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Hope for the Future with Woodley House

By Linda Meixner, Development Director, Woodley HouseIMG_0675

Woodley House is a community-based organization dedicated to helping men and women struggling with persistent mental illness live full and healthy lives with dignity. We offer the opportunity to heal within a safe and comforting residential community as they work toward recovery and reclaiming their lives.

Woodley House serves over 300 adult men and women each year who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness, many of whom are lower-income and at risk of becoming homeless. We provide a residential housing program and supportive services needed to achieve greater independence. Mental illness cuts across all socio-economic and ethnic groups, but is often ignored or overlooked due to the entrenched stigma surrounding it. Woodley House exists to help our residents attain the stability and life skills needed to recover and reintegrate into their community.
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One in five of us will experience a mental health issue in the coming year — this affects us all. For some, this may be a temporary period of intense anxiety or depression, while for others, the reality will be much more severe and long-lasting. When your mind is working against you, it can be very isolating and the challenges of just living each day can be truly overwhelming.

Woodley House takes a whole-person approach, viewing our residents as individuals, not simply as clients with a diagnosis. We know that having a home with a welcoming, family-like environment is critical to achieving stability and hope for the future.

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We offer a range of housing, from short-term crisis stabilization, to longer-term group homes and finally, shared apartments throughout the city as part of our Supported Independent Living Program, so we are there – through each step of their journey to recovery. But simply providing a home, while very important, isn’t enough. People need to have the ability to maintain that home to be truly successful.

Woodley House offers personalized support through our Life Skills Trainers who meet with each resident, both individually and in groups, multiple times per week. They work together on issues particular to that resident, from basic hygiene and room/apartment maintenance, to budgeting, nutrition, communication skills and job readiness. We work with, not for, our residents and this very personal approach has proved successful for nearly 60 years.

Celebrating our 60th anniversary in 2018, we have succeeded by offering essential, life-changing services for a very vulnerable population.

  • “Success” for Woodley House means the ability to continue to provide our residential and supportive services long into the future for the men and women in the District who struggle each day with mental illness.
  • “Success” is also when our residents, helped by the daily support of Woodley House, overcome the vagaries of their mental illness and “graduate” to a bright, secure future by achieving and maintaining their stability in the most independent lives in the community that they can manage.
  • Many residents move on to greater independence in shared, semi-independent apartments, or to total independence. For others, their best success is achieved in a more structured environment helping them maintain a stable, full life.

Woodley House serves the full spectrum of people needing our help and we applaud them all.

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A basic tenet of Woodley House is that each person is viewed as an individual and will be treated with the dignity and respect that we all deserve. The goals of one resident might differ from those of another, but they all share the desire to remain stable and work toward fuller, more independent lives. Our residents come to us in varying stages of recovery, so success for some might mean appreciating a stable, caring home after years on the streets, while others may be further along on their journey, and a new job might be the highlight of their year.

One resident of Holly House recently got a part-time custodial job at Howard University and is so excited that she is always waiting by the curb at 6:30 in the morning for the van that picks her up at 7 to ensure that she won?t be late! Success for our residents is individual, but all share the goal of learning to live with their symptoms so that they can achieve the fullest, most productive life possible.

Woodley House has been serving our community for nearly 60 years, but has remained a secret to far too many over the years. We welcome the opportunity to introduce ourselves and share the critical role we play to those who turn to us each year. For more information about Woodley House, please contact development director, Linda Meixner lmeixner@woodleyhouse.org to arrange a tour or simply to find out a bit more about our program. Donations are ALWAYS welcome and can be made online at www.woodleyhouse.org or mailed to: Woodley House, Inc. 6856 Eastern Avenue, NW – # 300 Washington, DC 20012.

Washington Improv Theater: The Case for Laughter

by Sarah Marksteiner, Washington Improv Theater
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A Need for Laughter
In Washington, D.C. (and throughout the country), people crave connection and community – yet we increasingly isolate ourselves. While our world becomes more digitally connected, we grow increasingly disconnected from one another, caught up in the grind of DC life. Now, more than ever, we need to find common ground and engage. We need to laugh and communicate with one another.

Washington Improv Theater has created a space that ignites genuine human connection – a community fueled by the deeply impactful nature of longform improv. At WIT, improv brings people from diverse backgrounds, often with seemingly little in common, together to learn and play in a safe and judgement-free zone. Through improv that WIT aims to unleash the creativity of Washingtonians.

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Inspiring levity through dynamic, one-of-a-kind performances
Artists at WIT practice longform improv, an exercise of live, collaborative theater in which actors can weave complex stories set in any space and cast themselves in any role. Each performance becomes an unscripted, thrilling world premiere. Washington Improv Theater hosts over 300 performances per year.

Improvisation as a form uniquely engages audiences by sharing with them the moment of creation. Our community of six company ensembles and seven Harold teams establishes warm rapport with our audiences as they create one-night-only works of art. WIT also stages special project shows including the satirical mock election POTUS Among Us where improvisers lobby for audience votes and the dark, dramatic murder mystery Citizens’ Watch inspired by the British TV series Broadchurch.

A treasured patron tradition is our weekly free Harold Night, where our teams bring new life to the classic format. Each night ends in a community-wide improv ‘jam’ where novice audience members can try their hand at improv alongside seasoned performers and current students.

