Skip to main navigation

Catalogue Blog

Past, Present, and Future: Our Team is Our Greatest Treasure

Like all community-based nonprofits, Art Enables‘ team is our most important asset. We are small but mighty, with just four full-time and one part-time staff members to advance our mission of creating opportunities for artists with disabilities to make, market, and earn income from their original and compelling artwork.

artist_2244

The process of growing to a staff of five has taken 15 years. In Art Enables first year in 2001, our founder, Joyce Muis-Lowery, accomplished the vast majority of our work with support from a small group of very committed volunteers. Art Enables at that time was focused on its studio arts and exhibitions programs, both very entrepreneurial in nature. Through the studio arts program, our resident artists experiment, develop, and create their artwork in a supported and professional studio environment. Our exhibitions program showcases and promotes our artists through large group, small group, and individual exhibitions both onsite in our galleries and through offsite shows at local, national, and international venues. In addition to fundraising and managing operations, Joyce, with the help of that small group of volunteers, led almost all aspects of our programs in those early days.

In 2002, Art Enables hired its first full-time employee, an Art Director, devoted to overseeing a significant portion of the operations elements of the program. This role was an important first hire because the organization had just moved into a new physical location, our first opportunity to really develop and expand our work. Managing the onsite programs, along with developing a public outlet for our artists’ work, required experience of and savvy with the broader arts community.

As we continued to build upon and improve our programs, we recognized there was still more we could do to engage the general public and to foster our artists’ success as professionals. We piloted our community arts program in 2012, and now we host a variety of workshops, joint art projects, events, and exhibitions as a way for the public to join our artists in the art making (and enjoyment!) process. A mainstay of the community arts program is our 2nd Saturday Workshops, which now regularly host hundreds of DC area residents, supporters, neighbors, families, art lovers, and passers-by at each free event. (We hope to see you at one check out our news and events page for upcoming happenings!)

IMG_3050

As the expansion of our program offerings show, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount since 2001. Art Enables artists have sold nearly $1 million in artwork since our founding, and have exhibited work in hundreds of exhibitions and shows. We’ve worked hard to find new ways to advance our mission and to enrich the lives and careers of our artists.

Yet there’s still so much more we can and want to do. As we look ahead to our next 15 years, we see incredible opportunity for us to strengthen our creative and vocational assistance to artists in the program, increase their income opportunities, and support them as they build their careers as professional artists. We are also driven to enhance and broaden our profile not only as a gallery and studio, but as an arts venue and community space that fosters artistic expression and collaboration as well. And through all our work, we want to strengthen our voice as a leader on issues that impact the disabilities and arts communities.

With those goals on the horizon, we have our work cut out for us! That’s why as a first step towards success on this next phase of our work, we’re excited to add our first-ever dedicated fundraising professional to our staff.

The role we created, Development and Communications Manager, is the result of much deliberation, conversation, and excitement for our future. Investing in a new staff member is always a big commitment. That said, I see all the ways that investing in development is critical to moving our work and our goals forward. Art Enables is committed to supporting the artists in our studio on their professional journey, and this exciting new position will be key to that effort.

Please help Art Enables find its new Development and Communications Manager. Share this link – Development and Communications Manager or apply yourself!

Walking in Another’s (Broken) Shoes with Georgetown Ministry Center

by Carolyn Landes, Communications Manager, Georgetown Ministry Center
IMG_9060On a chilly afternoon this past December, I accompanied GMC Executive Director, Gunther Stern, and GMC Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. John Tarim on street outreach (a program where GMC staff check on and visit with individuals experiencing homelessness outside of the Center, directly on the streets). We’d been walking for about an hour and as we made our way down a street in West End, Gunther called out a greeting to an approaching figure — a large man, well over 6 feet tall and of a stocky build, walking with a cane. To protect his privacy, we’ll call him Ed.

It was clear from Ed’s warm reception of Gunther that he was a familiar acquaintance. Despite his physically imposing frame, Ed was mild-mannered, polite and soft-spoken. Gunther and Dr. Tarim asked the usual outreach questions, inquiring about Ed’s health and well being and asking if he needed any of the supplies we were carrying with us — items like granola bars, hand warmers, hand sanitizer and socks.
IMG_9055I happened to glance down toward Ed’s feet at the same moment Gunther asked, “How are your shoes holding up?” It was a gentle but pointed inquiry. The answer was obvious to all of us without Ed saying anything. His black, leather shoes were well beyond the point of “holding up” — they were literally falling apart. Only his left shoe had a shoelace. Threads were coming out of the seams on both soles and there were large gaping cracks in the leather on both shoes. The hole on the top of his left shoe was so large that I wondered how it was staying on his foot, let alone providing any protection from the cold.

