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On paper, 2019 did not look like a good year in the District of Columbia. Hate crimes and violence against members of the trans community increased. Homicide numbers are up 6 percent from this time a year ago. ICE threatens D.C.’s immigrants, and the city continues to grapple with where and how to house people experiencing homelessness. Covering these issues on a day-in, day-out basis can feel challenging or even futile for local journalists, so taking a moment to think about the people and groups trying to solve these problems is a welcome reprieve.
Together with our partners at the Catalogue for Philanthropy—Greater Washington, we present this curated list of organizations on a mission to improve the lives of District residents, be it through environmental intervention, education, the arts, or other measures. Staff at CFP ensure that each organization in the guide is in good financial standing, and the Catalogue doesn’t take a cut from any donations, so any money you give will go directly to the causes you choose to support.
You can find more information about each organization on this list and donate directly to them at cfp-dc.org/citypaper2019. Your donations will help these nonprofits continue their good work on Giving Tuesday and in the months and years to come.
Happy Thanksgiving! —Caroline Jones
District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH)
One in three women experiencing homelessness in D.C. cites domestic violence as the cause of her housing instability. DASH offers a continuum of housing services, providing women and their children with safe emergency, transitional, and permanent affordable housing, and the tools to regain their safety and economic independence. Its Housing Resource Center serves as a hub of homelessness prevention, where survivors access one-on-one guidance and support and service providers receive education and training to improve their response to victims. An emergency fund helps cover expenses (utilities, rent, medical or legal fees) so survivors can maintain their current homes and their freedom from abuse. A lifeline for over 350 survivors fleeing violence each year, DASH believes no one should have to choose between living with abuse and living on the streets.
Homeless Children’s Playtime Project
Every week, at emergency shelters and transitional housing programs across D.C., some 150 volunteers give children a much-needed opportunity: the chance to play. The Playtime Project nurtures healthy child development and reduces the effects of trauma by creating playrooms where kids can be kids—playing games, exploring math, reading, and art, and eating healthy snacks. Meanwhile, parents have time to rest, run errands, and take classes. Monthly field trips introduce children to baseball games, the National Zoo, and the Smithsonian museums, and seasonal parties give families opportunities to socialize and relax. Backpacks filled with games, books, and toys keep children engaged when they are away from the program. All the children are experiencing the trauma of homelessness, and some have also experienced domestic violence. These playtimes help restore comfort, safety, and joy.
From streets, shelters, prisons, and hospitals, each year Joseph’s House welcomes approximately 35 individuals, all of whom have AIDS or terminal cancer, to its eight-bed home in Adams Morgan. Serving the homeless and those with unstable housing, it offers physical, emotional, and spiritual nourishment, 24-hour nursing care, medical case management, and addiction recovery support, as well as home-cooked meals and communal activities. Staff and volunteers hold vigils for the dying, providing constant love and care in the final hours. Other residents regain their health and, when they do, Joseph’s House encourages them toward independence while continuing to help with medication management, transportation, and other basic needs. In a city with some of the nation’s highest rates of HIV infection, cancer mortality, and homelessness, Joseph’s House offers a home and community to those who come through its doors.
In the District, some 2,700 children under the age of six grow up in poverty and experience homelessness, and they often begin school with disadvantages that create a lifelong achievement gap. Bright Beginnings gives them a more secure, positive start, offering a rigorous infant, toddler, and pre-K curriculum along with access to counseling, speech therapy, and early literacy tools. Serving some 350 children annually, its Early Head Start and Head Start programs establish a solid foundation for reading and writing and ensure early intervention for learning disabilities and health problems. Free therapeutic services and dental, vision, and hearing screenings are available on site. A strong family services program sees that parents develop the skills to monitor their children’s development, meet their basic needs, and tap resources to find employment and move toward self-sufficiency.