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Creating connecting through arts education
At WIT, we believe improv is for everyone. Our inclusive classes program, which enrolls 1,500 annually, attracts a student body spanning age, career, and economic background to its curriculum. And we take accessibility seriously. We offer at least two free Improv for All workshops monthly, reaching every ward of the District. This year, we proudly launched our first Diversity Scholarship toward tuition in the classes program with the aim to ensure more diverse communities can pursue improv.

The benefits of improv skills like confidence, creativity, and supportive collaboration are universal. Our WIT@Work program enhances these skills in the professional sphere by conducting applied improv training seminars in the workplace. WIT@Work more than doubled in scope last year alone, bringing a spirit of “Yes, and” to organizations like Deloitte, Goodwill, NIH, The American Red Cross, and NPR.

Our growing youth programming teaches the District’s kids the power of positive collaboration and creativity. Our work includes engagements at DC Public Elementary Schools such as a semester-long after-school program at Marie Reed Elementary School.

Get involved in our community
There are a myriad of ways you can get involved with Washington Improv Theater.

Friendly Visitors and Strong Partnerships at Senior Services of Alexandria

by Mary Giordano & Mary Lee Anderson

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Every week in the City of Alexandria, more than sixty volunteers visit a senior for an hour or more in their home, apartment, assisted living or healthcare community through the Friendly Visitor Program of Senior Services of Alexandria.

The program is designed to enhance the quality of life of socially isolated seniors by providing social interaction, mental stimulation and emotional support.

Recently, a volunteer, Paul, was matched with “Mr. S.”, who was the Clerk of the Supreme Court during the time Thurgood Marshall was a Justice of the Supreme Court. As a videographer, Paul plans to create an oral history of the many fascinating stories “Mr. S” tells during their visits.

Another volunteer, Megan, is visiting “Mrs. V.”, who received a Master’s Degree in Mathematics in the 1940s and was one of the first women to work on scientific computers in the country. Megan plans to bring the movie, “Hidden Figures”, on an upcoming visit to watch together.

A few of the volunteers bring their dogs or small children on their weekly visits. Some pairs play cards or Scrabble together or go to activities within the assisted living community including musical performances, bingo and chair yoga. The unanimous sentiment of both the seniors and volunteers in this unique program is the realization that what starts as a weekly visit becomes much more than that – a special friendship.

Senior Services of Alexandria and Rebuilding Together Alexandria, are teaming up to provide free in-home safety inspections for seniors who currently receive Meals on Wheels. This program came about from the “Meals on Wheels America” campaign to provide seniors with a “more than a meal” support so they can remain in their homes as they age.

Earlier this summer, “Meals on Wheels” clients received a flyer from Senior Services of Alexandria for a free home safety check by Rebuilding Together Alexandria. Several clients requested free home repair services from Rebuilding Together. Our Senior Services of Alexandria staff responded and developed an “action plan” to correct any hazards. We will continue to provide the information about the safety checks to any new clients added to Meals on Wheels program.

“Conducting a home safety check can go a long way in preventing problems that could lead to a fall, other injury, or loss of independence,” stated Katharine Dixon, President & CEO of Rebuilding Together Alexandria. “By spotting these hazards and taking some simple steps to correct them, seniors can continue to live at home safely.”

At the core of the “Meals on Wheels” service is a nutritious meal, companionship and a watchful eye on the health and safety of our seniors. Adding the home safety inspection is just another way of ensuring that Alexandria seniors are remaining safe in their own homes and aging with independence and dignity.

If you know of a senior living in Alexandria who would benefit from this program or have an interest in volunteering, please Mary Giordano, Program Director, at (703)836-4414 Ex. 120 or by email at friendlyvisitor@seniorservicesalex.org.

Developing New Solutions With Food Recovery Network

by Regina Northouse, Executive Director, Food Recovery Network

File_000 (1)Food Recovery Network (FRN) is the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America. FRN unites and empowers college students to recover surplus food from their campus dining halls and surrounding food businesses and donate that food to hunger-fighting nonprofits who feed those most in need. With 230 university chapters across the country and growing, FRN’s goal is to support higher education in being the first sector where food recovery is the norm and not the exception. Through the power of highly motivated student leaders, FRN has recovered and donated more than 2.1 million pounds of food since 2011.

FRN positively impacts our communities. Our student leaders support over 350 hunger-fighting partners including homeless shelters, food banks and food pantries, providing them with wholesome, nutritious meals to give to their clients.

The U.S. food system is marked by an alarming paradox: nearly 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste, while 48.1 million Americans experience food insecurity each year, one out of seven of whom are children (NRDC 2016; USDA 2015).

Food Recovery Network was formed in 2011 by college students at the University of Maryland who wanted to address these issues of food waste and food insecurity, and their social and environmental impacts. These impacts include wasting 23% of potable water and 18% of valuable cropland, as well as emitting methane into the atmosphere, contributing to the rise of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change.

What sets FRN apart, is our innovative model which empowers and educates young leaders and breaks down barriers between college campuses by helping students develop new solutions to problems in their communities, to connect with nonprofits in their area and help and build relationships with their neighbors who also happen to be in need. Through our model, our civic-minded student leaders gain confidence in their own abilities to challenge the status quo and fight for what is right.

