Get our free newsletter
As 2018 draws to a close and we pause to reflect on all that happened this year, the memories can be daunting. From battles over the Supreme Court to elevated anti-immigrant and racist sentiment, it became hard at times to focus on the good things people were doing locally to make D.C. a place better for its residents.
City Paper’s annual giving guide, presented in partnership with the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, allows us to focus on the different organizations serving the District. “We must not lose sight of other pressing needs simply because they cannot as easily be seen,” says Barbara Harman, founder and president of the Catalogue. “There is quiet work happening every day in this city—in programs that are reducing the devastating infant mortality rate, providing after-school enrichment activities, making college a reality for underserved students, offering music and dance in community arts centers, and providing basic needs to those without.”
In the following pages, you’ll learn about dozens of organizations that assist Washingtonians throughout the year and how you can help them succeed. The Catalogue for Philanthropy staff vets each of them to make sure they’re in good financial order and well managed, and doesn’t take a cut from your donation. Visit cfp-dc.org/citypaper2018 to make a contribution and learn more.
Happy Thanksgiving. —Caroline Jones
Common Good City Farm
In the LeDroit Park community, where Common Good City Farm is located, one in three residents lives in poverty, one in five is overweight, and nearly one in 10 has diabetes. One of the only full-fledged urban farms in the District, Common Good distributes free and low-cost food to at-risk adults and families and teaches residents valuable skills like container gardening, composting, and serving their families healthier meals on a budget. Adults can also volunteer for 12 weeks in exchange for rigorous farm training or vouchers that can be used to purchase farm produce. The Farm also offers educational opportunities, after-school science lessons, and programs for children 18 months to 3 years old.
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.
The Anacostia Playhouse brings arts presentations, performances, exhibits, and instruction to an underserved neighborhood, and provides a venue for local artists to create, perform, and display their work. Located in a place rich in history and great in promise, the Playhouse is uniquely positioned to serve the local community east of the river while it also introduces the neighborhood to members of other communities and helps restore nighttime vigor to historic Anacostia and its economy. In addition to mounting three annual productions, it regularly partners with Theater Alliance (its resident company) and Restoration Stage, Inc. (one of the only professional, producing African-American theater companies in the metro area) and hosts a range of performers, from jazz musicians to puppeteers.
Washington Bach Consort
For 40 years, this premier Baroque choral and orchestral group has delighted audiences with historically informed performances of 18th-century music, promoting an appreciation of Bach’s music at every major venue in greater Washington and through subscription series concerts. But just as important as performing Bach is “giving Bach,” so a range of free or low-cost enrichment activities bring high-caliber music to new and diverse audiences. Bach to School enhances listening skills and teaches basic music theory to underserved elementary school students, while the Wunderkind Projekt aims to inspire and shape the next generation of conductors, musicians, and artists. A free Noontime Cantata Series attracts students, local business owners, homeless individuals, and seniors alike. All told, the Consort helps 6,000 listeners appreciate the beauty of Baroque music each year.
Washington Improv Theater
In a serious town that is often tightly scripted, WIT plays a valuable role: engaging audiences with unscripted performances and igniting the spirit of play through intensive training programs. The faculty brings passion and skill to teaching the craft, and 1,500 students a year learn active listening, brainstorming, collaboration, and self-awareness—and unleash their inborn creativity. WIT also offers classes and workshops in every ward of the city, in D.C. public schools, and at the Kingman Boys and Girls Club, and it participates in the mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program.
Youth and Community Arts
Do the Write Thing Foundation of DC
Kids have the best chance at success when they feel listened to, empowered, and respected. That’s why Do the Write Thing designs its arts-based after-school programs—reaching 250 students in D.C.’s most underserved wards—with the help of the youth themselves. Younger children write and produce their own books, casting themselves as the heroes and proudly presenting their creations, while middle and high school students use poetry, songwriting, and music production to raise their voices about issues that matter to them. The Kindness Project uses art and literature to encourage little and big acts of kindness, while Fashion Against Bullying spreads positivity through a fusion of fashion, stage production, writing, and entrepreneurship. Your support teaches kids to fight hate with creativity and compassion.
