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Around Town 10/20 -11/3

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Saturday, October 21, 2017
MOMENTUM Gala
Dance Place

Celebrate Dance Place’s next stage at our annual Gala and see Dance Place like you’ve never seen it before!

Explore Dance Place’s arts campus with immersive art installations that merge performance, theater design and technology. Choose your own adventure as you journey through sensory exhibitions that envelop guests in an arts fun-house experience. Discover dancers hidden throughout the spaces, navigate a coliseum of tires, decipher optical illusions and more.

Plus, special guest performance by new Executive Artistic Director Christopher K. Morgan in our theater.

Enjoy tasty libations, bid on our silent auction and end the night with our signature DP dance party!

When: Saturday, October 21, 2017 (7:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 map
Fee: $150
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1601
For more information: click here

Saturday, October 28, 2017
LMnO3
Dance Place

New York City-based trio LMnO3 shifts identities in a kaleidoscopic pageant of status and femininity. B.A.N.G.S.: Made in America uses hard rap, body percussion and a game show to repurpose how we unapologetically wear our own “Beauty, Age, Number, Goodness and Size.” Donning velvet evening wear, rip-stop jumpsuits, snack-filled purses and sensible bathing suits, the dancers explore what they are – and aren’t – qualified to do. Serious play and creative instincts rule as the trio obsesses over the ideas behind B.A.N.G.S., a mnemonic acronym frequently used by French-language learners turned into a handy feminist to-dismantle list.

When: Saturday, October 28, 2017 (8:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 map
Fee: $15 -$30
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1601
For more information: click here

Sunday, October 29, 2017
Complete the Circle FOODRaiser This event is accepting volunteers
Britepaths (formerly Our Daily Bread)

It may seem hard to believe, but 60,000 people in Fairfax County don’t know where their next meal will come from. 28,000 of them are children. Britepaths and Lorton Community Action Center are joining to host their 7th Complete the Circle FOODRaiser to raise awareness about hunger and need in the Fairfax County area and to raise food and funds to feed the hungry in our midst.

Complete the Circle is a joyful service project for community members of all ages. Bring food and/or grocery store gift card donations and participate in a fun public art project called “Art for the Sky.”

The afternoon includes live music with musicians from Cancer Can Rock, children’s activities and refreshments. $10 per participant includes the event T-shirt that will color our Art for the Sky “living picture.” Proceeds and donations from the event will benefit Britepaths and Lorton Community Action Center’s families. Advance registration recommended. On-site registration available.

When: Sunday, October 29, 2017 (1:00 PM – 2:30 PM)
Where: Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run, Fairfax, VA 22030 map
Fee: $10
Volunteer Info: Many volunteers will be needed on Oct. 28 and 29 to help set up and run the event, and to clean up and return donations to Britepaths and LCAC after the event. Volunteer registration will be available soon at: http://www.CompletetheCircleFx.org
Contact: Jennifer Rose, (703) 273-8829
For more information: click here

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Joy of Motion’s Mixed Movement
Dance Place

Joy of Motion Dance Center brings you Mixed Movement: Entertainment in Motion, a series that mixes dance together with live music, poetry and theater. Join us for a humorous and eclectic night out that’s both thought-provoking and entertaining.

When: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 (8:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, District of Columbia 20017 map
Fee: $15 -$30
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 691-1601
For more information: click here

Measuring Success with Smiles at Tracy’s Kids

by Matt Gerson, Founder and Chairman, Tracy’s Kids

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Our mission at Tracy’s Kids is to help children with cancer cope with the emotional toll imposed by the disease & its treatment. We enrich the patient experience by embedding Masters-trained Art Therapists in hospital clinics right alongside the medical team.

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I was diagnosed with cancer as a ten year-old and appreciate the challenges and disruptions that the illness imposes on a child as well as his siblings and parents. Our Art Therapists help families work through their concerns and fears. Today, some 80% of children diagnosed with cancer will beat the disease and spend the overwhelming majority of their lives cancer free. Our goal is to help them navigate this chapter of their lives and not let having been sick define who they are.