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Food Recovery Network is a national nonprofit that applies local solutions to specific communities to ensure surplus food gets to those who need it most. I know I speak for my amazing team at FRN headquarters in College Park, Maryland, when I say we are continually inspired by our hard-working student leaders all over the country.

Many of FRN’s students often do more than volunteer with their FRN chapter. Our students pursue other opportunities in the food recovery movement, such as gleaning from local farms, recovering nonperishable food items during the days when students on their college campus move out for the semester, and participate in summer recoveries. The student leaders also volunteer with the nonprofit where they donate their surplus food by tutoring, preparing and serving meals and helping with cleanup initiatives.

We talk to our leaders all the time and there are so many inspiring stories. Actually, when asked about her relationship with her chapter’s partner nonprofit, one student from Michigan said, “Every time I brought food to our partner agency, I would meet one of the residents and they would be so kind and grateful! I loved being a part of this amazing organization and movement! It has made me realize that I want to incorporate more awareness and advocacy in my future career.”

Recently, we were told by an FRN alum that one of her limiting criteria for searching for which grad schools she wanted to apply to was whether that the school had an FRN chapter so she could remain engaged as a graduate student.

At the heart of what drives FRN to pursue the work we do is two things. First, being able to provide a source of nutritious food to those who would otherwise not have access. We’re here to be part of our communities. Second, we want to change behavior to reduce food waste at the source post production. This is one of the highest instances of food waste (versus food wasting on the vine for example). We don’t want to overproduce food in order to donate it, we want to ensure good food isn’t wasted to begin with, and when there happens to be surplus, which, let’s be honest, much of the time there will be, that food should feed our fellow neighbors in need.

In addition to recovering food from their campuses, students have the opportunity to volunteer their time with the hunger-fighting partners and the individuals they serve, highlighted by Lighthouse Outreach Ministries, “Everyone likes to see the college kids ride up! The homeless have families that they are separated from and it makes everyone smile to know they are not invisible.”

FRN is dedicated to continuing our work in the food recovery space and to expand the movement, as we continue to provide support and resources for driven, civic-minded students seeking opportunities to engage with their communities and build their leadership skills. I look forward to collaborating and partnering with individuals and other organizations to move the needle on the issue of food waste and food loss. I hope those reading this post know they can be part of the conversation with us!

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FRN hopes to see our network expand to 350 chapters across the country, and our ability to recover 1 million pounds of perfectly good food year-over-year. We’re working to expand our Food Recovery Verified (FRV) program that recognizes and rewards food businesses of any type that are working to fight waste and feed people through food recovery. FRV serves as a third party that verifies that food businesses are donating surplus food to hunger fighting non-profits. We list those businesses on our website, we have a communications strategy to give voice to those businesses, and each business receives a window sticker to display on their doors or on marketing materials to tell patrons their business does the right thing with their surplus food. To date, FRN has over 90 food businesses that have been verified including Adidas, Zulily, and Twitter Inc.

Success is when each point within our food system has decreased food waste by implementing better practices to avoid overproduction of food–meaning at the farm level, the producer and purchasing level, at the retail level and individual consumer level. I know that as this conversation takes hold in the consciousness of more people, FRN is part of that behavior change.

Success is having the proper logistics in place for when there is surplus food to properly and effectively distribute that food to those who need it most across the country. We also want our student leaders to be part of the full process. Our students are the future entering into literally every sector in our country as business owners, chefs, teachers, engineers, technicians and farmers who all share the FRN experience. That experience has shaped their thinking about their ability to positively impact the lives of their community members, as well as how to reduce food waste. That’s the FRN lens. We want that FRN voice to continue to speak even once our students have graduated from college.

A great day at FRN features our small but mighty team at the national office working to support and expand the national network. That includes connecting with existing chapters on the phone, social media, emails and getting them what they need to go out and recover, or move closer to achieving their newest goals for the semester.

FRN works closely with our hunger-fighting partners collecting vital information, analyzing it, and then passing along new resources to our chapter leaders. At FRN, we’re constantly refining our work–what can we do better, what have we learned from our previous projects, what didn’t we do well, and where did we knock it out of the park?

As we grow, how we scale has to change, and how are we addressing those needs? Hearing the hum of our feedback loop in the office–during our project planning meetings is important, too. Additionally, our staff works with non-university food businesses that recover food to recognize them for their efforts and inspire other businesses to begin recovering through our Food Recovery Verified program.

All of these variations operations take place in our national office, made possible by our dedicated, passionate, and collaborative staff!

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There are plenty of ways to be involved, and we need you to be involved with us!