Ed demurred the question at first but Gunther calmly persisted.”We’ll get you some shoes. What size are you?”

“Thirteen,” Ed allowed.

“Thirteen? Are you sure?”

Ed nodded. And then softly added, “Only if there’s extra.”

At that moment, I had to turn away. A large lump had formed suddenly in my throat and hot tears were stinging the corners of my eyes. Although I’d been working at GMC for 9 months by this time and had witnessed guests experiencing homelessness in dire situations before, something about the image of Ed’s tattered shoes struck me. I felt a mix of compassion for this gentle soul - how long had he been wearing these shoes that were disintegrating on his feet? – and anger that I wasn’t sure where to direct. How were we – as a society, as fellow human beings — allowing this? The holes in Ed’s shoes didn’t form overnight. How many others had passed him, noticed his broken shoes, and just kept walking, ignoring his obvious need?

Our interaction with Ed was just one of many we had that afternoon. Walking for just a few hours, we were met with individual after individual — both men and women, of varying ages, backgrounds and dispositions — each with their own story. They all recognized Gunther and knew immediately why he and Dr. Tarim were there — to offer help, even if only on that day in the form of a plastic baggie filled with toiletries, snacks and socks.

The image of Ed and his broken shoes stayed with me and a couple of weeks after our encounter I inquired with Gunther about him. “Whatever happened with the guy we saw on outreach that needed the shoes?”

“Oh! He got them.”

I blinked. “He got them?”

Gunther nodded. “Yeah, I went home that night and told Alexis to pick some up in his size. She was already out shopping for the kids.”

I smiled incredulously. “And did you already get them to him?”

Gunther nodded. “I went by Miriam’s the next day.”

I don’t know how Gunther knew Ed would be at Miriam’s Kitchen, a neighboring non-profit that aids those experiencing homelessness, the next day. It was one of the many small enigmas I was perplexed by working with someone who had been doing their job for nearly 30 years — I guess, like in most jobs, some things are learned with experience.

I do know that my experience on outreach that day cemented in my mind as an absolute surety the dire need our community has for organizations like GMC. It is our responsibility to recognize the needs of our neighbors and to help those who cannot help themselves.

Georgetown Ministry Center is a year-round drop-in center, providing psychiatric and medical outreach, social and mental health services, case management, shelter and housing support, handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and laundry facilities to one of the very neediest populations: chronically homeless individuals who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities, as well as physical injuries. Many are resistant to help, so GMC creates a welcoming environment that fosters trust. Last year it reached nearly 1,000 homeless individuals, including 60-70 “regulars.” An on-staff psychiatrist served 100, while a general practitioner provided care to 350. Moving from the streets to housing is profoundly challenging for this population, but for those who achieve it each year, GMC supports them at each step.

Change is in Your Hands with Doorways for Women and Families

Linley Beckbridge, Communications and Outreach Manager, Doorways for Women and Families
Apartment checklistFounded in 1978, Doorways for Women and Families serves women, men, youth and children experiencing abuse and homelessness in Arlington, Virginia. Doorways creates pathways out of homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault leading to safe, stable and empowered lives. From immediate crisis intervention to counseling, housing and employment support, we offer real options and multiple pathways to build brighter futures.

knowthe5_teendvmonth (1)Did you know that one in three teens in the United States experiences dating violence, which includes physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse? Most of us aren’t aware of how common abuse is among youth, and many youth who experiencing dating violence aren’t aware of the resources available to them. These forms of abuse affect everyone: survivors, parents, family members and friends. Help is available for everyone.

aki-tolentino-125018February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. “Teen DV Month (sometimes called TDVAM) is a national effort to raise awareness about abuse in teen and 20-something relationships and promote programs that prevent it,” writes Loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Throughout and beyond Teen Dating Violence Month, Doorways is engaging our community to help our neighbors better understand the issue and learn about the critical resources available. The more informed we are, the better positioned we are to prevent abuse before it happens, respond to survivors when violence occurs, and strengthen our community’s coordinated response to these issues.
Knowthe5-LogoNow is the time to take action. Change is in our hands. Fittingly, the theme for Teen DV Month 2018 is “Hands Unite: Do Your Part.”

