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Back to School Means Healthy Relationships For Children… and Adults

With triggering stories of abuse in the news each day, and movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp still gaining momentum, children and adults alike are feeling the need to share their stories, talk about traumas they have suffered, and get help from trusted sources such as Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA)’s Helpline. In fact, the number of calls to JCADA increases daily with clients seeking culturally and faith sensitive counseling and legal services.

Ideally, we would like to catch unhealthy relationships before they even begin, so our counseling and legal services aren’t in such high demand! JCADA’s Prevention, Education and Training team provides workshops on a variety of topics with the goal of preventing abuse and harassment before it starts. Our AWARE programs, Education and Training workshops and Building Better Allies (BBA) initiative utilize the latest research and best practice to create an impactful, age appropriate experiences in multiple doses, with a comprehensive approach.

AWARE is a comprehensive abuse and harassment prevention initiative that engages over 3,000 people each year throughout the Washington DC Metropolitan area with interactive workshops for youth and young adults in grades 6-12, a campus training experience for college students and education and training for area congregations, public and private schools, youth groups, camps, and community organizations. AWARE is dedicated to empowering young people with the skills and knowledge they need to build healthy relationships, become active bystanders, understand consent and create culture change in their schools and communities.One student described her experience: “I learned that it is important to be aware of and understand the fact that not everyone has the same support options.”

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Along with AWARE, we are pleased to share our newest initiative, Building Better Allies (BBA). BBA is a certification program that helps organizations, agencies, and faith communities better understand, prevent, and respond to incidents of power-based violence. Through a series of interactive workshops, individualized consultations, and a review of internal policies and practices, BBA provides a training and education experience uniquely suited for each participating organization.

Together, we can help everyone in our community get empowered to advocate for their needs and feel safe!

Written by Laura Kovach, Prevention, Education & Training Director at JCADA

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Are you in love with dogs, but your apartment lease doesn’t allow animals? Do you wish you could have a pet, but your work schedule is too inconsistent? Do you want to help save a rescue dog from being put down? Then you should consider volunteering with the Catalogue’s nonprofit partner Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. That’s what I did recently, and it was a fantastic experience that I highly recommend.

The weekend was approaching and I considered two possible choices: watch Netflix or contribute to society. As much as I enjoy re-binging The Office, I decided to make the nonprofit-positive choice and began researching last-minute volunteer opportunities. I found a Lucky Dog adoption event just 7 minutes from my house. The signup process was really quick. How convenient!

Although Lucky Dog is based out of Arlington, they frequently host weekend adoption events all around the DC region. They rescue dogs from high-kill shelters, treat their medical needs, and place them with temporary foster homes while they search for forever families to match them with. Lucky Dog prides themselves on their matchmaking skills, placing their dogs with carefully vetted adoptive families that are perfect for them.

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At 11 am on Sunday morning, I arrived at the Rockville Petco, signed in, and received a brisk orientation from a more experienced volunteer, an Event Coordinator. My job for the day was a Volunteer Handler; I would learn my rescue dog’s bio, handle the leash, answer potential adopter questions, and keep the dog happy for the next several hours throughout the adoption event. If people had questions about fostering or adoption, I would send them to the informational tables outside. Some people had already gone through the pre-approval process, and others were stopping through on a whim.

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I was paired with Baloo, a 1-2 year old shepherd mix. He was a real cutie. My informational paper explained a little about his medical history and some behavioral comments from his temporary foster family. They said that Baloo is gentle, sweet, and loves belly rubs. Spot-on observations! During my entire service experience, I never once heard him bark. And he loved snuggles.

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The day in question was hot. Outside were generous amounts of water bowls and baths for the dogs to stay cool in. Volunteers and their doggies huddled under canopy tents or hugged the side of the building. Like many others, I spent the majority of my time inside the air-conditioned Petco; I told myself that it was purely motivated by concern for Baloo’s comfort, but really I also appreciated a break from the oppressive sun.

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Adoption events are bustling, crowded fun! Everywhere you went were dogs being pet, playing, and getting their leashes tangled up together. It was one of the easiest volunteer experiences I have had; I leisurely spent my time walking around, hanging with Baloo on the floor, chatting with other volunteers, promoting Baloo to prospective families, and even sneaking a peak at the puppies section.

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Baloo had been randomly assigned to me, but I became pretty emotionally attached very quickly. Although there were so many diverse types of dogs at this event, I became convinced that my doggie was the best one there. But although he was clearly a favorite of a few families that day, he didn’t make the final cut for any of them. I felt indignant on his behalf; couldn’t people see how amazing he was? A few fellow volunteers coyly mentioned that I could foster or adopt Baloo, but my housing doesn’t allow animals.

