, who are we focusing on? “If we are committed to eliminating this harm long-term,” Purnell proposed, “then society must offer quality housing, food, day care, transit, employment, debt cancellation, and free college so that people will not be stuck in unhealthy relationships because they need food, money, health insurance, or a place to live.”

In November 2020, then-Executive Director of Amara Legal Center, Llamilet Gutierrez, spoke about their work providing free legal representation and support to individuals impacted by sex trafficking or involved in sex work at our Community Changemakers panel about power-based violence. Gutierrez shared that their clients were “no longer able to access resources from their jobs and now (were) in a position where they need legal representation.”

“Safety” means more than the absence of harm.” This is the bedrock for a new, shared legislative agenda for community safety in DC, led by the DC Justice Lab, National Reentry Network For Returning Citizens, and Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, among others. The safety we collectively want to explore can be, as Mariame Kaba and Eva Nagao define, “the ability to bring, be, and move through the world as your full self.

Away From the “I” and Towards the “We”

Talking about community is a lot easier than building it. A culture of individualism has been ubiquitous in the United States for some time, but it is this shift in mindset that we must make to answer our question of how we want to live with each other. Here, we take inspiration from the harm reduction work of organizations like HIPS, who wrote in a statement:

“Harm reduction was originally developed as a public health approach to drug use in the 1980′s. The approach was primarily created by drug users, as well as HIV/AIDS activists and social service workers. Harm reduction was particularly important at the time because of the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and the criminalization of drug users that prevented so many from accessing clean injection equipment and quality healthcare. Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies, from safer use to managed use to abstinence to meeting drug users “where they are,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. This approach centers agency, dignity, and wellbeing of drug users. As a public health theory, it acknowledges drug use as a fact and seeks to minimize risks and dangers associated with said use.” (Emphases ours)

Drug use, as well as other isolating circumstances like debt and illness, exist alongside, and intertwine with, the structural oppressions that disproportionately impact people of color. That these circumstances are socially isolating should be a point of interrogation to begin with. The non-judgmental philosophy that HIPS uses — as do other Catalogue nonprofit partners — shifts the responsibility of care from the individual to the collective. If we are to implement long-term and effective solutions, then we need to cultivate healing, justice, accountability, and safety on the level of ecosystems.

In the words of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), “Who are you accountable to and how have you built sustained connection in your community in order to achieve liberation?

Currently, we live in a city where white households are estimated to have, on average, net assets of 81 times more than Black households and 22 times more than Latino households; and where medical debt in predominantly minority neighborhoods is nearly four times as common as in white neighborhoods. Though some might remember the local economy “booming” in pre-pandemic times, even in 2019 that economic growth was not shared. Using Census data, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute reported that “Approximately one in seven District residents, or 90,500 people, earned poverty-level incomes in 2019.” 18.9% of DC’s children — the vast majority of whom are Black — lived in poverty, well above the city’s overall poverty rate.

Theoretically and empirically, higher inequality is associated with higher crime and lower social trust. The narrative cannot be about individual action, reward, and consequence. As Kymone Freeman, cofounder of We Act Radio, told DaQuan Lawrence in The Hilltop, “In our nation’s political capital it seems community members have to make the changes because the wealthy know our circumstances are deteriorating.”

On the eco-system level, CASS works to strengthen community capacity by using the Transformative Justice framework, which holds as its goals, “Safety, healing, and agency for survivors; accountability and transformation for people who harm; community action, healing, and accountability, and transformation of the social conditions that perpetuate violence — systems of oppression and exploitation, domination and state violence.”What could flourish in this vision of DC?

At the Catalogue, we find hope and inspiration on this idea of safety from our nonprofit partners like CASS, who engages men in Rethinking Masculinity and trains residents in community-based solutions to gender-based harassment and assault; like HIPS, who runs a 24-hour crisis hotline and offers peer support groups, safer sex materials, overdose education and reversal, and more; like Tzedek DC, who closes the justice gap for low-income residents by providing legal help with debt-related problems; like the DC Justice Lab, who merges community organizing and empirical research to advance public safety solutions; and like the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, a community built on love and support, who develops and promotes healing practices for adults living with cancer and their caregivers, and who believes that “healing is always possible even when curing is not.”

In their visions for our city, we see community and public safety as a shared responsibility. Safety truly does mean more than an absence of harm. Who are you accountable to? What connections are you building and sustaining in your community? Collectively, let’s keep asking ourselves and each other, “How are we keeping us safe?