Through Doorways, making a difference is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
Step 1: Learn the five must know facts about dating violence.
Step 2: Take a Knowthe5 selfie to social media with #knowthe5.
#knowthe5 thunderclap cover imageStep 3: Post your selfie and tag 5 friends to join you to multiply your impact!
Here’s some sample text to go along with your photo:
We can help stop dating violence. Change is in our hands. Join me this February, #teenDVmonth, and #Knowthe5 about teen dating violence: www.doorwaysva.org/knowthe5. To the awesome people I’ve tagged, please post your own selfie like this (and tag 5 friends to do the same).
IMG_5559Resources for Teens, Families and Community Members:
For life-threatening, imminent danger situations, please call 911. Survivors of violence and their families have rights that allow them to make decisions that are best for them regarding legal action, and getting immediate help to be safe does not impede these rights.

IMG_3422(2b)-small_cropIf you know of or suspect abuse, you can call Doorways’ 24-Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline (703-237-0881) for immediate help.
Have questions or concerns? Need support? Resources accessed via Doorways? hotline include education, information and referrals, hospital accompaniment for forensic exams, emergency shelter, court advocacy services, counseling and support groups for survivors of domestic, dating, and sexual violence. All services are free and accessible regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, language spoken or legal status. Learn more at www.DoorwaysVA.org/get-help.

Helpful Websites to Learn More:
Arlington County

National

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it”

By Jeanne E. Harrison,Producing Artistic Director, Traveling Players Ensemble
HamletRoyalsTraveling Players Ensemble is a not-for-profit theater company whose mission is to bring great theater into the great outdoors. Kids from Virginia, Maryland, and DC join ensembles to learn and perform plays by Shakespeare and Moliere, Greek myths, and fairy tales retold using the Commedia dell’Arte style.

At the company’s landmark summer camp, performers in elementary through high school rehearse and perform outdoors, working with professional directors and designers. Younger players tour their productions locally, while older performers depart on multi-day tours to outdoor venues like Skyline Drive’s Skyland Amphitheater, Lime Kiln Theater, and Douthat State Park. High schoolers camp out near their performance venues like traveling Renaissance artists.
MacbethWitchesTraveling Players Ensemble puts the “camp” back in “summer camp.” Our no-phone policy allows performers to learn high-level language skills, teamwork, camaraderie, and problem solving skills, all while creating lifelong friendships and a deep love and stewardship of the great outdoors. Our teaching artists return yearly to help our kids create theater and watch them grow as artists and people over the summer, and then from year to year as so many campers return to Traveling Players again and again!

CommCW_2186

The cold snap at the end of 2017 made for a not so happy start to the new year for Traveling Players Ensemble. Pipes froze and burst in the donated storage space housing Traveling Players’ 4,000+ costume pieces, props, and camping equipment. As temperatures rose, water rained down, saturating ceiling tiles and collapsing large portions of ceiling into the storage space. The leak soaked expensive costumes donated by the Washington Metropolitan Opera, tents used on tour, sleeping bags used by scholarship students who may not have the means to purchase them for tours, and thousands of articles of clothing used every summer and winter by TPE’s costume and prop artists to create the worlds inhabited by our performers.

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire.
I do wander everywhere
Swifter than the moon’s sphere.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Miser BowWe may not be preparing for the arrival of the Queen and her elves, but we are a resilient community of performers, teaching artists, staff, and families. Our community responded to the flood with a brigade of volunteers who laundered and salvaged costume pieces. Alums and staff rolled up their sleeves to excavate the storage space with no heat and no bathrooms. Families, alumni, and friends banded together to donate more than $6,000 in a week. We are so thankful for the outpouring of support from our community, but we need more help now and in the months to come.

Here are some things you can do to help:

Boost our signal!

Know kids who would be perfect for our programs? Let them know! Enrollment is open for 2018′s summer camp. Early Bird enrollment ends on February 10th. Share information on your social media channels and on your school and community listservs. Here is a link to our summer camp signup information. Also, share this post so others can learn about Traveling Players.

