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Defend Waterways of the Potomac with Potomac Riverkeeper Network

By Nathan Ackerman, VP Communication & Creative, Potomac Riverkeeper Network

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Photography: Lindsay Bernal, courtesy of Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a non-profit environmental organization fighting to keep pollution out of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers through grassroots organizing and legal advocacy.

We believe experiencing our rivers builds appreciation for them. We defend and enhance public access to the waterways of the Potomac watershed through Riverkeepers, who identify and address threats to the Potomac, Upper Potomac, and the Shenandoah.

We serve the 6 million people who rely on our rivers as the source of their drinking water, the thousands of recreational users of the rivers, and the many more who may never spend time on our rivers but appreciate their beauty, and the vital role they play in our economy and the ecosystems they sustain.

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Photography: Lindsay Bernal, courtesy of Potomac Riverkeeper Network

We protect and defend our rivers because they sustain life. Our rivers supply our drinking water and put food on the table. Keeping our rivers healthy keeps the Chesapeake Bay healthy – which generates 33 billion in recreational and economic benefits each year. But beyond the economic benefits, we believe our rivers have intrinsic value that merits protection.

The work we do is important because our country still allows industry, municipalities and agricultural operations to externalize significant costs by using our rivers to dispose of their waste and pollution. Proposed rollbacks of federal clean water protections make our work more important than ever – local vigilance, citizen action, public education and engagement are the last lines of defense.

Our work in Alexandria, Virginia kept nearly a billion gallons of sewage and contaminated stormwater out of the Potomac by exposing the extent to which the city was polluting our nation’s river. Generating pressure through the media and raising public awareness cut over a decade off of the original plan for fixing the problem.

When we discovered families in Dumfries, Virginia were being poisoned by toxic coal ash leaking into their drinking water, we organized the community, and worked to get a law passed to address the situation.

We are inspired by the belief that people have a fundamental right to clean water. We are inspired by single moms working two jobs who find time to speak up for the environment at public hearings. We are inspired by the fact that nearly 50 years ago President Lyndon Johnson called the Potomac River “a national disgrace” but today long lines lead to the Key Bridge boathouse filled with people who can’t wait to get out on the river, thanks to the Clean Water Act.

Here in Washington, we’re seeing a dramatic change in the public perception of the river – urban planners see it an an amenity, not an afterthought.

“Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss.”

(David Bolling, How to Save a River: Handbook for Citizen Action)

Our biggest outreach event of the year, RiverPalooza, kicks off June 3rd with a day of paddling followed by a BBQ and Bluegrass party in Harpers Ferry. RiverPalooza runs most weekends through the summer and will feature 14 river adventures for all ages and skill levels – kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, canoe and camping trips. For those looking for ways to experience our rivers, this is the way to do it.

On the campaign front, we just committed to taking a leadership role in fighting a pipeline project that would carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania through the Maryland panhandle, and under the Potomac River. The company proposing this doesn’t have a great safety record. There’s no need for Maryland to risk their natural resources, tourism and recreation dollars on a pipeline that does nothing for them – the gas isn’t going to Maryland, it’s going through Maryland. Banning fracking in Maryland was the first step. Keeping pipelines out is next.

  • Success for Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a healthy Shenandoah and Potomac River, made possible by holding polluters accountable and building public awareness and appreciation for the role rivers play in our lives.
  • Success would be never reading another headline about how the swimming portion of the National Triathlon was cancelled because the water was unsafe for human contact.
  • Success is stopping cities from dumping raw sewage into the river. Success would be building the next generation of advocates for our rivers, setting their expectations high, and giving them the tools to win.
  • A perfect day is bringing a group of people to a scenic stretch of the Shenandoah for the first time and seeing their faces light up as they discover what we fight for and why – without any explanation.

We can be reached by calling 202 888 2037 or by emailing nathan@prknetwork.org or maria@prknetwork.org. Our website has information about our priority issues, links to take action, to volunteer and to join our organization. A great way to engage with us is to participate in one of our RiverPalooza trips, which are led by our Riverkeepers or liking us on Facebook.

“Keep your rivers flowing as they will, and you will continue to know the most important of all freedoms – the boundless scope of the human mind to contemplate wonders, and to begin to understand their meaning. “

(David Brower, The Foreword to Oregon Rivers by Larry Olson and John Daniel)

 

 

 

 

Every Day is Earth Day at National Park Trust

by Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust

Preserving parks today; creating park stewards for tomorrow.