Local Nonprofit Bulletin (06.24.22)

Local Nonprofit Bulletin


Shoutouts to small nonprofits in the DMV, upcoming events, and a roundup of philanthropic resources! Have questions, an event, or another opportunity you want featured? Reach out to Amanda, our Communications and Marketing Coordinator, to collaborate!

Get into a Civic State of Mind about the DC Budget

On Wednesday, June 29, from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM, learn about how to advocate for the local, livable futures we want to create through the city budget! This virtual panel features speakers from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Jews United for Justice, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and Black Swan Academy, and will be moderated by David Meni. RSVP today!


In celebration of the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum‘s 55th anniversary, they’re asking residents of the DC region to submit portraits of themselves as the Museum looks to its next 55 years and beyond! “Portraits by the People” runs from June 13 – September 15 and continues the museum’s tradition of preserving and celebrating the local stories that make up our diverse neighborhoods. Submit your portrait!

What happens when arts and activism converge? Young Playwrights’ Theater says, “A new generation can move to the forefront of movements and inspire social change with their creativity and their voices.” In their first season of implementing their Students Advocating for the Eradication of Racism (SAFER) program with Sitar Arts Center‘s Student Emerging Arts Leaders (SEAL), teen students gathered every Friday afternoon to discuss social issues that affect them and their communities, culminating in a performance that showcased their ideas, thoughts, and hopes for the future through a devised choreopoem.

Nearly 30 years after receiving Minnie’s Island as a gift, the Potomac Conservancy has transferred ownership of this 8-acre island in the Potomac River to the newly minted Minnie’s Island Community Conservancy! “Along with keeping the island open to anyone who wants to paddle or wade to its shores,” Whitney Pipkin writes in the Bay Journal, this group also “wants the land to be a resource that gives back to those who have given much.” Learn more about the island’s history and their plans for its future!

This year, KEEN Greater DC celebrates 30 successful years of free, one-to-one recreational and exercise activities for children and young adults with significant physical and developmental disabilities. Their 19th Annual KEEN Sports Festival was featured on NBC News!

A new Lift Zone at the Washington Literacy Center “offers free high-speed WiFi access to help students and community members get online, participate in distance learning or remote work, look for and apply for jobs and access digital skills content.” Comcast’s 100th Lift Zone in the Beltway Region will help Washington Literacy Center continue to teach “reading and math for everyday use, computer literacy, workforce skills, occupational literacy and other skills necessary for better employment opportunities,” said Jimmie Williams, Washington Literacy Center president and CEO.


June 23 – July 24, Multiple | Washington Improv Theater’s final multi-week run of Ask Me Anything

June 25, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM | Block Party at Generation Hope

June 25, 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM | Celebrate the talents and contributions of refugees at the third annual One Journey Festival

June 25, 3:00 – 5:00 PM | Craft. Brew. A crafting happy hour with The Art League

June 26, 8:00 AM | The 2nd annual Washington DC Sharkfest Swim will benefit Special Olympics International and the Potomac Riverkeeper Network! Register for the Open Swim or volunteer in the water or on land

June 26, 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM | Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC salutes the music of the “Great American Songbook”

June 26, 2:30 – 4:00 PM | Pipeline Playwrights presents: Write Your 10-Minute Play at Joe’s Movement Emporium

July 14 – August 6, Multiple | Washington Improv Theater’s Jams

July 18 – 22, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM | Docs In Progress’ Summer Teen Filmmaking Workshop (Session 1)

August 1 – 5, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM | Docs In Progress’ Summer Teen Filmmaking Workshop (Session 2)

August 6, 11:00 AM | Girls Rock! DC Showcase at Black Cat

August 28, 12:00 – 3:00 PM | Carpenter’s Shelter’s signature tasting event, the Carpenter’s Cook-Off Pop-Up

September 24, 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM | Healwell’s Healthcare & Intimacy virtual symposium

September 30, 6:30 PM | Horizons Greater Washington presents Reach for the Stars

Starting October 3, Multiple | The Washington Bach Consort’s Noontime Cantata Series

October 6, 6:00 PM | Save the date for DC SCORES’ One Night One Goal

November 24, 8:00 AM | 18th Annual 5K Turkey Trot to Benefit Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services


“Why Catalytic Funding is Key to Closing the Racial Equity Gap in Philanthropy” | Inside Philanthropy

Historically, foundation processes and funding have often favored larger, well-established organizations with white leadership, while organizations led by people of color have not received the same level of funding and support,” Rebecca Ferguson writes. “As a result, the philanthropic sector has failed to direct enough funding to organizations closest to the issues we’re trying to solve.”

