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La Cocina VA: Eliminating the Barriers to Better Futures

On any given night when you go to a restaurant in the DC metro area, take a quick look at who is preparing your meals, cleaning your tables, or maintaining the restaurant’s facilities. There is a high probability that those individuals are of Hispanic descent. That is because the U.S. restaurant industry is comprised of roughly 2.3 million foreign-born workers. According to the findings of a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data, U.S. eating and drinking establishments in 2014 employed more foreign-born workers than almost any other industry, second only to the construction sector. One of the biggest challenges for many of these workers is the lack of relevant training and limited English proficiency. This often leaves them stuck in dead-end work with very little room to grow financially. It’s quite a contrast to imagine the trendy vibrant front-end of some DC restaurants versus the ‘back of the house’ where folks are putting in long hours of hard work in the kitchen unable to earn enough to support their families.

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La Cocina VA has seen the dire need to confront this challenge for the workforce in the food and hospitality industry. Since its founding in 2014, La Cocina VA has harnessed the power of food to transform lives and create change for the low-income communities in the Washington D.C. region. We are a nonprofit organization that generates workforce and economic development opportunities for unemployed immigrants, minorities, low-income individuals, and veterans. We provide structured training that helps these individuals obtain real living wage jobs in the food and hospitality industry where they can create a career and become financially independent. At the same time, we are looking to the future of a growing industry, where there’s a huge gap for skilled, motivated, and dependable workers.

During our 4 years of operation, over 100 La Cocina VA graduates have completed the organization’s bilingual culinary training program. Moreover, 85% of those graduates have been placed in steady jobs within the restaurant and hospitality industries. Our vocational and technical training program provides students with instruction in the culinary arts, English language skills, industry certification, and a paid internship that often results in a full-time job.

Consider Karina Herrera, who is presently a line cook at a Hyatt Regency Hotel in the D.C. area. She is a shining example of the program’s success. Five years ago, desperate to find a way to take care of her three young children, she came to La Cocina VA and enrolled in our bilingual culinary program. She currently earns $22/hr and has enrolled in a college culinary arts program subsidized by her employer with the goal of becoming an executive chef. Like most La Cocina VA participants, Karina has overcome extreme hardships.”It’s been a huge help having a bilingual program like this,” Herrera said. “My English has improved a lot and La Cocina VA has given me financial independence. It’s an excellent investment in a better future for me and my kids.”

Before joining La Cocina VA’s training program, 70% of our students were unemployed and 30% were under-employed. Over 90% of our training participants have been women from challenging circumstances, survivors of domestic abuse, human trafficking, chronic unemployment and/or poverty who have now obtained financial independence through our unique training programs.

Our work uplifts those often left behind by our economy–individuals full of potential and capable of incredible transformation when they are provided the appropriate resources and opportunities. There is enormous capacity within our local communities that has gone untapped for far too long.

While La Cocina VA’s roots have been to work closely with the Hispanic community, La Cocina VA is now expanding its programs aggressively in 2019 to serve even more immigrant and minority communities, refugees, and veterans. We are also increasing our efforts to support and train entrepreneurs to create their own small culinary businesses.

As part of a recently announced partnership with Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), we will establish the Zero Barriers Training and Entrepreneurship Center (TEC). TEC will be a new 5,000 square foot facility designed to offer services, resources, and support to help eliminate the many barriers our clients face, such as access to child care, financial advice, and counseling. The new facility will also include a culinary small business incubator, a catering service, and a community cafe. TEC will be located in Gilliam Place, APAH’s new affordable housing development in the vibrant Columbia Pike corridor in Arlington, Virginia. La Cocina VA expects to open TEC in late 2019. Through our capital campaign, we have already raised $1.6M of our $2.5M fundraising goal for the construction of the Zero Barriers Training and Entrepreneurship Center, and we are working to raise the remaining amount by the spring of 2019.