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Photographer: Chris Rief, courtesy of National Park Trust

Celebrated each year on April 22nd, this year’s Earth Day falls during National Park Week (April 15th through April 23rd). National Park Week is celebrated at more than 400 national park units across the country, many of which are located right in our backyard. Did you know that the White House, National Mall, Rock Creek Park and the C & O Canal all are National Parks?

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Photographer: Chris Rief, courtesy of National Park Trust

Earth Day is a time to pause, think, and take action to protect our environment – something that is at the core of the mission of National Park Trust (NPT), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit included in this year’s Catalogue for Philanthropy. For more than 30 years, NPT has worked to protect our national parks locally and across the country. Our mission focuses on preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow.

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Photographer: Chris Rief, courtesy of National Park Trust

NPT acquires privately owned lands located within and adjacent to our national parks including national parks in the DC-metro area. There are millions of acres of privately owned land located inside the boundaries of our national parks. NPT’s land acquisition projects are selected from a high-priority “wish list” provided to us by the National Park Service; many are at risk for development.

The long-term protection of our country’s unique natural, historic and cultural treasures depends on our youth – our future stewards who will protect these special places for generations to enjoy. Most of the visitors to our national parks are white and aging. If our parks are to be protected in perpetuity, we must connect our growing young and diverse populations with these special places. Simply said: kids need parks — and parks need kids.

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Photographer: Billy Schrack, courtesy of National Park Trust

That’s why in 2009 we launched our fun and innovative Buddy Bison School Program in the DC-metro area in six under-served elementary and middle schools. At the heart of the program is our mascot Buddy Bison who encourages kids to explore outdoors, the parks are yours! Little did we know how quickly (in just eight short years!) our program would grow, as teachers eagerly incorporated environmental education into their classrooms. As a result, and thanks to the outstanding support from our donors, we now fund 60 Title I schools locally and across the country. Our dream? To grow and sustain 100 schools in honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, which was celebrated last year.

The Buddy Bison program provides park trips tying in STEM, history and social studies curricula. In addition to being terrific outdoor classrooms, parks are also ideal places where students can learn about health and wellness through outdoor recreation and park stewardship through career and volunteer opportunities.

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Photographer: Chris Rief, courtesy of National Park Trust

This Earth Day, we invite you to join us in taking action to protect and preserve our national parks and the environment. Then on Saturday, May 20th, let’s keep the momentum going by celebrating Kids to Parks Day – a national day of outdoor play, organized by NPT, that focuses on kids, our future park stewards. There are lots of free park events registered at kidstoparks.org including several in our backyard.

If you’d like to learn more about our work and how you can get involved, visit parktrust.org because…Every day is Earth Day at National Park Trust!

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.

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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 volunteer@iona.org.

DC SCORES is Team!

Spring, it seems, is here to stay in Washington, DC, and for one nonprofit after-school program, that means service.

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At DC SCORES, elementary and middle school students across the District — 2,200 of them — create change in their communities during the 12-week season through service-learning projects.

Writing coaches hired by DC SCORES80% of whom work at the schools — lead students through the program’s thick service-learning curriculum, taking them on a journey that goes like this:

Stage 1: Examine your community. Kids walk around their school building and into the surrounding neighborhood, equipped with clipboards and a pencil. They jot down what rubs them the wrong way. Is there a lot of trash? Homeless people suffering? A lack of gardens? Stray animals?

Stage 2: Research. After a collaborative decision on which issue to focus on, the kids educate themselves. They look up statistics online. They talk to people who are relevant to the issue locally. They become informed.

Stage 3: Implementation. It’s time to go to work! During the two service-learning sessions after school each week, the kids — feeling empowered like never before — take the steps as a team to create change. Some projects culminate in a big day (examples: a car wash to raise money to feed the homeless; a fun race to fundraise for the local animal shelter; a fitness festival to bring awareness about healthy living to their school community) while others are multi-week processes such as the creation of a school garden.

