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Child Philanthropists Know the Importance of Play

Written by Melanie Hatter, Communications Coordinator of Homeless Children’s Playtime Project

If anyone knows the importance of play, it’s children and youth, so it comes as no surprise that Playtime resonates with young people who are interested in giving back to their community.

Back in 2006, before Playtime was even incorporated, one of our first major donations came from then 13-year-old Danny Schwaber, who donated money he received in honor of his bar mitzvah’s total of $6,000, which was, at the time, Playtime’s entire organizational budget for the year!

Since then, we have been fortunate to benefit from numerous philanthropic efforts by children. Most recently, Girl Scout Troop 42013 from Murch Elementary School in D.C., donated one third of their cookie earnings to Playtime. We were honored to be invited to their bridging ceremony from Daisies to Brownies in June at the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church where they presented us with $200.

Troop Leader Dana Hedgpeth explained that the 18-member troop decided to use their earnings in three ways: to give, to save, and to spend. They brainstormed several ideas for giving and after reviewing a variety of organizations, the group selected Playtime.

“They liked the purpose, and I think it was something they, at six and seven years old, could relate more to since Playtime helps kids specifically,” said Hedgpeth. “They understood that all kids want some fun toys and items to play with.”

Playtime Development Director Brandi Stanton, who attended the bridging ceremony, was awed by the Brownies’ responses when she asked them why play was important for children living in shelter. They intuitively spoke about Playtime’s research-based outcomes for children when they said play helps children do better in school and look forward to the next good thing in their lives.

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“I think it’s important for homeless children to be able to play the same as kids who have homes,” said troop member Noura Connor. “If I were homeless, I would want someone to play with me. I love seeing kids being happy, playing and having fun with other kids! I want homeless kids to have fun too!”

In 2017, we were impressed by one young man who started his own business and decided to donate part of his profits to Playtime. Nevan Brundage, 13, was a fifth grader at Grace Episcopal Day School at the time. He’s now a rising eighth grader at St. Anselm’s Abbey School in Northeast D.C. His business is called Nevan’s Neckties and Necklaces – you can find him on Etsy and at local business fairs. And he has continued to support us, sending another check in 2018.
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“I feel a lot better about helping the community because I’m not only helping kids have better childhood experiences, but I’m also making the world a better place,” Nevan said. He first learned about Playtime when we gave a presentation at his school. “I thought it was a great charity to donate to because it helps kids with tutoring and to make friends when they normally wouldn’t be able to due to their family’s financial situation. It gives them the childhood experiences that can help them have a successful and happy life.”

Earlier this year, third through fifth graders from Wood Acres Elementary School in Bethesda, Md., presented Playtime with a check for $1,000. They were participating in the Kids for Kids Fund, which is part of The Giving Square in Bethesda, where children learn about philanthropy and use “their empathy, sense of injustice, unique insights, and collaboration skills” to select an organization serving children to receive the donation. Most recently the Children in the Shoe Child Care Center, also in Bethesda, held a children’s art and bake sale with the proceeds going to Playtime. And last year, Gabby Lewis and her fellow second grade classmates at Mann Elementary School in D.C. held a bake sale to raise money for Playtime.

We have also been the lucky recipient of many donation drives organized by children and youth. In February 2019, Sara Lynn’s third grade class at Ashlawn Elementary School in Arlington, Va., collected birthday party supplies and snacks for the children of Playtime.

In 2018, we were touched when a young woman, Nava Mach, selected Playtime for her bat mitzvah project. She assembled 15 baskets filled with art supplies for teens and preteens and donated a variety of household items for their families, including towels and linens.

And the Megalim class of Temple Sinai D.C.’s nursery school collected almost $400 in gift cards for our Playtime children and families, to purchase food and household necessities. The pre-K class of four- to five-year-olds had been discussing homelessness as a result of the new Sesame Street character, Lily, with help from Barbara Duffield of SchoolHouse Connection. The youngsters also sent notes to the children of Playtime. One said, “I hope you find a home.”

We’re filled with inspiration and gratitude when young people find ways to support the importance of play for children experiencing homelessness! They give us much hope for the future.

This blog was originally published on August 5, 2019 at playtimeproject.org.