Hope and a Home
We’ve all read about the need: skyrocketing rents, families at risk of losing their homes (or in shelters with no homes to lose), children at risk for low academic performance. Hope and a Home is changing that story. Working with 224 homeless individuals across three programs—transitional housing, independent housing, and higher education—it offers reduced rental rates, moving assistance, financial literacy training, and savings plans, so that families can clear up credit, save money, retain their independent housing (94 percent do), and steadily grow their incomes. Supported by dedicated volunteer mentors and tutors, the higher education program provides assessment and advocacy services for some 120 children in 62 families in the program. And the results speak for themselves: Last year, every high school senior graduated and continued on to post-secondary education.
Pursuing your dream college is challenging for anyone. Now, imagine being the first in your family to do so, and grappling with financial and language barriers at the same time. Working with under-resourced Latinx and immigrant families throughout Northern Virginia, Edu-Futuro offers free Spanish-English bilingual programs to inspire a new generation of leaders. Each year, some 440 students work toward graduation through the multi-stage, after-school Emerging Leaders Program: Middle schoolers build STEM skills through hands-on robotics; high schoolers engage in leadership development and mentorships; and rising seniors receive year-long support as they navigate college applications and enrollment. Parents are empowered, too, through a suite of programs, from workforce development to parenting classes, that help them secure employment, adapt to life in the U.S., and fully advocate for themselves and their children.
For many foreign-born residents (one of every seven people in D.C.), simply asking for help is a challenge. Without a solid grasp of the language or legal system, they don’t know where to go or whom to trust. Ayuda (which means “help” in Spanish) provides a wide range of immigration and family law assistance, along with social services support, for immigrants from anywhere in the world. Along with representation in family- and humanitarian-based cases, Ayuda offers comprehensive services for immigrant survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence, many of whom fear that the police, courts, and even shelters will not protect them. It also offers desperately needed, specialized advice and representation to abused, neglected, and abandoned immigrant children. Ayuda gives clients the opportunity to feel fully and comfortably at home in their new country.
One in 10 Washingtonians is Latinx, and the majority are immigrants. Many have fled violence at home and all are seeking better opportunities. Whether they have well-established roots in the U.S. or recently arrived, they face a host of challenges, including limited English skills, unstable employment and housing, and low wages. CARECEN provides a one-stop shop where Latinx immigrants can access the tools and resources they need to lead secure and productive lives. Direct legal services and consultations, offered at low or no cost, allow them to resolve their immigration status, secure work authorization, and gain permanent residency. The next step is citizenship, and CARECEN’s citizenship coursework, including mock interviews and ESL tutoring, voter education, and civic engagement activities prepare Latinx people to fully engage in civil society. Housing counseling promotes safe and stable homes for all through education on tenant rights, foreclosure prevention, and financial literacy. And an after-school youth program prepares the next generation to become the leaders of tomorrow.
For the women and families who are referred to DC Doors for support, homelessness is just one of many challenges in their lives. Most face cultural and language barriers (85 percent are Latinx); some are single moms; several have severe mental illnesses. DC Doors intentionally keeps its caseload modest, offering comprehensive bilingual assistance to more than 80 children and adults each year. Its 18-month transitional housing program does far more than provide shelter. Life skills lessons, including classes on parenting, relationship-building, children’s education, cooking, and nutrition, strengthen the entire family. Meanwhile, employment assistance and training in money management and financial literacy help adults work toward lives of stability and independence. A new 12-week workforce development program, taught by licensed CPAs, equips clients with the skills to become accounting technicians. Once families move into permanent housing, six months of after-care helps ease the transition. And through it all, emotional support is available 24/7.
Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
As the number of immigrants placed in detention grows exponentially, CAIR Coalition is the only legal service provider focused on serving detained women, men, and children held in 12 jails and juvenile centers in Maryland and Virginia. Thousands are asylum seekers fleeing violence, abuse, and human trafficking; hundreds are children who migrated alone or have been forcibly separated from their parents. CAIR Coalition offers legal orientation, individual consultation, pro bono representation, and “Know Your Rights” trainings, empowering immigrants facing detention and deportation to achieve equal justice. It also trains attorneys working in the immigration and criminal justice arenas, conducts extensive community outreach and education, and passionately advocates for policies that protect immigrant rights. Consider this: In 2018, CAIR Coalition served more than 850 unaccompanied children—300 more than the year before.