One Common Unity
Using the power of the arts, One Common Unity builds resilient, compassionate young leaders, empowering them to break the cycle of violence and become positive forces for change. Its flagship program, Fly by Light, utilizes an intensive, multi-layered arts curriculum—including after-school workshops, weekend field trips, healing nature retreats, violence prevention events, and citywide art showcases—to build participants’ social and emotional competencies. Youth learn to express themselves creatively and nonviolently, gaining lifelong skills to better cope with trauma, peacefully resolve conflicts, and build healthy relationships. Many become “ambassadors,” organizing open mic nights, performances, and workshops for their peers and for younger children.
The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts
Homeless women in recovery from addiction, expelled youth working toward a GED, young men in juvenile detention, seniors in assisted living: Everyone has a story to tell, a voice that needs to be heard, a life that is waiting to be transformed. At Theatre Lab they get to tell those stories, transforming their personal narratives into film or theater. And the self-esteem that comes from creating original works of dramatic art is life-changing. The pioneering, tuition-free Life Stories (and Life Stories Institute) program teaches hundreds of children, youth, and adults facing particularly challenging circumstances to create original dramatic work from their personal experiences. Hundreds more are able to participate in classes and summer camps in acting, directing, playwriting, and musical theater. Instruction comes from local actors, directors, and playwrights, and each year more than $110,000 in additional scholarships is granted to a third of those enrolled.
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
The arts create challenge; the arts create common ground; the arts must be accessible to all: These are the rallying cries of CHAW, which serves all ages and provides tuition assistance for youth and adult classes. Photography, writing, visual arts, ceramics, acting, and dance are all on the menu in after-school classes for elementary and middle school students in Ward 6 (with transportation provided), along with private music lessons for a range of instruments and voice and arts adventure summer camps. Committed to bridging the city’s vast income gap, CHAW never turns a child away for inability to pay. For adults, there are juried artist shows, lectures, dance and music concerts, and other community events. CHAW is also administering several public arts projects in Southeast D.C.
Youth Education and Enrichment
Nestled in the heart of Adams Morgan, Jubilee JumpStart offers affordable, high-quality early childhood education to young children (ages 0 to 5) from primarily low-income families. Open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., this dual-language program works to ensure that all of its students, regardless of socio-economic background, are prepared for success in kindergarten and beyond. Through a partnership with the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis, analysts offer pro-bono mental health support, helping teachers and parents to address each child’s emotional or developmental needs. A comprehensive family engagement program includes an intensive 12-week parenting course alongside weekly coffee hours and social gatherings. And for struggling families, Jubilee JumpStart serves as an invaluable resource, providing support and referrals for legal assistance, housing, domestic violence programs, and other social services.
Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys
As the first African-American Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, The Right Rev. John Thomas Walker took to heart his parents’ belief that education is the door to opportunity. That belief now informs the spiritual, intellectual, social, physical, and artistic development of boys in kindergarten through fifth grade at the school that bears his name. A tuition-free, rigorous academic program on the campus of THEARC, it provides boys of all faiths with a 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. program, three meals a day, and 11 months of academic, cultural, and recreational activities—an essential combination given that 50 percent of children east of the river live below the poverty line.
City Kids Wilderness Project
Each year, 130 youth from D.C. communities experience life-changing adventures, build resiliency, broaden their horizons, and learn skills that will ensure success. They begin in sixth grade and progress as a cohort through seven years of activities and challenges—day and weekend excursions that acquaint them with our region’s natural wonders, from the Potomac River to the Shenandoah Mountains. The Middle School Program offers after-school tutoring, outdoor living skills, environmental education, and art and peacemaking activities, while the High School & Alumni Program provides job and leadership training, mentoring, and help with post-secondary plans. In the summer, kids head to Jackson, Wyoming, for overnight camping trips, mountain climbing, and white-water kayaking, which double as lessons in self-confidence, self-respect, and teamwork.
Live It Learn It
Students at DCPS Title I schools rarely experience the enriching, out-of-classroom learning enjoyed by their more affluent peers. LILI believes this injustice—the “experience gap”—contributes greatly to the achievement gap between students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. In response, it ignites student potential through field trips to D.C.’s historical, cultural, and natural resources. Students investigate the effects of erosion along the Anacostia River; get inspired while exploring Frederick Douglass’ former home; and analyze the challenges of the Great Migration while contemplating the paintings of Jacob Lawrence. LILI provides materials, arranges transportation, and facilitates instruction, including pre- and post-trip lessons. A professional development program builds teachers’ capacity to lead experience-driven lessons in the classroom. Your support makes history, science, art, and culture come alive for over 2,100 children each year.