  • FRN welcomes all interested volunteers, including non-students, to help out with their local chapters!
  • Non-student volunteers are encouraged to reach out to their local chapter leaders, as many chapters seek the help of additional volunteers as drivers or mentors, if not during the actual recoveries as well. A list of chapters by state and their respective chapter leaders, contact information can be accessed here.
  • The national office is always here to make connections, too. FRN national is setting up gleaning dates throughout the fall in and around the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. We would love for you to help us recover perfectly good food right at the farm!Contact our national office now to put your name on the list for more information.
  • Help us expand! If you’re alma mater isn’t on the FRN map and you know students who attend and would make a great leader, put them in touch with us! Students can start by filling out our very short application.
  • Support our second annual National Food Recovery Dialogue. This is our annual conference that brings together our student leaders, industry experts, and community members to put into context the bigger picture of our work, and is a space to roll up our sleeves to problem solve on-the-ground problems, share resources, and break bread with one another.
  • Have some fun and start a “Zero Waste Challenge” for FRN. That can mean reducing your waste by eliminating plastic straws from your daily use, or paper napkins like our national board member Jessica did, or it could mean trying to go completely zero waste like our other national board member, Claire did. Anyone can do it, and it’s quite the amazing experience!
  • If you have an expertise that you think can help FRN, please reach out to us. We’re growing and need dedicated support in several areas. Please contact FRN headquarters by emailing info@foodrecoverynetwork.org or phone +1 (240) 615-8813 with any questions, or to be involved.

Compassionate Care with Culmore Clinic

by Allison Colby,Interim Executive Director, Culmore Clinic
7881CF48-A700-4DA5-AEAF-A5262C8DF3AEAccess to healthcare continues to be a crisis. An estimated 50,000 people are still uninsured in Fairfax County, Virginia, alone. Barriers to accessing medical care are legion. Affordability, language, and documentation are just a few examples. Dedicated individuals and congregations thought something should be done. In 2007, they opened Culmore Clinic.

Culmore Clinic is a 501c-3, non-profit healthcare clinic serving low-income adults in the Bailey’s Crossroads community at little to no cost. Supported by a diverse group of interfaith volunteers, healthcare providers, and donors, Culmore Clinic offers compassionate medical care, counseling services as well as specialty referrals. Their commitment to care for all is displayed with their top-notch medical interpretation services to ensure effective treatment to the culturally diverse community in which they work. Volunteers founded The Clinic in 2007 and to this day it is still significantly volunteer run, allowing more resources to go toward patient care.

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I was drawn to The Clinic because of its unique and meaningful mission and am impressed by the way it is lived out in daily practice. Culmore Clinic is, at it’s core, an interfaith compassionate health care center. By naming and claiming these words in our mission it ensures that all will be treated with respect, diversity will be celebrated, and care will be patient centered and culturally competent. Personally, I come from a family rooted in faith and have been drawn to serving those who may have been overlooked. I value not only tolerance but true collaboration between faith groups and cultures to enrich the lives of the entire community. The Clinic does not just provide healthcare, it is a neighborhood beacon. A safe haven for all. A forum for dialogue and catalyst for change. This is why I serve here.

Success for us is when the care and resources we have worked hard to establish, meet the needs of the community we serve. We are far from “doing it all” but when we are able to connect patients with the services they need, in an otherwise expensive and confusing system, we are successfully serving our community. This matching of need with relief can take many forms at The Clinic.

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Some days it means we are able to send a female patient for a free mammogram and prevent breast cancer. Some days it means we are able to help a patient navigate the pharmacy system and teach him how to use insulin for the first time. Success at The Clinic can take the form of countless volunteer hours spent making sure that a necessary surgery will be possible and affordable. It can mean connecting a patient with established programs in the county for much needed case management and housing support. Impacts, both large and small are the success stories that keep us pushing forward.

We are in the “business” of providing accessible, quality healthcare to all, but we certainly cannot do it alone. Our best days happen when we partner with neighboring organizations to provide an even more comprehensive network of support. For example, the generous Food Pantry volunteers, on site from Columbia Baptist Church @ Crossroads, have taken to providing our patients with seasonal fresh produce, in addition to assisting with nutrition bags at our Diabetes Group Visits. We have “great days” that involve visits from members of a local retirement community who set up our exam rooms and deliver dental care packages. Our partners in diagnostic and lab testing continue to provide us with free and reduced services to meet our busiest of great days! Culmore Clinic is committed to using resources wisely and putting all we can back into improving delivery of care. With partnerships like these, we are able to provide even more great days for our patients to come.

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I invite you to check out our website at www.culmoreclinic.org where you can find more about our volunteer opportunities. We’re always looking for RNs, healthcare providers, and those with administrative, data collection and interpreter knowledge. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter too where we send out updates on Open House events where you can take a tour of The Clinic. Also, we encourage you to spread the word about Culmore Clinic to your doctors and healthcare professionals as we are always looking to expand our specialty referral network.

Building Homes and Rebuilding Lives with HomeAid Northern Virginia

By: Kristyn Burr, Executive Director, HomeAid Northern Virginia

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This month, HomeAid Northern Virginia completed our 116th project to improve and expand housing provided by homeless shelters and supportive housing facilities – helping vulnerable individuals and families in our local area rebuild their lives with a secure, stable place to call home. Our most recent project was collaboration with the Brain Foundation of Fairfax County (another Catalogue nonprofit). With the assistance of HomeAid Northern Virginia, two Brain Foundation group homes that provide affordable, stable housing for individuals suffering from brain disease/mental illness – a population that is particularly vulnerable to becoming homeless – now have new bathrooms, more storage, enhanced common space and more.

HomeAid Northern Virginia facilitates and enables construction and renovation work on shelters, provides significant cost savings and allows organizations serving the homeless to invest their budgets in people-focused programs and services rather than building expenses. We facilitate renovations to shelters and supportive housing properties by bringing together the expertise of the local homebuilder community with the needs of local nonprofits who work to house the homeless.