Want to Volunteer? Two Options!

1) Join our all volunteer Board of Directors. We are actively looking for new members to join us. Quarterly meetings and a small Board allow each member to make an impact. Please email Deborah Stein at dlsteinhome@gmail.com to learn more about Board service.

2) Volunteer your time. Enter your information here to be added to our volunteer contact list. Once we secure new storage space, we will need volunteers to move stock into its new home and to organize it. We welcome volunteers grade 7 and up.

Attend a performance!

DATE AND TIME: March 18th at 3 pm

PLACE: The Madeira School, 8328 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA 22102

WHAT: You can see our younger performers in Winnie the Pooh & Friends. After Pooh and pals leave the Hundred Acre Woods, you can see our high schooler’s stage Euripides’ classic tragedy Trojan Women. Tickets may be purchased at the door.

Calling all Girl Scouts!

Girl Scouts can no longer earn a Theater Badge — unless they do it with us! Yes, we have a limited supply of “Make Your Own” Theater Patches and expert staff to get you through it in an afternoon. Spring dates are April 8, 22 and June 3. Book early as dates are limited.

#TPETuesday.

Search our hashtag and like our posts. Follow us:

Facebook – @Traveling Players Ensemble

Twitter – @travplay

Instagram – travelingplayers

Moliere tells us, “the greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” We have glory to share with any and all who respond to our call for help. Join us. All are welcome here!

Mentoring Matters at Community Bridges

by Shannon Babe-Thomas, Executive Director, Community Bridges
image1Community Bridges is a local nonprofit with a mission to empower girls from diverse backgrounds to become exceptional students, positive leaders and healthy young women. We do so by addressing the developmental needs of immigrant and minority girls and their families living at or below the federal poverty level in Montgomery County, Maryland. Our integrated 4th through 12th grade after and out-of-school Girls Program supports the growth of our young women over a 9 year continuum by helping them understand their potential and life choices, learn creative strategies to become leaders and break their family’s cycle of poverty using education as a vehicle.
image2

We further extend our impact on Community Bridges girls by supporting them with one-on-one mentoring, college and career programming, service opportunities, educational learning trips and by offering workshops that provide resources and support for their families. Combined, our programs encourage the development of the entire girl so that she will have the greatest chance to reach her fullest potential.
image3The Community Bridges Mentoring Program connects positive female role models with diverse high school girls for an impactful mentoring experience. Throughout the course of the mentorship, mentor and mentee work together to achieve the mentee’s long- and short-term goals while developing a close, caring relationship based upon consistency, mutual respect and trust.

Nobody succeeds on their own: each young person’s strength and resilience is fostered by those who have taught them they can do anything they put their mind to. Barack Obama, National Mentoring Month Proclamation 2017

January is National Mentoring Month. Research has shown that youth with mentors are more likely to enroll in college, volunteer in their community, and hold leadership positions than youth without mentors. In short, mentoring matters.
image1 (1)Below, read the story of Community Bridges mentor Margo and her mentee Etsube to find out why mentoring matters to them.

“Etsube says that when I walked into the room she had hoped I’d be her mentor. When I was, in fact, paired with Etsube, we talked readily about , the freedom that comes with a driver’s license, about her Ethiopian family. Etsube surprised me with her intensity it was a glimpse of her resolve to embrace opportunities to express herself.

I was not sure what to expect , but I know what I have found: richness and meaning through a warm new friendship.

In our first month I asked to meet Etsube’s parents. I arrived at their home and we enjoyed in the traditional way using homemade injera to pick up the vegetables. We talked about technology in kids lives, the classic masinko stringed instrument, and the importance of developing our own strengths in life.

In a fractured world, mentoring offers ways to knit together lives and cultures.”

image2 (1)
Margo and Etsube are one of many mentoring pairs in the Community Bridges Mentoring Program, and theirs is one of many stories showing why mentoring matters. You too can make a difference in your community through mentoring. Help inspire the next generation of leaders by becoming a mentor today! To learn more about Community Bridges go to www.communitybridges-md.org.