All of Playtime’s programs are currently on hold in response to COVID-19, but their staff is staying connected to families and providing “Playtime-to-Go” play kits to keep children engaged and entertained in the shelters. To find out more about how they are continuing to support families and children during this time of crisis, please read their response to COVID-19.

An Update on Our Response to COVID-19

At the Catalogue for Philanthropy, it is our mission to shine a light on and support those organizations that are on the ground doing the hard work to help our neighbors in need and make the Greater Washington region a better place to live for everyone. With the spread of COVID-19, our partners, and the nonprofit community as whole, are confronted with an unprecedented challenge, one that threatens not only the critical services they provide, but also the organizations themselves. And the Catalogue stands ready to help.

To meet the immediate needs of our partners and to expand the reach of our work, the Catalogue will be making the following changes to our programming effective immediately:

    • Webinars and Workshops. We recognize that the challenges presented by COVID-19 affect not only our nonprofit partners, but also other small-to-midsized organizations struggling to find their footing in this new reality. To help all those organizations looking for guidance and resources, we will be temporarily making our webinars available for free to any nonprofit interested in taking advantage of the tools we have to offer. This includes our Core and Elective workshops, which we have converted to virtual learning opportunities. You can view a full listing of our upcoming webinars and virtual workshops along with registration links by clicking here.
    • New Webinar Offerings. Social distancing presents unique challenges not only for programs requiring in-person interaction, but for fundraising as well, especially for those organizations forced to postpone/cancel events as a result of COVID-19. To help our partners and other organizations develop alternative approaches, we have developed and will be hosting a series of webinars addressing these issues. They are included in the list of upcoming offerings linked to above.
    • One-on-One Consulting. Our nonprofit partners often reach out to us seeking advice on specific issues or scenarios with which they are faced and their need for this type of resource is even greater now. To help meet this need, next week we will begin publishing “office hours” during which Catalogue staff will set aside time to be available by telephone and Slack to provide this type of advice and guidance.
    • Virtual Event/Campaign. We understand that the most immediate need most of our nonprofits have right now is funds and resources that will enable them to ensure their programs continue both during this crisis and after it has ended. One of the Catalogue’s greatest strengths is our ability to connect our partners with those who can provide those resources and we are working on a plan to do just that. We are considering our options for a virtual event and/or campaign that features the work and needs of our partners. As plans for this advance we will share more information with you about the event and how you can help. In the meantime, if you would like to make a contribution to one or more of these wonderful organizations, needless to say, we would be most grateful. You can click here to find a cause or causes that speak to you.

As the COVID-19 spread continues, we will constantly evaluate other ways that the Catalogue can help our partners and the nonprofit community during these challenging times – and we will keep you abreast of our efforts.

Our hearts go out to clients being served by so many of our nonprofits – people who don’t have access to healthcare, don’t have stable housing, and otherwise lack the resources to protect themselves and their families. Our hearts also go out to all nonprofits whose programs may be at risk and whose staff is courageously continuing to serve our communities during this trying time.

We encourage donors to support these organizations as they continue to support the most vulnerable among us and keep this city safe and vibrant. We are very much aware that the volatility of the stock market may make philanthropy seem like a luxury. We assure you that it is not. The healthier this community stays – all of its members and all of its important programs and institutions – the healthier we all stay, in body and in mind.

We thank you for your support and for all that you make possible. And we wish you, your family, your friends, and co-workers all the best.

Sincerely,
The Catalogue Team

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

Our hearts go out to clients being served by so many of our nonprofits — people who don’t have access to healthcare, don’t have stable housing, and otherwise lack the resources to protect themselves and their families. Our hearts also go out to all nonprofits whose programs and events may be at risk, including arts organizations whose patrons may be fearful of attending events and whose very existence may be at risk. We encourage donors to support these organizations as they continue to support the most vulnerable among us and to keep this city, and this region, culturally alive. We are very much aware that the volatility of the stock market may make philanthropy seem like a luxury. We assure you that it is not. The healthier this community stays — all of its members and all of its important programs and institutions — the healthier we all stay, in body and in mind.

We are all in this together.
The Catalogue Team

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Shepherd’s Table

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator of Catalogue for Philanthropy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Gabriella Sinicopi

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

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

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

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

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The Value of Being Human

Written by Moira McLaughlin, Development Associate at New Endeavors by Women

We are a nation that loves success as defined by a well-paying job, a nice house and a white picket fence. The people who become the best at their craft are our national heroes. We write story after story about them. We quote them. We elevate them. We tell our kids to be like them. And when they die we mourn their deaths deeply.