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Stage 4: Reflection. The last week of the spring DC SCORES service-learning season is spent reflecting on the project. What were the biggest challenges? What felt most rewarding? How did the kids feel when it we completed? Many lessons come out of these projects, and the elementary and middle school poet-athletes in DC SCORES learn just how powerful they are to make a difference in their communities, especially when working together.

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DC SCORES was born in 1994 by a Teach for America teacher, Julie Kennedy, who noticed that girls she taught at Marie Reed Learning Center (now Marie Reed Elementary School) had nothing to do after school. Julie rolled out a soccer ball one day, and the girls embraced the game. On a rainy afternoon, with everyone stuck inside, Julie placed a notebook in front of each girl and and encouraged them to freely write down their thoughts about anything. The poetry aspect, which takes place during the fall season and culminates in the annual Poetry Slam!, came about. Service-learning was added as the third prong of the innovate model shortly thereafter.

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DC SCORES goes where kids in need are — they operate in all eight wards, with 55 sites at DC public and public charter schools and rec centers; the program’s waiting list is 20 schools deep — and gives them the skills and confidence to be successful on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life.

Every aspect of DC SCORES, from the weekly game days to the Slam! to service-learning, is based around team and led by supported, trusted coaches who are considered leaders in their school communities. If you are in Columbia Heights or Deanwood or many other DC neighborhoods, you will see kids and adults walking around in DC SCORES school-customized T-shirts. They wear them proudly.

DC SCORES is team. And the bonds created within DC SCORES lead to stronger, healthier, happier communities throughout the District regardless of resources available. Just consider Imagine Hope Community Charter School – Tolson Campus, which last year created a school garden on its blacktop out of recycled soda bottles.

Give kids an outlet, the confidence, and the tools to make their world a better place, and the result will be beautiful.

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GET INVOLVED
So how can you get involved with DC SCORES this spring?

Volunteer: DC SCORES especially needs volunteers for its season-culminating Jamboree! on Saturday, June 3 for all 2,200 kids and their families. Many roles are available. Additionally, referees are needed for Thursday game days (no experience necessary). Check out all volunteer opportunities HERE.

Website: Learn more about DC SCORES at www.DCSCORES.org or by connecting with the program on any social media platform (just search DC SCORES).

Building Remarkable Futures, One Middle School Student at a Time

By Cynthia Rubenstein, Executive Director – Passion for Learning

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It’s not what you pour into a child, it’s what you plant. - Unknown

Passion for Learning (P4L) engages economically disadvantaged middle school students in Montgomery County through digital technology, after school programs, and college readiness summer camps. Coached by talented school teachers, digital tech professionals and high school student mentors, our youth become savvy and responsible digital citizens with aspirations and plans for bright futures.

Middle school is the perfect time to engage youth in dreaming and building their futures. At Passion for Learning we know it is critically important to engage students in their middle school years and help them prepare for successful transitions to high school, as well as, develop goals for post secondary education.

In Montgomery County, academic enrichment opportunity gaps continue to exist for students of color and students from low income families. At P4L we aim to close these opportunity gaps by surrounding middle school youth with adults and older students who expose them to exciting possibilities in technology and help them develop their potential and talents.

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Every year P4L engages 120 plus students at eight middle schools who develop digital technology skills and interests. Each year at least 80% of P4L’s youth develop new interests in taking digital technology courses in high school and more than 60% plan careers that require technology skills. At least 80% of youth say that our programs help them think about what they want to do in the future and more than 75% say they plan to achieve four year college degrees.

Our middle school youth inspire us with their boundless curiosity, energy and potential. Middle school students are at a remarkable stage in their lives. They are discovering who they are and figuring out their place in the world. They are open to new experiences and exploring new interests that may “spark” them for life. It’s the exuberant and inquisitive spirit of middle school youth that inspires us at P4L!

A typical day at P4L after school program finds students designing video games and learning Java Script or Python programming languages; creating youth videos for local cable tv stations; building circuit boards to power LED lights; taking a digital photography and photo editing workshop from a pro; designing web sites and writing news blogs.

At P4L we are always looking for adults who want to share their knowledge and experiences with our middle school youth. If you’re a tech professional, we’d love to have you meet and engage with our students after school. We’d love to talk to you about the possibilities. Contact us at p4learning@aol.com or call Cynthia Rubenstein, Executive Director, at 301-589-1725.

A Creative Learning Community Where the Sky is the Limit!