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At 3:30pm, I said goodbye to Baloo and he returned to his foster placement, still without a permanent home. I was sad to see him go. I enjoyed my experience volunteering with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. I got to meet both wonderful people and some wonderful dogs. It was rewarding yet stress-free “work,” and it gave me a chance to meet a new community of animal lovers. As much as I love The Office, this had been the superior choice for a weekend activity!

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There were 68 dogs up for adoption this day, which is actually on the low end for Lucky Dog adoption events. Apparently some of their events have had up to 120 dogs! That means a big need for volunteers. There is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities at Lucky Dog that can accommodate just about any schedule or level of commitment.

In the week of the event that I volunteered, 27 Lucky Dogs (and 2 Lucky Cats) ended up getting adopted. A few weeks later I was delighted to learn that Baloo ended up getting adopted as well! I hope that he is giving his new family the same friendly cuddles that I got to enjoy during my brief time with him. If you are interested in adopting a dog in need of a home, you can also get started on their website.


Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator at Catalogue for Philanthropy

The Most Critical Tool for Back To School? A Village of Support.

Every year during Back to School season, parents and caretakers dutifully stock up on school supplies to help their children thrive in the coming year, but there is another incredibly valuable, yet intangible, tool that many parents give their children as they head off to school: a network of support. This network can include parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends. These are the people the student will be able to rely on for homework help, a healthy snack after school, perhaps access to a specialist for a learning disability, or even a professional introduction when they’re looking for their first internship.

(Left to Right) Generation Hope Scholar Karen, Generation Hope Scholar Christina, and Generation Hope coach Sophie -

(Left to Right) Generation Hope Scholar Karen, Generation Hope Scholar Christina, and Generation Hope coach Sophie -

You may have heard of the expression “It takes a village to raise a child,” and this network — this social capital — is the secret sauce. But not every student heads into school with access to this kind of support.

At Generation Hope, we surround motivated teen parents and their children with the mentors, emotional support, and financial resources that they need to thrive in college and kindergarten, thereby driving a two-generation solution to poverty. I founded the organization on the belief — informed by my own experience as a teen mom — that young parents deserve to have their potential supported, and on a conviction that educational attainment can be transformative across multiple generations of a family.

The stories of hope and progress that I have witnessed at Generation Hope have confirmed what I know to be true from my own experience: when a parent walks across the graduation stage, the outcomes for their child and their family immediately skyrocket, opening doors that seemed impossible.

Just as parents try to ensure their children head off to school with a support network along with pencils, binders, and notebooks, Generation Hope connects our students and their young children who may not have access to that intangible but crucial network of support with “Resource Families” – volunteers who provide that critical social capital, which has such an impact on Scholars’ success. This is on top of the intensive parenting support for Scholars and early childhood interventions for their children through our new program, Next Generation Academy, and it’s one of the most impactful ways in which Generation Hope helps prepare families and children for the jump into kindergarten.

Karyn and her son at Alicia's graduation in May

Karyn and her son at Alicia’s graduation in May

Resource Families are a group of individuals, related or not, that act as a resource for a Scholar and their child. They make connections (perhaps recommending a reading specialist or introducing a Scholar to a professional in their chosen career field), provide tangible resources (Resource Families contribute $1,200 a year to our Education Fund, which allows Scholars to afford high-quality childcare for their children), and offer social support for their Scholar’s family — whether that is helping a Scholar learn how to prep healthy meals, or planning a visit to a museum with the Scholar and their children.

Resource Families build relationships with Scholars and their children through “family dinners” six times per year, where Generation Hope brings Scholar families and Resource Families together to learn from one another’s life experiences.

Resource Family Alex (left) and Karyn (right) with Generation Hope Scholar Alicia (middle)

Resource Family Alex (left) and Karyn (right) with Generation Hope Scholar Alicia (middle)

Sid Nazareth, who serves as a Resource Family with his wife and young sons, sees their role as providing unconditional support to their Scholar, and sharing their own lessons learned. “We forget how hard it was to be in college just by itself, and go through that change of learning. Knowing that we have resources that other folks may not have access to allows us to say, ‘Yeah, we went through that, and this is information we can share to help you out in any way we can.’”

Resource Families are key to our Scholars’ success. By sharing such a meaningful and authentic bond with not just a Scholar, but their family, Resource Families have the opportunity to truly make a substantial difference for two generations.