We are a nation that places a high value on these people, these lives, these stories.

It’s hard to know how many homeless people die in the United States each year. (That in and of itself is telling.) But the National Coalition of the Homeless estimates it’s at least 13,000. That’s 13,000 lives unmourned, 13,000 stories untold, 13,000 mothers, daughters, sisters, friends.That’s 13,000 fellow humans.

Walking down North Capital Street recently, I was saddened to witness a couple step over a man sprawled out on the sidewalk. They didn’t look at him. They didn’t stop their conversation. They kept walking. For them, it seems, his was a life unvalued.

At New Endeavors by Women (NEW), we serve some of the most vulnerable women in the city. They come to us having suffered enormously from abuse, addiction, and mental and physical illness. They need housing, food, clothing and a new sense of self-worth. We house them and provide them with individually tailored one-on-one case management. The goal is for the women to achieve stability and confidence that will propel them onto a new, healthy path.

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The more-than-3,000 women who have come to New Endeavors since 1989 are survivors. Their stories are heart-breaking. From the get-go, some women hardly stand a chance: addicted parents, abusive boyfriends, foster care after foster care. And yet they make it to our door with an incredible strength to keep going. We here at NEW know that each woman’s life is as valuable as anyone’s, and we work to build her up so that she’ll realize that too.

Success looks different here at NEW. Success is first, a woman walking through our door. Success is building trust. Success is regular meetings with a case manager. Success is therapy. Success is taking one minute at a time to get to a healthier place. Success is building confidence and feeling valued as a human, in the immediate community and beyond.

I met D. a couple years ago, when I first started working here at NEW. She was a loyal participant in NEW’s Walking Club, where we talked about jazz musicians, her love of sunflowers, and her grandson. She had this awesome raspiness to her voice that years of smoking had afforded, and she hummed as she walked. She was saving money. She had a part time job. She was well-liked among the women. Little by little, she was succeeding. A part of her story was also one about addiction. And she struggled with it. But that part of her story doesn’t negate the other parts of her story. That part of her story doesn’t define her and it certainly doesn’t make her life less valuable.

D. died riding on the Metro last spring. She left behind a sister, a daughter, grandchildren and a boyfriend. Many of her friends from NEW spoke at her funeral about her smile, about her frustrations, about her life.

At NEW, we know that every life holds value: the heroes and the homeless, the successful and the struggling, the powerful and the powerless. It’s a message we try to live and infuse into our community. But it’s hard for many people, with a confined definition of success, to understand.

D. and the 13,000 homeless who die in the United States every year are heroes. Not for their talent, money or fame, but because they are community members, they are survivors, and they are human. Isn’t that enough?

 

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A Day in the Volunteer Life: Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator at the Catalogue for Philanthropy

A minimum-wage worker in Arlington would have to work 154 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment. But even if a particularly industrious individual could manage only sleeping 45 minutes every night while balancing their 3.85 full-time jobs, imagine that they also have 3 children to take care of. Well, to afford a two-bedroom apartment, they’ll need to up their weekly hours to 177.

A week only has 168 hours.

Unless scientists start making some real progress on time machines, this situation is currently unsustainable for low-income families. That’s what drives the work of Catalogue nonprofit partner Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). This organization develops and provides affordable, high-quality rental apartments for Arlingtonians making less than 60% of the average median income.

Living in an APAH apartment entails more than just a roof over your head. APAH staff provide holistic support by building invaluable connections between residents and resources. They partner with nonprofit and for-profit organizations around Arlington County to give residents access to services ranging from supplemental food assistance to coding classes for kids. These buildings aren’t just a collection of homes — they’re communities. All residents have access to APAH-led programs held in community gathering spaces.

One of these programs is APAH’s Story Hour program for children ages 0-7. During this hour-long program, children gain literacy and social skills through books, toys, and play. It is an opportunity as well for their parents to socialize with others and gain exposure to language skills alongside their children. When APAH staff invited me to volunteer for their Story Hour, I was thrilled.