The Latino Student Fund
Latinx students represent only 16 percent of undergraduate students nationwide, a trend that the LSF is working to reverse through its multigenerational education program. Children as young as four join its academic support initiative, engaging in one-on-one Saturday morning tutoring sessions, complete with breakfast, free books, and individualized support in English and math. When they enter high school, a year-round mentoring program, along with after-school and summer college prep programs, help each student prepare for the transition to post-secondary education and a healthy adulthood. ESL and computer literacy classes for parents run concurrently with the tutoring program, providing the entire family with educational opportunities in one location. LSF serves over 500 individuals each year, and 100 percent of students graduate from high school and enroll in post-secondary education.
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Though she searched for financial aid to support her college education, Yasmine Arrington couldn’t find a scholarship program for a student like her, a teen with an incarcerated parent, so she created ScholarCHIPS, which today supports some 30 motivated young people each year. High school guidance counselors help identify applicants and selected scholars receive annual support: renewable $2,500 scholarships and $250 book awards for up to four years if they maintain good academic standing. ScholarCHIPS also provides one-on-one mentoring, professional development workshops, and a support network designed to help scholars persist in school and graduate. At least 90 percent of them do, overcoming the financial barriers and social stigma that so many children of incarcerated parents experience.
The Abramson Scholarship Foundation
As college tuition costs soar, young people living in poverty are increasingly unable to afford higher education, so the Abramson Scholarship Foundation steps in, determined to give motivated public high school graduates in D.C. the opportunity to attend college and the tools to succeed once they get there. Each spring, the foundation selects a new cohort of scholars based on financial need (40 percent are from families earning $30,000 a year or less), academic achievement, and community service; all are recent high school graduates enrolled in four-year colleges. Scholars receive annual, renewable scholarships throughout their college years, along with a comprehensive mentoring program that includes professional development workshops, internship placement, and networking events. While only 40 percent of D.C. students finish college, Abramson Scholars boast a 95 percent graduation rate.
College Bound targets underserved eighth through 12th grade public school students who have the drive and desire to attend college. Students meet weekly with mentors to work on math, SAT prep, and the college admissions process. CB also sponsors career and college fairs, takes students on college tours, and offers over $175,000 annually in scholarships. Its Virtual Mentoring Program (VMP) helps students navigate college life once they’re there. For the last eight years, 100 percent of seniors have graduated high school and been accepted to college. Over the last two years, VMP helped 88 percent of them return to college for their second year, a key indicator of success. With seven locations throughout the city, and 150 additional enrichment opportunities for students during the academic year, College Bound is making college completion a reality for D.C.’s young people.
Here in D.C., the vast majority of the nearly 1,000 kids in foster care entered the system because of neglect or abuse. So BEST Kids offers them something they desperately need: consistent encouragement and support from a caring adult. BEST Kids provides long-term, one-on-one mentoring and monthly peer group activities to more than 160 children and youth ages 6 to 21 in D.C.’s child welfare system. Reliability is crucial, so mentors undergo extensive training and receive support from a team of staff and experts in psychiatry, education, legal advocacy, and behavior management. The average mentorship lasts over 18 months, double the national average, and in 2018, 91 percent of youth surveyed said they knew they could count on their mentors for support: They were actively participating in school, avoiding risky behavior, gaining self-esteem, and learning to advocate for themselves.
Dedicated to closing the opportunity gap, Higher Achievement serves more than 500 academically motivated middle-schoolers from under-resourced communities, providing them with rigorous year-round learning, caring role models, and a culture of high expectations. All students participate in the program’s three components, a serious commitment that results in college-bound scholars with the character, confidence, and skills to succeed. At the Afterschool Academy, volunteer mentors offer tutoring and small group instruction three times per week, paired with a hands-on educational elective and a healthy supper. To combat learning loss, a six-week Summer Academy includes core academic classes as well as field trips and college visits. High school placement services help scholars advance to college-preparatory schools. Ninety-five percent of participants graduate from high school on time, compared with 68 percent citywide.