Can you be a connector for our Scholars and their children as they head back to school this fall? For more information on becoming a Resource Family or volunteering with Generation Hope, please contact Volunteer and Outreach Associate, Michelle Avelino, at, or visit our website at

The needs of the world can feel overwhelming at times, but the difference that each of us can make is powerful. Generation Hope was built on this premise — that each of us has the ability to change the world one person and one family at a time. We’d love to have you join us!

Written by Nicole Lynn Lewis, Generation Hope’s Founder & Chief Executive Officer. Generation Hope surrounds motivated teen parents and their children with the mentors, emotional support, and financial resources that they need to thrive in college and kindergarten, thereby driving a two-generation solution to poverty. Visit to learn more.

Back to School with Reading Partners

What would your life look like if you didn’t know how to read? How would it impact your ability to get around in this world? Your education, career, and social life? How would it impact your confidence?

Literacy is an essential life skill and the foundation of all future learning. The ability to read is the one factor that can so dramatically shape one’s life trajectory and future success. Nationwide, 80% of students from low-income homes are not reading proficiently by the fourth grade. Once students start to fall behind in reading, they tend to fall faster and further behind their peers every year. Alarmingly, students who are not reading proficiently by the end of fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

To help combat the literacy crisis in our country, Reading Partners works with schools and communities to provide individualized tutoring to students who struggle with reading. We use an evidence-based curriculum, delivered by trained volunteers, that has been found to have a positive and statistically significant impact not only on students’ reading proficiency but also on their social-emotional learning skills.


Our work stems from the belief that every child has the right to learn how to read, regardless of where they live, their parents’ income, or any perceived biases regarding their abilities. We understand the tremendous impact the ability to read has on a person’s quality of life, and we are committed to providing young students with the opportunity to gain the critical reading skills that will put them on a path to success.

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This upcoming school year, Reading Partners will serve 925 students at 19 elementary schools across the District. However, we recognize that the lack of high-quality literacy intervention disproportionately affects students residing in Wards 7 and 8, which is why 11 of our 19 partner schools are located east of the river. Being deeply committed to educational equity in our city, it’s crucial we make literacy support accessible to students who need it most.


Adam,* a first-grader from Nalle Elementary School in Ward 7, was enrolled in Reading Partners because he was reading far below his grade level. He struggled with fluency and comprehension, and, not surprisingly, lacked the confidence to speak in front of others. He was so quiet and timid in a classroom that he never got the opportunity to show what he was capable of.

The one-on-one attention Adam got from his reading partner was overwhelming for him at first. Yet he responded well to games and told his tutor he really liked aquatic animals, especially sharks. Playing games to reinforce his lessons, and having more control over them by being able to pick the games himself, turned out to really boost his confidence. Soon, he was engaged during the entire lesson, stopped guessing, started sounding out words he was unfamiliar with, and became really good at blending sounds. He even invented his own game which included (you guessed it) a shark and a fish.

At the end of the year, Adam was assessed by a Reading Partners site coordinator who told him that he was now on grade level. She was so excited that she told him, “Adam, you should tell your teacher!” Adam responded, “No, I don’t want to.” So she replied, “Well, I’m going to tell her myself.” And with the biggest smile she had ever seen on his face, he simply said, “OK.”

Adam’s story proves that when students are given the attention, support, and opportunities they deserve, they are ready and eager to unlock their own potential. As students’ confidence grows and they start to develop a love of reading, every week, they are getting closer to mastering the literacy skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

Reading Partners DC mobilizes over 1,100 community volunteers each year. We’re currently recruiting volunteers for the 2019-20 school year. If you want to make a difference in the life of a struggling reader, sign up to become a reading partner today! No previous tutoring experience is necessary (training will be provided). Please email or call 202-701-9110 to get started.

*Name has been changed to protect the student’s identity.
Written by Daniela Jungova, Development & Communications Manager at Reading Partners

“It’s surprising what I can do when I can understand the language.”

What makes you feel like an integral part of a community?

It is not only the ability to work, live, and support yourself through daily routines, but more importantly, it is being connected with the environment around you, and being able to easily access the lifestyle you want. These basic needs — which come so naturally that they often go unnoticed for many of us – can be a huge barrier for someone for whom English is not their first language.

During back-to-school season, we would like to share Diana’s story with you. As Diana first settled down in the United States, she felt “isolated” from the community and was not able to do anything without her fiance. However, after she started to learn English and improve her language skills, she could once again access what she enjoys in life. At the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV), we are delighted to see that as Diana improves her English and is able to access more resources, she is gradually more connected to the community she lives in, and can finally call where she lives “home.” Here is Diana’s story in her own words:

“Hi, my name is Diana. I’m from Colombia. I arrived here one year ago. I live in Springfield, VA, with my fiance. I’m going to get married soon. I’m so excited to be able to say my vows in English. My native tongue is Spanish. By learning English I can do many things that I couldn’t do in my community, school, work and my daily life.