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By convening and mobilizing the donated expertise, labor, and resources of homebuilders and construction trade partners (suppliers, subcontractors, etc.) who work with HomeAid Northern Virginia, we have completed 116 construction and renovation projects. Together these homeless shelters and supportive housing facilities have served more than 112,000 individuals in our community. Every single project we undertake gives more and more individuals and families safe housing where they can plan their futures and rebuild their lives.

Homelessness in Northern Virginia
Nearly 2,000,000 people find themselves homeless in America each year. A lost job or unexpected illness or injury can easily disrupt a family just getting by. A veteran’s posttraumatic stress, or the courageous decision to flee domestic violence displaces others. Due to the high cost of living in Northern Virginia, even the slightest change can affect a person’s living situation.

Building What Matters Most: A Secure, Stable Home

Stable secure housing has been shown to foster stable employment for adults and greater success in school for children. Access to stable, accessible housing enables families who were separated due to homelessness or housing insecurity to be reunited. At HomeAid, we do more than build housing for the homeless – we change lives.

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From the construction of entirely new shelter buildings to renovating sleeping areas, kitchens, and bathrooms, HomeAid Northern Virginia’s 116 projects have provided $14.7 million of construction to more than 40 nonprofit housing organizations that serve homeless families and children, victims of domestic abuse, runaway teens and other at risk individuals. Importantly, our projects have saved our nonprofit service-provider partners $8.4 million in retail construction costs, while at the same time enabling them to support improvements to provide a safe place for children to do their homework, for parents to get ready for work, and for families to get back on their feet. Instead of dollars spent on construction, our partners can pour more funding into the programs and services – education, vocational training, day care, counseling, etc. – that help individuals and families rebuild their lives.
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Several of our projects and partners include:

  • Shelter House’s Artemis House, Fairfax County’s only 24-hour domestic violence shelter. With HomeAid’s renovation, the shelter now provides safe housing for up to 8 individuals at a time facing life-threatening crisis.
  • Youth for Tomorrow (YFT), a residential campus for at-risk youth in Bristow, Va. HomeAid completed construction of two new homes on the campus, each allowing YFT to provide shelter and support services to 36 girls who are pregnant, young mothers, homeless, runaways, or survivors of sex trafficking.
  • Loudoun Transitional Housing Program. The program’s eight apartment units that provide transitional housing for homeless families and single women were completely renovated to create a well-appointed and fully-furnished home to help residents rebuild their lives and get back on the road to self-sufficiency.
  • Northern Virginia Family Service. HomeAid expanded and updated its shelter and food distribution center, constructed space for a Head Start day care facility, and renovated housing provided for disabled veterans and homeless families.

Beyond the Brick and Mortar: Enabling a Virtuous Cycle
Beyond the individual benefits to those living in the new/renovated facilities, there is a virtuous cycle of good associated with each HANV project:

  • Upgrades to housing positively impact not only current residents, but future residents for years to come.
  • Enhanced real-estate improves the balance sheet for nonprofits, and improves neighborhoods.

In this way, our projects are not “done” when they are completed; their impact is felt across individuals and communities long-term. By strategically building what is needed most in Northern Virginia, HomeAid is able to support other nonprofits as we work together toward ending homelessness, one person and one family at a time.

brain foundation renovation image 1HomeAid Isn’t Just For Homebuilders: “Helping Hands”
While we are always recruiting new homebuilders to serve as project “builder captains” and construction trade partners to collaborate with on our projects, we have plenty of other volunteer opportunities as well. The homes and shelter facilities we build and renovate provide comfortable shelter, but that’s typically not all that incoming residents need. Many arrive with little more than the shirts on their back. We started our Helping Hands program to make sure that individuals and families who move into HomeAid-renovated housing have what they need for a fresh start:

  • Our Fill the Fridge program collects gift cards so that homeless families moving into a new home can buy milk, fruit, and other perishables for a healthy start in their new home.
  • Our Welcome Home Baskets include basic but essential items that formerly-homeless families need for their new home, including towels, sheets, pots, dishes etc.
  • Our annual backpack drive ensures that children living in homeless shelters and supportive housing properties have access to a new backpack before the start of each school year; and our annual “Night at the Ballpark” treats hundreds of families living in local shelters to a Potomac Nationals baseball game – quality family time at a sporting event that may otherwise be out of financial reach.

Scout groups, neighborhood groups, school groups, church groups and other community organizations have organized collection drives for our Helping Hands program. These drives help make a house a home and you can make a difference by organizing one for an upcoming project. Learn more at http://www.homeaidnova.org/get-involved/volunteer/.

“It’s Pay It Forward Time . . . “

Aerospace Engineer Charles Cisneros Gives Back as a RESET Volunteer
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Charles helps students set up the “wheel and axle” experiment, using his granddaughter’s tricycle.

By Charles Cisneros

A couple of years ago, I began volunteering with RESET, an education nonprofit that introduces children to real scientists and provides hands-on science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) learning opportunities to children between the ages of 4 and 12. RESET is an ideal match for my background and my desire to “pay it forward” in a meaningful way.

