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Friendly Visitors and Strong Partnerships at Senior Services of Alexandria

by Mary Giordano & Mary Lee Anderson

friendly visitor

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

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

By Tulin Ozdeger, Co-Executive Director, We Are Family

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.

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: 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!

Sustainability is Front and Center at Iona Senior Services

by Rosie Aquila, Iona Senior Services

Iona’s Farm-to-Table program has been “greening” the community for more than three years. Now, we’re turning our attention to our backyard.

Wellness-Garden (1)Last year, Iona’s Food Access Coordinator Ashlea Steiner had an idea: what if we could encourage sustainable and green food practices right here at Iona?

Ashlea was inspired by her experience running our Farm-to-Table program, which gleans fresh and local produce from DC farmer’s markets that would otherwise be discarded, and distributes it to older adults for free.

Ashlea’s vision was to restore the raised beds outside Iona’s Wellness & Arts Center in Tenleytown. She wanted to engage the participants in the adult day health program in creating the garden and in harvesting and eating the produce. “When I saw that we had garden beds at Iona that weren’t being used, I thought, ‘This is a great thing I can take on,’” says Ashlea.

Gardening W&A

For the first year, participants helped plant seedlings that grew in our sunny windowsills throughout Iona’s office space. Ashlea then transferred the baby plants to the raised beds (dubbed Iona’s Wellness Gardens). Throughout the summer and early fall, participants enjoyed a bountiful harvest of cucumbers, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, basil, carrots, chives, eggplant, bell peppers, lettuce, broccolini, kohlrabi, parsley, mint, and beets.

Ashlea also distributed produce at Iona’s Farmer’s Markets, which are held at Iona’s Active Wellness Program at St. Alban’s and Regency House, the only public housing for older adults in Ward 3. Our programming also expanded to include food demonstrations and nutrition education with the homegrown vegetables and herbs.

After last year’s success, Ashlea was determined to further Iona’s greening efforts. So, she turned to the land itself. “Last year, we needed to add nutrients to the raised beds because they had been dormant for a while,” explains Ashlea. “So, I bought a whole bunch of compost. But, it’s expensive! I thought, ‘We could be making our own.’”

With help from some friends of Iona, who compost at their home, we built compost bins at Iona and began collecting food waste and paper trimmings from our office. Today, we have 50 gallons of dark, moist, and nutritious compost for the Wellness Gardens. “I will not have to buy any compost this year,” says Ashlea. “We’ve saved money, and, best of all, it’s Iona’s own waste.”

Also new to this year is our foray into aquaponics. In this system, waste produced by fish supplies nutrients for plants grown on top of the water (without soil). In turn, the plants purify the water. Many larger aquaponics systems harvest both the produce and the fish. However, at Iona, we’ll have a goldfish tank for participants to enjoy. “We’ve wanted a fish tank for a while,” says Ashlea. “Because it’s aquaponics, the tank will be easier to clean. And, we’ll be getting the added bonus of fresh herbs growing on top.”

While these changes at Iona might seem like small efforts, Ashlea believes they can have lasting effects.

Ashlea and cucumbers

Over the last year, for instance, she’s noticed more and more people at Iona asking her questions about growing plants or starting their own composts at home. “They’re able to see an example of it at Iona, and then apply it to their own lives,” says Ashlea. “We’re really spreading this idea of food sustainability. How many senior centers can say that?”

To learn more about food sustainability and volunteer with Iona’s team, contact our Volunteer Coordinator at

Around Town: April 20-21

Catalogue nonprofits have some great things going on this weekend. Check them out and maybe find a great new nonprofit to support!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

2nd Annual Chess Challenge in DC Citywide Elementary and Middle School Chess Tournament