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We aim to continue to tap into this undiscovered pool of talent, entrepreneurs, and leaders that exist within our communities, all while helping to solve social issues like unemployment, lack of access to entrepreneurship opportunities, and food insecurity. What are we waiting for? The time to make a change is now.

To learn more about our work and how you can get involved, please contact our CEO Patricia Funegra at patyfunegra@lacocinava.org or visit our website at www.lacocinava.org.

 

Catalogue for Philanthropy Expands Resources to All Nonprofits With Online Learning Commons

Check out the latest news from the Catalogue:

Washington-Jan. 7, 2019: The Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, which is beginning its 16th year as the only locally-focused guide to giving, is growing its efforts to help the entire nonprofit community, no matter the size or location of the organization.

The Catalogue is launching the online Learning Commons to further its belief in the power of nonprofits and the need to invest in effective professional development in order to increase their impact.

The online Learning Commons builds on the Catalogue’s existing in-person training sessions for nonprofit leaders. The web-enabled version is a capacity building and professional development program that covers five core topics important to nonprofit management: Board Development, Communications, Development, Program Evaluation and Volunteer Management.

The Learning Commons, created by nonprofit professionals, offers a whole set of services, ranging from a thank you letter template and a short video refresher on the key elements of a thank you letter, to an entire workshop about how to steward donors. It’s free to nonprofits vetted and featured in the Catalogue and offered at minimal cost to other nonprofits.

Bob Wittig, executive director, Catalogue for Philanthropy, says, “Our number one goal is that our content and support is realistic given the other demands and resource limitations nonprofit leaders are facing. The online Learning Commons is action oriented and designed to drive real change.”

Tamela Aldridge, executive director, Only Make Believe, says Catalogue support in the past has made a difference. “Our organization has changed because we’ve been able to attend Catalogue workshops and have taken on better practices that have increased our day-to-day work strategies.”

The Catalogue seeks to create visibility for its network of charities, fuel their growth with philanthropic dollars, and create a movement for social good in the region. The Catalogue has raised over $40 million for its network of small, community-based charities in the Washington region and provides capacity building programs to support the mission and growth of the nonprofit community.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Adam Shapiro
202-427-3603
Adam.Shapiro@ASPR.bz

The Grassroots Project Coach Spotlight

Lucia Rose is a senior Track and Field & Cross Country athlete at American University and a volunteer at The Grassroot Project (TGP), part of the Catalogue for Philanthropy. While balancing school work and her practice schedule, she facilitates sexual health and nutrition education programs in 4 DC middle schools. She has also served as a key contributor to TGP’s new nutrition curriculum. In this blog, she reflects on what she has learned through her work with TGP.

As a student-athlete, and a runner in particular, I often experience a difficult relationship with nutrition. On important workout days, I will often catch myself not eating past a certain time in the day, morning runs are often completed without any fuel in my body, and often the number of calories I burn throughout a day are not replaced throughout my daily meals. Often it is not malicious, rather there may not be a suitable amount of time to eat full meals between practices, classes, meetings, weight room, etc.

unspecified-1While I intellectually understand the importance of healthy eating, especially for competitive performance both on the track and in the classroom, I still struggle with nutrition. I remember learning about food groups in school, have had access to team presentations regarding nutrition, and have done plenty of my own research regarding the best types and combinations of food to put in my body to help me run faster, but I still struggle with providing nutrients to my body.

I believe that having the tools that Grassroots teaches to middle school students is something that all college athletes (and individuals generally) could have greatly benefited from when we were in middle school.

As Grassroots coaches, my fellow athletes and I often reflect that very few of us were ever exposed to the in-depth, interactive, and unique sexual health literacy that we provide to 6th graders that focuses on empowering students with the ability to make informed, healthy, and confident decisions about their health. This semester, we have expanded the “Grassroots pipeline” to pilot 7th grade nutrition and physical health. The curriculum provides students with the facts: what nutrients your body needs, what constitutes “healthy,” and why certain foods like Takis are unhealthy.