Economically disadvantaged students across D.C. struggle to keep pace with their peers in reading proficiency. In 2017, fewer than 22 percent who were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch were at grade level for literacy and language arts. Reading Partners is dedicated to reversing the trend, providing its transformational literacy program to 925 young readers each year at 19 Title I elementary schools across the District. It creates welcoming reading centers stocked with books and trains 40 to 100 volunteers per school to provide, with on-site support from trained AmeriCorps members, one-on-one instruction that follows a research-based curriculum. All children have individualized reading plans, and regular assessments to measure their progress and reveal impressive results. Last year, 88 percent of students met or exceeded their year-end goals for literacy growth.
President Lincoln’s Cottage
President Lincoln did much of his nation-changing work, including developing the Emancipation Proclamation, at a cottage in Northwest Washington. Since opening to the public on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in 2008, the cottage continues its legacy as “a home for brave ideas.” Daily tours, exhibits, educational programs, and events welcome over 30,000 visitors annually, including 5,000 students. Programs are free for D.C. public and charter schools, and for Title I schools in Virginia and Maryland. The award-winning Students Opposing Slavery program brings together youth from around the world to learn about slavery’s history and to develop actionable plans to fight human trafficking today. Using past histories to address present-day challenges, this innovative home redefines what a national monument can be.
Through the power of social entrepreneurship, LearnServe equips D.C.-area middle and high school students with the knowledge and skills to tackle our world’s pressing social challenges. LearnServe Fellows design and launch their own social action projects to benefit their neighborhoods and schools. The most promising ideas receive additional training and compete for seed funding to maximize their impact in the LearnServe Incubator. In-school programming incorporates social entrepreneurship into the everyday classroom, providing teachers with specialized curricula, materials, and volunteers. Summer learning trips abroad give students global experience as they work alongside local leaders to implement relevant, practical volunteer projects. Since 2003, more than 4,000 people have participated in these programs, which include 54 new social ventures benefiting D.C. communities.
College Tribe’s model is as unique as it is critical: black men mentoring black boys and creating STEAM leaders in Wards 7 and 8. Founded in 2007 by four African-American fathers, the mentoring program cultivates strong bonds between boys in grades 3 to 8 and men who look like them, believe in them, and model success, respect, and integrity. Twice a month, mentors and mentees meet in small groups for seminars, tutoring, and field trips. Many also take part in College Tribe’s after-school and summer STEAM programs, which include nine-week courses in computer engineering, solar energy, robotics, video game design, and other subjects, at four local public schools. Boys learn to think critically and develop skills for promising careers, all in the company of peers and role models.
Every weekday, Kid Power works with Title I public schools in D.C. to provide daily academic and enrichment programming to 425 students, 99 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. But this isn’t your average after-school program. After Academic Power Hour (mentoring and tutoring with college staff and high school volunteers), a rotating series of enrichment activities focuses on building students’ civic engagement, leadership, and healthy behaviors. Urban gardens are paired with lessons in nutrition, cooking, and environmental science; history and citizenship lessons offer a real-life perspective through Kid Power Congress and service-learning projects; art classes integrate wellness principles like mindfulness and self-expression. Together with a five-week Summer Leadership Academy and monthly in-school wellness programming, Kid Power reaches 1,000 students each year.
Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop
Free Minds uses books and creative writing to empower incarcerated youth and adults, awakening them to their own potential. During biweekly workshops at New Beginnings Youth Development Center (for teens) and the DC Jail (for adults), Free Minds members read stories and poetry that reflect their lives, then learn to write and even publish their own. After sentencing, when members move on to federal prisons across the country, Free Minds sends cards, newsletters, books, and feedback on their poetry. The re-entry program offers a weekly book club and writing workshops, apprenticeships, and job skills training to help members achieve their goals for a successful homecoming. In 2018, Free Minds served more than 900 individuals and achieved a recidivism rate of just 13 percent, compared to the national average of 75 percent for young adults.
DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative
Tens of thousands of children from across the globe visit D.C.’s museums and theaters each year, yet budget constraints often prevent local students from taking advantage of their hometown’s resources. The DC Collaborative partners with 115 cultural institutions to help schools gain access to our vibrant arts world. Offering a wide range of programs to students, and arts and humanities education workshops to teachers, teaching artists, principals, and other educators, the Collaborative also makes registration, tickets, and transportation easy. More than 700,000 children have benefited from these programs since 1998; this year alone, nearly 50,000 students from 160 schools will attend cultural field trips and free in-school performances and workshops. After all, visiting the Kennedy Center or the Washington Ballet for the first time or having a professional artist right in your classroom can be an unforgettable experience.
AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation
Low-income children stand to gain the most from high-quality preschool education, but they are also the least likely to receive it. AppleTree is dedicated to closing the achievement gap for D.C.’s most vulnerable children before they enter kindergarten. Its instructional model, Every Child Ready, includes a fully developed curriculum, comprehensive training and professional development for teachers, and data-driven tools to monitor progress and tailor instruction to each child’s needs. Teachers, principals, and instructional coaches learn what to teach, how to teach, and how to tell if it’s working and make improvements when it’s not. Nascent learning difficulties are addressed early, reducing the need for special education placement and helping at-risk children excel alongside their more advantaged peers.
The MusicianShip offers high-quality music education to the kids who need it most: those living in high-poverty areas where access to the arts and out-of-school programming is limited. After school at five public and public charter schools, students receive free daily vocal and instrumental music instruction, ensemble development, and mentoring. Interactive Master Class field trips, taught by world-renowned musicians, reach another 700 students across D.C., and the beat continues throughout the summer, with all-city marching band and choral programs. Having recently acquired a number of music programs at risk of dissolving, The MusicianShip is the new home for outstanding initiatives like the Washington Youth Choir, the Wammie Awards, and the Funk Parade. This ambitious organization is dedicated to preserving and enhancing D.C.’s cultural and musical heritage with youth leading the charge.
Sitar Arts Center
Since first opening in the basement of a subsidized housing building, Sitar has grown into a world class, multidisciplinary arts center in Adams Morgan serving 950 students annually, 80 percent of whom come from low-income families. Many, quite simply, grow up at Sitar, where they are empowered to unlock their talents and find their voices. Babies and toddlers attend early childhood arts classes; older children come for music, dance, theater, and visual arts, and, in the summer, for a six-week arts camp; teens and young adults hone their skills through classes, internships, and leadership development. All of this is made possible by a 100-person teaching faculty and eight arts partners (including the Washington Ballet and the National Symphony Orchestra), while an innovative collaboration with neighborhood service providers gives Sitar families access to the support they need.
Atlas Performing Arts Center
A once-abandoned movie theater complex in Northeast D.C. reopened in 2006 as the Atlas, a multidisciplinary, community-based venue where artists and audiences connect through dance, theater, and music. As the H Street NE corridor’s cultural anchor, the Atlas brings dozens of thought-provoking and affordable performances to its four stages each year. That’s in addition to the 85 collaborative shows, workshops, and classes that take place at its annual INTERSECTIONS Festival. Throughout the year, resident arts partners utilize the venue at discounted rates, allowing them to channel resources toward outstanding arts programming. The Atlas Stagecraft and Apprenticeship Program (ASTAP) trains adults to become professional stagehands, while the City at Peace program helps youth explore social justice and conflict resolution and inspires a new generation of performing artists. This arts mecca draws more than 100,000 patrons each year.
CapitalBop is dedicated to presenting, promoting, and preserving jazz in the District. From the start, it has served as both an online resource and presenter of innovative shows. Capitalbop.com lists every upcoming jazz event in the area, complemented by a steady stream of articles (artist interviews, profiles of unsung jazz heroes, reviews) that aim to welcome audiences of all kinds. Likewise, its monthly DC Jazz Loft concerts, educational events, and other shows adopt a diverse and often unorthodox approach, whether presenting in an empty warehouse or art gallery, pairing innovative international artists with D.C.’s finest local musicians, or showcasing young and experimental talent. This year, dozens of shows will reach thousands of audience members, united in appreciation for this historic, dynamic genre.
