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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.

Why School Lunch Will be Better This Year: Real Food for Kids

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I don’t know who’s happier that school’s back in session, me or my kids. Some days it felt like the longest short summer ever. But now, we’re back in the groove and I’m adjusting to the rhythm of having twins in high school. I know — I’ve been warned. Thankfully I’ve always been pretty good with routine, even if it doesn’t always make me very popular at 6:00 AM. The moment I see the opening of one sleepy teenage eye, my first question is “whad’ya want for breakfast?” Imagine how that goes over.

But, I’ll bet those of you like me who have kids are asking that same question and making sure they’ve eaten something before heading off to the bus. Why? Because this is what you know. When kids are fueled up with healthy, delicious foods they are fired up to learn.

Here’s something we at Real Food for Kids know. School meals — when done right — fire up kids to learn.

But here’s something you may not know.

School meals these days are a lot better than you’d expect. And we can take some credit for that.

  • The quality of food in our school lunchrooms — after decades of decline — is improving. Every day we are blown away by the school nutrition professionals we get to work with who care as much as you do about what your kids eat every day. These are their customers and they are demanding. The response has been impressive. It’s just that a lot of us haven’t peeked into the cafeteria recently to see the transformation that’s been happening. If you haven’t, you should.
  • School meals have a solid, balanced nutrient profile. Studies show that the meals kids get at school — in most cases — power them better than lunches sent from home. Think about it. I’m the first to admit that what goes out in my kids — brown bag isn’t always ideal.
  • At the schools where kids regularly, consistently eat school meals, their attendance, concentration, grades, test scores, behavior, and physical activity all improve. The schools actually improve. This is all backed up by valid research, not just stories.
  • When done right, school meals not only increase kids — fruit and vegetable consumption, they increase kids desire to consume more fruits and vegetables because they learn how delicious they are. What parent doesn’t want that?
  • School meals can — and do — impact the choices our kids make outside of school walls. Done right, they can have a lasting impact on their health into adulthood. But there are still so many challenges that keep our kids from having the best school meals experience they can. And those are the challenges Real Food for Kids is working to change.

Our school systems are still grappling to understand that school meals — when done right — are an integral part of learning. When we shift that mindset, our kids can truly begin to make the connection between what they eat and how they learn. As one of our wonderful school nutrition partners likes to say, school food is an “education intervention.”

School lunch continues to be viewed as a support service to the instructional day instead of a critical component to student success (just like recess). The environment in which kids eat is less about nourishment — social, emotional and physical — than it is about hurrying on to the next academic subject. And food services staff — even though they are wonderful and love our kids — are often relegated to the sidelines of our school communities, limiting their interaction with our students to a 10-second transactional relationship.

When the culture of the lunchroom becomes integral to the culture of a school, we create an environment in which healthy relationships are organic and lifelong healthy eating behaviors are inspired and embraced.

Real Food for Kids‘ work in the Metro DC area over the last 8 years has resulted in changes to the quality of school meals served to over 250,000 kids. Now it’s time to change the environment in which they get those meals so they can be fueled up by the food and the experience, ready to learn, ready to thrive.

This fall, our funding will go directly toward work already underway to identify best practices in school meal environments and how to change perceptions so that those practices can be replicated in our schools — in your schools. Your support will go a long way to pushing that tray down the lunch line.

This post was written by Mary Porter, Director of Programs.

Community Advocates for Family & Youth Launches SafeNight App

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Community Advocates for Family & Youth (CAFY) is a non-profit victim services agency that works in partnership with the Prince George’s County and City of Laurel Police Department. CAFY offers victim support services such as court companionship and financial assistance along with counseling and pro bono legal services. The newest venture coming out of their organization is the SafeNight app.

SafeNight sends an alert to its users when a victim of crime needs a place to stay and there is no available space in a shelter. Users can make an immediate anonymous donation to pay for a hotel room for the person in need.

“I was in a very stressful and trying, abusive situation,” said one woman who was able to get shelter after she became a victim of domestic violence, thanks to a SafeNight donation. To protect her safety, the woman wishes to remain anonymous. “That’s what I needed, was time to think, reflect, gather my thoughts so I can know which way I’m going,” she said.