However, what makes Grassroots different is its ability to bridge the gap between understanding information and applying it to personal autonomy. Not a single one of our coaches can stand up in front of kids and preach that they should never have a bag of chips or an extra cookie at dinner; it would be unrealistic and hypocritical. Rather, we teach students about balance and what steps you can take to level out an unhealthy decision. Most importantly, we link every nutrient with the function it provides in the body, and we show what really happens when you are missing that function. In Practice 3 of our new nutrition curriculum, for example, we play a relay game in which students connect the ways protein, carbs, and vitamins and minerals fuel your everyday actions, and the students see what happens when you are missing any single one.

As an athlete and a college student, I still am learning some of our curriculum pieces and making those connections for myself. I am grateful that I get to be a part of an organization that is equipping young people to hold more agency in their lives, especially when I see what I hope to be budding female athletes that will be better equipped to confront the challenges of being a female athlete? it’s incredible to think of what records they may break.

Aspire Counseling — 40 Years of Mental Health!

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For forty years, Aspire Counseling, a mental health non-profit based in Gaithersburg, has been helping Montgomery County residents grow, change, and thrive.

It began in 1978 with Maryrose Rogolsky and a small, rented office in the Rockville Seventh-day Adventist Church. Rogolsky, lovingly known as “Posey,” set out with a vision to start an agency specializing in low cost, high-quality mental health care, to children in need. From that room, Posey and her three staff members founded what was then known as the Child Center and began their legacy and transformed access to affordable mental health care in Montgomery County.

Posey was a true visionary. She served children during a time when there was little recognition of children’s mental health needs. She bravely did battle with insurance companies that questioned how a child of six years could be experiencing emotional problems. Fast forward 40 years and it can be very difficult to find an appointment with a child therapist, especially if you are uninsured and face financial and cultural barriers.

“With a firm foundation based on the belief that all individuals, regardless of race, age and income, deserve access to affordable, evidence-based, excellent mental health care she built an organization that has helped thousands overcome personal mental health challenges,” said Carrie Zilcoski, Aspire’s Executive Director.

Over its 40 years, the Child Center evolved, expanding to become Child Center and Adult Services, and now Aspire Counseling, but it continues to be guided by Posey’s vision. “What would Posey have done?” has become a mantra as Aspire’s staff continue to adapt to Montgomery County’s, and society’s, ever-changing needs.

In 2018, Aspire Counseling’s Main Clinic is on pace to set a record of 1,400 unique patient encounters and nearly the same volume of patients in the community. Aspire’s newest program has brought services back into schools, training hundreds of educators and school employees on becoming a Trauma-Informed School with a goal of placing therapists in each school who specialize in trauma and helping students who have experienced Adverse Childhood Events.

Aspire Counseling also offers programs dedicated to new mothers who are suffering from or at risk for postpartum depression. The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program connects families to community services and provides a therapist who will make 12, no-cost, home therapy visits.

Committed to transforming lives and building resilience regardless of ability to pay, Aspire has found its place in Montgomery County’s growing and diverse community. To learn more visit we-aspire.org or call (301) 978-9750. Regardless of the challenges, you’re facing or your ability to pay, Aspire is here for you.

 

Join Britepaths and the Financial Empowerment Center at South County in offering a warm welcome to our very first cohort of students in our Healthcare Pre-Apprenticeship Training Pilot Program!

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The Program offers the necessary foundation for Fairfax County residents to pursue better-paying jobs in the healthcare fields where there is a great need for skilled workers. It is a pilot program formed in partnership between Britepaths/Financial Empowerment Center at South County (FECSoCo) and Fairfax County’s Department of Housing and Community Development and is funded through the Fairfax County Community Funding Pool. Initial client recruitment is focused on Department of Housing clients in the South County area.

Britepaths’ FEC Workforce Development Coordinator Sally Meyer and Housing Services Specialist III Lura Bratcher hosted information sessions in June and July at the Westford Community Center in Alexandria, and our first students were recruited from these sessions. Future offerings may include training in other fields, such as construction and information technology.