“Since taking English classes, I can buy groceries, toiletries, shoes, clothes, and different things in many places. If my fiance can’t take me to work, I can take the bus or train and can ask how to get back home. Also, I like it when I go to restaurants and can get my favorite food the way I like it.

“Sincerely, by knowing English, I feel more confident talking with different people about the weather, news and hobbies. I like that I now understand movies or series from Netflix, TV, and theaters. I love to read so I can expand my knowledge with new vocabulary each day.

“In my job, I can be involved with the customers, friends, new people, and my boss, of course. My favorite part is that now I can hang out with friends and go out with them. It’s surprising what I can do when I can understand the language.

“English has transformed my life. If I keep learning it, I know that I’m going to college to validate my career to be able to get a better life to help my family, friends and society.”

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LCNV believes that by providing adults the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English, they can access employment and educational opportunities and more fully and equitably participate in the community. If you know someone who wants to improve their English skills to more fully participate in the community, visit our website and become a learner with LCNV this fall. View our Fall Schedule here and attend one of our many registrations, running now through Thursday, September 12.


The Meaning of “Back to School” – Horton’s Kids Operation Backpacks

It’s your first day of fourth grade. You wake up after a night of tossing and turning with excitement to meet your new classmates and put on your first day of school outfit. You’re heading out the door to hop on the bus and reach for your brand new backpack — but it isn’t there. When your new teacher asks you to pull out the three-ring binder listed as “mandatory” on your school supplies list, your desk is empty. Your classmates start to laugh. You feel defeated, and you’ve only been at school for half an hour.

Everyone is familiar with some version of the back-to-school dream. In one way or another, you’re unprepared for class, and your back-to-school dream becomes a back-to-school nightmare.

Horton’s Kids, a non-profit that works in one of the most under-resourced communities in Washington, DC, recognizes that a backpack and school supplies are an important first step in a child’s academic confidence and success. For some kids, back to school shopping is the most exciting time of the year. For others, it can feel overwhelming and impossible. The children we serve live in Wellington Park, a neighborhood without easy access to stores and public transportation. The average income in the neighborhood is $10,000 per year, and 80% of adults lack a high school diploma. As classroom supply lists get longer and longer, this can mean difficult decisions for the families we serve, between purchasing back-to-school supplies, and providing essential items the family needs.

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To help set the kids of Wellington Park up for success in school, Horton’s Kids hosts Operation Backpacks, a school supply drive that collects durable backpacks and other fundamental school supplies. With the help of donors across the DC area, 110 children in grades K-5 and 95 children in grades 6-12 can pick a backpack of their choice filled with all of the notebooks, pencils, and other necessities for the school year.

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A solid foundation is critical for children to succeed academically- and a backpack and school supplies are an important piece of that foundation. Supplies prepare kids physically and mentally for class; they walk into a new school year assured that they have the tools they need to learn. For kids without the binder or backpack on the first day, school can become more of an obstacle than a catalyst of growth.

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But what use is a backpack filled with paper and pencils and books if it doesn’t get opened after the final bell rings? As an organization, Horton’s Kids understands that there is so much more to back to school than supplies. This is why we provide year-round after-school tutoring with the support of more than 500 dedicated volunteers who tutor and mentor Horton’s Kids participants. Supplies are foundational to learning, but highlighters don’t help kids with reading comprehension or college applications by themselves. Development for Horton’s Kids participants outside of school relies on a lot people, including family members, staff, volunteer tutors and mentors, and hard-working participants. If you want to help support a child through tutoring, homework help, or mentorship, we want to hear from you! We are still in need of volunteers for the 2019-2020 school year. If you’re interested, fill out an application on our website or email

Operation Backpacks helps fill the backpack with supplies, and the volunteers, staff, and participants at the heart of Horton’s Kids fill it with confidence and success both in and beyond the classroom. By the end of the year, even though their backpacks might be empty of supplies, Horton’s Kids participants are full of knowledge — This year, 100% of Horton’s Kids kindergarteners can read on grade level, and for the past two years, 100% of Horton’s Kids seniors have graduated from high school.

Imagine you’re back in math class. A backpack full of supplies doesn’t equal success alone, but a backpack full of supplies + dedication + support + a willingness and excitement to learn definitely does. Operation Backpacks is an integral part of that equation for Horton’s Kids participants, and we are so excited to see where it takes each of them this year.