Mikva Challenge DC
Mikva Challenge DC develops the next generation of civic leaders, civil servants, and community organizers by empowering young people to drive real change in their lives. At 25 middle and high schools across the city, students engage in hands-on problem solving: Classes select, research, and analyze a community issue, develop civic action strategies, and take concrete steps to affect policy. Mikva trains teachers in the curriculum, provides classroom coaching, and hosts citywide “challenges” where students showcase their ideas before community judges. During election season, young people raise their voices in local and national politics, discussing political debates, registering voters, working the polls, and even hosting public forums about key youth issues. Select participants become summer fellows, exploring future careers while interning with D.C.’s elected and appointed officials.
Asian American LEAD
With minimal education and limited English proficiency, immigrant parents often endure long hours at low-paying jobs, so helping their kids with homework and communicating with schools are daunting tasks. AALEAD makes sure their children don’t get lost. Elementary school students receive academic support and enrichment activities; middle and high schoolers receive academic, social, and college prep support, as well as leadership and civic engagement opportunities. Mentors encourage responsible behavior, strong life skills, academic success, and positive self-identity for youth from first grade through community college. And for the past six years, AALEAD’s Youth Council has facilitated the region’s only Asian Pacific American Youth Summit. Last year 100 percent of students moved on to the next grade level or to graduation.
Girls Inc. of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area
Simply being female holds inherent risks (just think of the #MeToo movement), and for many girls in D.C., these risks are exacerbated by racism, discrimination, and poverty. But at Girls Inc., girls learn to develop their strengths and navigate life’s toughest challenges. Located in a safe, girls-only space, it hosts a range of programs: Daily after-school sessions offer mentoring and homework help alongside a specialized curriculum (health and wellness, financial literacy, media literacy) for grades six to nine; high schoolers gather monthly for college prep, career exposure, and personal development sessions; and a six-week summer STEM & Leadership Academy further prepares girls to take charge of their futures.
Washington Urban Debate League
In greater Washington, high-quality debate programs (and the associated academic benefits) have traditionally been available only at private schools. So WUDL levels the playing field, creating debate programs at public schools in D.C. and Prince George’s County, and supporting them with expert teacher-coaches, curricular resources, and monthly tournaments … all at no cost. Students develop grit and perseverance alongside skills in critical thinking, research, and effective communication; meanwhile, test scores, attendance, and graduation rates begin to climb. The most successful participants travel to regional tournaments where they display their skills and compete for college scholarships. A summer institute introduces students to the new debate topic for the coming year, boosting competitive success.
In Ward 5’s Edgewood Commons community, where the average annual household income is just $12,000, Beacon House shines a powerful light. Each weekday, more than 150 children and youth ages 5 to 18 gather at this after-school education and youth development organization for healthy meals, academic tutoring, and enrichment programs. Trusted adults from the local community and nearby universities serve as volunteers and mentors, providing students with academic support while fostering a sense of stability and belonging. Results are transformational: More than 90 percent of high school seniors graduate each year, and 75 percent of graduates enroll in college or a technical training program within four months. Many students also take part in Beacon House’s award-winning athletics program, which attracts more than 300 youth from all over the city.
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 to 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. Meanwhile, 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.
Improving educational outcomes for vulnerable youth in D.C. begins with something basic: keeping the kids in school and out of the juvenile justice system. And that means addressing the things that cause them to drop out in the first place: chronic truancy, suspension, and first-time arrest. Access Youth tackles all of this. At Ballou, Anacostia, and Eastern high schools, two program managers per school build trusting relationships with students, enrolling them in ninth grade and continuing for four years. A truancy prevention program provides encouragement, motivation, and support for attending school, while a restorative justice program works on relationship building, goal setting, progress monitoring, and life skills development. Rooted in conflict resolution and mediation, not punishment, these programs will serve 700 students next year.
Teens Run DC
Based at D.C. middle and high schools, Teens Run matches low-income youth with mentors who challenge and guide them both in school and in after-school programs throughout the academic year. Within this supportive community they train for progressively longer races and participate in a social and emotional learning curriculum: Responsibility, discipline, perseverance, and goal-setting are key. They improve cardiovascular capacity and overall health and, importantly, gain the confidence, resilience, and life skills they need to succeed, often in the face of significant challenges. By year’s end, students have formed strong bonds with their mentors and teammates, participated in monthly, community-wide social activities or volunteer opportunities, and—impressively—completed up to six distance races. (Some even run marathons!)
