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Past, Present, and Future: Our Team is Our Greatest Treasure

Like all community-based nonprofits, Art Enables‘ team is our most important asset. We are small but mighty, with just four full-time and one part-time staff members to advance our mission of creating opportunities for artists with disabilities to make, market, and earn income from their original and compelling artwork.

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The process of growing to a staff of five has taken 15 years. In Art Enables first year in 2001, our founder, Joyce Muis-Lowery, accomplished the vast majority of our work with support from a small group of very committed volunteers. Art Enables at that time was focused on its studio arts and exhibitions programs, both very entrepreneurial in nature. Through the studio arts program, our resident artists experiment, develop, and create their artwork in a supported and professional studio environment. Our exhibitions program showcases and promotes our artists through large group, small group, and individual exhibitions both onsite in our galleries and through offsite shows at local, national, and international venues. In addition to fundraising and managing operations, Joyce, with the help of that small group of volunteers, led almost all aspects of our programs in those early days.

In 2002, Art Enables hired its first full-time employee, an Art Director, devoted to overseeing a significant portion of the operations elements of the program. This role was an important first hire because the organization had just moved into a new physical location, our first opportunity to really develop and expand our work. Managing the onsite programs, along with developing a public outlet for our artists’ work, required experience of and savvy with the broader arts community.

As we continued to build upon and improve our programs, we recognized there was still more we could do to engage the general public and to foster our artists’ success as professionals. We piloted our community arts program in 2012, and now we host a variety of workshops, joint art projects, events, and exhibitions as a way for the public to join our artists in the art making (and enjoyment!) process. A mainstay of the community arts program is our 2nd Saturday Workshops, which now regularly host hundreds of DC area residents, supporters, neighbors, families, art lovers, and passers-by at each free event. (We hope to see you at one check out our news and events page for upcoming happenings!)

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As the expansion of our program offerings show, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount since 2001. Art Enables artists have sold nearly $1 million in artwork since our founding, and have exhibited work in hundreds of exhibitions and shows. We’ve worked hard to find new ways to advance our mission and to enrich the lives and careers of our artists.

Yet there’s still so much more we can and want to do. As we look ahead to our next 15 years, we see incredible opportunity for us to strengthen our creative and vocational assistance to artists in the program, increase their income opportunities, and support them as they build their careers as professional artists. We are also driven to enhance and broaden our profile not only as a gallery and studio, but as an arts venue and community space that fosters artistic expression and collaboration as well. And through all our work, we want to strengthen our voice as a leader on issues that impact the disabilities and arts communities.

With those goals on the horizon, we have our work cut out for us! That’s why as a first step towards success on this next phase of our work, we’re excited to add our first-ever dedicated fundraising professional to our staff.

The role we created, Development and Communications Manager, is the result of much deliberation, conversation, and excitement for our future. Investing in a new staff member is always a big commitment. That said, I see all the ways that investing in development is critical to moving our work and our goals forward. Art Enables is committed to supporting the artists in our studio on their professional journey, and this exciting new position will be key to that effort.

Please help Art Enables find its new Development and Communications Manager. Share this link – Development and Communications Manager or apply yourself!

What’s the next big idea? Young Social Entrepreneurs Pitch at LearnServe

by Emma Strother, Development Manager, LearnServe International
cfpdc2015-LearnServeInternational-5955-1840Immigration. Gentrification. Environmental issues. Teen mental health. Where will the next big idea originate? They can’t yet vote. They are years from becoming credentialed doctors, lawyers, and teachers. They may compete for jobs that have not yet been invented. But today they can begin as changemakers. In a moment when adults often feel powerless – overwhelmed by daunting social, environmental, and political challenges – how can we set a different tone for our young people? How do we challenge them to empathize, innovate, and persist when others say it can’t be done? How do we remind them that social change begins with them?

LearnServe Community 3 (1) At LearnServe, middle and high school students are not just the leaders of tomorrow. They’re the leaders of today. And in 30-second “elevator pitches” on December 7th, they will debut their plans to make a positive impact in their communities and schools.