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The first cohort began their 12-week session on September 10. The 10 students attend classes Monday through Friday. Britepaths’?Adult Basic Education Instructor Kristie Kleha provides their primary instruction, incorporating job readiness skills with the enrichment of math, reading, and writing that are contextualized for healthcare.

The students also have sessions each week in Financial Literacy with volunteers from FECSoCo and in computer skills training with our partners from Computer C.O.R.E. Other enrichment opportunities include a visit to Northern Virginia Community College’s Clinical Simulation Lab, an overview of medical certifications that NVCC offers, guidance in applying for grants to fund their future training, and guest speakers who present professional options in healthcare. The students also use this time to research and take an interest assessment to help them determine whether to pursue work with patients or in administration.

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After the 12-week session, students will enroll in a medical training course of their choice at a healthcare provider site. This class will also prepare them to take a certification exam.

Throughout the experience, and up to a year after completion, students are matched with a volunteer success mentor who will support them, provide resources, refer them to community supports if needed, and work with them to find and stay in a job.

We are excited for our students and wish them much success in their journey toward new careers!

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We would like to thank Fairfax County, the Department of Housing, Computer C.O.R.E., Northern Virginia Community College, and all the community partners, guest speakers, and volunteers who are supporting the launch of this pilot.

We are also reminded of our dear friend and long-time volunteer Diane Jenkins, who helped inspire and inform our initial proposal for this program. Diane was a retired Department of Housing Specialist who worked throughout her career to help her clients improve their lives. She passed away in July 2018, and it is heartening that her memory will live on through the success of students in this Program.

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Educational Theatre Company celebrates 20 years of Changing Lives Through the Arts!

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Educational Theatre Company (ETC) invites the community to its 20th birthday fundraiser to celebrate 20 years as a vital part of the Arlington Arts community. Since its founding in 1998, ETC has been committed to the mission of unlocking the potential of children and adults, ages 3 – 103, through immersion in theatre arts. ETC places a focus on student written, process-driven work with programs that foster creativity, teach collaboration and community, and give students a sense of confidence in their own story.

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Community members are invited to attend ETC‘s birthday party fundraiser on Saturday, November 17. This fundraiser, featuring live performances, music, refreshments, and a silent auction will allow ETC to continue its long tradition of bringing theatre arts to underserved members of the community, ensuring location and economic status are not barriers to participation. The birthday party is from 2:00 – 5:00 pm, in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) building at 4301 Wilson Blvd. Tickets are $10 per child, $20 per adult, and $40 for a family, and are available at www.educationaltheatrecompany.org.

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Community members are also invited to see ETC in action by attending the original musical Two Ways to Count to Ten, the McKinley Elementary Main Stage Residency production. Under the guidance of ETC‘s teaching artists, 2nd through 5th-grade students develop an original script and lyrics, create their costumes, set, and props. This will be the 30th McKinley Main Stage show, continuing the longest running arts partnership with Arlington Public Schools. The free performances are Thursday, November 15 and Friday, November 16 at 7:00 pm at McKinley Elementary School, 1030 North McKinley Road, in Arlington.

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JUFJ 20th Anniversary Party and Heschel Vision Awards

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Celebrate 20 years of Jews United for Justice!

Join the Jews United for Justice community on Sunday 11/11 at our 20th Anniversary Gala and Heschel Vision Awards, honoring Ana Maria Archila, Ilyse Hogue, Claire Landers, Keshini Ladduwahetty, and Mary Ann Stein! Tickets start at $54. Let’s celebrate 20 years of social justice victories and the next 20 to come!

Program: 6:00 PM
Reception (Kosher): 7:30 PM

Join the JUFJ community as we celebrate 20 years of?supporting workers in their fights for better pay and benefits, 20 years of demanding affordable housing for everyone, 20 years of working to make our region socially, racially, and economically just.