College Bound targets underserved eighth to 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 $125,000 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 into 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.
Resources to Inspire Students and Educators (RISE)
Whether tutoring struggling ninth graders to achieve grade-level reading, or prepping juniors for their Advanced Placement exams, RISE provides high-quality educational resources to low-income D.C. students, helping them to graduate from high school and prepare for a successful future. Its programs fill the gaps where D.C.’s most under-resourced schools fall short: one-on-one tutoring for at-risk students and children with learning disabilities; college and career readiness; an intensive summer math program; and a Saturday Academy that offers extra support for students who have fallen behind and extra challenges for those ready to surge ahead. Since 2003, RISE has raised the academic skills and performance of over 1,500 students; 95 percent go on to graduate from high school (citywide, the average is much lower) and 90 percent of graduates enroll in college.
Adult Literacy and Learning
Everybody Wins! DC
Here in D.C., only 23 percent of fourth graders and 17 percent of eighth graders read at the proficient level or above—and they are at risk of failing academically and socially. Annually serving more than 5,000 children in 36 low-income elementary schools in the District, EW!DC’s Power Lunch Program pairs kids with adult reading mentors (from Capitol Hill, government agencies, and businesses) who introduce them to literature, serve as caring role models, and inspire in them a love of reading. Many pairs stay together for years, and below-grade-level reading decreases annually from a dangerous 61 percent to an improved 34 percent. StoryTime introduces kids to authors and illustrators who help them see behind the pages and discover how stories come to life.
DC Special Education Cooperative
In D.C., 15 percent of all students are children with disabilities and about half attend public charter schools. The DC Special Education Cooperative equips these schools with tools and support to give students with disabilities a high-quality education. Its flagship ELEVATE program helps charters design, implement, and improve special education services to meet or exceed federal standards of quality. Because few classroom teachers have formal training in special ed, the Co-op provides professional development and networks that build teachers’ capacity to teach every student effectively. Administrative services, such as securing Medicaid reimbursements, relieve logistical burdens that individual charters would struggle to bear. And direct programs for students with disabilities (career fairs, job-readiness training) boost opportunities for post-graduation employment. With 55 charter members, the Co-op serves 5,000 D.C. students with disabilities each year.
The Washington Literacy Center
For 90,000 of D.C.’s functionally illiterate adults, low literacy skills are a barrier to just about everything—completing an education, getting a decent job, staying out of poverty. WLC removes the barrier by teaching basic literacy, reading, math, and even workforce development skills to adults who read below a fifth-grade level. It also works with individuals who are not literate either in their native language or in English. Professional, part-time educators provide individual attention in groups of eight to 10, while a case manager connects students with the next steps in their long-term education. Research shows that individuals with reading deficiencies need 200 to 250 hours of practice to begin closing the gap and at WLC they are well on their way.
Mentorship and College Access
Capital Partners for Education
Since 1993, CPE has placed hundreds of motivated, low-income students on the path to high school graduation, college completion, and career success. Eighty percent are first-generation-to-college students; 99 percent are students of color; all are from low-income families that face systemic barriers to education. Starting in 10th grade and continuing through college, CPE offers a continuum of one-on-one mentoring, academic support, career preparation, and workforce development services. This intensive, long-term approach does wonders: 97 percent of students who have completed the high school mentoring program have enrolled in college and gone on to graduate at more than double the rate of their similarly situated peers, prepared to be successful in their careers and to improve their economic security.
The Posse Foundation
Posse identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who might otherwise be overlooked in the college admissions process, and places them in multicultural teams (“posses”) of 10 that act as support systems on campus and beyond. It expands the pool from which top universities recruit students, helps create more inclusive campus environments, and ensures that scholars (an astonishing 90 percent) persist and graduate so they can take on leadership positions in our diverse nation. Fifty from the D.C. area are chosen annually and scholarships are awarded by partner institutions (Bucknell, Lafayette, Sewanee, University of Rochester, University of Wisconsin-Madison). Pre-college training prepares students for what lies ahead; an on-campus mentor tracks their progress; a career program offers counseling and workshops that lead to internships and jobs.