I am a former aerospace engineer. I worked for 33 years as an Air Force officer and 13 years for SAIC as a system test planner for the National Missile defense program. I retired in 2009. I had done other kinds of volunteer work over the years, but when I ran across a RESET recruitment ad in The Washington Post, I was instantly intrigued. After chatting with Executive Director John Meagher, I liked what I heard about the program. I felt RESET’s investment was well focused and that it did a great job of fostering an exchange of ideas and in providing resources and STEM curriculum support for schools in the DC area.

RESET’s work is so critical for our country’s future. We will always need highly trained scientists and engineers to solve complex technical, health, and engineering problems. When I first started with RESET, I volunteered at Moorefield Station Elementary School. At the time, I had also been doing a lot of local charity golf tournaments. One of the charities we supported was Sugarland Elementary School, a low-income school, located in Loudoun County.

I went home and did a little research on schools in the area. I checked out some government sources on scholastic performance and discovered that Sugarland, a Title 1 school, was one of the lowest performing schools in the county. Sugarland is not an affluent school, so it can be challenging for them to compete in a high-income county like Loudoun. Having come from a low-income background myself, I felt a strong pull towards bringing RESET programs to these students. I contacted John and offered to expand my volunteer work to Sugarland. John very quickly set up a meeting with school officials. They accepted our help and we will soon complete our first school year there, leading RESET programs for a diverse student body that includes many Hispanic students. Now, I volunteer at both schools, working mostly with third-graders.

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Charles’ class at Sugarland Elementary during a session on renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Following a scavenger hunt where the class was divided into “coal miners” and “wind millers,” Charles surprised his students with lab coats, to their obvious delight. One of RESET’s primary goals is to get children to think and behave like real scientists.

I was fortunate to have had several adults in my life who believed in me and encouraged me. That’s why I was so eager to work with students from less advantaged backgrounds. I thought, “Now it’s time to give something back.” From personal experience I know it just takes one spark to ignite an interest and a passion for science, one that can grow into a future career and life path. My own inspiration came from two sources: As a child in the 1950s, I used to watch Walt Disney TV programs about the challenges of breaking into outer space. This, along with the national alarm after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, motivated me towards a science or engineering career.

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Students at Moorefield Station Elementary School confer on an experiment on a block and tackle pulley.

My experiences with my students have been wonderful. The one thing I am always delighted and amazed to discover is how bright and precocious they are. Young minds are naturally curious and open, no matter where they come from or how much they have. They are limited only by resources and opportunity.

And some classroom experiences are definitely more memorable than others. For example, during one session with my third graders, I intended to demonstrate the pull of the moon’s gravity on the oceans using a balloon filled with water. Typically, the normally spherical balloon would be pulled out of shape by the force of gravity, thus illustrating my point. I’ve performed this demo many times, but this time I allowed a student to hold the water-filled balloon by the top end. Unexpectedly, he bounced the balloon up and down. Not surprisingly, it burst, dousing him, me, and the floor with water (and there may have been some additional collateral damage). We all had a good laugh and achieved a much better appreciation of the force of gravity than if the experiment had gone off without a hitch.

Gail Brady, Principal at Sugarland, and STEAM lab teacher Darielle Robinson recently shared with me what RESET has meant to Sugarland students this year:

“Working with RESET has been such a valuable experience for our students. Through RESET our students often have had the chance to be exposed to individuals that share their ethnic background and have had careers in the field of science. Charles has given our students the chance to see an individual that has overcome certain circumstances and used education has a means of living a full life. It’s been especially helpful having Charles bring to life the concepts that our students learn in class. He has been pivotal in providing our students with learning experiences that they may not otherwise experience outside of school.”

RESET serves Pre-Kindergarten through 8th-grade. We offer in-school, after-school, and summer and weekend programs. There are many options for volunteering, including working as a team through your workplace. Volunteers are working and professional scientists, engineers, and technologists, ranging in age from 18 through 90. Our volunteers have a professional background or educational interest in STEM professions, and we represent a wide range of fields, from forensic anthropology to computer science, but you need not have teaching experience to volunteer with us. RESET does an excellent job of providing training, resources, and feedback so you go into the classroom confident and prepared.

To volunteer for RESET, please contact John Meagher at 703-250-0236. Have a fundraising idea? Contact Development Director Lyndi Schrecengost at 202-365-5963.

A great way to engage with RESET is to “like” and share our posts on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/RESETDC/
https://twitter.com/ReSETonline
https://www.youtube.com/user/resetonlinevideo
https://www.linkedin.com/company/reset-organization
http://resetonline.org/blog/

Volunteers and Tutors Make a Difference at Bridges to Independence

tutor

Bridges to Independence has been working with and for people experiencing homelessness since 1985, when we were founded as the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. In 2016, Bridges served a total of 460 individuals: 248 through our housing programs (emergency shelter and rapid re-housing) and 212 in other programs and services (financial literacy, employment services, etc.).

Our mission is to lead individuals and families out of homelessness and into stable, independent futures. We offer aid and support for all family members, helping them attain financial security and move forward into self-sufficiency. As homelessness is often episodic, we work not only with people who are currently experiencing homelessness, but also with former participants to ensure they are able to remain securely housed and do not fall into homelessness again.

bridges take 2

Former client Mohammed, his wife, and their 5 daughters invited us to their home for a visit. It was wonderful to see the family thriving!