Horton’s Kids empowers children living in one of Washington DC’s most under-resourced communities so that they can graduate high school ready for success in college, career, and life. The children we serve live in a community with one of the highest rates of violent crime in DC, where the average family income is less than $10,000 per year. Children in Horton’s Kids are twice as likely to graduate from high school.

After-School All-Stars Partners with DC Central Kitchen

One of the pillars of After-School All-Stars, Washington DC’s (ASAS DC) free after-school programming is community service. We will always strive to keep our students safe, healthy and provide them with opportunities to succeed at the high-school level and beyond. Just as important but sometimes lost in today’s world is the emphasis we place on students giving back to their communities. We could think of no better partner to fulfill this goal than DC Central Kitchen (DCCK).

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Aside from what is mentioned above, DC Central Kitchen is an ideal partner for ASAS DC because we both favor a comprehensive approach. The organization goes beyond simply producing meals for people experiencing hunger by also providing those same people a means to sustain themselves through its Culinary Job Training program. DC Central Kitchen has an established record of training and hiring some of the individuals that have previously received their services, supplying the foundation for a viable career path.

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With an established name and seamless volunteer system, it was easy to get in touch with DCCK through their website and schedule a date for ASAS DC students from Leckie Education Campus (Ward 8) to visit and donate their time and efforts. The majority of Leckie students in our program already have healthy cooking and food handling experience from the cooking classes we provide. This was another reason why this collaboration was so well received, as it combined our emphasis on service with our established healthy cooking classes. At the same time this was their first time in a real “restaurant style” kitchen environment. With that in mind they were provided a full orientation and overview of the kitchen, complete with proper safety/sanitation gear as well as guidance that they were familiar with around safe food handling and best practices. Similar to the success that our staff has had, the DC Central Kitchen volunteer leaders were extremely skilled at customizing their orientation to suit an adolescent audience.

The interest of the students combined with the passion and dedication of the kitchen staff is what made this such a successful collaboration. The students have already established interests and legitimate skills around healthy cooking, but they wanted to literally get their hands dirty in the act of service. As ASAS DC acts as a food site at some of our schools, and frequently providing snacks and supper for our students in need daily, the fact that DC Central Kitchen does the same thing with over a dozen DC schools had a tremendous resonance with the students from Leckie. The students jumped right into the messy work, arranging large quantities of chicken breasts with sauce, and preparing snacks.

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The first trip was so well received by the students that Leckie returned two more times before the end of this past school year, all within the 2nd semester. They completed orientations and food preparation at the main kitchen site as well as the location on Evarts Street NE. The return trips speak to the quality of the volunteer experience provided by the DC Central Kitchen dedicated staff, as well as the genuine interest of our students to want to give back and learn more about reputable community organizations. We are extremely grateful for this partnership, and in the coming school year we will look to connect hundreds of students to this volunteer experience from all 6 of our current schools located throughout the city!


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What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Have to Stay in Vegas: CFP Charity Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area (PFNCA) Honored by CVENT

Last month, I attended a global conference in Las Vegas for CVENT, a McLean, VA-based company that specializes in meetings, events, and hospitality management technology.

The Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area (PFNCA) uses CVENT’s software platform to manage its wellness and educational programs. We started using the platform four years ago, about 18 months after I arrived as President & CEO. When I was hired in this role, I was tasked with reversing years of operating losses and righting this special “ship” that helps people slow the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. In short order my team and I executed a turnaround and began planning for growth.

We were challenged in the areas of data management, program evaluation, marketing and more. Our migration to CVENT was a building block for our turnaround and subsequent growth. Since CVENT is such a big part of how we manage our service to the community, I decided to apply for one of the awards they present annually. To my happy surprise, we were named a finalist in our category, which was called The Achiever.

Other finalists in this category included:

  • Wolters Kluwer N.V., a Netherlands-based global information services company serving legal, business, tax, accounting, finance, audit, risk, compliance, and healthcare markets with operations in 180 countries, 18,000+ employees and revenue of $4.7B USD in 2018.
  • Morningstar, Inc., a global financial services firm headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, United States with 4,000+ employees. It provides an array of investment-research and investment-management services. In 2018, Morningstar had $1B in revenue.

At the time we applied for the award, PFNCA had a staff of 4 full-time employees and revenue of about $1M.

PFNCA provides more than 240 exercise and vocal cord strengthen programs each month at no cost for people fighting Parkinson’s. Programs are provided at 24 locations in 33 cities/towns in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

PFNCA also uses CVENT for its PFNCA’s Parkinson’s Pointers Lecture Series and our annual educational conference. Parkinson’s Pointers is a lecture series where people gather in various locations for a presentation and question and answer session by a physician or other person that specializes in Parkinson’s. Powerful practical information is shared in a positive setting. Lectures are live streamed to the locations and refreshments are served.