We’ll also be honoring five amazing women with the 2018 Heschel Vision Awards:

Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy

Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America

Keshini Ladduwahetty, Chair of DC for Democracy

Claire Landers, JUFJ Board Member & Baltimore Leadership Council Co-Chair

Mary Ann Stein, President of the Moriah Fund

Today Is Make a Difference Day: ThanksUSA Scholar Chelsea Briggs

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Make a Difference Day was established to serve as an annual reminder to encourage people to make a positive difference in the world. Even one small act of kindness, generosity, or creativity can begin a chain of positive reactions and ultimately result in a significant difference in your community. ThanksUSA scholar Chelsea Briggs’?story is an inspiring example of the self-perpetuating cycle of community service.

This year, Chelsea received her third $3,000 Altria Client Services/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship to continue her education at University of Hawaii, West Oahu, where she is currently a junior majoring in Finance & Political Science. Since losing her father, U.S. Air Force SSgt Raymond Briggs, Chelsea has strived to carry on his legacy of service. Chelsea volunteers with Kids Hurt Too Hawaii, serves as an outreach volunteer for Survivor Outreach Services, serves as a peer mentor for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and participates in community events such as the 66th Cherry Blossom Festival Hawaii, at which she was crowned Princess. Chelsea is also passionate about her role as an AVID tutor at Kapolei Middle School. AVID is an educational program that supports student preparation for college. Chelsea explained, “I hope to help younger students to attend college since I had the fear that I would not be able to afford college after my dad passed away.”

“Although I was worried about my college education, I worked hard because I knew my dad would want me to strive for the best no matter my circumstance. Through this, I hope to inspire those younger than me to never give up.”

ThanksUSA_2Chelsea chose to attend University of Hawaii West Oahu so she could remain close to home and be there for her mother, little sister, and little brother. She aspires to pursue a career as an FBI special agent, much like her father had hoped to pursue a career in law enforcement to continue to serve his community after completing his career with the U.S. Air Force. Chelsea described her commitment to her education by saying, “I will work hard to get a good education so that someday I can have a bright future, honor my father, and carry on his legacy. I want to pursue my dad’s dream, and this is why my college education is so important to me.”

Chelsea’s ability to make a difference by inspiring young students and pursuing a career in federal law enforcement is enhanced by the efforts of ThanksUSA and the generosity of those who help fund the ThanksUSA scholarship program. In her words, “ThanksUSA has been there to support me throughout my college education. I am very grateful for the sponsors and donors who support my education along with ThanksUSA. My father always wanted me to attend college. Thanks to wonderful organizations like ThanksUSA and the generous donors, I can continue my education and carry on my father’s legacy.”

Today, Make a Difference Day 2018, Chelsea’s story reminds us of Hawaiian wisdom `A`ohe lokomaika`i i nele i ke p’na`i…No kind deed has ever lacked its reward.

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Celebrating 95 Dream Project Scholars This Academic Year

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“When I received the Dream Project Scholarship…I sat in silence for a good 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I was overcome with happiness. I felt as if it was a sign from the Universe telling me that I was headed in the right direction…” — Olvin V., 2018 Dream Project Scholar

This back-to-school season, 95 Dream Project Scholars began the 2018-2019 academic year at colleges and universities across the United States. Dream Project awarded a $1,500 renewable college scholarship to these students to ensure that their immigration status – be it TPS, DACA or undocumented – does not block their access to higher education.

Not all undocumented students are so lucky. Nationally, only 5-10% of Dreamers, out of 65,000 high school grads, start college each year.

But the Dream Project, an organization that empowers students whose immigration status creates barriers to education, is making strides in changing this statistic for Dreamers in Virginia. 90% of Dream Project Scholars stay in college.

And among those students that are in college,?97% say that the Dream Project has played a significant role in their acceptance to college and the success they have found while attending college.