That afternoon, I arrived at Columbia Hills, one of APAH’s 17 rental communities. Story Hour takes place in a multipurpose room every Wednesday. Throughout the month, various volunteer-groups make Story Time a possibility, including a local synagogue, church, and even a construction company. This Wednesday, I was joined by 3 regular volunteers who all share a genuine love of children and making silly faces while reading books.

We laid out big blue foam puzzle pieces on the floor (what a flood of nostalgia!) and soon welcomed our visitors. We ended up being joined by three mothers and eight children for Story Hour. We began song-time with a couple of the classics: head, shoulders, knees, and toes; wheels on the bus; and the itsy bitsy spider. Then it was time for story-time, when the volunteers took turns reading aloud to the children. I started off with Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown. It involved a lot of wild-tiger ROARING.

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During other volunteers’ stories, I sat on the puzzle mat, encouraging the kids to stay engaged with the book. One girl found it more interesting to try and braid my hair instead. We periodically broke up book reading with “wiggles” to get the energy out. (Million Dollar Idea: instituting regular wiggle breaks in workplace offices to stimulate productivity.)

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Then, we spread out for solo reading time, when kids got to pick out their own books. While I read to her, the girl I had partnered with got distracted by my camera hanging around my neck. I allowed her to take a few photos. Predictably, the situation devolved when other kids inevitably noticed the shiny gadget and also wanted to take turns pushing the button. Whoops. An APAH staff member helped redirect attention since this was supposed to be literacy-improvement-time and not play-with-selfies-time.

Photo Credit: Children of Columbia Hills

Photo Credit: Children of Columbia Hills

For our final activity, we brought out the toy chest! Children spread out with educational toys and puzzles.

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When Story Hour was over, the children helped us put away the toys and puzzles, and we waved goodbye as the families went home. How convenient that home is just an elevator ride up! Reading and playing with charming, happy children sure does make an hour fly by. It hardly felt like “work” at all, especially when supported by APAH’s team and volunteers. What a joy to meet such genuine people!

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This program is a fantastic, completely free resource for residents — and it’s made possible through volunteers. APAH hopes that with a larger base of reliable volunteers, they will be able to expand Story Hour to additional times and locations. Because of space limitations, each Story Hour is capped at 12 children. But at Columbia Hills there are 499 residents, 99 of whom are children younger than 8 — that’s 20% of the entire building! Clearly the need is there. It’s just a matter of finding enough volunteers to sustain program growth.

So, if you love children and live in Arlington, then please consider volunteering with APAH. In addition to more Story Hour volunteers, they are also looking for volunteers to help kids work on their homework and read aloud to kids ages 5-12. Spanish speakers are especially needed! If interested, you can learn more and sign up on their volunteer page or shoot an email to their Volunteer Program Coordinator Julie Booth at jbooth@apah.org.

 

We’re Growing… More Space Means More Lives Touched

Written by LaToya Davis, Director of Communications at Greater DC Diaper Bank

Recently, I went to an event where I met a young woman who happened to notice my shirt with our logo on it. She smiled at me, came up to me and introduced herself. After I introduced myself, she started to tear up. Confused, I asked, “Is there something I said wrong? If so, I apologize.” She looked up and said, “No ma’am these are happy tears. I want to say thank you.” She shared with me that for months she had been bringing her young daughter to school only a few times a month. The staff and her social worker had asked several times how they could support her. But she had been too embarrassed to share so she didn’t.

“After several months, during visits with my social worker I started to receive diapers with that same logo on them. I didn’t know who you were but I recognized the logo. Because you’re now providing diapers for my baby, I can buy bus fare to get her to school.”

Needless to say, I hear countless stories like this day in and day out that tear at my heart strings but encourage me and let me know we’re making a difference in the lives of families. At the Greater DC Diaper Bank, we truly believe in empowering families and individuals in need throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia by providing an adequate and reliable source for basic baby needs and personal hygiene products. Through actions large and small, collective and individual, we create a community in which families have all they need to thrive.

We are excited to share that we have recently grown and expanded in several different ways, including adding more staff and expanding our warehouse space. This has allowed us more capacity to help families across this region access the everyday essentials they need to thrive. We’ve expanded our warehouse space by over 3,000 sq. ft.! Not only is it larger but also safer, more efficient and quite beautiful. With our new space, we can now serve thousands more families in our community. Additionally, our staff has nearly doubled in size, allowing our reach to go even further and our voice to be even louder.