At an awards dinner on July 9, the lights dimmed, an announcer shared our award category and the finalists while a video was projected on large screens. I was so honored just to be a finalist. The Emcee opened an envelope and read “…and the winner is…” He continued, “Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area!”

Here is a video of the big moment.

PFNCA President & CEO Jared Cohen (center) accepts award from CVENT CEO & Founder Reggie Arggarwal (left). They are joined by PFNCA Medical Advisory Board Member Dr. Zoltan Mari

PFNCA President & CEO Jared Cohen (center) accepts award from CVENT CEO & Founder Reggie Arggarwal (left). They are joined by PFNCA Medical Advisory Board Member Dr. Zoltan Mari

I was overwhelmed with happiness. It had been a long journey for PFNCA. From board conversations questioning long term organizational viability to receiving an award while competing against global corporations with revenues in the billions. Our turnaround wasn’t only because of CVENT, but sometimes you have to take a chance on a new way of doing business and see how it goes. The CVENT platform, designed for event professionals, now manages all aspects our non-profit direct service work.

PFNCA?s CVENT Award displayed at its Silver Spring, Maryland office next to the 2018 Honorable Mention Award it received for the Center for Non-Profit Advancement?s AIM Award for Excellence in Non-Profit Management.

PFNCA’s CVENT Award displayed at its Silver Spring, Maryland office next to the 2018 Honorable Mention Award it received for the Center for Non-Profit Advancement’s AIM Award for Excellence in Non-Profit Management.

Do you know someone with Parkinson’s? PFNCA’s next Parkinson’s Pointers lecture will take place on September 12, 2019 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The speaker will be Dr. Fernando Pagan of Georgetown University. His topic will be Advances in Treatments for Parkinson’s. This program will be live streamed to about 30 locations. There is no cost to attend but registration is required because many sites fill to capacity.

Written by Jared Cohen, President & CEO of the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area

PFNCA is a local independent organization that is not affiliated with any of the several national organizations that focus on Parkinson’s. The organization’s annual awareness and fundraising program is called Walk Off Parkinson’s and will take place September 22, 2019 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The program includes lectures by physicians, exercise demonstrations and an inspiration walk that culminates with a lap on the field at Nationals Park. To learn more about Walk Off Parkinson’s visit

To learn more about PFNCA, please visit

Meet the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s New Staff (But Familiar Faces)

The Catalogue for Philanthropy team has grown! Last month, two of the Catalogue’s interns were promoted to full-time staff members. Laura Rosenbaum first joined the Catalogue as a Learning Commons Intern in June 2018 before becoming the Nonprofit Programs Coordinator. Nancy Erickson began as a Nonprofit Programs Intern in October 2018 and is now joining the team as the Communications Coordinator. The following is an interview with the two newest team members of the Catalogue to help you get to know them a bit better, and why they chose to stay at the Catalogue.

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Tell us about how you first joined Catalogue for Philanthropy.

Laura: My sister had a friend from college who knew someone who knew Matt. At some point during my internship search Matt reached out to me and from there it’s been history. I wasn’t initially searching in the nonprofit space, but after coming across the Catalogue I was immediately intrigued. I’m so happy I took a leap of faith and trusted my gut!

Nancy: I had just moved to the DC area to start my MPA program at American University. While searching for internships, I noticed something called “Catalogue for Philanthropy” on an online job board. At the time I had mostly been interested in going after international development work but decided to apply to the Catalogue too out of curiosity. After interviewing me for the role, Matt gave me a copy of my very own print Catalogue. On the metro home, I remember being impressed by how professional and beautiful it was as I flipped through its pages. Imagine my delight to be offered the position!


What was your internship experience like?

Laura: I mostly did secondary research about the nonprofit space and best practices to help inform our professional development efforts. After compiling this research, I would work directly with Matt to make new workshops to use with our nonprofit network. Throughout the summer Matt and I completed five workshops. I also did other “odd jobs” like tracking attendance or doing evaluation analysis. The last big project I worked on over the summer involved helping Matt launch our Learning Commons portal. One of the big pieces featured on the portal is the short three to four-minute “how-to” videos. I did a lot of scriptwriting for the videos and Matt and I spent a week in the studio filming. After the summer, I went back to finish my senior year of college and I interned remotely during the year.