Our vision is to end the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Two-thirds of the people we serve are under the age of 18. We provide youth with opportunities to increase self-esteem, gain leadership skills, and improve their overall health/well-being. We strive to give older students the confidence, skills, and tools needed to pursue and complete post-secondary education or vocational training, providing them with a pathway to economic security.

After many years of helping people move into their own homes, we’ll soon get to experience a homecoming of our own! In September, we will move into a brand-new 4,700 square foot training center, directly adjacent to our Sullivan House emergency shelter. The new space will be a hive of activity and will include a children’s room for youth activities, classrooms for job training, a personal counseling suite, and offices for our staff to continue their crucial work to support families in need. We’ll be able to serve more people, carry out programming more effectively, and explore new and innovative solutions for reducing homelessness.

bridges revised

Gather a team for our Kickball Tournament or volunteer at the event!

Our 12th annual SAFE AT HOME Kickball Tournament will be Saturday, August 5, 2017. Teams, sponsors and volunteers can sign up now at https://bridges2.org/kickball/. We also need volunteers to serve as mentors or tutors, represent Bridges at events, help with office work, and more. For details, see www.bridges2.org or contact Lawson Craighill at lcraighill@bridges2.org.

 

Around Town 5/18-26

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

CASA in the Community: Stream Clean-up

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Prince George’s County
Join CASA for a day in the community! As part of our events in honor of National Foster Care Month, CASA staff and volunteers as well as other members of our neighborhood will work to clean up the stream behind our office which is a part of the Anacostia watershed. We will have support from the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, Sustainable Initiatives Division. Come join us for a day of giving back as we contribute to the beautification of our neighborhood and cleanliness of the Anacostia watershed. Lunch for volunteers will be sponsored by Douglas Development. Sign up to join us!

When: Thu May 18 2017 (11:30 AM – 3:00 PM)
Where: CASA Headquarters, 6811 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737
Fee: no
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will use provided tools and supplies to help to clean litter out of the stream and nearby embankment
Contact: Kara Bundy, (301) 209-0491
For more information: click here

The Crucible

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s retelling of hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials written when America was experiencing similar fears over communism. Long considered an American classic.

When: Thu May 18 2017 (7:30 PM)
Where: The Theatre Lab, 733 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Fee: yes $15 – Adults $10 – Students
Volunteer Info: Ushering, concession sales, etc.
Contact: Dane Petersen, (202) 824-0449
For more information: click here

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Crucible

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s retelling of hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials written when America was experiencing similar fears over communism. Long considered an American classic.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Kids to Parks Day

National Park Trust
Kids to Parks Day is a nation-wide day of outdoor play organized by National Park Trust (NPT) in cooperation with a host of local and national collaborators. Next year’s KTP Day will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2017, the week before the official start of summer. NPT is encouraging childrenacross the country to explore their neighborhood parks and discover science, history, nature and adventure right around the corner or just across town. Visit us at kidstoparks.org. Note: The address listed is the National Park Trust corporate office. Events will be held nationwide.

When:Sat May 20 2017 (00:00 AM – 11:45 PM)
Where:Nationwide, 401 E. Jefferson St., Rockville, MD 20850
Fee:no
Contact:Chris Reif, (301) 279-7275
For more information:click here

Laurel Community Day 5K & 1 Mile Walk

First Generation College Bound
Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services, Inc. (LARS) and First Generation College Bound (FGCB) are joining forces for a 5K to kick off Laurel High School’s Community Day! The 5K run and 1 mile walk begin at McCullough Field on Saturday, May 20th, starting at 8AM and following Laurel’s official5K course through Riverfront Park and Old Towne. All proceeds from this joint fundraiser will be split between LARS and FGCB to help advance our shared vision for the Laurel community: a place where everyone has the support they need to rise above difficult economic circumstances. After the 5K, the fun continues just up the road at Laurel High School, including a car show, food trucks, a moon bounce, and more from 11-3PM. Pick up your race packet and t-shirt on Friday, May 19th from 3-6PM at LARS (311 Laurel Ave, Laurel MD 20707). Registration and packet pick-up is also available on the morning of the race at McCullough Field, starting at 7AM. Registration for runners and walkers is $35 after May 1 and includes a commemorative race t-shirt. Visit www.laureladvocacy.org to register online or to download a paper registration form. Can’t make it this year? Register as a “sleepwalker” and you’ll still receive a race t-shirt! Contact Laura Wellford at (301) 776-0442 ext. 27 or lwellford@laureladvocacy.org for more information or Nickole Conyngham at (301) 490-0911 or nconyngham@fgcb.org on sponsoring, participating, or volunteering.