Tips for Allies of Transgender People | GLAAD

This Pride month and beyond, check out this non-exhaustive list of tips you can use to move toward becoming a better ally to transgender people.

“Visualize This: Donor-Advised Funds As Largest Recipients of Charitable Gifts” | Inequality

“The largest commercial DAF sponsors now take in more money each year than our largest public charities,” writes Chuck Collins and Helen Flannery. Watch their time lapse of the rise of DAFs.

“Where We Bank Matters” | Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community

This nonprofit guide to community banking includes insights on “what to look for in community banking relationships; specific, actionable steps organizations can take when considering a partnership with such institutions; and examples of community banks working in communities, particularly in under-invested communities.”

BEACON celebrates its 30th Anniversary with 30 Student Success Stories and the Introduction of its $30 for 30 Years Monthly Giving Program

BEACON Celebrates its 30th Anniversary with 30 Student Success Stories and the Introduction of its $30 for 30 Years Monthly Giving Program

Confetti against a white background, with gold calligraphy in the middle reading, "30 Student Stories to celebrate 30 years." A logo at the top left reads, "Beacon for Adult Literacy, 30 Years serving the community."BEACON was founded in 1992 by the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia. A secular program inspired by the Benedictine love of learning, BEACON empowers its adult learners to enhance their quality of life through English language and literacy.

Our humble beginning started with Sister Eileen Heaps teaching a handful of adults to read and write using the only space available to her – a small kitchen of the Monastery. The program has grown to serve more than 400 students each year, powered by 100+ volunteers at three class site locations in the Prince William Community.

In celebration of our anniversary, BEACON is taking a trip down memory lane and sharing 30 student stories for 30 years of service. These stories give a glimpse into the lives of the learners served, sharing why the learners enrolled in classes, and the impact our program has had on their lives.

Over the years, adult learners from more than 47 countries have attended tutoring, small group, and classroom instruction in a variety of offerings centered around literacy, language, and citizenship. The 30 student stories series highlights accomplishments such as:

  • After taking ESOL and GED classes in 2007, Amelia pursued an Associates degree in architecture at Northern Virginia Community College.
  • In 2008, Bruno obtained his GED.
  • Claudia voted for the first time in 2008 after becoming a U.S. Citizen.
  • Naly worked with a BEACON interview coach in 2020 and got a new job.

Powered by passionate volunteers, BEACON goes beyond skills building. Students complete the program with more confidence, a greater sense of belonging, and hope for a better future.

One student returned 20 years later to tell our staff, “I really appreciate all that the BEACON program did for me and I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t been able to take the classes. The teacher was wonderful and so encouraging.”

Saeema, who was born in Afghanistan and grew up in Pakistan as a refugee, shared, “BEACON truly is a beacon of hope for people like me. BEACON’s services are very well tailored for the needs of new immigrants, and I appreciate the friendly environment it has created for people like me, particularly women. I can get my education, something that I would not have imagined at my age and as an illiterate woman in my society in my home country.”

Black text against a blue background reads, "I can get my education, something that I would not have imagined at my age and as an illiterate woman in my society back home." This quote is attributed to Saeema, pictured on the right posing by the Lincoln Memorial wearing a headscarf and dark top.

Grace, who became a newly naturalized U.S. Citizen after taking BEACON citizenship classes in 2018, also shared, “I’m so blessed to have found BEACON… I believe that BEACON has helped so many people, not only with the citizenship interview, but also with learning English and the American culture, so that we can feel like we have a place here in America and can work toward making a better life for our families.”

Black text against a green background reads, "BEACON has helped so many people, so that we can feel like we have a place here in America and can work toward making a better life for our families." This quote is attributed to Grace, pictured on the right with short black hair wearing a gray sweater holding up a U.S. Citizenship package.

Another father shared with our staff that he gained the confidence needed to read to his 5-year-old daughter, and he saw her reading improve as a result of their time together.

