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Respecting the Dignity of Others with Georgetown Ministry Center

By Gunther Stern, Executive Director Georgetown Ministry CenterDSC_9082

After 30 years, I will be passing the reins early next year to someone with new ideas and energy, but with a commitment to our current mission and goals.

Georgetown Ministry Center started in 1987 with just one social worker, and a mandate to provide service and shelter.

I was working in a soup kitchen in Silver Spring when I saw the position originally announced. In a previous life I had spent time with homeless people in Georgetown. I became fascinated by the mental illnesses and the lifestyle. I couldn’t resist applying. As it turned out, I ended up helping some of the people I had gotten to know years before in Georgetown.

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I have become acutely aware that while housing is important to the solution of homelessness, we need to fix our broken mental health system, too. This nation’s commitment to people with mental illness is absent, both because of misunderstanding the problem and a lack of will. We are allowing people with no insight, who are completely incapacitated by mental illness, to choose to live on the street. We need to change that and we are expanding our advocacy in this vein.

Currently, we are working with local leaders to create a dialogue about the need for more aggressive interventions for people who are homeless because of severe mental illness. There needs to be a better policy than allowing people with little or no insight and judgement to choose to live on the street in squalor.

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We have grown over the years into a year-round drop-in center, providing psychiatric and medical outreach, social and mental health services, case management, shelter and housing support, handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and laundry facilities. We have been working on plan with a foundation to use our space more effectively. We now have plans which will add some space but also better utilize the space we have. We are hoping to begin a capital campaign soon.

As the only homeless service provider in the immediate neighborhood, we serves one of the very neediest populations. Many are resistant to services and treatment, so we create a welcoming environment that fosters friendly relationships and, ultimately, trust.

Gunther Outreach Bench

I am inspired by Bill and Melinda Gates. After building a fortune at a very young age, they turned their lives and genius to helping others, full-time. That inspires me to constantly review our mission. I am always assessing our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). I think about the risks of any action, plan, or for that matter, inaction and lack of plan.

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Last year, we reached 1,000 homeless individuals, including 60-70 “regulars,” providing 5,391 showers and 9,879 sandwiches. An on-staff psychiatrist served 100, while a general practitioner provided care to 350. Moving from the streets to housing is profoundly challenging for this population, but a few achieve it each year and we support them at every step.

I consider Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban for her outspoken advocacy for education for girls, a personal hero. Even after the devastating injury, she returned to speaking out. She would not be silenced. It reminds me to respect the dignity of our constituents, and never talk down to them.

We seek lasting solutions for homelessness, one person at a time. For more information about us, or to volunteer, email us at info@gmcgt.org or call us 202-388-8301.

Hunger Knows No Season: What will you do today?

According to a recent article by Tana Ganeva in AlterNet (“5 Worst States to be a Poor Kid”), “Last year, America placed next to last in a ranking of child well-being in 35 developed countries, barely beating out Romania.” This is a shocking statement — or perhaps not. It’s no secret that one in five American children lives in “relative” poverty, but what is striking is that “close to half of poverty-stricken kids live in extreme poverty, which means their families earn less than half the poverty level of $11,746 per year for a family of four.”

Despite the efforts of many terrific organizations hell bent on pulling people out of poverty — like DC-based Share Our Strength whose mission is to end childhood hunger, and the many charities in the Catalogue for Philanthropy — there has been, according to Ganeva, a 23 percent rise in child hunger. In some parts of the country, 1 child out 4 is poor. There is nothing acceptable about a 25 percent poverty rate for children. While children in poverty do benefit from safety net programs, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP/food stamps, as it is commonly known), and advocates such as D.C. Hunger Solutions (which works closely with the city government to make sure food policies are effective and ensures that those who serve needy families can connect with existing nutrition programs), there is no question that as individuals we must do more to aid our neighbors in need.

Nearly two hundred Catalogue charities are dedicated to supporting Human Services. Catalogue charities such as D.C. Hunger Solutions, Arlington Food Assistance Center, Food for Others, Manna Food Center and Our Daily Bread all have programs designed to help families in poverty, and each has very tangible ways for the community to help: at Arlington Food Assistance Center, $100 will supply 1 week’s food for 10 families, and at Manna Food Center, the same amount supplies Smart Sacks (backpacks full of kid-friendly food) for 25 school kids. Volunteers for Our Daily Bread can organize a drive to collect grocery cards, while at Food for Others, they can help the warehouse staff record incoming and outgoing food, pack emergency food and USDA boxes and sort and shelve products.