Nancy: Initially the focus of my internship was like Laura’s — research and writing for Learning Commons workshops and other various projects. However, my position slowly expanded both in scope and time as I committed more of myself to the Catalogue mission. The focus of my role first began shifting the day I was asked to make a social media graphic. The team was so impressed with what I came up with that I started getting more requests for visual design, including the task of editing the videos which Laura had filmed the previous summer. The videos have been a ton of fun — a real creative challenge. As I grew in my abilities and confidence, I knew that the Catalogue valued my professional development and took pride in their internship program.

What did working at the Catalogue teach you?

Laura: Wow, honestly so much. I didn’t know a lot about the nonprofit space before interning at the Catalogue so doing secondary research inundated me with knowledge from the get-go. I learned a lot from Matt specifically–like best practices for branding and teaching, scriptwriting, and the ins and outs of “how to be scrappy.” The Catalogue also taught me what it’s like to work from the heart. I know it sounds super cheesy, but it’s true. Everyone at the Catalogue works hard because we all care. I would say the Catalogue taught me how to love what I do.

Nancy: First and foremost, the nonprofit sector! Like Laura, I hadn’t known very much about it prior to joining the team; I still remember innocently asking Matt early on in my internship “What’s a board of directors?” But since then I have learned so much, in big part thanks to the Learning Commons workshops. As an intern, I was responsible for attending and staffing these workshops, which meant that I essentially got to learn about nonprofit management best practices while on the job! Additionally, the Catalogue has invested significant time and resources in my technical abilities, such as photo editing, graphic design, illustration tools, and video software.

Why did you want to expand your role at the Catalogue?

Laura: I had a great experience as an intern and felt like I instantly clicked with the team. I mostly worked with Matt last summer and he trained me on basically everything I did. I knew once Matt and Aaron were promoted to Co-Executive Directors, the Catalogue was only going to grow in terms of our impact and the strength of our team. I’m not only excited about the work itself, but I really enjoy who I get to work with which I think is important to be effective at a job. I genuinely enjoyed coming into work every day last summer because I felt like I had a real impact and I loved learning more about the nonprofit space. I found that the Catalogue had such a unique mission and I’m thrilled to be able to work full-time now!

Nancy: The Catalogue has a warm and open work culture that has made coming to work a real pleasure. I never felt like “just an intern” –I felt like a valued and respected member of the team. My ideas and contributions were taken seriously and utilized. As I felt the end of my internship date coming closer, I realized that I wasn’t ready to leave just yet. I had become emotionally invested in my ongoing projects and the future of the Catalogue. Having developed a role which provided creative freedom and challenges, I knew that I still had more ideas to contribute to the Catalogue.

New Staff

What are you looking forward to in your new role?

Laura: As an intern, I did a lot of behind the scenes work. I’m really looking forward to getting to know our nonprofits better and interacting more face-to-face with everyone. I’m also excited to be the point-person for Giving Tuesday. I know it’s a big project, but I think it has a lot of potential to expand and I’m excited to work with Nancy on it too. I also know there are a plethora of projects and data to look into at the Catalogue and I’m ready to get “knee-deep” in everything!

Nancy: I’m also looking forward to working with Laura! It’s funny that we overlapped as Catalogue interns for 9 months without ever actually meeting (because she was tele-interning at the time from Missouri.) I’m also looking forward to finding more opportunities to visit our nonprofit partners in person. My goal is to cultivate new ways to showcase them by volunteering, attending events, and visiting their work in action so that I can then share via blogging and photography. I’m so excited for the road ahead!

Tell us one fun fact about you!

Laura: I really enjoy camping and hiking. I’m a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) alum and I spent a month packrafting and hiking in Alaska a few summers ago!

Laura Camping

Nancy: Once, I went rappelling off the side of a cliff in South Africa. I screamed my head off, then I paused to smile for the camera, and then I continued screaming all the way down. It was terrifying fun!

Nancy Rappelling

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator, and Laura Rosenbaum, Nonprofit Programs Coordinator, at Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington

The Catalogue has run out of interns…because they have all been promoted! That is why the Catalogue is now hiring a new Nonprofit Management Intern to join our team to support our programming, communications, and fundraising. You can read more about this position here. We hope that our next intern has as rewarding an experience as Laura and Nancy did!

Helping Hands and Happy Hearts

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, D.C. (RMHCDC) has a mission that never fails to touch hearts. RMHCDC exists to keep families together while a child receives specialized medical treatment at a hospital that’s far away from home. The ability of an organization to step up when families –parents, babies, siblings– are at their most vulnerable serves a need that can only be fully met through the effort of a group with the warmth and determination of this charity.