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Recently a parent of one of our kids — an oncologist himself — had tears in his eyes when he told us,

“Tracy’s Kids saved our family. The chemotherapy drugs are essentially the same in every hospital — what makes a difference to families is the type of care they receive. The therapeutic boost that Art Therapy provides is invaluable.”

We measure our success with smiles at Tracy’s Kids. Our Facebook page has picture after picture of kids looking happy despite the fact that they are enduring painful treatments, and having their lives disrupted. Parents tell me all the time that their children look forward to going to the clinic because our Art Therapists make it a safe space where kids can be kids — not sick kids — just kids sitting alongside others getting similar treatments. Many of our kids paint such a rosy picture of their clinic experience that their healthy friends sometimes accompany them to their treatments. That sentiment is inconceivable to me — and is proof positive that we are making a real difference.

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This coming March marks our Twentieth Anniversary. Tracy’s Kids started at Georgetown University Hospital and we are now in seven clinics in five states and have provided over $5 million in Art Therapy programs. We estimate that we work with 80% of the kids in the DC metro area who are battling cancers and blood disorders.

One of the things I am most proud of is that we are a lean operation that is laser focused on our programming — which is provided free-of-charge to those we serve. In 2016, 83% of our spending went to Art Therapist salaries and art supplies.

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We appreciate any and all support people are willing to offer. Whether it is spreading the word about us during the Combined Federal Campaign (#21655) or #GivingTuesday, hosting Art Supply Drives, or organizing any kind of fundraiser that helps sustain our wonderful program. Find us online at www.tracyskids.org

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.

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.

Skills for the Future with Washington Youth Garden

by Crystal Williams, Communications and Events Manager, Washington Youth Garden
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Washington Youth Garden (WYG) is a program of Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) on the grounds of the US National Arboretum and uses the garden cycle to enrich science learning, inspire environmental stewardship and cultivate healthy food choices in youth and families. WYG has three subprograms within the organization; SPROUT (Science Program Reaching Out) – field trip program, Green Ambassador Program- high school internship program, and Garden Science – school garden development program.

In 2016, 3,140 students visited the garden on nearly 100 SPROUT trips while 90% of SPROUT participants tasted something new from the garden.

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This year from April through June, we’ve already served 2,500 students through our SPROUT program and 15 new high school Green Ambassadors joined us for the busy summer ahead!

Gardening and carpentry skills are not the only thing our students gain in the garden, as illustrated by the following quote:

“The Green Ambassador Program] gave me a lot of skills for future jobs and helped me grow as a person as well. A lot of my peers come from very different backgrounds, so it gave me a lot of new perspectives.”
-DeWayne Walker, Green Ambassador Program 2016

This year we celebrate our new education pavilion. The new pavilion at Washington Youth Garden’s demonstration garden is the result of a partnership between the Weissberg Foundation, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations working together to benefit school groups and families from underserved D.C. neighborhoods and other communities in the region. The pavilion is dedicated to the late Judith Morris, who was passionate about sharing nature and the Arboretum with surrounding communities and underserved youth. The pavilion provides a much-needed outdoor classroom space for young people coming to our demonstration plot to learn about environmental science and nutrition.
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We encourage the community to be a part of Washington Youth Garden by either attending an event such as Family Garden Day on August 12th or volunteering with us. Volunteer as an individual or bring a group. Individuals should sign-up for an orientation here. Volunteering as a group with Washington Youth Garden is a fun and active outdoor experience that is sure to build staff cohesion outside the office. For more information visit our website at www.washingtonyouthgarden.org

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.

Bringing Summer’s Bounty to Our Older Neighbors with We Are Family

By Tulin Ozdeger, Co-Executive Director, We Are Family
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Summer is one of my favorite times of year. I love the warmer weather, the longer days, and the chance just to spend more time outside. As an avid gardener and cook, I also love the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that arrive in my garden and at the farmers market this time of year.