When:Sat May 20 2017 (08:00 AM)
Where:McCullough Field, Montgomery & 8th Street, Laurel, MD 20707
Fee:yes $35
Volunteer Info:course marshals, clean up, set up, refreshments
Contact:Nickole Conyngham, (301) 490-0911

Eiko Otake

Dance Place
A Body in Places is Eiko Otake’s first solo project, the scale of which varies radically between locations and incorporates both performative and non-performative elements. Central to the project is a drive to explore non-traditional venues and to respond to the innate characteristics of each specificplace. At the core of each variant is Eiko alone on a colorful futon, projecting and exploring solitude, gaze, fragility and intimacy. In Eiko & Komas performances, two bodies represent drama even when the other was absent. A Body in Places does not offer such drama. Performing as a soloist, Eiko Otake willfully partners with the particularities of places and viewers. In October 2014, Eiko Otake launched A Body in Places project with the photo exhibition A Body in Fukushima and her performance A Body in a Station in 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. The durational performances began Eiko’s exploration of how the fragility of the body within public places mutually affects and is affected by the gaze of passers by. Eiko Otake will be bringing her A Body in Places project to 8th St NE for a residency: Saturday, May 20 11:00 am: FREE Outdoor Performance of A Body in Places at the Brookland’s Monroe Street Farmer’s Market on the Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market (716 Monroe St NE) 7:00pm: FREE Outdoor performance of A Body in Places on 8th St NE, concluding in Dance Place’s Cafritz Foundation Theater and followed by A Body in Fukushima lecture / photo demonstration (Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE)

When:Sat May 20 2017 (11:00 AM)
Where:Dance Place 8th Street Arts Park, 3225 8th Street NE, Washington, District Of Columbia 20017
Fee:no
Contact:Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1608
For more information:click here

The Crucible

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s retelling of hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials written when America was experiencing similar fears over communism. Long considered an American classic.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Red Shoe 5K Run and Walk

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC
7th Annual Red Shoe 5K Run and Walk. Kids Fun

When:Sun May 21 2017 (09:00 AM)
Where:Dulles Station, Herndon, VA, Dulles Station, Herndon, VA 20171
Fee:yes $35 for adult participation ($40 day of)
Volunteer Info:General race assistance, manning sign-in tables, distributing refreshments etc
Contact:Kristen Claus, (202) 529-8204
For more information:click here

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Senior PGA Championship

LIFT-DC
Volunteer on behalf of LIFT-DC to staff one of the food vending stations during the Senior PGA Championship. Each completed 6-8 hour volunteer shift on behalf of LIFT-DC results in a donation to our organization. Volunteers receive one parking passes and one meal during the day of their shift, as wellas a non-transferable complimentary pass that allows volunteers to watch tournament play before/after their shifts.

When:Thu May 25 2017 (07:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Where:20391 Lowes Island Blvd, Potomac Falls, VA 20165
Fee:no
Volunteer Info:Volunteers will staff food vending stations for 6-8 hour shifts where they will take food orders, serve food and/or helping staff the cash register.
Contact:David Wyman, (202) 750-8417

Friday, May 26, 2017

Senior PGA Championship

LIFT-DC
Volunteer on behalf of LIFT-DC to staff one of the food vending stations during the Senior PGA Championship. Each completed 6-8 hour volunteer shift on behalf of LIFT-DC results in a donation to our organization. Volunteers receive one parking passes and one meal during the day of their shift, as wellas a non-transferable complimentary pass that allows volunteers to watch tournament play before/after their shifts.

When:Fri May 26 2017 (07:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Where:20391 Lowes Island Blvd, Potomac Falls, VA 20165
Fee:no
Volunteer Info:Volunteers will staff food vending stations for 6-8 hour shifts where they will take food orders, serve food and/or helping staff the cash register.
Contact:David Wyman, (202) 750-8417

Nourishing Body and Soul at Thrive DC

By Greg Rockwell, Community Relations Manager, Thrive DC

Thrive DC is a “one-stop shop” for homeless services in Columbia Heights. We provide a range of services to help clients take their next step out of homelessness AND avoid becoming homeless in the first place.
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Since 2002, the average rent has gone up $3,000. At the same time, DC has lost HALF of its affordable housing to gentrification and luxury condos.

For the 8,000 – 10,000 already homeless individuals, and the many more living on the edge of poverty, that means DC has literally no room for them. We are experiencing a crisis where people are living on the street without resources and people in housing are just trying to hang on.

Thrive DC acts as an anchor and support system to these people to help them take their next step out of homelessness.

Coat Drive

“There is a spirit of community that infuses the organization. The direct services provided are necessary for the body, but the community serves the soul. Who’s to say which is the more valuable? Both are necessary and both can be found in great measure at Thrive DC.” — Volunteer

In 2019 we will celebrate 40 years of service to DC’s homeless population. In honor of that milestone we are also looking for a new space that we can grow in and provide even better service to our clients.

Emergency Groceries

Our clients are our inspiration, and our relationships with them drive everything we do. We get so excited to see them succeed!

When clients achieve the goals they set for themselves; to get sober, to get a job, to get housing, to re-establish their lives after years of incarceration – that’s what success looks like for us.

A great day includes a client achieving their goals, a big donation of socks or underwear, and a fresh baked plate of our Development Director’s world famous macaroons.

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Thrive DC is located in Columbia Heights, on the bottom level of St. Stephen’s Church at 16th St & Newton St NW. We love volunteers, and need around 20 volunteers a day to help with our breakfast & dinner programs, employment programs, and front desk work.

One of the biggest things people can do is to take our business cards and keep them in their wallet, purse, or pocket. We encourage people to interact with panhandlers as their conscience dictates, but also to always let clients know the next place to get more help.

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