The Dream Project provides the necessary tools to empower low-income immigrant students. Over the past 8 years, through scholarships, mentoring, community engagement and advocacy, the Dream Project has aided over 150 immigrant families. Although several new attacks exist to these families – such as President Trump’s decision to end DACA, and the ongoing lawsuits disputing the fate of DACA – The Dream Project is committed to continuing to provide local Virginia Dreamers the support that they need to succeed in college.

Everyone can take a step to help the Dream Project distribute more “…signs from the Universe” to Dreamers all around by getting involved.

Written by — Lizzette Arias, Executive Director, Dream Project

Helping Moroccan Women Access Land: Soulalilyates Campaign for Land Reform

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Just over ten years ago, the family of Rkia Bellout, a woman from the Kenitra region of Morocco, sold its ancestral land. While the men in her family reaped the profits, she did not receive any compensation. Rkia is a member of the rural Soulilyate minority in Morocco, and like other women in this group, she had no rights to her land.?

Rkia decided to take action and sought the counsel of Moroccan women’s organizations to help her claim her right to participate in decisions over land ownership. When she brought her complaint to an NGO called ADFM (l’Association D’mocratique des Femmes du Maroc), the organization helped mobilize a national grassroots movement of Soulaliyate women calling for equality in land ownership. For over 10 years, ADFM has been building the leadership skills of rural minority women to advocate and participate in political processes for this cause.

ADFM is a member of Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), a coalition of autonomous women’s rights organizations located throughout the developing world that promote women’s leadership and human rights. WLP organizations promote gender equality through training programs, advocacy campaigns, and capacity building. Since 2000, WLP partners like ADFM have been empowering women and girls to make change in their communities. (Click here to read more about WLP’s global impact on its Catalogue for Philanthropy profile.)

ADFM’s advocacy for Soulaliyate women’s rights pressured Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior to pass a specific law guaranteeing equality between men and women in communal land ownership and transactions. The Ministry reacted to the pressure, but not nearly as decisively as ADFM demanded. The government issued a series of non-binding ministerial guidelines called “circulars” that merely paid lip-service to the Soulaliyate movement. The latest one, Circular 17, recognized Soulaliyates’ right to land ownership in theory, but not in practice.

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Then, to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Soulaliyate movement, ADFM organized its greatest advocacy push to date: a three-week “Caravan of Soulaliyates.” From October 24 to December 15, 2017, the caravan mobilized 660 Soulaliyate women and allies who traveled to three regions: Fez, Daraa-Tafilalt, and Rabat-Sale. The caravan met with policymakers and raised the voices of Soulaliyate women.

ADFM also held 10 leadership workshops during the caravan, with an average of 50 women attending each one. They used WLP‘s manual on inclusive leadership, Leading to Choices, which has been the cornerstone of ADFM’s capacity building work with the Soulaliyate communities since the movement’s inception in 2007. The leadership methodology in the manual empowers Soulaliyates to participate effectively in decision-making processes in their tribes.

Three to four Soulaliyate movement-leaders from different regions shared their advocacy experiences at each stage of the caravan. This dialogue between Soulaliyates from remote corners of the country fostered camaraderie. Even though 465 kilometers and the Atlas Mountains separate the coastal city of Kenitra and the Algerian border-town of Errachildia, women from these two areas discovered that they have shared experiences and are working towards a common goal. The caravan’s mobility strengthened the bonds of solidarity among Soulaliyates across the country.?

ADFM President Saida Drissi Amrani emphasized those bonds, “We have met women who, even if they do not know how to read or write, are very aware of the principle of equality,”?Amrani told HuffPost Maroc. “They denounce contempt and they are ready to fight. We will support them until the end.”

In July 2018, their campaign resulted in a major victory — for the first time, Soulaliyate women of the Ben Mansour and Ouled Mbarek tribes in the Kenitra province were awarded financial compensations and land transfers. While ADFM and WLP celebrate this success, they continue to campaign and fight for equal land rights for women throughout Morocco.