While BEACON has taken the time to celebrate our impact over the last 30 years, we have also taken measures to ensure the sustainability of the next 30 years. Our board of directors recently completed a 3-year strategic plan, revised mission and vision statements, and the tagline, “BEACON for Adult Literacy” has been changed to “BEACON for English Language and Literacy” to acknowledge the difference between learning a language and learning how to read.

For those interested in supporting BEACON’s next 30 years, there are many ways to get involved. We invite donors to join Sister Eileen’s Legacy Circle by becoming a monthly donor. This year’s goal is to obtain monthly donors at $30 or higher to help BEACON thrive for the next 30 years.

We are also currently recruiting for volunteers for the fall class session, which begins in August, for assignments such as testing/registration support, teaching classes both online and in-person, and special events. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit our website or apply here.

The 30 Years 30 Stories series continues into September, BEACON’s official birthday month. Don’t miss another #30years30stories student story! Stay connected with BEACON on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or sign up for our newsletter here.

Embedding Equity in Philanthropy by Supporting Leaders of Color

Embedding Equity in Philanthropy by Supporting Leaders of Color

Originally published by the Crimsonbridge Foundation

Earlier this year, the Catalogue for Philanthropy concluded our inaugural BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Executive Director cohort, in which local nonprofit leaders of color met regularly for six months to connect with and support each other as peers. Using a participant-led model, the cohort determined the agendas for the sessions and the Catalogue helped facilitate, with leaders discussing topics ranging from managing staff onboarding and professional development to recruiting and engaging board members.

This was the Catalogue’s second cohort convening nonprofit leaders who identify as BIPOC. Late last year, we also concluded our pilot BIPOC Emerging Leader Cohort, which mixed peer-to-peer learning with skill-building so that aspiring and junior Executive Directors could grow professionally alongside each other. Over four months, these emerging leaders of color shared and gained insights about fundraising models and strategies, establishing equity-centered evaluation metrics, and more.

Across both cohorts, common challenges emerged, as well as potential initiatives that would support BIPOC-led small nonprofits. In reflecting on the concerns and ideas our cohort participants shared, five main takeaways that our sector should consider rose to the top when looking to support and champion leaders of color.


1. Move towards a vision of trust-based philanthropy.

Too often, institutional funders demand that nonprofits earn their trust before receiving their funding. Our participants recognize that trust is a two-way street. In most instances, philanthropic institutions and small nonprofits are deeply aligned on a common goal of making local impact. One big way to increase this impact is for funders to trust when nonprofits say they are doing the work.

On a small scale, this can look like rethinking how nonprofits apply for grants and how those applications are scored. What questions are you asking and why? Which of these questions are truly important to you? If it doesn’t serve a purpose, consider removing it from your application process. When reviewing applications, are you looking for spelling errors or are you prioritizing how a nonprofit is engaging their community? If you critique an application for being “unpolished,” can you acknowledge that small nonprofits may not have the capacity to tell their stories the way larger nonprofits might and examine how you define a “polished” application?

In the longer-term, we have heard from leaders of color that it is difficult to plan for their organizations – especially around structural changes or the ongoing process of embedding equity in their work – when they can only secure funding for the next 12 months. Instead of restricting your funding by program area or length of time, could you give multi-year grants for general operating support so that leaders have the freedom and flexibility to determine how to best allocate that money? For individual donors, consider making a multi-year pledge.

2. Prioritize the health, well-being, and sustainability of leaders of color.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout has been a major issue in the nonprofit sector, particularly for leaders of color. Small BIPOC-led nonprofits already grapple with the many systemic inequities that disproportionately impact communities of color in our society. On top of this, they tend to receive less funding and attention than white-led nonprofits. Plugging these gaps has led many leaders of color, themselves experiencing burnout while managing exhausted nonprofit staff, to work in ways that are unsustainable.

Collectively, we must better care for leaders of color by providing funding for coaching and mental health services, and by offering support through leadership development and skill-building that is affordable. Such a network of care is what will enable BIPOC and women-identified leaders to build sustainable workflows for themselves and their staff.

3. Create space for authenticity and honesty in our funder-nonprofit relationships.

Relationships that allow for both parties to be fully honest and themselves breed trust. Because of the power dynamic between funders and nonprofits, many leaders often feel that they cannot be authentic with a funder without worrying that they will withdraw their support. Such an imbalanced dynamic, wherein nonprofit leaders refrain from sharing about stressors or challenges and funders don’t see the full picture of what’s happening on the ground, only weakens the collaborative nature of these relationships.