Basic Needs, Food, and Housing
Thousands of Washingtonians living in wards 5, 7, and 8 have acutely limited access to the resources necessary for daily life—including affordable, healthy food. DC Greens places racial justice and health equity at the center of its mission to create a strong and resilient food system in our city. It is the lead implementer of Produce Plus, which provides close to 30,000 low-income D.C. residents with healthy farmers market produce annually, and the Produce Prescription program, which enables physicians to write prescriptions for free, fresh fruits and vegetables to patients coping with chronic diseases. A farm-to-school program fosters healthier school environments through school gardens, equips teachers to put food education on the classroom menu, and engages 20,000 District schoolchildren in health and food-system education each year.
D.C. Hunger Solutions
More than one in four children in D.C. households experience “food hardship”—their families lack money to buy the food they need. This is the fourth highest rate nationwide. But here is the irony: Child nutrition programs are underutilized. Providers often don’t know about them, are unsure how to access them, or encounter bureaucratic roadblocks. D.C. Hunger Solutions educates the public about District hunger, poverty, and obesity; expands the understanding of “food deserts,” which are neighborhoods without full-service grocery stores; and promotes awareness of, and access to, federal nutrition programs. It works closely with city government to make sure that food policies are effective, and collaborates with others to coordinate resources. Since 2002, it has catapulted D.C. from 20th to third in the nation for the number of low-income students starting the day with school breakfast.
Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington
Ken needs a home and help with addiction. Margaret, grieving her mother’s death, needs a home and a job. A handout isn’t enough; they need a hand up. Samaritan Ministry works with homeless, unemployed, or hurting neighbors to transform their own lives. At five locations, caseworkers coach participants to take small, manageable next steps toward their life goals. In home-like environments with telephones, computers, and high-speed internet, volunteers provide computer training, resume writing help, and tutoring. Participants receive hygiene items, food, interview attire, and Metro cards. They can create email addresses and get phone numbers. Intensive, personal training transforms unemployed individuals into job-ready employees. Samaritan Ministry aids anyone in need, regardless of religious affiliation. Last year, more than 300 volunteers gave 15,731 hours to support over 1,800 people taking their next step.
Founded in 1992 to address the serious lack of affordable housing in D.C.’s Latinx neighborhoods, Mi Casa helps tenants organize and purchase their apartment buildings when they come up for sale, renovates and builds housing for families, and leases apartments at affordable rates. It also trains clients in the skills they need to keep their homes—balancing a budget, reading financial statements, hiring and supervising a property manager. One of D.C.’s most innovative developers—it recently partnered with the city to pilot a housing program serving young mothers who have aged out of foster care and seniors living on fixed incomes—Mi Casa has taken the lead in addressing one of the principle problems facing low-income residents in the District.
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 home to lose; children at risk for low academic performance. Hope and a Home is changing that story. Working with 214 families 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, graduate from the program, retain their independent housing as 94 percent of participants do, and watch their income soar. Supported by dedicated volunteer mentors and tutors, Higher Education provides assessment and advocacy services for 133 children in 61 families in the program. And the results speak for themselves: Last year, every high school senior graduated and continued on to post-secondary education.
Open Arms Housing
Some 800 single women are among the District’s chronically homeless. Many live on the edge, with physical, medical, and mental disabilities, so traditional housing programs—with rules requiring participation in social services—can be a significant challenge. Open Arms uses the “housing first” model, providing safe and comfortable places to live, and then supportive services as an option. Twenty efficiency apartments provide a sense of security and community for women living together, and case management is available to 63 women living in scattered, coed sites across the city. Signing a lease, paying rent, and maintaining the property are accomplishments that generate a sense of pride. As a result, 65 percent of residents voluntarily opt-in to Open Arms’ mental health and substance abuse services.
Children, Youth, and Families
When parents are empowered to pursue their dreams, their children are better prepared to lead healthy, successful lives. This belief is at the core of LIFT-DC, which helps low-income parents with young children achieve economic mobility. Here’s how it works: Families first hear about the program through trusted early childhood education providers. Members (parents) are then matched with coaches (highly trained Master of Social Work student interns), who work with them to break down goals into concrete action plans, complemented by holistic support and resources. From connections to healthcare and food assistance, to one-on-one financial coaching and career development, these services improve financial stability and equip parents to provide a better future for their children. Since 2000, 8,000 LIFT-DC members have made significant gains on their road out of poverty.