Applying to the Catalogue with Only Make Believe

by Tamela Aldridge, Regional Director, Only Make Believe
omb2Only Make Believe (OMB),established in 1999 in New York City, is a nonprofit organization that creates and performs interactive theater for chronically ill and disabled children in hospitals and care facilities. Only Make Believe is dedicated to the principle that engaging a child’s imagination is a valuable part of the healing and learning process.

Since our program launch in Washington, DC in 2012, OMB has added special education programs to our growing list of local partner facilities . Combining imaginative play with aspects of the students’ learning curricula enriches their educational experience and retention. Our local partner facilities include: The Children’s Inn at NIH, Children’s National Medical Center, Jill’s House, HSC Pediatric Center – Kids in Action program, St. Coletta of Greater Washington and River Terrace Education Campus.

As a fairly new organization in the DC metro area, we learned about the Catalogue of Philanthropy and its mission in 2013. Having determined our short and long term goals for the DC program, our organization recognized that a partnership with the Catalogue would be greatly instrumental in ensuring our success.
omb4 The ultimate goal for Only Make Believe is to serve as many chronically ill and disabled children in the DC metro area as possible, and to meet this goal OMB needed to become one of the top philanthropic organizations in this area. Partnership with the Catalogue was a huge step towards achieving our goal.

The application process is very thorough. I wouldn’t say its hard, but it require a lot of time to concisely construct thoughtful, accurate and impactful statements which reflect the alignment of your organization to the Catalogue’s mission. This application process is not simply stock answers that you provide for grant applications. Each organization that applies needs to really consider what it would be bringing into a partnership with the Catalogue, not just how the Catalogue can benefit their organization. Also, you definitely need your financial records (990, audit, 501 (c) 3 letter) to be up to date and accurate.
EOY-17OMB applied to the Catalogue three times before being invited to join in partnership. The first rejection in 2014 was due to a lack of clarity and separation between our DC office and our New York headquarters. We learned from this first experience how to present our financials to demonstrate we are a branch of the organization that specifically serves the DC metro area and our operations are contingent upon fundraising done in this area.

The second rejection in 2015 was actually great for us. We were about to see how we had improved from the feedback from the previous year and basically the panelists were uncertain about our longevity in this area since we had been in existence for less than 3 years and had a very small footprint in DC. That being said, OMB decided to forgo applying in 2016, which provided more time to create more local partnerships and serve more chronically ill and disabled children and clearly articulate the impact our organization has in the DC metro area.

Our 2017 application was successful and upon notification of our acceptance, we squealed in delight! Only Make Believe was accepted into the Catalogue of Philanthropy during our 5 year anniversary celebration in DC!
28360853626_6ef2ae6de4_oThe DC staff has received invitations to professional development workshops, organizational assessment of office functionality, online tools and cultural insights since our acceptance in the Catalogue. The support of the Catalogue staff has been immeasurable and the visibility that is provided with acceptance has been awesome.

Our Giving Tuesday campaign results doubled from our previous years, and we’ve received several inquiries from people wanting to volunteer with our organization. But most importantly, being members of the Catalogue took us out of our bubble and showed us there is a robust community of nonprofit organizations in DC of varying sizes, missions, and capabilities. We are able to share with and learn from these fellow nonprofits, which in turn helps in galvanizing all our efforts to support the DC community and continue upward momentum of growth and service.
28111233170_031f89ccdc_oOMB would certainly still apply, but we would be more mindful about how Only Make Believe can add to the collective of wonderful nonprofit organizations that comprise the Catalogue for Philanthropy. With every partnership there is give and take; OMB strives to ensure that we give just as much to support the mission of the Catalogue and our fellow nonprofit partners as they freely give to Only Make Believe.

For more information about Only Make Believe or to volunteer or attend of our our events, visit http://www.onlymakebelieve.org/

To apply to the Catalogue for Philanthropy, visit https://www.cfp-dc.org/cfpdc/apply.php

Learning Life Lessons with Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena

by Ty Newberry, Executive Director, Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena
annual appeal photo 1Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena (FFDIA) is located in the heart of Ward 7 and serves 2,500 children annually; introducing them to ice skating, providing advanced instruction in ice hockey, synchronized skating, figure skating, and speed skating.
Approximately 60% of these children and teens live in or attend schools in underserved neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River in Washington, DC.