True collaboration is crucial to ensure that everyone in our sector can direct their full attention, time, and talent to working with each other. Funders can take small steps to create more room for authenticity in their relationships with nonprofit leaders of color, such as by proactively encouraging leaders to share the realities and difficulties of their work and, most importantly, by continuing to support nonprofits that face challenges or setbacks but are still focused on critical local work.

4. Make networks of support more visible and accessible.

From DAFs to major donors to corporate funders to foundations without open RFPs, finding and navigating sources of funding can be extremely challenging for nonprofits that aren’t already privy to such networks of support. Bigger organizations and white-led nonprofits often have more access to these funding sources than smaller and BIPOC-led organizations.

One major way that the philanthropic sector can increase equity is by making these networks more visible and accessible so that leaders of color know where to look and how to secure support from funders who want to champion local, grassroots movement work.

5. Transition from donors to actively engaged supporters.

Individual donors and nonprofit leaders both agree that supporting a nonprofit should not feel like a transactional relationship. While financial support is critical, we hear from leaders of color that they want donors to show up for the cause in more ways, too. This can look like offering your time by volunteering or offering your influence by becoming a peer-to-peer fundraiser and sharing about the nonprofit’s work with your friends.

Ultimately, supporters and nonprofits exist within a larger ecosystem of change. Just as nonprofit leaders work hard to cultivate a more authentic relationship with their donors, donors can take action to become more engaged supporters and move into authentic advocacy as well.

The Catalogue for Philanthropy is a partner of the Crimsonbridge Foundation’s LeaderBridge initiative. To learn more about LeaderBridge, visit their website.

Main Street Child Development Center: Educating & Enriching Children to Succeed in School & Beyond

Main Street Child Development Center: Educating & Enriching Children to Succeed in School & Beyond

“We’re really proud of the sense of community and family support we have here. We have lots of families whose children are second generation Main Street students. We celebrate our diversity striving to see to the health and development – the cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development – of each child.”

Photo of a teacher wearing glasses and a denim jacket coloring with young students in a classroom

For nearly 50 years, Main Street Child Development Center has been providing high-quality, comprehensive, and affordable early childhood education programs and support services to 150 children every year, predominantly from low-income families. As one of only two programs in Northern Virginia that has received the highest Quality rating from the state of Virginia, Main Street ensures that the preschool and elementary school children they serve are inspired to learn and prepared for success.

One new way they’re empowering children is through their Discovery Room, recently constructed thanks to grants from the PNC Foundation and KMZ Foundation. Despite challenges with shipping delays and renovating their building during the pandemic, Main Street aims to publicly launch the room to families this summer to allow parents and children to explore the space and learn about tools that they can also use at home.

Photo of a young child making a face at a wall of circular mirrors

“(It’s important) to see the different materials that kids can have fun and learn with, to understand that this is part of the healthy development of a child,” says Carol Lieske, Executive Director. “I’ve been at Main Street for nearly 10 years and I always wished there was a room we could make available to our students and teachers that is a different environment, (so that) if a child is having big feelings they can have calm lighting, calm music, and sensory equipment that can calm their stimulation. Or, if they need to be stimulated, they can go there to exercise and get their energy out.”

This emphasis on children’s wellbeing has guided every step of Main Street’s approach to developing the room. Working with Skills on the Hill Occupational Therapy, they’ve created a play area that includes equipment for all moods and needs, from a trampoline to rocking chairs to a light cube that strobes different colors. “We wanted to make it fun,” Carol adds. “The occupational therapist helped us figure out… (how to make it) really fun and purposeful for all students’ needs.”

Photo of a young child smiling for the camera while posing inside a multi-colored barrel

Walking into this room, it’s immediately obvious how much Main Street has invested in fun and play for the children they serve. On one wall, they have a smart board that allows them to project calming images and flowing colors. Against another wall, you can sit in a canoe with weighted vests and feel like it envelopes you. This room is a loving reminder that movement and sensory stimulation are critical for children’s – and, frankly, everyone’s – emotional health.

“Even our teachers say, “Can we go in there and relax and lay down and play and have somebody roll me in the barrel?”” Carol shares, laughing. “It’s a place for kids who have big feelings and who don’t quite know how to cope with them or express them. This (room) can give them the freedom to do that.”

