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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.


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.


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.


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 or call us 202-388-8301.

Inspiration to Action

By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

On Monday night, the Catalogue celebrated its 10th anniversary (or birthday, as many like to call it). Surrounded by a crowd of nearly 600 friends, family, nonprofits, supporters, and other advocates of the Catalogue initiative, we celebrated the work of the 325 nonprofits that are part of the Catalogue community.

Thank you to all who attended, volunteered, and participated. From the Catalogue Ambassadors, who mixed and mingled with the reception crowd, to the nonprofits who choreographed incredible performances for the stage, to the community supporters who offered their voices in testimonials throughout the performance, we appreciate your support of our work.

To the Catalogue guests and supporters who attended our benefit dinner following those performances, we thank you for your continued commitment to the Catalogue’s movement — and hope that you?ll continue making our dreams a reality for many years to come. We are particularly grateful for the continued support of the Harman Family Foundation and Jane Harman for going above and beyond to inspire others to become a part of our cause.

The Right Place

[...] I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

– “Birches,” American poet Robert Frost, born today in 1874

In this spirit, learn more about DC SCORES — which combines physical activity (soccer) with a Power of Poetry program to inspire young people to lead healthy lives and be engaged students.

What Inspires You?

From yesterday’s “Inspiration to Action 2011” at the Harman Center for the Arts:

Here we are. YEAR NINE. To the 2011-12 charities featured in our new Catalogue and to those of you being re-featured on our website this year, it is truly an honor, and a pleasure, to see you here today. I hope you are already feeling inspired by what we are doing together. [...] Here at the Catalogue we believe in the power of telling stories — and in the hard work that makes it possible for donors and volunteers to tap into the in-depth information and guidance that is the foundation of our work. We want people who read the Catalogue and visit us on the web, to explore their own philanthropic interests and find what matters to them — knowing that we have already done the hard work that makes meaningful personal choice possible.

– Barbara Harman, President, Catalogue for Philanthropy

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We Want to Hear From You …

Attention, Catalogue nonprofits. This morning, we wanted to give you an extra boost of encouragement to enter our 2011 Video Contest — if you have not already done so. (In which case, thank you and good luck!) We’ve just extended the deadline to September 29.

So here’s the deal. No need to have a multi-camera, crazy cinematography production. You are more than welcome to create the video on your phone or laptop in one shot. Think compelling, simple, and 2-minutes in length.

This year’s topic is Heroes and Heroines. More specifically, what person’s spirit and energy and determination encourages you to do what you do every day? The top three (heroic) videos will be screened at Inspiration to Action on November 7, 2011 and … the nonprofit with the winning video will receive a $1,000 prize. Cool, yes? Voting is open to everyone, do encourage your friends and supporters to vote for you.

Full instructions are right here. And check out this video from Catalogue President Barbara Harman to learn more.