Chess Challenge in DC
Chess Challenge in DC Is proud to present the 2nd Annual Citywide Elementary and Middle School Chess Tournament. This exciting event features a four round tournament with a blitz playoff. Trophies for the top three finishers and prizes for all. Registration is FREE and includes a t-shirt, wristband, lunch, prizes and raffle tickets. To register go to
When: Saturday April 20, 2013 (08:30 AM – 4:00 PM)
Where: Woodrow Wilson High School, 3950 Chesapeake Street, NW, Washington, DC 20016
Fee: no
Volunteer Info: Volunteers are needed to help with set-up and clean-up, registration, lunch and other jobs throughout the day. No chess experience necessary. Please contact
Contact: Shana Rosenblatt, (202) 579-5551
For more information: click here

Annual Earth Day Cleanup and Celebration

Anacostia Watershed Society
Join AWS for our 24th annual Earth Day Cleanup and Celebration of the Anacostia River. More than 20 different cleanup sites throughout the area will be available to choose from by the end of February. All volunteers are invited to join us for the celebration that follows at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. There will be free food and drink, live music, exhibitors and speakers! Registration is required, contact Maddie below.
When: Saturday April 20, 2013 (09:00 AM – 2:00 PM)
Fee: no
Volunteer Info: Trash and debris cleanup
Contact: Madeline Koenig, (301) 699-6204 ext 109

Grocery Deliveries to Low-Income Seniors in North Capitol/Shaw

We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
We Are Family will be delivering groceries to over 250 low-income seniors in the North Capitol and Shaw neighborhoods.
When: Saturday April 20, 2013 (10:00 AM – 2:00 PM)
Where: Metropolitan Community Church, 474 Ridge St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
Fee: no
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will help assemble and deliver grocery bags to low-income seniors. Although a car is not needed, it is helpful.
Contact: Mark Andersen, (202) 487-8698

Karen Sherman

Dance Place
In One with Others, Minneapolis-based artist Karen Sherman re-purposes dance, words, and scrap lumber to consider biography, personal mythology and social legacy. Using choreography both desperate and delicate, the piece grapples with desire, communication, humiliation and destiny. Funded in part by the NEA and the NPN.
When: Saturday April 20, 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

Around Town: April 6-7

With the nicer weather (and cherry blossoms!), Catalogue nonprofits are getting busy! Check out all of the great things that are going on Around Town this weekend!

Saturday, April 06, cheap essay writing services 2013

Red Shoe 5K Run & Walk

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington D.C.’s Red Shoe 5K Run & Walk helps children heal faster and better. April 6th. Race starts 9:00am Kids Fun Run at 8:45am. Registration 7:00am. Family friendly Red Shoe 5K is for racers, leisure walkers and runners. Prizes, awards & surprises. Kids can get community service hours. Team & Family discounts. Kids in strollers free. Sign up on-line now at or call 703.698.7080.
When: Saturday April 6, 2013 (09:00 AM)
Where: Dulles Station, 2303 Dulles Station Boulevard, Herndon, VA 20171
Fee: Yes, Adults $35 until March 6; Kids $25; Adults $40 until March 31; $45 after March 31.
Volunteer Info:Volunteers needed?for our Red Shoe 5K April 6th. 2 shifts 6:30AM – 8:30AM & 8AM -11AM. Water and food stations; Set up, registration, Greeters/Parking Directors, Floaters, making sure our guests have fun. Volunteers get the much-coveted dri-fit 5k shirt for free and snacks and beverages are provided throughout the day. Contact Rachel: or at 703.698.7080.
Contact: Rachel, (703) 698-7080 ext 220

