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Celebrating 30 Years: More than housing, hope for the future

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Thirty years ago, as the Gaithersburg area began to grow, so did the homeless population. Faith leaders quickly realized homelessness was a problem, and they came together to provide food and other necessities. However, they knew that providing a hot meal was not enough for families, especially those with young children. In the winter of 1987, a few churches came together to discuss the problem and try to come up with a solution, and thus The Dwelling Place was born. It was agreed the organization would provide transitional housing and case management to single moms with children. For the first year, the organization served four families. There were no paid staff, only volunteers. In late 1989, the first Executive Director and Case Manager were hired. For the next two decades, the organization would experience tremendous growth, serving up to 35 families in the Gaithersburg/Montgomery Village area. We understood the importance of intensive case management in order to help families identify the barriers that led to homelessness and make sure that they would not allow those same triggers to get in the way of their stability. We believe that providing housing is not the answer to a family’s problem, there has to be a real connection and relationship, the one they build with their case manager.

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Thirty years later, we continue to serve homeless families in Montgomery County. Our programs have changed a little bit, but we still hold true to our core values: providing our families with intensive, wrap-around case management. Through our program, we not only provide them affordable housing, but we prepare them for life after they exit The Dwelling Place. We emphasize financial literacy, and strongly encourage our families to be a part of our savings program. When they leave, we match a certain amount. We provide career counseling services, and set a goal to increase income every six months. We provide life skills classes, in which families decide what topic they want to discuss which will contribute in their journey to self-sufficiency. We work with the children in the home to make sure they’re thriving and have a greater chance of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. We also work with the young adults, many who are ready to leave their homes and go out on their own. We had a difficult year last year when we lost a major HUD contract, but like our families we remain resilient and committed to working hard to serve those that need us most. We are proud of the work we have done over the last thirty years. We have worked with close to 300 families, all of which transitioned out to permanent, stable housing. To celebrate this amazing milestone, we will be celebrating our 30th Anniversary with a gala at the end of the year. We are excited to reconnect with old supporters, past program participants, and former board members. More than anything, we are looking forward to thanking the community for their support, which has allowed us to do the work we do. It takes a village, and we are proud of the village we have built for our families. We hope you join us in celebrating our work!

Building a Community within STEM: An unexpected result from our Latina SciGirls program

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In 2016, the Children’s Science Center?was selected as one of sixteen science centers from across the U.S. to receive a grant from Twin Cities Public Television and the National Science Foundation to implement a program for young Latinas over the course of three years in conjunction with PBS SciGirls. We were confident that we could provide the girls in the program a fun, unique educational experience, but the unintended outcome of creating a supportive and caring community for these young girls, and the overall positive impact on staff and volunteers exceeded our expectations.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics 2012 report, Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study, only 3.5% of bachelor’s degrees in STEM were earned by Hispanic females in 2010. This systemic underachievement in STEM can be attributed to several issues including: limited awareness, opportunities, and resources; existing perceptions about STEM; and lack of family involvement. Our Latina SciGirls program to begin tackling this important issue.

Latina SciGirls is a free program for Hispanic girls in grades 3-5 and their families that takes place twice annually over the course of several weeks at the Children’s Science Center Lab in partnership with local Title I elementary schools in Northern Virginia. Latina SciGirls is a culturally responsive program designed to address barriers that prevent Hispanic girls and their families from engaging in STEM and to promote a positive STEM identity. Critical elements of the program provide young Latinas with opportunities to engage with Latina STEM professionals to foster mentoring relationships and a parent education component to support their daughters’ interest and achievement in STEM.

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Latina SciGirls program begins with an open house event held at the elementary school. Students, parents, and families meet program staff and the Latina STEM mentors while participating in hands-on STEM activities. Each subsequent weekly session covers a different STEM topic: physical sciences, environmental science, engineering, forensics, biology, and chemistry. The Fiesta de la Familia event celebrates the end of the session with families, girls, program staff and the Latina STEM mentors for a night of hands-on STEM activities. The goals of the program are to increase access for Latinas and their families to positive STEM programming, and promote positive STEM identity development. To ensure regular attendance of the Latina SciGirls program, the Center provides complimentary dinner and transportation each week for the duration of the program.