Hope House DC
The impact of mass incarceration, and its effect on boys and men of color, makes Hope House’s work more pressing than ever. For children whose fathers are incarcerated—5,000 D.C. residents in over 100 prisons from here to California—displacement has grave consequences. Contact may be lost, family structure weakened, and reintegration made very difficult. But through Hope House programs, children visit their fathers online, do homework with them as mentors, watch and listen to bedtime stories that dads record, participate in week-long camps behind bars (a model for camps in five states), and meet with others who struggle with the stigma of incarceration. Older kids participate in a college challenge as they seek out resources to support their college dreams. An antidote to despair, the program has expanded to 16 state and federal prisons.
The Grassroot Project
In 2009, after learning that D.C. had the highest HIV rate in the country, a Georgetown varsity athlete decided to recruit and train his peers—NCAA student-athletes—to deliver sexual health education at area schools. And The Grassroot Project was born. In under a decade, more than 1,500 athletes have provided more than 50,000 hours of free sexual health education to 5,000 low-income D.C. teens. Three programs aim to significantly improve students’ health outcomes: an eight-week school health education program delivered during health and PE classes; a two-session parent workshop focused on improving communication about sexual health within families; and a community health fair that directly links students and families to health service providers. The athletes who provide their services at no cost are people to whom kids look up—and listen.
Healthy Babies Project
D.C.’s poorest wards have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, and the infant mortality rate is nearly twice the national average. The Healthy Babies Project fights the odds, providing pregnancy prevention classes to vulnerable youth and offering wraparound care to pregnant teens and young parents. Case managers work one-on-one with each mom, providing comprehensive prenatal, parenting, and childbirth education while addressing other needs—healthcare, housing, food, transportation, and more. Services begin prenatally and are offered long term, for three to five years after a baby is born, as parents work on completing their education and building healthy, self-sufficient families. Last year, all 223 moms had healthcare and a safe place to live; just 3.8 percent of clients had premature births, compared to 10 percent District-wide; and not one baby was lost to infant death.
Economists predict that, by 2024, the U.S. will have a workforce shortfall of one million STEM professionals. So Mentors, Inc. celebrated its 30th anniversary by reinventing its model to engage more youth—particularly students in grades eight to 12—in STEM careers. Drawing on three decades of mentorship experience, staff carefully match students with mentors that best meet their needs and interests, and together they define their goals and expectations. Throughout the one- to four-year mentorship, Mentors, Inc. offers a series of activities to encourage STEM career exploration, including site visits to employers in a range of industries and occupations, college tours, and a scholarship workshop. Staff provide tailored support, monitoring progress, troubleshooting challenges, and offering incentives for success. The program focuses on students who need mentors most, igniting their interest in 21st-century careers. New mentors, and resources, are welcome.
Special Olympics District of Columbia
Special Olympics began in the early 1960s when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for people with mental retardation, and everyone realized that the participants benefited in far more ways than many experts had believed possible. In 1969, SODC began its fledgling program with a handful of athletes—now 1,500 annually. An eight- to 10-week training schedule, competition, and awards ceremony, gives all athletes the opportunity to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy. Sites in wards 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 offer aquatics, basketball, bocce, bowling, golf, soccer, speed skating, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. The entire program—athletic uniforms, transportation, equipment, and awards—is free.
Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena
The “friends” succeeded—not just in saving the only ice rink in D.C., but also in creating a vibrant community resource in Ward 7. Today, FFDIA reaches more than 2,500 youth, many receiving free or subsidized lessons. And the benefits extend far beyond the ice. The arena is an incredibly diverse place for children to learn life lessons while having fun and creating relationships. They build self-confidence, self-esteem, character, and a sense of accomplishment both on and off the ice. Group classes teach respect and responsibility; hockey teams build sportsmanship and collaboration; advanced figure skating helps young people grow in fitness and confidence. City schools integrate skating into their physical education curriculum, while summer camps ensure that children have an engaging (and cool) destination.