A community where every child can access the benefits of arts education, and where world-class dance is available to all: Since 1996, CityDance has pursued this vision for D.C., touching thousands of lives each year. The DREAM Center for Dance offers year-round, tuition-free dance training for students ages 8 to 18, alongside wrap-around services that prepare them for college and career. A professional dance curriculum is paired with on-site homework help, tutoring, college readiness services, and family support, leading to outstanding results. Last year, 100 percent of seniors graduated from high school and enrolled in higher education. CityDance also delivers free dance programming to 10 public elementary schools, brings world-class professional dance performances to D.C. stages, and runs a conservatory to prepare students for professional dance careers.
WOMEN AND GIRLS
Washington School for Girls
In D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood, the high school graduation rate is only 50 percent, while rates for poverty, crime, and teen pregnancy are the highest in the city. WSG is committed to meeting the community’s needs and transforming the lives of the girls in its care. The approach is holistic and personal, with a year-round academic program, small class sizes, after-school tutoring, high-quality enrichment activities, and extra support and counseling for students who are struggling, whether personally, financially, or academically. The Graduate Support Program guides students as they transition to high school, college, and beyond. The only tuition-free, independent, private Catholic school for elementary and middle school girls (92 percent are not Catholic) in D.C., WSG’s students have a 99 percent graduation rate and an 80 percent post-secondary and college enrollment rate.
Collective Action for Safe Spaces
Dedicated to creating a safer D.C., CASS empowers communities to interrupt and eliminate public, gender-based harassment and assault, including street harassment. Its work centers on those who are disproportionately affected by street harassment (women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks), and particularly on those with multiple marginalized identities. Through bystander intervention training, participants learn that it’s up to everyone, not just the criminal legal system, to stop the harassment. The Safe Bar Collective equips bar and restaurant staff to create safer environments, while CASS simultaneously trains LGBTQIA+ people in restaurant skills and connects them to jobs at partner bars. A program with WMATA combines staff training, data collection, and awareness campaigns to address sexual harassment on public transportation, and thanks to CASS-led advocacy, D.C. passed the Street Harassment Prevention Act in 2018.
The Deaf community experiences sexual and domestic abuse at higher rates than the hearing community and communication barriers frequently prevent Deaf survivors from seeking help. In 1999, five Deaf women founded Deaf Abused Women’s Network to address this critical issue in D.C., home to one of the largest Deaf populations in the U.S. Today, DAWN remains the only local agency providing support in American Sign Language to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and now serves Deaf people of all gender identities. Its support is comprehensive, including safety planning, court, and hospital accompaniment, and case management where Deaf advocates ensure that survivors can access appropriate services for themselves and their children. DAWN also conducts preventive outreach education, working to end abuse in the Deaf community.
Young Ladies of Tomorrow
The number of girls in D.C.’s juvenile justice system is rising, and national estimates suggest that at least 65 percent have a history of trauma. Working with girls ages 9 to 17 who are court-involved or at risk of involvement, YLOT uses a holistic approach. Its year-round youth development program offers one-on-one and group mentoring, homework assistance, life skills classes, and health and wellness workshops. Girls build positive relationships with caring adults and with their peers, while also learning to develop coping skills, make good decisions, and improve academically. A six-week workforce development program, including daily workshops, community service projects, and mini-internships, prepares participants for jobs and careers, and summer retreats use a trauma-informed curriculum to help them understand life’s challenges and process past experiences.
Girls on the Run DC
What difference does it make if a girl enters her pivotal adolescent years self-confident and disciplined, with a strong sense of self-worth? For some, it makes all the difference. That is why Girls on the Run pairs evidence-based character education with running instruction. GOTR-DC coaches nearly 2,200 girls a year across all D.C. wards, equipping them with the skills and encouragement they need to meet life’s challenges, from peer pressure and bullying to body image and healthy relationships. During each 10-week program, trained volunteer coaches mentor teams of 8 to 15 girls in grades 3 through 8, exploring key character education topics while helping the girls set individual goals and prepare for a season-culminating 5K event. Scholarships, provided to nearly 70 percent of participants, ensure that girls of all economic backgrounds—15,000 D.C. girls since 2006—are empowered to believe in themselves, value healthy relationships, encourage their team, and have an impact on the community in which they live.