Kids On Ice (KOI) is a youth development program that uses sports to instill a positive self-image and the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle in children and youth ages 5-18. KOI teaches valuable life lessons beginning with a participant’s first steps on the ice. In the past 20 years, the number of skaters in our programs has grown from 11 to 2,500.

annual appeal photo 3

Skating provides multiple character-building opportunities and participants in KOI programs gain self-esteem while learning respect, fairness, reliability, courtesy, responsibility, sportsmanship, and the value of practice, and perseverance. Classes are taught in a group setting with children and youth ranging in age from 5 – 18 years, representing diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena (FDIA) was established in 1996 to rescue the Fort Dupont Ice Arena in Southeast Washington, DC from closure. FDIA revitalized the arena and now operates the facility, providing a traditionally underserved neighborhood with an NHL-size ice rink, recreational and cultural activities, skating instruction and regular physical education programming for District schools.

The Fort Dupont Ice Arena is the only public indoor ice arena located in Washington, DC and is the only skating facility in the region that provides free skating programs to disadvantaged children. Our mission is to provide increased opportunity, education and inspiration to young people in Washington, DC and the surrounding area through ice skating and educational activities.

annual appeal photo 2

KOI consists of Learn To Skate or basic ice skating instruction, P.L.U.S. or advanced ice skating instruction, and Schools Skate For Fitness in which approximately 30 schools participate in physical education classes during the week. The Schools Skate For Fitness program allows for DCPS and Public Charter Schools to alternate typical gym time with an ice skating lesson. Camps are also available throughout the summer months. When kids succeed here, they know they can take that feeling and succeed in other places.

annual appeal photo 5

The opportunity to access a full-size ice rink in the inner city opens up a world of choices for kids who traditionally would not be able to participate due to the cost associated with ice sports. The best part of working at FFDIA is watching kids progress in skill level both on and off the ice while developing new friendships and learning life lessons in the process. Making a difference close to home happens every day in our warm, welcoming, supportive, diverse environment. Kids learn how to get up after falling down time and time again. They build critical self-confidence and self-esteem through off-ice programming that complements on-ice activities, all while being embraced by staff, volunteers, program participants, instructors, and parents.

Visit our website at fdia.org and call the rink at (202) 584-5007 to register your child for classes. Registration forms and complete information is readily available and accessible. All of our programming is from volunteer instructors; we truly value all of our volunteers because we know we could not do it alone. Volunteer opportunities vary and information can be provided upon request. Helping out our basic skills program or hosting a community service day with your company are just two of the various options. The facility is open to anyone during public skate times. Please follow us on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.

What’s the next big idea? Young Social Entrepreneurs Pitch at LearnServe

by Emma Strother, Development Manager, LearnServe International
cfpdc2015-LearnServeInternational-5955-1840Immigration. Gentrification. Environmental issues. Teen mental health. Where will the next big idea originate? They can’t yet vote. They are years from becoming credentialed doctors, lawyers, and teachers. They may compete for jobs that have not yet been invented. But today they can begin as changemakers. In a moment when adults often feel powerless – overwhelmed by daunting social, environmental, and political challenges – how can we set a different tone for our young people? How do we challenge them to empathize, innovate, and persist when others say it can’t be done? How do we remind them that social change begins with them?

LearnServe Community 3 (1) At LearnServe, middle and high school students are not just the leaders of tomorrow. They’re the leaders of today. And in 30-second “elevator pitches” on December 7th, they will debut their plans to make a positive impact in their communities and schools.

LearnServe International believes in the power of young people to create change, and in the power of change work to shape young leaders. Through interconnected in-school, after school, and summer abroad trip programs, we train DC-area middle and high school students to be social entrepreneurs and global citizens, equipping them with the business skills, vision, and tenacity to tackle social challenges at home and abroad.
#StartsWithMe 2018 Fellows 1The LearnServe Innovator’s Coffee House is an opportunity to witness the start of our students’ social venture projects, meet the LearnServe community, and promote youth-led social innovation in the DC area. The event was held Thursday, December 7th at Impact Hub DC. Here is a video of the event. A special thanks to Impact Hub DC for providing the space for this event.

This is video from last year’s LearnServe Coffee House and some of the students most inspiring stories: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQtxZITQkps&t=5s.

If you are inspired by what you see, we would love to meet you at the Coffee House! To learn more, visit our website at learn-serve.org, send an email to info@learn-serve.org, or connect with us on social media #learnserve @learnserve.