Over the course of each session, the Center’s staff watch as the girls’ confidence in STEM grow. Our staff take pride in their ability to create a warm and safe environment where the girls feel empowered to take risks and share their thinking while exploring STEM. The girls are introduced to female role models that they would not otherwise encounter. Having access to professional Latina mentors who share their own stories of success and failure has proven beneficial to the program. Although the program focuses on STEM, the girls practice working collaboratively, and building relationships among peers and adults — important life skills for every child’s future. We hope the girls take this initial spark and continue their investigations into the world around them, especially as they enter the crucial middle-school years when STEM interest statistically plummets. We believe each girl leaves the program open to new experiences, ideas, and people, with increased confidence and a stronger sense of self. Many of the program’s alumna seek out additional STEM experiences to grow their newfound interest.

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What started out as a program opportunity has evolved into a passion project. The Children’s Science Center has served over 100 young Latinas since 2016 and is grateful to Twin Cities Public Television, General Motors, and Leidos for their sponsorship. Latinos comprise 17% of Northern Virginia’s population. With this population steadily increasing, the Latina SciGirls program will continue to be in high demand. As the Center moves forward with the capital campaign to build a full-scale science center that will more adequately serve the region’s families, we also look forward to expanding the reach of significant programs like Latina SciGirls.

At the core of the Children’s Science Center‘s educational mission is a dedication to meeting the needs of all children, in particular reaching underserved and economically disadvantaged children who traditionally do not have access to private enrichment opportunities. The Center impacts over 70,000 annually with its community programs and the Children’s Science Center Lab. The vision of the Center is to build the region’s first world-class children’s science museum on donated land in Dulles, VA.

The Center is grateful for the enthusiastic participation of a community of volunteer mentors, who have come in to lead and facilitate our STEM activities and tell their own stories of success and failure. STEM mentors have included women from NASA, USDA, PBS, FBI, and the Virginia House of Delegates. There are many opportunities through the Center to volunteer and make an impact on our local community. Information can be found here.

After-School All-Stars DC: Helping students become more active, healthy and empowered

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Ward 8 is consistently burdened with the highest crime rates and lowest median incomes out of all wards within Washington DC, and while these instances are somewhat commonplace, the impact continues to be devastating. No group has been impacted more than the youth of the surrounding neighborhoods. Recent violence included a fatal shooting of a high school freshman, and a large fight immediately outside a DC public school called Somerset Prep DC. Somerset is one of seven school sites that After-School All-Stars Washington DC (ASAS DC) serves. While these events were occurring in Mid-May, our students at Somerset Prep DC, Leckie Education Campus, Charles Hart Middle School and John Hayden Johnson Middle School were provided a safe environment within their schools, and an opportunity to enrich themselves through education.

After-School All-Stars provides comprehensive after-school programming to middle school students in neglected regions of the country. The DC chapter provides opportunities for students to participate in dynamic courses at no cost to them, and that were not previously available at their schools (e.g. drone engineering, robotics, healthy cooking, yoga, and music production to name a few). It also provides a safe space for our students during the most dangerous time of day, between 3-6 PM when young people within the community are most vulnerable to nefarious activities.

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But despite our in-school programming, tangible divides and bitter rivalries continue to permeate between the four schools we serve in Ward 8. This Spring our staff took it upon themselves to create events outside of our traditional programming, with an express focus on bridging the divide between the students at these schools. ASAS DC held a “carnival” Ward 8 field day event in response to the growing tension, where over 100 students and 25 parents were in attendance. Students participated in games, enjoyed performances from their peers, and were provided a chance to foster meaningful friendships with each other.

Beyond spending time together, we also tie in our own values and purpose into events/initiatives. Two weeks after the field day event, students from the four Ward 8 schools gathered at Oxon Run Park, in the heart of South East DC. They participated in a clean-up project to pick up trash and improve the appearance of the park itself. ASAS DC students also completed several community-building activities that required collaboration, and expelling negative preconceptions about their peers from other schools. Most importantly, each student was given an opportunity to share their thoughts with the larger group on how they would solve these issues facing their neighborhood. Profound and meaningful sentiments were shared, with the consistent theme being that they should work together and embrace one another in the face of division and violence.