My background is Turkish and I grew up tagging along with my parents at the amazing farmers markets in Turkey, marveling at all of the delicious foods we would soon bring home to cook and eat. I know that good ingredients make really good food.

I am Co-Executive Director of We Are Family, an outreach and advocacy organization that serves low-income older residents of the North Capital, Shaw, Columbia Heights, Petworth, and Adams Morgan neighborhoods of DC. When I got a call from Dalila Boclin at Community Foodworks two years ago to discuss collaborating with their Columbia Heights Farmers Market, I jumped at the chance.

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We Are Family serves over 700 seniors each month, with year-round monthly non-perishable grocery deliveries, visits, transportation, Thanksgiving and holiday gift deliveries, and a whole lot more. Most of our seniors are living at or below the poverty line and many are isolated, lacking any nearby family. So, We Are Family walks beside them to help them age in place with a good quality of life.

IMG_4489I know how popular our monthly grocery deliveries are with our seniors, as each month the list grows and grows right now we deliver to over 725 seniors each month. Given our seniors’ meager incomes and the fact that DC recently ranked as the 4th worst place in the nation for older adult food insecurity, the great need for free food deliveries is hardly surprising.

I had long dreamed of bringing free, high quality farmers market produce to our seniors, as I know that many simply do not have the money or the mobility to get the fresh produce they desperately want and need. I also loved the idea of supporting local farmers and the Columbia Heights Farmers Market, given how important they are to our local food systems and to the health of our community and environment.

IMG_3436The response from our seniors to the produce deliveries has been tremendous. They love getting such delicious, healthy food each week! After our very first delivery, I got several calls from seniors raving about the produce and telling me how excited they were to cook with it. One of them said she eagerly got up extra early the next day to start cooking the greens she had gotten in her bag.

In 2015, we started out serving 35 seniors each week with our produce deliveries and, as of this week, we are now delivering bags of fresh produce to just over 160 seniors. Through our partnership with Community Foodworks, We Are Family is able to purchase the produce for our seniors from the Market at a wholesale price.

Community Foodworks orders the food and makes the bags for us each week. With help from our volunteers, We Are Family picks up the bags from the farmers market and delivers them to our seniors in three nearby buildings we serve in Columbia Heights.

One bit of feedback we got from some seniors last year was that they were not always sure what the vegetables were in their bags or how to prepare them. So, this year, I decided to include a flier from We Are Family listing the bag’s items with pictures, along with some simple recipe ideas each week. Like many of us, sometimes our seniors aren’t quite sure what to do with the produce when they get it. Coming up with recipes has even helped me get a little more creative in my kitchen. (My 7-year-old son was surprised when he actually liked the swiss chard omelet recipe I put on one flier!)

Given our lean paid staff of only 2, We Are Family relies tremendously on the help of volunteers. There is no way we could deliver food to over 700 seniors each month without them! We will be delivering produce each Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 through October 11th and welcome you to join us.

We also have regular Saturday morning volunteer events all throughout the year, including grocery deliveries, visits, and grocery bag assemblies. (A calendar and sign up for our events can be found here: www.wearefamilydc.org/events.)Ms Glover produce pic

The volunteer experience can be a powerful, even transformative one. My life is a testament to that truth. I came to DC for law school a little over 20 years ago and started volunteering with older DC residents several years later. The seniors I have met have had such a profound impact on my life. When I first moved here, I didn’t think I would stay, much less find myself co-directing a group like We Are Family – but here I am! We know how much your volunteer time will mean to our seniors, but you might well be surprised how much it will mean in your life too.
We hope you can join us in spreading good food and caring community!

Motherhood is a Sisterhood with DC Diaper Bank

By Corinne Cannon, Founder and Executive Director, DC Diaper Bank
33593131875_ca921b159b_oNext month, DC Diaper Bank will distribute our 5 millionth diaper to a little one in the metro area. If you had told us that we would reach this milestone in six years we would have laughed! But we’ve gotten there because so may people have come together to make supporting vulnerable families a priority.