Spaces like these are especially helpful when children, families, and teachers alike have to grapple with painful problems, many of which the pandemic has only served to amplify. As Carol states, “We can’t expect children to learn if they’re fearful or hungry, if they don’t know who’s picking them up, or if they didn’t have a home to sleep in last night.” Main Street works to provide those services and resources to meet their basic needs while also focusing on their social-emotional health and a preparation for a lifetime of learning.

Photo of three young children smiling and posing for the camera. The child on the left is wearing a gray shirt with a colorful unicorn on it. The child in the middle is wearing a yellow printed dress, holding a basketball. And the child on the right is wearing a black t-shirt with the word "BRO" on it.

Beyond the Discovery Room, they connect families to other community resources like food pantries and ESL classes, as well as work with two on-site mental health specialists to assist children and their families. And at the core of their programming, Main Street ensures that each classroom has a 6:1 student-teacher ratio to increase children’s learning opportunities and enhance relationships.

“People may or may not realize how big and important these relationships with the families and children are,” Carol highlights. “My energy comes from being with the children and families, and feeling like we’re developing strong, trusting relationships with them so we can work together to help children explore and discover and dream, and go to school confident that they’re going to be successful in a learning environment.”

Photo of a young child playing with a green board on the wall that has different movable and colorful blocks

When you make a donation to Main Street, you help to fund projects such as this Discovery Room, as well as ensure that they can make their programs and services affordable and accessible to all. You can also learn more about their work on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Photos taken by Julie Cole

Local Nonprofit Bulletin (6.10.22)

Local Nonprofit Bulletin


Philanthropic resources, news from small nonprofits in the DMV, upcoming events, and a roundup of opportunities to volunteer and offer your support! Have questions or an opportunity you want featured? Reach out to Amanda, our Communications and Marketing Coordinator, for shoutouts and collaborations!

Announcing our 20th Catalogue Class

After a rigorous application and selection process, conducted by a team of 170+ volunteer community advocates from the Greater Washington region, we are proud to announce the 2022-23 class of critical and trusted local nonprofits! Let these organizations know how much their work means to you by giving them a shoutout and supporting their efforts. You can also add your name to our mailing list to ensure you receive a complimentary copy of the Catalogue when it’s released in November 2022.

Matt Gayer Recognized as a 40 Under 40 Awardee

Congratulations to Matt Gayer, Co-Executive Director of the Catalogue, who was selected by the Washington Business Journal as one of the recipients of its 40 Under 40 Awards this year! Join us in congratulating Matt on this well-deserved award.

We also want to congratulate fellow awardees Tom Bartlett, Co-Founder and President of 20 Degrees, Gabrielle Majewski, Executive Director of the DC Affordable Law Firm, and Carlyn Madden, Founder and CEO of Good Insight.


How does the 2022-23 budget passed by the DC Council on May 24 impact the lives of DC residents? For one, the DC Diaper Bank Grant Program will be funded with $500,000 – fulfilling a critical need as diapers aren’t covered by federal assistance programs like SNAP. Catalogue nonprofit partner Capital Area Asset Builders also lauds the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit to undocumented adult workers in the city.

Thanks to the collective advocacy of the Fair Budget Coalition – which includes nonprofits like the Amara Legal Center, DC Greens, Jews United for Justice, Legal Aid Society, Miriam’s Kitchen, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and more – the budget will include 260 permanent supportive housing vouchers for families and 500 for individuals as well. Read more about the new city budget in the Washington Informer.

Speaking of diapers, congratulations to the Greater DC Diaper Bank for distributing their 25 millionth diaper back in March! “12 years ago we were operating out of my home – now we have 10,000 square feet of warehouse space,” Founder and Executive Director Corinne Cannon tells Washington Parent. “In spite of the challenges posed by COVID, what we’ve learned since 2020 is that our model works, and it can be replicated on a much larger scale in times of crisis.”

In other DC Council news, the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) – which will help DC homeowners catch up on their mortgages and other housing-related payments – is still not open. With the District’s foreclosure moratorium for owner-occupied homes set to expire on June 30, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia calls on the DC Council to “pass emergency legislation extending the foreclosure moratorium and strengthening protections for homeowners who submit applications once (HAF) is open.” Visit their blog to learn more.

Early voting in the District begins today! Ahead of primary election day on June 21, check out this 2022 Primary Voter Guide by Street Sense Media to view candidate profiles for mayoral, council chair, attorney general, and other candidates.