LearnServe International believes in the power of young people to create change, and in the power of change work to shape young leaders. Through interconnected in-school, after school, and summer abroad trip programs, we train DC-area middle and high school students to be social entrepreneurs and global citizens, equipping them with the business skills, vision, and tenacity to tackle social challenges at home and abroad.
#StartsWithMe 2018 Fellows 1The LearnServe Innovator’s Coffee House is an opportunity to witness the start of our students’ social venture projects, meet the LearnServe community, and promote youth-led social innovation in the DC area. The event was held Thursday, December 7th at Impact Hub DC. Here is a video of the event. A special thanks to Impact Hub DC for providing the space for this event.

This is video from last year’s LearnServe Coffee House and some of the students most inspiring stories: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQtxZITQkps&t=5s.

If you are inspired by what you see, we would love to meet you at the Coffee House! To learn more, visit our website at learn-serve.org, send an email to info@learn-serve.org, or connect with us on social media #learnserve @learnserve.

Promoting Healthy Food and Culinary Careers with La Cocina VA

By Rocio Caicedo & Carol Duffy Clay, La Cocina VA

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La Cocina VA works to promote healthy food and empower immigrants with culinary jobs and entrepreneurship skills. We generate social and economic change by helping vulnerable individuals to develop careers and to open businesses within the food service and hospitality industries. Additionally, the organization facilitates access to healthy and nutritious food for neighbors in need.

Patricia Funegra founded the organization in 2014 with the purpose of empowering unemployed members of the Latino community to secure a job by offering comprehensive bilingual Spanish/English culinary training and by giving back to the community through preparing meals for the Food Assistance Program. Recently, La Cocina VA has expanded its reach to offer an additional Small Business Development Program.

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Since operations began in September 2014, La Cocina VA has served 74 individuals; 90% of these individuals have been immigrant women, most of whom come from backgrounds of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and severe financial insecurity. To date 86% of the students graduating from the job training program are fully employed throughout the Metropolitan area and are working with some of the largest corporations in the region.

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Take Karina Herrera, for example, who five years ago didn’t know how to break free from a very problematic marriage while living in a foreign country and culture she didn’t understand. She faced a battle for her own economic independence and the ability to take care of three young children on her own.

A year ago, Karina was referred to La Cocina VA to participate in the full-time 13-week culinary job-training program. It was during the training that she received instruction in culinary techniques, vocational English, food safety, and job readiness. She also completed five days of on-the-job mentoring and a one-month paid internship at one of the organization’s employer partners from the food industry.

At the end of the training, Karina obtained two industry-recognized certifications: a Completion in Bilingual Culinary Job Training Program from Northern Virginia Community College, and a Workforce Development and Food Protection Manager Certification, ServSafe, from the National Restaurant Association.

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Today Karina’s world has changed. She is now supporting her children as a financially independent mother and food service professional. She currently works at the Hyatt Regency Washington as a Second Cook making $22/hr and receives benefits and health insurance coverage for her and her family; she is advancing her career in the culinary arts and serves as a model for not only her own children but also to the other students and families that enter the kitchen at La Cocina VA.

Success stories like Karina’s are the fuel that keeps the staff and volunteers at La Cocina VA working hard to continuing affecting change within the lives of more students – the next generation of cooks.

For volunteering and other engagement opportunities, please contact Daniela Hurtado danielahurtado@lacocinava.org

A Transformative & Empowering Community with Calvary Women’s Services

By Daniela Jungova, Development Associate, Calvary Women’s Services

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Calvary Women’s Services offers housing, health, employment and education programs that empower homeless women in Washington, DC to change their lives.

As the state of homelessness in DC continues to be critical, Calvary reaches women who are most likely to be trapped in cycles of poverty and homelessness, women who have experienced domestic violence, are struggling with substance addiction and are living with mental illness.

Calvary’s programs address the root causes of homelessness, so women can take control of their lives and plan for their future. In addition to meeting women’s basic needs by providing safe housing, meals and other amenities, all women in our programs have access to services that empower them to regain their health, build new life skills, and achieve financial independence.

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Our comprehensive services for women include personalized case management, life skills, education and arts classes (LEAP), health services, addiction recovery meetings, and job placement services (Step Up DC). Women who obtain jobs through Step Up DC have an average hourly wage of $13, and 90% of those who secure employment with Step Up DC’s support transition into stable housing.