Girls and Women
Suited for Change
At the core of SFC is a simple concept: Provide low-income women with professional attire so that they can seek employment. But clothes are only the beginning. Clients include domestic violence survivors, homeless and immigrant women, and former offenders. More than 100 social service agencies refer these women to SFC because, along with new clothes, they gain confidence, dignity, and self-esteem. During free, individualized suiting sessions, women receive one-on-one mentoring and two full professional outfits in advance of a scheduled interview. Once they land the job, clients return to round out a full week’s wardrobe. Suited for Success Workshops offer training in soft skills like communication, conflict management, teamwork, and more, helping women to improve their job readiness and retain employment. Women begin to see themselves as professionals, many for the first time.
DC Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment
At DC SAFE, survivors of domestic violence find a comprehensive, coordinated network of care—one that empowers them to achieve safety, stability, and freedom from fear. Through 24/7 bilingual services, survivors access critical information and referrals, as well as immediate direct support, such as lock changes, emergency transportation, and shelter placement. Within hours of a violent incident, families can move into apartment-style units, thanks to SAFE Space, a 24-hour emergency housing program. Advocates work closely with each client, helping them navigate next steps—filing civil protection orders, securing long-term housing, connecting with mental health care, and more. And for those at highest risk for re-assault or homicide, DC SAFE collaborates with numerous city agencies to ensure expedited support. Last year, more than 10,000 survivors accessed these life-saving services.
An infant born in D.C.’s poorest ward is 10 times likelier to die than one born in the wealthiest. Committed to serving low-resourced families of color, Mamatoto Village fights this and other staggering disparities in maternal health care. Throughout pregnancy, and for the first three months of the child’s life, mothers receive comprehensive, culturally relevant services—health education, care coordination, labor and breastfeeding support, counseling—that empower them to make informed decisions about their health, their parenting, and their lives. Inspired by the care they received, clients often return to complete the Perinatal Workforce Training Program, learning to serve their community as trained community health workers and lactation consultants, thereby increasing the number of women of color employed in maternal health and having a positive effect on the local economy.
Legal Services and Justice Programs
Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia
Our neighbors who live with daily injustice—injustice rooted in poverty, disability, and discrimination—are the least likely to have the resources they need to defend their rights. NLSP locates its offices in neighborhoods where they are needed most, offering free civil legal services to low-income D.C. residents. Together with staff lawyers, tenants fight substandard housing conditions; clients with disabilities secure affordable, accessible shelter; domestic violence survivors win protections from their abusers; job-seekers eliminate unfair barriers to employment. Outreach and educational seminars in places like public libraries, the VA Medical Center, and local nonprofits bring services to clients who might otherwise miss out. And at every opportunity, NLSP joins with other community stakeholders to advocate for policies that uphold justice and equality—for our neighbors in need, and for us all.
In 2017, the total U.S. household debt hit an all-time high. Countless families are struggling, but when it comes to predatory lenders and debt collectors, communities of color are disproportionately targeted. Tzedek addresses this injustice, safeguarding the rights of low-income and working-class D.C. residents—primarily African-American and Latinx households—facing debt-related crises. Staff and partner lawyers provide free legal counsel and direct representation, helping to negotiate affordable payment plans, secure debt forgiveness, and obtain dismissals in cases of identity theft. Preventative education encourages residents to address financial problems head on instead of fearing the system. And in partnership with Legal Aid and anti-poverty groups, Tzedek fights systemic injustice, working to reform local policy.
Voices for a Second Chance
Most justice-involved citizens will return to a community very different from the one they left, but VSC is there to prepare them to rejoin the world—facilitating communication with families, attorneys, and therapists while they are incarcerated and, after release, connecting them to critical programs and services. And the needs are great: job training, mental health support from felon-friendly organizations, substance abuse and chronic disease treatment and, of course, secure housing to facilitate a smooth transition. After release, clients can drop by to use the office phone and internet, pick up bus tokens, find shelter, have a grilled cheese sandwich, or get funds to secure a birth certificate. Maintaining family ties and creating positive relationships with the community means justice-involved citizens are better prepared for their release into the world we all share—to raise their children, to work, and to live.
Life Skills, Training, and Employment
Art Enables is the District’s only nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for adult artists with disabilities to make, market, and earn income from their original and compelling visual artwork. This innovative art studio and gallery provides artists with the creative space, materials, and vocational support they need to become proud, professional artists. Since its founding in 2001, over 100 artists have created countless pieces of artwork; shown work in over 200 exhibitions locally, nationally, and internationally; and generated nearly $1 million in sales. In addition to earning income from selling their art, participants build the skills, relationships, and experience important for a successful artistic career. Each year, more than 25,000 D.C.-area residents take part in exhibitions, workshops, and other community-based events celebrating the artists’ work and talents.