Despite new laws, commissions, and task forces, six people were killed by law enforcement officers in Montgomery County in 2021. Jews United for Justice, alongside partners like the ACLU of Maryland and NAACP, have been working to strengthen the local bill that established civilian-involved police disciplinary boards in Montgomery County. Now, they are opposing increased funding for a superfluous new branch of the Montgomery County Police Department called Community Resource Bureau. Learn more about their work on their website.

“A social historian as well as an artist, (Melanie Kehoss) excavates the past with a particular stress on foodways,” writes Mark Jenkins in the Washington Post. Tomorrow, June 11, is the last day to catch Kehoss’ show, “Labor and Leisure,” at the McLean Project for the Arts!

After more than four years of planning, The Well at Oxon Run is now open! This new urban garden and wellness space in Ward 8 is founded and operated under DC Greens, and was created as a partnership between The Green Scheme, The Friends of Oxon Run, Soul of the City, and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Valerie Bonk writes in WTOP that “In addition to the community garden, The Well also features an amphitheater, outdoor classroom, chicken coop, and a library.”

We’re so excited to see Mamatoto Village expanding! Their new location at 4315 Sheriff Road NE, double in size from their previous location, allows them to grow their offerings, such as by adding a milk depot and dispensary. As one of the few providers in Ward 7 offering pregnancy and postpartum services, Mamatoto Village has long supported Black families in having positive birth experiences. “In this nation, we do not support postpartum,” Ronnet Gross, a perinatal care specialist at Mamatoto, tells DCist. “And so while we can’t do all of it, we can help.”


Wednesday evenings | Summer in the Parks with the Rock Creek community, featuring music and fun-for-all-ages games & activities

June 11 | Enjoy a day of recitals and presentations by over 150 CHAW youth and adult students at CHAW’s Spring Performance Festival, co-located at CHAW and The Miracle Theater (535 8th St SE)

June 11, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM | Rain or shine, support the C&O Canal Trust and the C&O Canal National Historical Park by participating in the TowpathGO 5K Challenge

June 11, 3:00 – 7:30 PM and June 12, 12:00 – 10:00 PM | Check out HIPS at the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday and at Pride Festival on Sunday

June 16 and July 7, 2:00 PM | Join Main Street and the University of Maryland for two webinars about the Main Street model of affordable, inclusive housing & membership!

June 16, 6:00 – 7:00 PM | The Art League’s June solo artist Beverly Valdez will discuss her exhibit “The Spirit of Carnival”

June 17, 6:00 – 9:00 PM | Opening reception for Justice Arts Coalition’s latest exhibition “Sotto Voce”

June 17, 6:30 PM | The Dream Project presents its 12th annual Scholarship Award Ceremony at the Wakefield High School Auditorium

June 18, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM | Celebrate Juneteenth at the 2nd Annual Juneteenth Community Resilience Day Celebration, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and more! Participating Partners include Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and Dreaming Out Loud. East of the River Steelband will also be performing.

June 18, 8:00 – 9:00 PM | Join The Theatre Lab for their alumni cabaret celebrating their 30th anniversary!

June 19, 2:00 – 10:00 PM | Head to Tommy Joe’s Bar + Grill in Bethesda for their Second Annual Father’s Day fundraiser benefiting St. Ann’s Center

June 20 – August 26 | Students ages 14-17 can flex their creative muscles and cultivate their artistic abilities at VisArts’ Teen Camp (scholarships available)

June 27, 6:00 – 8:00 PM | Learn the art of making herbal loose leaf tea with Common Good City Farm

June 27 – August 5, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM | Join Project Create’s multi-disciplinary arts summer camp in Anacostia! Elementary and middle school students will participate in visual, performing and digital media art-making, as well as exciting field trips. Free for DC residents (and includes a hot lunch)!

June 28, 7:00 – 8:30 PM | What’s at stake in the local primary elections in Montgomery County? Hear from Jews United for Justice in this non-partisan conversation on who is running, when the elections are happening, how you can be part of shaping Maryland, and more

June 29, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM | Capital Book Fest is here! Meet local, award-winning authors, enjoy interactive activities, shop for gently-used books, and more.

July 5 – 21 | The Giving Square is offering a series of Service Learning Workshops to help kids connect to issues, explore nonprofits, and define their own service learning path

July 16, 11 AM | Catch some original music by brand new DC youth bands at the Girls Rock! DC Showcase

July 18 – August 5 | Apply for National Philharmonic’s Summer String Institute! The orchestra program is still accepting applications until July 1


Join Rock Creek Conservancy for cleanups, invasive removals, and more!