With one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, D.C. is home to thousands of young families living in poverty because the parents lack an education. (Fewer than 2 percent of teen mothers earn a college degree before age 30.) Founded by a former teen mother, Generation Hope surrounds these young parents with the support they need to thrive in college and help their little ones enter kindergarten ready for success. The Scholar Program provides parents with a mentor, crisis support, and up to $2,400 a year in tuition assistance. The Next Generation Academy offers home visits, parenting support, learning materials, and access to high-quality childcare for scholars’ children ages 1 to 5. Next year Generation Hope will support 101 Scholars and 20 children, and provide college-readiness workshops to 300 parenting high schoolers.
ANIMALS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy
After decades of neglect, the DOPC was formed in 2010 to restore, promote, and maintain Dumbarton Oaks Park, now and for generations to come. In the heart of the city, the park is a 27-acre wild garden oasis designed in 1921 by Beatrix Farrand, America’s first female landscape architect. Through a public-private partnership with Rock Creek Park, DOPC mobilizes a vast number of volunteers to remove invasive plants, mitigate urban stormwater, and engage the next generation of environmental stewards in the service of restoring Farrand’s masterwork. Its Leave No Child Inside program engages vulnerable and disadvantaged youth in recreation, education, and stewardship that benefits the kids and the park. In all, more than 65,000 volunteer hours have helped restore 12 acres of meadows, waterfalls, woodlands, and historic structures.
Anacostia Watershed Society
The Anacostia River touches countless communities across the D.C. region before flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. Though it has suffered from generations of neglect, the promise of a healthy and clean river is within reach. Dedicated to the restoration of the watershed, AWS mobilizes the community to clean, protect, and reconnect with the river. Through hands-on service learning, it engages thousands of local students each year in planting wetland vegetation and cleaning up the shores, and it advocates on the river’s behalf, seeking better stormwater controls and smarter green development. AWS also trains adults to become Watershed Stewards and Master Naturalists, empowering them as advocates for their communities’ environmental health. Year-round events engage thousands more volunteers, and regular recreational, environmentally-friendly activities remind residents of the pleasure that clean rivers can bring.
Rock Creek Conservancy
Rock Creek meanders 33 miles through the D.C. area, across local and state borders, through forested parkland and along busy roads, near hiking trails, businesses, and backyards. But only one organization is solely dedicated to the creek and its parks, an area visited annually by more than two million people. A formal philanthropic partner to Rock Creek Park, the Conservancy protects the park by protecting the watershed, leveraging the park’s popularity and empowering visitors and neighbors alike to explore, enjoy, and become stewards of this national treasure. Each year, more than 5,000 volunteers pick up trash, remove invasive species, and restore native habitats, while dozens of volunteer Stream Team leaders adopt sections of the creek for neighborhood-based stewardship.
City Wildlife, Inc.
City Wildlife is the only wildlife rehabilitation organization in D.C., welcoming more than 1,800 sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals through its doors each year. Many are delivered by D.C. Animal Care and Control, but over half—birds, turtles, rabbits, possums—are brought in by the kind people who find them and want to help. At its fully equipped wildlife rehabilitation clinic, a licensed wildlife veterinarian oversees the animals’ care, assisted by staff technicians and some 50 volunteers, with the goal of returning the animals to the wild. City Wildlife also serves as a critical resource to anyone hoping to resolve conflicts with wild animals (like squirrels in the attic) humanely, and runs volunteer science projects (Lights Out DC and Duck Watch) to directly assist wildlife in the field.
City Dogs Rescue
Since 2011, CDR has provided a lifeline to more than 3,700 dogs and 1,500 cats, animals that were just days or hours away from being euthanized for no reason other than lack of space. Working closely with high-kill shelters in rural communities with few resources, CDR rescues at-risk adoptable dogs and cats and finds them loving homes. Once a dog or cat is identified, a vast network of supporters (more than 50,000) raises funds for transportation to D.C. and for top-quality medical care, vaccinations, and spay and neutering procedures. A trained foster care provider offers companionship until a permanent home is found, usually thanks to social media campaigns, dynamic adoption events, or CDR’s popular volunteer dog walking program.