While it isn’t December, and the “giving season” is months away, the truth is that hunger knows no season. Yes, the number of children in poverty is staggering, and on some levels, even intimidating, but by taking simple steps and helping our neighbors in need throughout the year, we can make a real difference in ending child hunger in Greater Washington. What will you do today?

World Food Day

Today is World Food Day where organizations of all sizes mobilize to end hunger. In that spirit, here are a few food-related items to consider:

1. An estimated 870 million people in the world are chronically hungry. About 60 percent of those are women. In the U.S., more than 16 million kids live in food-insecure households. In DC, 15.7% of households suffer from food insecurity; in Maryland, 15.6% of Prince George’s County households risk going hungry food compared to the state’s average of 13.4%. (from Feeding America)

2. Programs that work to provide kids with free lunches & breakfasts reach over 9.6 million kids each year, but an equal number of eligible students are not enrolled. Hear one story about a 12 year-old student going to school hungry and its impact from an “Education Nation” broadcast here.

3. While the SNAP and WIC programs are currently funded through the end of the month, some local food banks are gearing up for a crunch, due to delayed benefits and the lingering government shutdown. Federal assistance aside, area food banks have seen a 25% increase in demand since 2006.

In greater Washington, there are so many organizations working tirelessly to combat hunger every day. Consider getting involved — by volunteering, making a donation, starting a food drive — with one of our partners today, including: Arlington Food Assistance Center, DC Hunger Solutions, Food for Others, Manna Food Center, Miriam’s Kitchen, Our Daily Bread

 

 

Guest Post: Hunger in America

by Billy Shore, Share Our Strength

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would cut nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). The measure will kick off of SNAP at least 4 million Americans at risk of hunger and cause more than 200,000 kids to lose access to free school meals.

This legislation comes at a time when SNAP households are already preparing to see a November 1 cut in benefits that means approximately 20 fewer meals per month for a family of four. SNAP is the most powerful and effective tool we have for combating childhood hunger and has been proven to reduce poverty. Nearly 50% of SNAP participants are children, and cutting this program has major ramifications for the economy as well as the health and well-being of our kids, seniors, and working poor.

Making sure our fellow citizens have enough to eat isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. When children get the healthy food they need, they learn more at school and ward off long-term developmental and health problems. SNAP helps low-wage workers stay employed and feed their families even when working full-time at minimum wage leaves them in poverty. In short, we can’t have a strong economy with weak children and families.

You can learn more about the long-term economic ramifications of cutting SNAP by watching the video here: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/now/53052546#53052546

Share our Strength will continue to fight for the critical SNAP funding that helps families meet their children’s nutritional needs at home, and to connect families to key federal nutrition programs like summer meals and school breakfast where children learn and play. Cutting $40million from SNAP should simply not be an option.

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Note: A few of the Catalogue nonprofits that help feed the poor and working poor include: ALIVE!, Arlington Food Assistance Center,? Food for Others, Manna Food Center, Miriam’s Kitchen and Our Daily Bread.

Around Town: April 27-28

Looking for a great way to spend your weekend? Catalogue nonprofits have great events that you can not only attend, but volunteer at as well!! If you go to an event, tweet about it using hashtag #CatalogueCheers!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Race to End Poverty

A Wider Circle
Featuring a 4K run/walk and a tot trot! In 2012, A Wider Circle furnished 3,650 homes. This year, we hope to furnish 4,000 homes – 4K! Run or walk on April 27 and help us accomplish a 4K in service! Enter as an individual, as a team, or join the Bed Brigade.
When: Saturday April 27, 2013 (09:00 AM)
Where: Meadowbrook Park, 7901 Meadowbrook Lane, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Fee? yes $33 for individual 4K entries; $20 for ages 11 – 20; free for 10 and under 4K participants and Tot Trot participants free; $33 for the Bed Brigade
Contact: Ann Marie Schaeffing, (301) 608-3504
For more information: click here