“We really believe we can place hundreds of people, that we can be in a position where no one is turned away when they’re trying to get out of danger or trying to leave a domestic violence situation,” Arleen Joell, the Executive Director of CAFY, explains.

It’s so simple to become a SafeNight donor:

1. Search in your app store for “Safe Night” (available on iPhone and Android).

2. Select “MD” and click “Community Advocates for Family and Youth.”

3. When survivors contact the organization for help, an alert is sent out to donors.

4. Donors can accept the request and make a donation.

Donors do not have to live in the DMV area. You can sign up anywhere. Once a survivor goes to the hotel, oftentimes escorted by police, the funds are released. All donations are tax deductible.

If you or someone you know needs help, CAFY can be reached 24/7 at (301) 882-2002 and online at www.cafy.org

A Window and a Mirror: Summer Mentorship at Inspired Teaching

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A Space for Inquiry

It’s 2pm and I’m standing in a classroom in northwest DC holding a yo-yo.

Two brand new Inspired Teaching Fellows (teachers-in-training) are standing next to me, asking me questions.

“Do you, uh, think you can do a trick with the yo-yo called ‘walk the dog?’” one of the teachers asks.

The other one offers: “Could you maybe try, like, throwing it sideways?”

I try to throw the yo-yo sideways and end up dropping it on the floor. I walk away in frustration.

On this particular afternoon, I’ve volunteered to play the role of a student, and the Fellows have been instructed to teach me how to use a yo-yo — but only by asking questions. No statements allowed.

The Fellow pauses and then asks: “What do you think you need to do to be successful with a yo-yo?”

My eyes light up. Unlike her first few questions, she doesn’t know the answer to this one. It’s all on me. She may not realize it yet, but this is the space where the magic of learning happens.

“I think,” I say, after genuinely thinking about it, “that I need to just be able to do 5 regular swings without stopping.”

Now we have a new lesson plan – and I, the student, am in charge of my own learning.

This is what teacher training looks like in Inspired Teaching’s Summer Institute, a 3-week long jumpstart for teachers who are beginning the Inspired Teaching Residency.

This exercise helps new teachers learn how to provide a space for inquiry instead of a list of directions. And the reason I know this activity so well is because I was a brand new Inspired Teaching Fellow myself, standing in this very classroom, doing this exact activity, 5 summers ago.

This summer, however, I’m returning to play the role of the summer mentor. And while I’m stepping into the first year Fellows’ classroom to help out, my primary responsibility is to advise the second year Fellows.

The second-year Fellows have just completed their residency year. They’ve been learning from, assisting, and eventually taking over for their lead teacher, someone who has modeled great teaching practices. Now, they’re starting from scratch, in their own summer school classrooms, with a fellow cohort member. I’ve been assigned to help two teaching teams, four teachers total.

As the summer begins, I watch my mentees struggle with the fact that, with a brand new class coming in next week, there’s no veteran teacher to set everything up. It’s a bit like learning how to drive a car for an entire year and then finding out that you now need to build your own car out of spare parts. And quickly.

The Gap

Even though summer school is only a month long, it can sometimes feel like an entire school year stuffed into four weeks. It’s not uncommon for teachers in summer practicum to re-connect and disconnect multiple times with their passion for teaching. It’s not uncommon for teachers to discover just how much of a gap exists between the teacher that they are and the teacher that they want to be. And it’s not uncommon for those teachers to work excruciatingly hard to close that gap before the summer ends.

The result of all of this reflection and learning is evident because, by the end of the summer, I notice that the Fellows’ teaching powers that I am mentoring have grown. At the start of the summer, I would take copious notes while observing a mini-lesson. I’d analyze every movement the teacher made, every word that they said. And by the end, it’s hard to even find a place to take notes. Classrooms are bustling with students in every corner, working on interesting projects and directing their own learning.

During our final meeting, I ask one of the Fellows, “So now that it’s almost over, do you feel like you’re the teacher you want to be?”