Promoting Healthy Food and Culinary Careers with La Cocina VA

By Rocio Caicedo & Carol Duffy Clay, La Cocina VA

DSC07350 (1)

La Cocina VA works to promote healthy food and empower immigrants with culinary jobs and entrepreneurship skills. We generate social and economic change by helping vulnerable individuals to develop careers and to open businesses within the food service and hospitality industries. Additionally, the organization facilitates access to healthy and nutritious food for neighbors in need.

Patricia Funegra founded the organization in 2014 with the purpose of empowering unemployed members of the Latino community to secure a job by offering comprehensive bilingual Spanish/English culinary training and by giving back to the community through preparing meals for the Food Assistance Program. Recently, La Cocina VA has expanded its reach to offer an additional Small Business Development Program.

LaCocina6

Since operations began in September 2014, La Cocina VA has served 74 individuals; 90% of these individuals have been immigrant women, most of whom come from backgrounds of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and severe financial insecurity. To date 86% of the students graduating from the job training program are fully employed throughout the Metropolitan area and are working with some of the largest corporations in the region.

Picture2

Take Karina Herrera, for example, who five years ago didn’t know how to break free from a very problematic marriage while living in a foreign country and culture she didn’t understand. She faced a battle for her own economic independence and the ability to take care of three young children on her own.

A year ago, Karina was referred to La Cocina VA to participate in the full-time 13-week culinary job-training program. It was during the training that she received instruction in culinary techniques, vocational English, food safety, and job readiness. She also completed five days of on-the-job mentoring and a one-month paid internship at one of the organization’s employer partners from the food industry.

At the end of the training, Karina obtained two industry-recognized certifications: a Completion in Bilingual Culinary Job Training Program from Northern Virginia Community College, and a Workforce Development and Food Protection Manager Certification, ServSafe, from the National Restaurant Association.

DSC05455

Today Karina’s world has changed. She is now supporting her children as a financially independent mother and food service professional. She currently works at the Hyatt Regency Washington as a Second Cook making $22/hr and receives benefits and health insurance coverage for her and her family; she is advancing her career in the culinary arts and serves as a model for not only her own children but also to the other students and families that enter the kitchen at La Cocina VA.

Success stories like Karina’s are the fuel that keeps the staff and volunteers at La Cocina VA working hard to continuing affecting change within the lives of more students – the next generation of cooks.

For volunteering and other engagement opportunities, please contact Daniela Hurtado danielahurtado@lacocinava.org

Restoring the Potomac with Potomac Conservancy

By Potomac Conservancy

SB_Trough_aerial

The 9.6 million acres of the Potomac watershed are home to vast forests and diverse wildlife, wild and scenic rivers, extensive recreation opportunities, places of national historic significance, vital rural farming communities, and vibrant cities.

Encompassing 14,670 square miles over four states and our Nation’s Capital, the Potomac Basin is home to 6.1 million people. The Potomac’s waters sustain wildlife, agriculture, and industry. Most importantly for our community’s health and sustainability, the Potomac River is the source of drinking water for nearly 5 million residents. Our personal health, our communities and our economy all rely on clean water.

spirit 3

Of all the major sources of pollution in the river, pollution flowing from factories and sewage treatment plants is now largely under control. The only major source of pollution that is increasing is polluted storm water runoff from streets, over-fertilized lawns and parking lots. Each time it rains (or snows), that water rushes over the land, picking up dirt, oil, trash, pet waste, and toxic chemicals.

Patagonia vol 1

In an unaltered landscape, this water is re-absorbed into the ground and filtered by trees and plants. But when rainwater falls on roofs, driveways, or other hard surfaces, it isn’t absorbed. It flows into the nearest creek or storm drain, carrying pollution with it.

The majority of polluted runoff goes directly into our local streams. As development around the region increases (throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, we lose 100 acres of forests per day), there are fewer trees to absorb pollution and more paved surfaces that prevent polluted water from filtering naturally through the ground.
The excess nutrients that flow into our waters can cause algae blooms, which deplete oxygen levels in the water, damaging the river’s vegetation and wildlife.

f_DSC_0108

The underwater vegetation serves to filter pollutants out of our water and provides food and habitat for wildlife and once gone is difficult to bring back. Trash, especially plastics, has a very negative impact on water quality. Plastic releases toxic chemicals into the water that have been linked to inter-sexed fish (fish that have both male and female characteristics), which can lead to population decline. Additionally, plastic does not disappear, rather it breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, plastic and microplastic make up the most prevalent type of marine debris found in our oceans. Because the Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay and then into our oceans, what we do to protect the river and improve water quality will have a global impact.