Technology plays an essential role in today’s workforce, yet thousands of Washingtonians lack even basic computer skills. Byte Back combats poverty by providing free computer training and career preparation to low-income individuals and placing them into living wage careers. Through digital literacy classes, adults with low or no tech skills learn the basics of how to use a computer, the internet, email, and the Microsoft Office Suite. Free industry-recognized tech certification courses prepare clients for careers in IT and business services. Graduates then get the career support they need, including job search assistance and mock interviews, to build soft skills and secure new jobs. Last year, Byte Back helped 60 graduates move into jobs, increasing their annual income by $24,000.
Community and Civic Engagement
Fund for Investigative Journalism
Freelance journalists are in a tight spot. Subject to financial pressure, intimidation, and threats, they lack the protections offered by major media outlets. Yet they remain dedicated to investigation, balance, and “the story”—and FIJ backs them up. By covering reporting costs that freelancers often cannot afford, it advances crucial investigative projects around the globe. The four-dozen grants awarded annually cover camera and recording equipment rentals, the cost of ordering public records, and travel expenses for meeting sources. FIJ-sponsored writers have garnered two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Magazine Awards, and the MacArthur “Genius” award. But the real beneficiaries are readers and citizens: Reporters have exposed toxic agricultural products sold in Kenya, companies that sold overpriced seed to impoverished farmers, and human trafficking in the U.S.
Multicultural Community Service
MCS opens doors to civic engagement for D.C.-area residents with limited English proficiency, ensuring that, regardless of native language or cultural background, they can participate fully in their communities every day. Interpretation and translation services in over 30 languages, from Amharic to Serbian to Urdu, serve 6,000 people annually. Through partnerships with nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses across the region, MCS provides everything from help for a Spanish-speaking father at a parent-teacher conference to facilitation of a large-scale community event requiring simultaneous translation in multiple languages. For bilingual residents, a 70-hour Community Interpreter Training equips participants with the skills to pursue careers in language services, at once strengthening D.C.’s workforce and increasing language access in the region. A founding member of the DC Language Access Coalition, MCS bridges cultures and communities, giving voice to the voiceless.
Shout Mouse Press
In a country where half of all 5-year-olds belong to a racial or ethnic minority, only 10 percent of children’s books feature characters like them. Shout Mouse Press is changing that, empowering people from marginalized communities to tell their stories and, as published authors, act as agents of change. Working in partnership with other nonprofits, a team of teaching artists leads writing workshops that engage at-risk teens, immigrants, cultural minorities, and the incarcerated. Staff then professionally edit, design, and publish their work, helping authors to share their stories in the media and as public speakers, panelists, and student leaders. With more than 35,000 books in circulation, sales benefit the nonprofit partners and their authors. These powerful original stories—children’s books, novels, poetry, comics, memoirs—amplify voices that would otherwise go unheard.
Washington Area Bicyclist Association
Last year WABA taught 419 adults—with an average age of 39—how to ride a bike. The organization also doubled the percentage of women bike commuters, which was a 10-year endeavor, and maintained 20 miles of urban trails. Its mission is to transform the D.C. area into a healthier, safer biking community—advocating for better biking conditions inch by inch, driving legislative change at the state level, and working in neighborhoods to garner community support for safer streets and trails. The outreach and education team hits the road every day, educating drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians of all ages, and clearing the way—sometimes literally—for a smooth ride. The result: fewer crashes, healthier citizens, happier commuters, less pollution, and a vast network of trails and bike lanes so that, no matter where you live, you are connected to work, to home, and to the people you love.
Health and Wellness
Eating disorders are tragically common, affecting 30 million Americans in their lifetimes. Yet treatment options remain scarce. Rock Recovery bridges a critical gap in care, focusing on individuals who need more than a weekly session with a therapist, but less than full-time treatment. Clients go about their daily lives while accessing affordable outpatient programs, including group therapy, group meals and nutrition counseling, mentoring, yoga classes, and optional faith-based activities. Together they make up an invaluable community network where clients feel understood and supported on their journey toward better health. Outreach programs educate and empower individuals to find recovery for themselves or for their loved ones, increasing understanding of disordered eating while reducing the stigma surrounding it and other mental health issues. The waiting list for treatment is long.