“No,” she laughs. “That will take a while. But before the summer started, I hadn’t even thought about what kind of teacher I wanted to be. Now, I ask myself that question almost daily. My vision is much more clear.”

Remarkably, she is learning to ask herself questions that don’t have an immediate answer.

A Window and a Mirror

I’ve said before that the role of a teacher is to offer their students a window and a mirror. A window with which to see the world through many different lenses and perspectives, and a mirror to allow students to understand the power of their own perspective and potential.

But as a summer mentor, I came to terms with something else: a teacher must also stand in front of their own mirror. It is there, in the glow of their own reflection, where they will do their most challenging work. They will confront every imperfection. They will think about what they will do differently tomorrow. They will, simultaneously, berate themselves and strive for self-acceptance. They will do all of this for the good of themselves and the good of their students.

And it occurs to me that I, the summer mentor, have very little to do with the mirror. But maybe, I hold the window. If I was able to help these wonderful teachers catch a glimpse of all incredible possibilities that lie ahead, then, mission accomplished.

Written by –Zia Hassan

Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area Recognized by the Catalogue for Philanthropy

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Thinking back to when I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I suppose my reaction was much like it is for the tens of thousands of other Americans who contract this disease annually. Disbelief, concern, melancholy (even a few tears); but once the shock had subsided, it was time to take this thing seriously.

My approach was first to learn as much as I could about Parkinson’s. What is it? A disease caused by a loss of dopamine in the brain. What causes it? No one really knows though genetics and certain environmental exposures are thought to contribute. What are its symptoms? Although everyone is affected differently, most of us with Parkinson’s have some of the following — slowness of motion, tremor, rigidity, problems with balance. And, because dopamine is also a mood enhancer, people with PD may suffer from anxiety and depression.

I learned that the most effective ways to combat Parkinson’s, and improve my quality of life, are 1) to work with a neurologist specializing in movement disorders to determine the most effective medication regimen, 2) to maintain a positive attitude, and 3) to stay active.

To stay active. Recent research studies have concluded that physical activity, of virtually any type, not only slows the rate of deterioration in PD patients, it can literally improve strength, flexibility, and balance. And it has secondary effects — PD sufferers who exercise regularly are less likely to be anxious or depressed.

But where to do these exercises? We all know about the grandest intentions — just show me what to do and I can do them at home; but, honestly, will you do them?

Enter the Parkinson’s Foundation of the National Capitol Area (PFNCA), whose mission is to “improve the quality of life of those impacted by Parkinson’s disease by offering exercise…programs to strengthen their physical and emotional health.”

Operating with a small, enthusiastic group of dedicated individuals, PFNCA utilizes donations received throughout the year, but especially at the annual Walk Off Parkinson’s fundraiser at National’s Park each September, to provide more than 250 exercise, communication and education program sessions at 29 locations in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

More than 2,000 people impacted by Parkinson’s are served by PFNCA each year. The variety of exercise venues and the geographic scope of providers allow each person with Parkinson’s to select the type of activity, the trainer and the location they prefer for everything from yoga to rock climbing.

I participate in three exercise activities sponsored by PFNCA?– a fitness class focused on balance, strength, and flexibility; boxing, a relatively new Parkinson’s exercise that provides great physical and cognitive benefits; and a Parkinson’s-specific activity called “Big and Loud” therapy. I also play tennis and work in the yard — everything counts.

I firmly believe exercise has helped me cope with Parkinson’s, and that the programs offered by PFNCA have been instrumental in slowing its progress.

Recently, the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington named PFNCA one of the best small non-profits in the Washington D.C. area. The award recognizes PFNCA’s success in fostering a sense of community for people with Parkinson’s, and that it is the only organization in the D.C. area that provides holistic programs year-round.

Because the Catalogue for Philanthropy thoroughly vets each organization, donors can be assured the dollars they donate are being well spent.

Being named one of the best small non-profits by the Catalogue is a huge honor for PFNCA and should help ensure that more dollars are donated to “The Cause.”

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about — additional venues, more and more types of exercise, a more diverse compendium of locations and instructors. And, ultimately, a higher quality of life for people with Parkinson’s

Rick Vaughan — Oak Hill, VA — August 2018