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ASAS DC is proud to serve the students of this diverse and vibrant community, and as we grow and build relationships throughout DC our hope is to bring these opportunities to every middle school student within the District.

A Young Performing Artist’s Dream Comes True

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 3.56.43 PMAt just 16 years-old, Mateo Ferro only dreamed of performing at The Kennedy Center in a Lin-Manuel Miranda Tony Award Winning musical. But, right now, he is rehearsing alongside stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Eden Espinosa for just that dream. Last month Broadwayworld.com and Playbill.com announced that Ferro was cast in the Washington, DC premiere of IN THE HEIGHTS, to run at The Kennedy Center from March 21st to March 25th.

Ferro has been a dedicated performing arts student since he was a student at Rocky Hill Middle School, but it wasn’t until he enrolled in Young Artists of America at Strathmore (YAA), a 2017-2018 Catalogue nonprofit, that his dream of professional performances was realized. Young Artists of America at Strathmore is the region’s premier training organization for collaborative performing artists. It is the only known program in the nation where high school students receive mentorship and individualized instruction from renowned artists while training to perform fully-orchestrated works of music-theatre in state-of-the-art venues. With campuses in Montgomery County, MD and Howard County, MD, students from all over the mid-Atlantic region participate in their Performing Ensembles, while many travel from overseas for their Summer Performing Arts Intensives.Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 3.52.06 PM

Although Ferro only needed to travel from Clarksburg, MD, his experience at last year’s Summer Intensive set this dream in motion. Ferro was cast as the lead, playing Usnavi in YAA’s summer showcase production of IN THE HEIGHTS. His performance, which he perfected during the two-week summer intensive, made a lasting impression on YAA’s Founder and Artistic Director, Rolando Sanz. So much so, that when Sanz was contacted by The Kennedy Center’s Casting Director over the fall of 2017 in search of a young, local performer who could also rap, Sanz thought of Ferro immediately. The Casting Director then invited Ferro to audition for the role of Sonny, and Ferro was subsequently cast.

Read more about Ferro’s story in his own words and watch highlights of his performance here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thirteen,” Ed allowed.

“Thirteen? Are you sure?”

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

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

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

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

“Oh! He got them.”

I blinked. “He got them?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change is in Your Hands with Doorways for Women and Families

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

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

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

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

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

Helpful Websites to Learn More:
Arlington County

National

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

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

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

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

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

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

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

Here are some things you can do to help:

Boost our signal!

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

Want to Volunteer? Two Options!

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

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

Attend a performance!

DATE AND TIME: March 18th at 3 pm

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

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

Calling all Girl Scouts!

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

#TPETuesday.

Search our hashtag and like our posts. Follow us:

Facebook – @Traveling Players Ensemble

Twitter – @travplay

Instagram – travelingplayers

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

Mentoring Matters at Community Bridges

by Shannon Babe-Thomas, Executive Director, Community Bridges
image1Community Bridges is a local nonprofit with a mission to empower girls from diverse backgrounds to become exceptional students, positive leaders and healthy young women. We do so by addressing the developmental needs of immigrant and minority girls and their families living at or below the federal poverty level in Montgomery County, Maryland. Our integrated 4th through 12th grade after and out-of-school Girls Program supports the growth of our young women over a 9 year continuum by helping them understand their potential and life choices, learn creative strategies to become leaders and break their family’s cycle of poverty using education as a vehicle.
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We further extend our impact on Community Bridges girls by supporting them with one-on-one mentoring, college and career programming, service opportunities, educational learning trips and by offering workshops that provide resources and support for their families. Combined, our programs encourage the development of the entire girl so that she will have the greatest chance to reach her fullest potential.
image3The Community Bridges Mentoring Program connects positive female role models with diverse high school girls for an impactful mentoring experience. Throughout the course of the mentorship, mentor and mentee work together to achieve the mentee’s long- and short-term goals while developing a close, caring relationship based upon consistency, mutual respect and trust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Applying to the Catalogue with Only Make Believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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