“Calvary is a great place to live if you’re serious about making a change. I’m working on changing my life from the inside out. Nothing will stop me from doing what I need to do to turn my life around,” says Calvary resident Adrienne.

Now that summer is in full swing, women love to spend time on Calvary’s back patio. Just a couple of weeks ago, the patio got a major makeover thanks to the generous support of the U.S. Green Building Council – National Capital Area.

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The patio has undergone improvement projects that include the planting of new vegetable plants (such as peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes), herbs and three beautiful peach trees, as well as the installment of a “green wall” with climbing vines.

The patio quickly became a welcome respite from women’s busy days. Women now enjoy their education classes outside at the tables, and take ownership over maintaining and watering the garden. Every day, they check on the growing vegetables and find joy in tasting the results of their work.

CFP4But the new garden is not the only place where women’s hard work is paying off. Calvary’s safe, respectful community as a whole is a truly amazing place of transformation – a place where it is possible for women to heal from histories of trauma, build supportive relationships, and gain the skills and confidence to live independently.

We believe that every woman has the strengths and gifts that allow her to make these positive changes. Thanks to Calvary’s small, intimate environment, we are able to meet each woman as an individual and give her the support she deserves as she works to overcome her challenges. Our model works – every five days, a woman moves from Calvary into her own home.

CFP1I invite you to learn more about Calvary at www.calvaryservices.org. We are currently looking for volunteers who can lead various life skills, education and arts classes, assist women with job applications, prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals, and staff the front desk. We have opportunities for groups and individuals alike – check out all of our volunteer opportunities here. You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on social media to stay up-to-date with all of Calvary’s happenings.

We hope you will join our transformative, empowering community!

In the (Snow Day) News…

A few highlights from last week’s news, in case your paper is buried in the snow!

Education

According to a Washington Post article, approximately 6,000 state-funded preschool slots in Virginia were not filled this year beucase localities did not invest the required matching funds to take full advantage of the program. Though data show $23 million earmarked for the Virginia Preschool Initiative went unclaimed, at a cost of $6,000 per student, some 60 districts said they were constrained by lack of resources and space and did not fill their programs. In Northern Virginia, Arlington was the only district to fill 100 percent of funded spots. Some advocates note that the state’s pricetag does not reflect the cost of a high-quality pre-K program, which would run closer to $9,300 per student. This discrepancy leaves communities scrambling to make up the difference. Virginia’s cost per pupil is in keeping with regional spending: $8,000 per student in Maryland and nearly $15,000 per student in the District, which covers all 3- and 4-year olds.

Also in the Post: 100 local school boards in Virginia, including the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, and Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, are challenging a measure that allows for state takeover of struggling local schools. Resolutions filed by these board support a lawsuit currently fighting the General Assembly measure, which affects any school that fails the state’s accreditation or is accredited with a warning for three consecutive years.

Minimum Wage Across the Region

On the heels of D.C.’s minimum wage hike to $11.50 by 2016, Maryland Governor O’Malley has proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, up from $7.25 currently. D.C.’s increase was signed by Mayor Gray last week, and by 2017, the District and Maryland’s Montgomery & PG Counties will all have a minimum wage of $11.50.

Housing

The good news is that Maryland’s housing prices are on the rise. Prince George’s County, one of the region’s hardest hit during the foreclosure crisis, saw a 16 percent housing price increase last year – the second highest in the region. The bad news, according to a WAMU article, is that those rising prices are encouraging banks to foreclose more quickly on homeowners who are late on payments, causing a soar in foreclose rates as banks work through a backlog of foreclosures from the recession. PG County received $10 million in a national mortgage settlement, but very little goes to mortgage assistance, helping approximately 200 homeowners. While most struggling homeowners in PG County owe less than $10,000, many lost income in the recession and “even getting current on their mortgage may not make their home affordable.”