DC Diaper Bank was founded to ensure that all moms — all families — have what they need to thrive. Through our network of 40+ partnerships in Maryland, DC and Virginia, we distribute diapers (150,000+ each month!) and other necessary essentials, like formula, period products, adult diapers, and breastfeeding supplies, to families with young children experiencing poverty.

Diaper need is an issue for 1 in 3 families in poverty in this area and nationally. Government support like WIC or SNAP does not cover diapers, and as any parent will tell you — they are expensive, especially when you aren’t buying them in bulk. Diapers at a corner store can cost up to $.50/diaper, when a child goes through 10 diapers a day, that expense adds up quickly! Lack of diapers can lead to a host of problems, from diaper rash for babies to employment issues for grown-ups, since a supply of clean diapers is required by most child care providers.

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The moms out there doing their best in tough circumstances inspire us! At DCDB, we’ve come to realize that motherhood is a sisterhood — we help a mother out when we can, we are helped by other moms when we need it, and that’s how we raise healthy, strong, thoughtful members of the next generation.

We’re also inspired by our partner organizations, who every day find new and creative ways to engage families in their programs and support them through challenges. Finally, we’re inspired by the families that volunteer with us (1,500 each year!)– folks that are demonstrating to their children that it’s never too soon to help someone out, and that your time, and dollars, can have a real impact on someone in need.

We are excited to be broadening our definition of essentials right now — in addition to diapers, we are able to offer our partner agencies formula, wipes, period products, hygiene items and feeding supplies, and the list grows! Success for us is every child having everything they need in those critical first years of development, and every family having the support they need.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities and other was to get involved at dcdiaperbank.org

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A Local Recipe for Healthy Kids

by Emma Boel, City Blossoms
IMG_6151 City Blossoms is a nonprofit dedicated to fostering healthy, diverse communities by developing creative, kid-driven green spaces and innovative resources.

Working out of Washington DC as its home base, City Blossoms innovates new resources and techniques in urban, educational gardening and youth empowerment. City Blossoms facilitates local empowerment within predominantly black and Latino populations by partnering with schools and organizations, maintaining Community Green Spaces, and offering tools and trainings to educators and community leaders. Their holistic approach incorporates art, gardens, science, cooking, healthy living, and community building into one joyful and educational experience for people of all ages.
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The nonprofit reached a total of 3,500 students at its gardens in 2016, and boasted 300 hours of free programming at its two community green spaces in the same year. Washingtonians rave about the results. One garden parent, a city native, insists, “Programs like City Blossoms are absolutely vital to the youth of DC.”

This impactful work has recently resulted in an exciting new outcome: City Blossoms just printed a cookbook.
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Garden Gastronomy, Gastronomia del Jardin is a vibrant collection of bilingual recipes designed to help children become enthusiastic and healthy chefs. Perfect for the educator, parent, or veggie enthusiast interested in sharing the joy of cooking with kids, this artfully constructed book is full of colorful photographer and cheerful illustration to make it an appealing treat for readers of all ages. The book includes 32 bilingual garden recipes, guidance on cooking seasonally with local produce, and tips for preparing food with kids.

The recipes include snacks and dishes like Sunflower Seed Pesto, Strawberry Mint Salad, and Garden Ramen. It’s a valuable product in-and-of-itself, however, the book’s most important feature may be its local roots.

Every recipe has been made time and time again by thousands of little hands. Every dish comes with the approval of young DC gardeners, who have built this book in the same way they have built their gardens: themselves. City Blossoms wrote and published the book after testing and tasting each recipe in the gardens with young chefs. They hope it will reach educators, gardeners, parents, and food justice activists. They hope it will find readership around the country. However, they know that these dishes have already made their way into the homes of the children who provided the energy for its creation, and that feels like a great start.
FullSizeRender 8The best days at City Blossoms are those full of community. We love to have volunteers at our garden work days, participants in our Open Time programming, and visitors at our public Community Green Spaces. To buy a copy of the cookbook, to connect with us, or to become a member of our essential team of donors and partners, visit our website at cityblossoms.org.