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Before

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After!

For every call we get asking for help, we’re fortunate to get another eight offering help. That’s what makes this rewarding. We believe changing babies changes lives. We’re on a mission to empower families and individuals throughout D.C., MD, and VA by providing a reliable and adequate source of basic baby needs and personal hygiene products.

It’s the outpour of generosity and kindness that infects everyone around it. The work that we do is about reaching not only the family who is in need but also the family who has an overwhelming need to give back and help! Our work helps to make that connection between both families — it’s an honor to be able to do that.

We are excited and proud about all the work we’ve done over the past 10 years. Since 2010, we have distributed:

  • 9.5 million diapers
  • 225,000 8oz bottles of formula
  • 681,000 period products
  • 62,470 packs of wipes
  • 11,125 pounds of baby food
  • 103,000 incontinence supplies
  • and so much more to 10,000+ families all across the region.

The exciting part about this is we are JUST getting started. We look forward to continuing our cause for countless years to come!

You can learn more about Greater DC Diaper Bank and how to get involved at their website.

 

6 Things to Have in Mind Before You Begin a Social Media Campaign

Written by Matt Gayer, Co-Executive Director of the Catalogue for Philanthropy

A lot of times, posting on social media for our organization can feel like we are spinning our wheels, or that we are just doing it because everyone else is. If we are going to take the time to do a social media campaign and dedicate resources to it, we need to make sure we’re ready to advantage of the campaign. Here’s six things to decide and plan for before you begin posting your campaign.

#1: What’s your goal?

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Not all campaigns are created equally, and not all campaigns are about raising money (!). Campaigns can focus on getting folks to donate, take action (e.g., volunteer, recycle at home), advocate, or learn more. Decide what your goal is — what you want people to do. Then, decide when you need them to do that by this will help you to start thinking through the timing and urgency of the campaign.

#2: What else is going on?

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Your campaign doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Keep in mind if your campaign is part of a broader movement (e.g., GivingTuesday), a busy time of year (e.g., End of Year), or a thematic time (e.g., Mother’s Day, Women’s History Month). Either include these broader trends in your campaign, or purposefully avoid those busier times.

#3: Who’s my audience?

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It isn’t as simple as just counting your followers. You need to know something about who is following you on social media to be able to customize your campaign to them. Do some research and get a sense of who they are and what they might be interested in. You also can decide ahead of time to just target certain groups by their experience (e.g., past volunteers) or who they are (e.g., local donors).

#4: What content will I use?

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Once a campaign gets going, things move fast. Especially for visual content, which you have to have to be engaging, we need to make it ahead of time. Think through what images, Gifs, or videos you’ll need during the campaign, and create as many as possible before it starts. You might have 1-2 “live shots” during the campaign, but most of it can be pre-planned.

#5: Who can help spread the message?

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It isn’t enough to get attention to your campaign by pushing it out, you need others to share their influence as well. Make sure staff and board are engaged prior to sending as well. Try to get a group of 10-15 external supporters (volunteers, donors, etc) to agree to share a message about the campaign, all at the same time on the same day. It helps with visibility and makes it seem like a conversation is happening.

#6: What’s my plan?

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Finally, work out at least a rough plan with timing for posts and an outline of post content. As mentioned above, campaigns move fast so we need to be ready prior.

If you think through these six things before you make that first post or Tweet, you’ll be a lot more likely to see some real progress from your campaign. It takes some time to be ready for that authentic-feeling campaign.

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Manna Food Center

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator of the Catalogue for Philanthropy

Fact: Maryland is the wealthiest state in the country.

Fact: Montgomery County is the 18th wealthiest county in the country, out of over 3,100 counties.

Fact: Over 63,000 people in Montgomery County don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

No one should have to struggle with food insecurity, yet too many do right here in our local communities. That’s why Manna Food Center is committed to not only ending hunger, but also combating the structures that allowed it in the first place. As Montgomery County’s largest food rescue program, this nonprofit provides supplemental food assistance, education, and advocacy to more than 6,000 families every month. Recently, I got to know this organization a little better by volunteering for their annual MLK Weekend Food Drive.

Since 1994, Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been recognized as a day of service, when Americans are encouraged to give back to their community through volunteering. And what better way to celebrate the message of Dr. King than to help our neighbors in need? That’s why on Saturday and Sunday, January 18-19th, Manna Food Center hosted food drives at 19 Giant Food stores across Montgomery County.