Solar United Neighbors
The vision: a future in which energy is clean, local, equitable, affordable, and reliable for everyone. SUN is catalyzing a grassroots clean energy movement, connecting citizens with the tools and resources they need to start renewable energy projects in their communities. At its core are co-ops in which groups of neighbors “go solar” together and get a bulk discount, making solar more affordable and accessible and benefiting the local economy. SUN also manages the process with the installer, but that’s just the beginning. Co-op members are encouraged to take part in educational programs, volunteer work, and advocacy. The result: a network of empowered citizens who fight for energy rights and achieve significant policy wins. Now working in five states (including Maryland and Virginia) and in D.C., SUN is paving the way to a clean energy future for us all.
Potomac Riverkeeper Network
Six million residents live along the Potomac River watershed, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay, but instead of a clean and healthy river, they find swimming prohibitions and fish consumption advisories lining the banks. Potomac Riverkeeper is a grassroots, on-the-water organization dedicated to fighting pollution and creating healthy rivers and streams. In partnership with pro bono attorneys, it works to correct violations of environmental law and promote government accountability. Its network of citizen monitors reports on the health of fish in the rivers, and it uses their input to direct enforcement and advocacy work, using the legal system to force polluters to clean up their act. Knowing that healthy rivers and healthy communities go hand-in-hand, Potomac Riverkeeper strives to ensure that all 383 miles of our river stay healthy.
THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY
Wanda Alston Foundation
Founded by transgender women of color, the Wanda Alston Foundation is dedicated to serving one of DC’s most vulnerable populations: LGBTQ youth ages 16-24 who are experiencing homelessness. Located in Ward 7, the foundation offers 18 months of shelter with 24-hour care and support. A clinical supervisor and case manager complete a full intake assessment and create individual service plans, which they revisit at weekly meetings with each resident. These youth have experienced trauma, rejection, and discrimination, so the foundation partners with mental and behavioral health specialists to help residents heal and improve their well being. Meanwhile, youth receive daily meals, take part in practical life skills lessons, and get assistance with securing permanent housing, employment, or with continuing their education, whatever they need to chart a new path. Most importantly, they experience acceptance and love.
In the early 1990s, two pioneering gay dads started a listserv to connect LGBTQ families to one another. Today, with more than 1,000 members, Rainbow Families is the region’s only nonprofit dedicated solely to supporting LGBTQ families. Here, they find trusted resources and compassionate services, from college scholarships for teenagers to adoption support groups. Maybe Baby, its signature five-week program for prospective LGBTQ parents, provides information and guidance about surrogacy, adoption, and fostering, including racial, financial, and legal considerations. A yearly conference, declared Rainbow Families Day by the mayor’s office, offers workshops and panel discussions, a resource fair, and other activities, and annual events like picnics, dances, and camping weekends provide safe spaces where parents and kids can be around other families like theirs. Membership dues are just $35, with financial aid available, because all are welcome.
We’ve come a long way in the last few decades, but LGBTQ youth are still at greater risk than their heterosexual peers for physical abuse, homelessness, suicide, HIV infection, and dropping out of school. Committed to a better world for the next generation, SMYAL builds LGBTQ youth leaders, empowering them to engage their peers in service and advocacy projects. Teens create and manage Gay-Straight Alliances at their schools, proven to reduce bullying and harassment, youth trained in HIV prevention educate their peers about safer sex, and outstanding young leaders receive academic scholarships in recognition of their courage. Meanwhile, the Youth Center provides a safe, supportive space where teens can openly be themselves. Support groups explore self-esteem, health, sexual activity, drug abuse, and violence protection, and free HIV testing and counseling are offered to all. SMYAL also trains teachers, social workers, and medical professionals to work with LGBTQ youth in an effective and affirming way.