29316219083_a8dca2d659_oThe good news is that things are moving in the right direction. Pollution levels in the Potomac River are the lowest they have been in decades. But, the challenges of storm water-bourne pollution continues to grow. We have a long way to go before children can safely swim in our streams, fishermen can eat their catch, and you can drink water out of your tap without a filter.

Restoring a river is a complex scientific process, which, in the Potomac’s case, is made more complex by the diversity of the Potomac region. Rural areas, suburban towns, and urban cities all face different challenges that demand unique solutions. Potomac Conservancy has those solutions and is taking a strategic, targeted approach to address these problems. We are confident that through our hard work, along with our movement of 21,000+ constituents, we will make the Potomac cleaner for generations to come.

30805991306_e5cd35d651_o

Twenty-five years ago, a group of paddlers concerned about deteriorating conditions in the Potomac Gorge formed Potomac Conservancy. They saw unchecked development and clear cutting as having a deleterious effect on the quality of the water where they retreated for peaceful recreation. Today, the Conservancy focuses on the entire Potomac watershed. We care not just about what you see in front of the Kennedy Center, but about all the streams and rivers that flow into the Potomac. We care about having clean water to drink, and clean water in which to fish and recreate.

Restoring the river to full health is not just an environmental issue, it’s a matter of public health. We are fighting for all who rely on the Potomac for sustenance and we are driven by our movement of 21,000 activists, landowners, volunteers and donors who are fighting with us.

Our waters are only as healthy as the lands that surround them. We fight to save healthy lands in the Potomac’s headwaters by working one-on-one with private landowners to permanently protect forested, agricultural, streamside, and open space lands in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and the South Branch River Valley of West Virginia.

We empower hundreds of volunteers every year to remove trash from the river’s shores and plant trees along degraded stream banks. Trees are nature’s “Brita Filters” and as such, planting them are one of the most effective, and least costly actions to take on behalf of the river’s health.

Finally, it is local, on-the-ground action coupled with state-led protections continue to be our best chance to save the Potomac and its streams.

  • We hold local leaders accountable for keeping clean water a top priority.
  • We protect the Potomac by advocating for clean water policies, promoting river friendly growth, and restoring local waterways.
  • We also activate local residents to speak up with us for these policies. We give them the tools and information to empower them to make a difference in their local communities.

People can reach us any time, either by directly calling the office or through our website and social media. We encourage people to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter “River Update” to find out about how they can become further involved. We direct readers to petitions or local actions they can take on behalf of the river. We also list our volunteer events as well as those of our partners.

We host many volunteer and recreation activities throughout the year at various locations in the DC-Metro area. There are several options for getting involved with us:

  • Potomac Stewards Trash Cleanups: We welcome volunteers of all ages to join us in removing trash from parklands surrounding the Potomac. We provide the supplies and know-how, all you need to bring is a smile and a willingness to get your hands dirty for clean water!
  • Growing Native: Every fall, we mobilize volunteers to gather acorns and other native tree seeds at select locations. After collection, we send the seeds to state nurseries to be grown into seedlings for use in conservation plantings. These seeds aid state foresters in the restoration of streamside forests throughout the region, containing polluted runoff, improving wildlife habitat, and contributing to increased watershed integrity and quality of life.
  • Tree plantings: In the Fall and Spring volunteers are invited to join us in planting native trees along degraded stream banks of the Potomac’s tributaries. Trees help stabilize stream banks to prevent erosion and serve as nature’s Brita filter, filtering out pollution from water running off the land before it can enter our waterways.
  • Paddle The Potomac: An Alternative Happy Hour. During the summer months, we host the Paddle the Potomac – An Alternative Happy Hour series for young professionals. Participants spend a summer’s evening paddling and networking off the shores of Georgetown. This opportunity to learn about and enjoy the Potomac River from the water has proven to be one of Potomac Conservancy’s most popular community offerings.