My first exposure to RMHCDC came from my proximity to the DC House while attending architectural graduate school and later living in the Brookland neighborhood in Northeast DC, where the House is located. I’ve enjoyed volunteering as a Guest Chef with friends, housemates and most recently colleagues, making dinner for the families staying at the House. Now, I’m excited to share the details of a new and recent opportunity–using my professional skill to give back to local Ronald McDonald Houses.

Above: HKS employees, including Sepanski (top left), volunteer as Guest Chefs during the HKS annual Month of Service

Above: HKS employees, including Sepanski (top left), volunteer as Guest Chefs during the HKS annual Month of Service

Keeping families in our community near the care they need

RMHCDC asks for a donation of $15 a night, but families are never turned away for financial reasons. Wanting a family to be able to simply focus on the care their child’s needs, RMHCDC removes the other primary burdens of lodging, food, and logistics during a stressful time.

It’s a need that is continually growing for RMHCDC, as hospitals in the DC area increase their cutting-edge treatment options and the number of specialized medical staff, drawing more and more families to the area from around the country. Since opening its doors 39 years ago, RMHCDC has shared more than 208,738 nights with over 20,000 families.

Growing Need to Help More Families


The Ronald McDonald House of Northern Virginia currently offers eight guestrooms for families, but RMHC Global has projected a need for 25 guestrooms through the end of 2023.Families who stay here are most often first-time parents whose baby is receiving extended care at INOVA Fairfax Hospital’s and Georgetown University Hospital’s NICU (newborn intensive care unit) and PICU (pediatric intensive care unit).

Over the two-year time period between 2017-2018, this House was unable to help 52 families in need due to lack of available space.

Washington, DC

While the Ronald McDonald House of Washington, D.C. is larger, with 25 guestrooms, growing demand necessitates 38 rooms and plans to expand to 42 rooms to accommodate future need. Families at this House usually have a child undergoing chemotherapy or receiving an organ transplant at Sibley Hospital or Children’s National Medical Center.

In 2018, the DC House was forced to turn away 21 families due to a room shortage.

To say there is an immediate need for more guestrooms would be an understatement.

Driving change through design

Working for architecture firm HKS and helping design resorts, office buildings, hospitals and sports training facilities, I could not have imagined that I would have an opportunity to put my skills to work on a project that has a profound impact on both my community and RMHCDC families.

Within HKS, there is a small but robust and well-organized committee that steers Citizen HKS (CHKS), a studio of sorts that designs for the underserved or organizations that bring a significant positive impact to underserved communities. Citizen HKS is now in its fifth year of service, and when it came along five years into my tenure with HKS, its mission immediately resonated with me. I’d been looking for a way to productively express my gratitude for the character, relationships, and purpose that I continue to develop at HKS and to do something professionally to help bridge the wealth gap in society.

It was both professionally rewarding and personally meaningful when all these things aligned to help RMHCDC through the first phase of an expansion effort to increase their capacity to serve families with sick children.

It wasn’t hard to find professional partners to help Citizen HKS in this effort. Davis Construction and Interface Engineering very quickly accepted the challenge. Roger Frechette, principal at Interface and member of the project team, remembered when his own first-born child required care for a full year after birth at INOVA Fairfax Hospital. Frechette and his wife fortunately lived in the area, but Frechette understands the value that the Houses provide to families who aren’t local and find themselves in a similar situation.

Above: Members of the RMHCDC Expansion Project Team, including Frechette (back row, third from right), RMHCDC CEO Karen Torres (back row, second from right), and Sepanski (front, next to Ronald McDonald)

Above: Members of the RMHCDC Expansion Project Team, including Frechette (back row, third from right), RMHCDC CEO Karen Torres (back row, second from right), and Sepanski (front, next to Ronald McDonald)

Thanks to an unprecedented donation from WeWork of donated office space for the administrative staff, otherwise officed at the DC and NoVa Houses, the project team has much more square footage to work with to add more guestrooms to the current Houses.

Lifting families in need

The expanded capacity allows us to add 8 more guestrooms within the current footprint of the DC House and 16 more guestrooms to the NoVa House, tripling its capacity, enabled in part by a second-floor addition to the current guest wing. Layout adjustments to primary spaces at both Houses improve operational efficiency.

The initial expansion at both Houses will help increase service by 27%-36%.

The mechanical engineers’ design will increase the level of thermal comfort and performance of the DC House as well. The current renovation scope has a total estimated cost of over $4 million and will involve the generosity of numerous other organizations and manufacturers to make it a reality.

Estimated completion of this first expansion phase is in the spring and late summer of 2020 for the DC and Northern Virginia Houses, respectively. Interior renderings are under development this summer, and final image will be shared before construction begins this fall.

Written by Sara Sepanski, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Architectural Designer at HKS