Living Well With Cancer One-Day Retreat For Caregivers

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts
One-day Caregiver Retreats aim to help strengthen innate healing mechanisms through group support, yoga and stress reduction, creativity, and nutrition.
When: Saturday April 27, 2013 (09:00 AM – 4:00 PM)
Where: Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, 1632 U Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Fee? yes $40 per person
Contact: Smith Center, (202) 483-8600
For more information: click here

Grocery Deliveries to Low-Income Seniors in Columbia Heights

We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
We Are Family will be delivering free grocery bags to over 250 low-income seniors in the Columbia Heights, Petworth, and Adams Morgan neighborhoods.
When: Saturday April 27, 2013 (10:00 AM – 1:00 PM)
Where: Kelsey Apartments, 3322 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20010
Fee? no
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will help assemble and deliver grocery bags. Although a car is not needed, it is helpful. Some of our delivery routes can be done on foot, while others require a car.
Contact: Mark Andersen, (202) 487-8698
For more information: click here

REVISION dance company

Dance Place
In JUST BE, Artistic Director Shannon Quinn leads REVISION dance company in exploring the raw emotions and personal experiences of working with people with disabilities. The evening length modern dance work invites the audience and dancers to focus on the abilities of individuals, instead of the challenges and stereotypes associated with disabilities.
When: Saturday April 27, 2013 (8:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th Street NE, Washington, DC 20017
Fee? yes $22 General Admission; $17 Members, Seniors, Teachers and Artists; $10 College Students; $8 Children (17 and under)
Contact: Carolyn Kamrath, (202) 269-1608
For more information: click here

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mass in B Minor featuring Agnes Zsigovics

Washington Bach Consort
Johann Sebastian Bach Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 We end our 35th Season with the monumental Mass in B Minor, a work Bach returned to again and again during his life. Although it draws upon Lutheran and Catholic traditions the B Minor Mass holds deep significance for people of all religious and cultural origins. Bach scholar Christoph Wolff describes the B Minor Mass as a summary of his writing for voice, not only in its variety of styles, compositional devices, and range of sonorities, but also in its high level of technical polish … Bach’s mighty setting preserved the musical and artistic creed of its creator for posterity. Pre-Concert Lecture: 2:00pm, Talking Bach is a series of free pre-concert lectures by noted Bach scholars one hour before performances at National Presbyterian Church. The lectures focus not only on the musical elements of the work that will be performed, but also on the historical context in which the music was created. Talks are designed to enhance the concertgoers’ appreciation and enjoyment of the music they are about to hear. The series is open to all ticket holders.
When: Sunday April 28, 2013 (3:00 PM)
Where: National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016
Fee? yes Tickets $23-$65, Students 18 and younger $10, Pay Your Age 18-38
Volunteer Info: Usher, Sell Tickets, Direct Patrons, Clean up after Reception
Contact: Washington Bach Consort, (202) 429-2121
For more information: click here

Positive, Sustainable, Change

by Eleanor Aldous, Catalogue Intern

This year, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) awarded Catalogue nonprofit Pueblo a Pueblo the prestigious 2013 Sustainability Award for their Organic School Garden Project. Created in 2003, this award is bestowed on organizations, individuals, and businesses who dedicate their efforts to innovative, sustainable practices. Pueblo a Pueblo’s Organic School Garden Project goes above and beyond such criteria through their implementation of sustainable gardens that serve thousands of community members in Guatemala. The Project was created in 2010 as a way to ensure the nourishment and health of children living in rural villages near Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. Funded by the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, the Organic School Garden Project provides hands-on experience in garden-growing and teaches Guatemalan students and teachers how their choices affect their health, communities, and environment. The project diversifies the local diet of these rural, coffee-growing communities while simultaneously providing an opportunity to learn how to independently flourish in the future. Only three years after its creation, the Organic School Garden Project now serves over 1,000 Guatemalan teachers and school children and thrives in six different Guatemalan primary schools.

Pueblo a Pueblo’s Executive Director, Rosemary Trent, elaborates on the issues facing these communities:

In a region of the country where the production of coffee has become an increasingly important income generating crop and means for families to earn a livelihood, food security has become increasingly challenging…Coffee growing families are often unable to buy the daily staples they need for a healthy and nutritious diet. The impact of the lack of resources is severely felt in the rural areas of Guatemala, where chronic malnutrition is widespread. Local families commonly consume only staple grains like rice and maize. Good health depends on dietary diversity having access to nutrients like protein, as well as vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. Food insecurity worsens during the ‘thin months’ los meses flacos, when money earned during the coffee harvest runs out, work is scarce and families can’t afford food.