Help Clean Up Rock Creek Volunteer on April 6

Rock Creek Conservancy (formerly Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment)
It’s time to give Rock Creek and its beautiful parks a spring cleaning. Sign up for the Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup this Saturday! Rock Creek Conservancy is mobilizing volunteers at over 60 Rock Creek locations. Visit to find a spot near you. Most of the cleanups will take place on Saturday, April 6, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Check the site you are interested in for details. Register today! Some of the sites are highly popular and filling up quickly with volunteers. This is a fun, worthwhile opportunity for people of all ages to work together to make a real difference for our parks. Student Service Learning credit is available. The fifth annual Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup is part of the larger Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Rock Creek Conservancy works in partnership with Montgomery County Parks, the National Park Service, and the Alice Ferguson Foundation to field volunteers for the event. Bring your friends and families and join your neighbors in working for a clean Rock Creek! And please help spread the word to others who might be interested.
When: Saturday April 6, 2013 (09:00 AM – 12:00 NOON)
Where: Rock Creek Watershed, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814
Fee: No
Volunteer Info: We will be cleaning up the entire Rock Creek Watershed from the headwaters in Laytonsville, MD to the Mouth of Rock Creek in Georgetown.
Contact: Karen Zeiter, (301) 775-2960

Outreach Visits to Low-income Seniors

We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
We Are Family will be coordinating outreach visits to isolated, low-income seniors in their homes.
When: Saturday April 6, 2013 (10:00 AM – 1:00 PM)
Where: Metropolitan Community Church, 474 Ridge St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
Fee: No
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will receive a brief orientation and then go out in pairs or groups to visit with seniors in their homes.
Contact: Mark Andersen, (202) 487-8698

I, Jack, am the Knave of Hearts

District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC)
I, Jack, am the Knave of Hearts takes the audience on a journey of discovery and reckoning as Don Juan bursts through the fissure that separates mortality from eternal damnation and tries desperately to remember who he was, discover what he is doing here now and uncover why he has been allowed to escape. “You want to know what Hell is like? Hell is to be aware when there is nothing to be aware of and nothing to be aware with but your own desire? Hell is the end of hope.” John Carter, a local poet who has turned his hand to playwriting over the past fifteen years, deftly merges lyrical language with narrative as he delves layer by layer into the complex nature of Don Juan’s reflections on a life he would have lived in no other way; even with the full knowledge of the resulting punishment. His last play, Lou, based on the life of Lou Salome received critical acclaim in the New York Fringe Festival last year.
When: Saturday April 6, 2013 (7:30 PM)
Where: DC Arts Center, 2438 18th St Washington, DC 20009
Fee: Yes, $25.00
Contact: B. Stanley, (202 ) 462-7833

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion

Dance Place
Inspired by the 1991 film, Boyz N The Hood, and the early writings of W.E.B Dubois, New York based Kyle Abraham investigates the rich history of urban culture and the rise and fall of community. Set to a mix of operatic scores with the sounds of an urban city, the work blends bold imagery with subtlety into a tapestry of visual and emotional depth. Co-presented with Reston Centerstage. Funded in part by the NEA, MAAF ArtsCONNECT and NEFA.
When: Saturday April 6, 2013 (8:00 PM)
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

ETC/ArtStream OnStage present The Final Showdown and Lights, Camera, Chaos.

Educational Theatre Company
Inclusive Theatre Companies are directed by trained theatre professionals and feature actors with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and on the Autism Spectrum. An original script is developed during the rehearsal process through improvisation techniques. A play is scripted and then blocked, memorized by the actors and performed for the public. The final production is designed to showcase each actor?s unique talents.
When: Saturday April 6, 2013 (8:00 PM – 10:00 PM)
Where:Gunston Theatre One, 2700 South Lang Street, Arlington, VA 22206
Fee: no
Volunteer Info: ArtStream,Inc is producing two original musical comedies featuring actors with and without cognitive disabilities and WE NEED VOLUNTEERS! We need 3-4 people to help run simple sound cues or help our actors backstage.
Contact: Jennie Lutz, (301) 565-4567

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion

Dance Place
Inspired by the 1991 film, Boyz N The Hood, and the early writings of W.E.B Dubois, New York based Kyle Abraham investigates the rich history of urban culture and the rise and fall of community. Set to a mix of operatic scores with the sounds of an urban city, the work blends bold imagery with subtlety?into a tapestry of visual and emotional depth. Co-presented with Reston Centerstage. Funded in part by the NEA, MAAF ArtsCONNECT and NEFA.
When: Sunday April 7, 2013 (7:00 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