Signing up for a volunteer slot online was quick and easy. In the spirit of one of the Catalogue’s frequently-used phrases “think local, act local, give local,” I chose the Leisure World location, which is only 10 minutes from my house. I recruited one of my roommates to join me for the Saturday 12-3pm shift. When we arrived, we found signs for Manna Food Center hanging from shopping carts already filled with food.

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We greeted the 9am-12pm shift volunteers, a mother-father-daughter team. They provided a quick breakdown of our task: inviting grocery store customers to purchase additional items while shopping to then donate to Manna Food Center on their way out. We were to hand shoppers helpful slips of paper with a list of the most needed non-perishable items. (It had the Catalogue’s seal on the back!)

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I found this to be a cleverly designed setup. First of all, some individuals feel more comfortable donating tangible things than money. And second of all, this was a convenient and fun way to give back; you’re already shopping anyway, so why not pick up a few extra cans of soup?

Our fellow volunteers included a high schooler earning service hours for National Honor Society. His father accompanied him for the first half of the afternoon and switched places with the mother in the second half. Then, a surprise – we were joined by Maryland Delegate Vaughn Stewart! He helped us collect donations (and shake constituents’ hands) for a while before heading on to another Manna location also in his district.

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The weather that day was an unwelcome mixture of freezing rain and snow. Even though we were inside the building (not always a guarantee for food drives!), we kept our coats on because every time the automatic door opened, we got assailed by the chill. Regardless, the mood was upbeat among the volunteers. I especially enjoyed interrogating Delegate Stewart about local politics. He was very pleasant and interesting to talk to!

This particular volunteer role required a certain degree of salesmanship when approaching strangers and persuading them to buy us food. Some individuals gave us a brusque NOTHANKYOU, only to come back later with donations anyway. One man wearing a University of Washington sweatshirt told us that he couldn’t. I replied, “Go Dawgs! I’m an alumnus of ‘U-Dub’ too!” He later sheepishly returned with a bag of baby food jars.

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Although we never solicited money-donations, some people didn’t want to bother with picking out an item, so they just put cash in our hands instead. Throughout our three hours of volunteering, we consolidated this money into a coat pocket (referred to as “The Bank”) for safekeeping. At the end of our shift, we used this money to buy a cart full of cans for Manna Food Center.

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Three o’clock came and our shift was over. The shoppers of Leisure World had been generous – we had filled up multiple carts’ worth of donations! We rolled our final packed cart of donations over to Giant staff and folded up our signs for the next day’s volunteers. Volunteering had been an invigorating experience! I’m glad to have made a memory of getting to know a local politician, meeting two families celebrating the MLK weekend through public service, and helping to make a difference for people struggling with food insecurity in my county.

That weekend, I was just one of over 200 volunteers and 24 elected officials to participate in Manna Food Center’s food drive. These officials included city councilmembers, county councilmembers, state delegates, a state senator, and even U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin! Together, we collected over 27,000 pounds of food that will be donated to Montgomery County residents in need. Out of 19 locations, Leisure World volunteers were the 4th most productive – we collected 2,244 pounds of food!

If soliciting strangers in a grocery store sounds intimidating to you, then don’t worry! Manna Food Center has a wealth of volunteer opportunities for introverts too. For example, volunteers can help out with:

  • Packing boxes of non-perishable food items
  • Transporting food from donors to recipient organizations
  • Sorting warehouse donations

 

On the other hand, if you enjoy more community-facing work like my experience during the MLK weekend drive, you could volunteer for such tasks as:

  • Receiving and processing referrals through phone and email in Manna’s call center
  • Assisting with educational workshops on nutrition, health, and cooking
  • Representing Manna Food Center at community events
  • Distributing food directly to Manna clients

Some of these positions require additional training. Some are well suited for individuals and others are excellent fits for families and groups to volunteer together. You can learn more about volunteering with Manna Food Center on their volunteer page.

Volunteering is a way of getting involved in your community and seeing an immediate, tangible difference in your labor. Despite its prevalence, food insecurity is not always obvious; volunteering with Manna Food Center can open our eyes to the size of the need. When you help out with food assistance, you could be helping out your neighbor or classmate and not even know it.