As the Organic School Garden Project primarily operates in areas heavily dependent on coffee production, the SCAA Achievement Award is more than fitting. Established in 1982, SCAA is now the world’s leading coffee trade association, having contributed to the expansion and success of the coffee industry for over 25 years. The SCAA values innovation among other organizations where the production of coffee greatly influences their work; Pueblo a Pueblo demonstrates this through its program with rural, coffee-growing communities in Guatemala and their commitment to sustainability.

Founded in 2001, Pueblo a Pueblo formulates and establishes long-term solutions and projects dedicated to child education, health and nutrition in Latin America, with specific emphasis on Guatemala. Pueblo a Pueblo believes that meaningful and lasting change occurs through the direct involvement of those communities benefiting from such change. This belief allows these Guatemalan communities to provide a brighter future for generations to come independently and proudly after Pueblo a Pueblo’s initial helping hand. For more information on Pueblo a Pueblo, check out their Catalogue page here, and learn more about other Catalogue nonprofits working to improve the relationship between people and their environments here.

The Two Sides of Hunger

Hunger and obesity may seem like far ends on the spectrum of food and nutrition, but both are symptoms of a near-epidemic problem in the US: food insecurity and malnutrition. Hunger’s victims suffer from the inability to provide sufficient food for themselves or their family; and a substantial group of the Americans now considered obese are either children, come from low-income families, or both. This week, at a panel discussion at the Center for American Progress, representatives from the private sector, public sector, and nonprofit sector shared thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of hunger in the US.

The statistics are staggering. After the “great recession” of 2008, the number of Americans living in food insecure households jumped to nearly 50 million, and over 16 million of those are children under age 18. In addition, one in three children is considered obese today, and that number increases to nearly half of all children living in poverty. On the other hand, programs that have proven to be effective on the front lines of ensuring food security for Americans falling into poverty (including school lunch programs, SNAP, and WIC) are facing intense scrutiny and potential cuts in upcoming budget discussions.

Fortunately, there are also some great examples of best practices and cross-sector collaborations making headway on not only alleviating hunger today, but attacking its root cause (poverty), of which malnutrition is only a symptom. Organizations like Share Our Strength are disproving the myth that healthy food is too expensive for lower-income families. This perception, and the all-too-real occurrence of food deserts across the county, highlight why children living in poverty are disproportionately like to be overweight or obese, as compared to children in middle- or higher-income families.

In the Greater Washington area, nonprofits like Brainfood and FRESHFARM Markets also work to make fresh, healthy, and nutritious food available to all – regardless of income. Brainfood is a non-profit youth development organization that uses food as a tool to build life skills and promotes healthy living in a fun and safe environment. A majority of the students involved with Brainfood struggle with poverty, violence, and a school system that fails to meet their needs. Through Brainfood’s programs, students gain practical cooking skills, an introduction to the food industry, a framework for nutritious eating, and leadership experience that prepares them to make a difference in their community.

FRESHFARM Markets is both a collection of farmer’s markets in the Chesapeake Bay region, as well as a voice advocating on behalf of farmers and the right to fresh, local food. They offer four different programs that help low-income people buy healthy foods in DC and Maryland markets — accepting SNAP (EBT/Foods Stamps), WIC, and SFMNP vouchers, and offering an incentive Matching Dollars program for those vouchers.

These are only two examples among the many organizations working to relieve hunger in our community — from Capital Area Food Bank, which distributes 33 million pounds of food every year, to local food pantries like Arlington Food Assistance Center, which serves 1,600 families a week. For more information on Catalogue charities addressing hunger and poverty in your community, check out the online catalogue here, and learn about ways that you can make a difference as a donor or volunteer.

From the Field: Miriam’s Kitchen

By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

An early Saturday morning, in a church basement in Foggy Bottom, DC parents bring their children to learn about what it means to be homeless in Washington. Last Saturday, Miriam’s Kitchen hosted Coats and Coffee, an education and awareness event that offered kids the chance to do service around the “kitchen” while also learning about the clients that Miriam’s serves — in an age-appropriate way. Sherika Brooks and I stopped by to drop off our donations of coffee (Miriam’s goes through thousands of cups a week) and learn a bit more about the services they offer.