Local Giving & Our Region

The 2013 Combined Federal Campaign is over but reports from the Nonprofit Quarterly & the Federal Times indicate a “sharp decline” in this year’s giving. In the National Capital Region, the largest CFC campaign, pledges were approximately $47 million going into the CFC’s last day, down from nearly $62 million last year. The CFC peaked nationally at $283 million in 2009 and raised $258 million last year, but was hampered by government furloughs, the shutdown in October and coincided with a three-year freeze on federal pay scales. Some 2,000 local charities and 2,500 national charities participated in the 2013 CFC.

More than a third of of greater Washington zip codes are “super zips” according to the American Enterprise Institute. WAMU reports that these zips are mostly contiguous and rank in the top 5 percent nationally on scales of average income and number of adults with college degrees. That means households with an average income of $120,000+ and 7 out of 10 adults with a college degree. Check out the Post’s map of our region’s “superzips” here.

New Skills (and Words)

From “Older workers face challenges in DC job market” in the Washington Post (Local):

Elected in 2010, DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray campaigned on a pledge to reduce the District’s high unemployment rate. His One City One Hire initiative, announced in September, is intended to link 10,000 D.C. residents with jobs within a year.

So far, though, the program has struggled to reach older workers, who often lose out to younger workers in a city where the jobless rate is 9.9 percent and competition for work can be stiff. [...]

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In The News …

Residents Rally Against Cuts To DC Social Service Spending (WAMU 88.5): “They all turned out to a rally on the Wilson Building’s steps Monday morning, calling for Mayor Vincent Gray to spare funding cuts to social service programs and initiatives that help low-income DC residents. The rally was organized by the advocacy group DC Fair Budget Coalition. Mayor Gray is expected to release his proposed budget March 23 [...] Last year, Mayor Gray proposed $187 million in cuts, 60 percent of which were to social services.” According to Janelle Treibitz, campaign organizer of the coalition, Mayor Gray could propose a change to a current DC law (which mandates that all leftover money from the current fiscal year go into the city’s savings) and use half of this year’s budget surplus to prevent future program cuts. What do you think?

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In The News …

Maryland’s ‘achievement gap’ highlighted by new advocacy group (Washington Post): “Maryland has the second largest disparity in the country between low-income students and their wealthier classmates on the 8th grade math test the fourth largest socio-economic disparity in the country on the corresponding 8th grade English test,” MarylandCAN reports in their “State of Maryland Public Education.” Says MarylandCAN executive director Curtis Valentine, “We have a lot to be proud of in Maryland when it comes to educating our kids … but we struggle to serve all Maryland students.”
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Jobs Growing

From The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Nonprofits added jobs at an average annual rate of more than 2 percent from 2000 to 2010, while for-profit jobs were cut by 0.6 percent each year on average, according to a new study.

Even during the recession years of 2008 and 2009, charities increased their employment by nearly 2 percent, while for-profit jobs declined by nearly 4 percent, according to the report, which was based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
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In The News …

Regional jobless rates fall in November (Washington Post): “Steady private sector growth drove down the unemployment rates in the District, Maryland, and Virginia for the second consecutive month in November, according to a US Labor Department report released Tuesday. The data showed that the District’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.6 from 11 percent the month before, fueled mainly by gains in the professional and business services sector and in education and health.” Virginia’s jobless level fell 0.2 percent (from 6.4 to 6.2), while Maryland’s dropped 0.3 percent (from 7.2 to 6.9).

Leadership needed to extend DC school day (Greater Greater Washington): “Both the Washington Teachers’ Union and DC Council agree that DCPS should likewise increase teachers’ time on task, but no one is showing needed leadership to make it happen [...] The innovation that is perhaps most common in successful charter schools, according to a new research study, is an extended school day. On a comprehensive ranking of public charter schools by educational outcomes released by the DC Charter School Board, all of the top performing charter middle schools have school days longer than the 6.5 hour DCPS school day.” Do you agree? If so, what is needed to drive such a change?

Americans Are Most Generous, Global Poll Finds (Chronicle of Philanthropy): “Americans give more to help others than the residents of 152 other countries, according to a new global survey. That’s a big change from last year, when the United States ranked No. 5. people whether they had donated money to a charity, volunteered their time, or helped a stranger in the previous month.” Ireland and Australia closely followed the United States in the rankings, with the United Kingdom and New Zealand tied for fourth position.