Horizons Greater Washington is throwing a supply packing party on Tuesday, June 14, from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM in advance of the kickoff of their summer programming.

Join the Prince William County Community Foundation’s efforts to eradicate hunger by volunteering at one of their upcoming food distribution events on: June 22 from 3:00 – 5:00 PM at Dale City Commuter Lot and June 30 from 3:00 – 5:00 PM at Unity Braxton Middle School, Manassas. Email them to RSVP and volunteer.


Apply for the Connecting Leaders Fellowship Program | ABFE

Designed for early- to mid-career professionals, the ABFE Connecting Leaders Fellowship Program is a year-long experience designed to sharpen the skills and strengthen the leadership capacity of?foundation staff, donors, trustees, and nonprofit leaders who are committed to assisting Black communities through philanthropy. The submission deadline is July 1.

“We Surveyed Hundreds of Philanthropy Professionals. Here’s What We Found” | Inside Philanthropy

Read some of the initial findings from this major survey, which include a broad overview of how people view philanthropy, their feelings about funders (and billionaire funders), their calls for reform, and more.

Gender Spectrum Collection | VICE

“Stock photos that accompany articles do more than illustrate subject matter. They have the power to shape perceptions of entire communities.” This stock photo library features images of trans and non-binary models to help organizations better represent members of these communities as people not necessarily defined by their gender identities.

The Arc of Northern Virginia Celebrates 60 Years: Looking Back, Moving Forward

The Arc of Northern Virginia Celebrates 60 Years: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Sixty years ago, parents in Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County, who believed their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) had rights like everyone else, came together for a meeting. They felt that their children deserved to be included in the community and to pursue fulfillment and happiness just like everyone else.

At that time, little was known about IDD or its causes. There were virtually no programs or activities to assist in the development and care of people with IDD or to support families. It was common for doctors to tell parents that the best place for their child was in an institution.

But these advocates wanted more. They wanted their loved ones to lead fulfilling lives in the community instead of being shuttered away in dark institutions. Emboldened by their collective desire to raise their children at home, their refusal to accept institutionalization as the only option, and the belief that their collective voices gave their movement strength, The Arc of Northern Virginia was created.

Photo of a family of three posing for the camera in line at an airport

In the six decades since the Northern Virginia Chapter was incorporated by the Commonwealth of Virginia on March 21, 1962, the chapter has created community residential systems and a transportation program, as well as established guardianship and trust programs. The Arc of Northern Virginia also teaches self-advocates how to find their voice and is a fiercely effective advocate organization on the local and state level.

Today, we serve more than 39,000 individuals with IDD – such as autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and rare chromosomal disorders – of all ages and their families in the cities and counties of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Falls Church. We provide education, information, and referrals to help caregivers navigate complex disability systems throughout each stage of their loved one’s life. We’ve created innovative web-based tech tools to help people with IDD live more independently, in addition to providing financial management through a Special Needs Trust program.

We’ve witnessed a lot of change in the world of disability services in the past 60 years. Achievements such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, the closure of institutions, and advancements in technology supports are celebrated. The Arc of Northern Virginia has played a pivotal role, from producing the first sheltered workshop in the region to establishing a pilot day care center that later became the Growth & Development Center under the Arlington County Health Department. Most importantly, we have been critically engaged in changing the public perception of disability.

However, the goal of fully-supported inclusion in the community remains unfulfilled. Public policy too often still neglects the needs of our loved ones with a disability. The promise of fully-funding community supports is far from a reality.

The mission of The Arc of Northern Virginia has been, and will always be, to create opportunities for people with IDD to live inclusive and meaningful lives – in the community of their choosing – for their whole lives. What has not changed in the last six decades are our core values and how they guide us. Every workshop, resource guide, webinar, advocacy campaign, legislator meeting, and decision made is driven by our belief in personhood, community, rights, choice, and human dignity.

Photo of a family of three posing for the camera outside the state capitol

Support and champion The Arc of Northern Virginia as they celebrate their 60th anniversary this year! Visit their website and join their mailing list to learn more about their fight for equality and equity for people with IDD. You can also save the date for their 60th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, November 5, 2022 and help fund their critical work!