Miriam’s Kitchen is unique among nonprofits offering outreach services for those experiencing homelessness. As one of Miriam’s Kitchen’s case managers explained to us, Miriam’s operates first and foremost under the context of hospitality — welcoming clients with a smile and a nametag (whatever that name might be for the day), offering a cup of hot coffee, a freshly prepared meal, and then the option to learn about and access additional services if desired. Relationships are the focus == and meeting clients where they’re at is the method. Another unique aspect of Miriam’s Kitchen program is Miriam’s Studio, an art therapy program that helps to “build a strong community and relationships with their guests.” The products of this program cover the walls of the dining room at Miriam’s Kitchen — beautiful pieces of art that show the diversity of life experiences that Miriam’s guests bring into the space.

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From the Field: Thrive DC

By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator
& Sherika Brooks, Executive Assistant

This Saturday, the Catalogue team in DC (Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator, and Sherika Brooks, Executive Assistant) spent the afternoon volunteering at Day of Nurture, an event organized by In One Day and supported by Catalogue nonprofit Thrive DC. For the second month in a row, Day of Nurture has provided meals to the homeless in Franklin Square, as well as information about services that Thrive DC offers for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Along with a great crew of volunteers from MeetUp.com and DC Volunteers, Sherika and I pitched in to provide a healthy meal of donated food, drinks, and even popsicles to a group of over 100 individuals who either spend time in the park regularly or were informed about the event during canvassing the week before. Both Sherika and I felt lucky to experience the work of a Catalogue nonprofit first hand, and look forward to spending more time volunteering with Catalogue nonprofits over the coming months.

Thankfully for In One Day, Washington DC is one city that still allows the provision of outdoor public meals for the homeless at a time when many cities are pushing to ban the practice. The Huffington Post recently wrote about the city of Philadelphia’s ban on feeding the homeless outdoors, following the lead of other major cities including Atlanta, San Diego and Los Angeles. Over 50 cities across the country have enacted anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws. Public officials who support this legislation argue that the laws prevent the spread of illness, direct the homeless to other services, and protect local parks from damage. However, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty reports that the same cities that have enacted such laws “have recently seen an increase in overall homelessness and family homelessness.” We hope that DC continues to allow direct service and meal provision to individuals experiencing homelessness throughout the city and hope to contribute further to efforts such as Day of Nurture in the future!

For more information about additional Catalogue nonprofits offering services to Greater Washington’s homeless population, check out Catalogue’s Human Services nonprofits here.

Summer Hunger

Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

“Summertime, and the living is easy.” But not for everyone. For many children across the country, summer is a time when free or reduced school meals stop and kids struggle to maintain consistent nourishment. According to Share Our Strength, although more than 21 million US students receive free or reduced lunches at school, only 3 million kids receive free meals during the summer. National organizations like Share Our Strength, which is committed to eradicating childhood hunger in America, and Feeding America, a national food bank network, coordinate programs across the country to mitigate child hunger and provide summer meals.

Nationwide, DC stands out in terms of the services that it provides to low-income students during summer vacation. The Washington Post published an article this week, detailing programs offered by several District offices that address both the lack of affordable meals and educational programming that many students face in the summer. The DC Public Library, DDC Hunger Solutions, and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) have teamed up to “sponsor free meals at 11 public libraries this summer to encourage reading.” Thanks to programs like these, the Food and Research Action Center (FRAC) “ranks the District as the top jurisdiction in the country for serving summer meals to low income children, with the city reaching 73.5 percent of those eligible for such meals.”

Several Catalogue for Philanthropy nonprofits are also part of the movement, providing additional services to students over the summer. One such organization is a new 2012-13 Catalogue nonprofit, Horizons Greater Washington, which focuses on “mitigating the summer decline in students’ academic achievement” by offering summer programs to boost interest in learning and improve children’s scholastic achievement during the entire year. Higher Achievement’s programming includes a Summer Academy for students to keep up their coursework; and Horton’s Kids “provides literacy programming to prevent the ‘summer slide’ and to prepare children for the coming school year.”

Does your nonprofit or foundation support additional summer programming for kids to provide for their nutritional and/or educational needs? Share your comments and experiences with us!