By Kathleen Guinan CEO, Crossway Community

kidsCrossway Community promotes learning creativity and community for all families in the greater Washington area since 1990. As a local organization with a global mindset, we have had the privilege of supporting hundreds of children and families while building an innovative model that we try to share with policymakers, educators, and leaders around the world.

Our model of social change is rooted in Montessori philosophy and principles. Maria Montessori was a physician and teacher who was working in Italy in the early twentieth century. Using her method, viewing people as naturally curious and motivated by practical life and beauty, what we are really doing is creating the environment to nurture and support learning– for every child, parent, and community member who walks through our door.

When we started, we had a vision of becoming a local resource, and a national model. That has held true over time. On our suburban campus in Kensington, MD, a once an abandoned elementary school is now our three learning centers: The Crossway Community Montessori School, The Family Leadership Academy, and The Intergenerational Learning Center.
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These three centers, which are all integrated and Montessori-infused, represent our model children learning, parents thriving, and community connecting. Some families participate in just one of the learning centers, and others are engaged in all three. But it’s because we’ve got them all operating together that the magic happens. That’s how immigrant families are learning to feel at home. It’s how children of working poor parents are gaining the education foundation for a future that includes college. It is why the volunteers who join us tell us they learn as much as they teach.

My hope for the future is the families that continue to show up, wanting to learn, wanting to grow, wanting to contribute. I have seen the resilience, the dignity, and the compassion that they come through with, even when there is so much negativity and conflict. Witnessing the transformations that happen calms my soul and motivates me to keep dong this work. We approach what we do with a constant desire to learn, to get better, to understand more… there is always hope.

One of the most exciting initiatives we are getting involved with comes out of our Intergenerational Learning Center. In the fall, in partnership with a nationally recognized trainer, we’ll be offering a wonderful workshop for professionals and family members of people living with dementia. This is a perfect example of our model in action. The goal of the workshop is to support people living with dementia by creating a prepared environment, filled with cues and memory supports, that enables individuals to care for themselves, others, and their community so that they may live as independently as possible. More information about the workshop is here.

No two days at Crossway Community look quite the same. But, a really great day often begins with the sounds of singing in the Crossway Community Montessori School. We watch the comings and goings of the families who live on-site in the Family Leadership Program, many of whom are new to this country. The parents are working hard to make progress on their work and education, while establishing routines and relationships that support healthy development of their children.

I am always inspired to see the growth in our organic gardens as the weather warms up. And when the senior citizen volunteers show up to do cleanup projects or mentoring their energy is a force to be reckoned with. I am so lucky to be surrounded by a professional team that “gets it” that wants to be part of something big and positive and real. And volunteers whose generosity knows no bounds. But most of all, it’s about the families.

Obviously, as close as we are to DC, we have a view up close and personal of the political landscape. I think the most useful thing we can do is to try to maintain our position as a calm, principled advocate for families, for education, and for social justice. We have to just stay the course, true to what we know matters for the children and families who have entrusted us to be their partner. That keeps us focused.

We love to give tours, and in 2017, our Event Spaces (including a Cafe with a full commercial kitchen, and the Great Room) are available to the public for family, corporate, and community events. New ideas and visitors are always welcome at Crossway Community. As we like to say, the sky’s the limit!

A Compassionate Heart for a New Independent Life

by Elisabeth Rhyne, Board Chair, Just Neighbors

While the national debate about immigration can inflame tempers on both sides, I appreciate the refreshing antidote Just Neighbors offers as an organization that approaches immigration with a compassionate heart.

Just Neighbors doesn’t play politics or raise a strident voice. Instead, it quietly pursues the mission it has supported for over 20 years to provide legal assistance to immigrants in Northern Virginia who can obtain status through the pathways U.S. immigration law offers, especially those who cannot afford legal fees.

Over the years, Just Neighbors has helped over 10,000 people from just about every country in the world to get the visas, work permits, and even citizenship, to become contributing members of their adopted communities.

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For example, a husband and wife, both physicians, came as refugees from Iraq. When they contacted Just Neighbors they were overwhelmed with the new country and new language, studying to pass qualifying exams in the U.S., and caring for their toddler. Just Neighbors assisted the family to receive green cards. This family had the ability to thrive, they simply needed help getting on their feet after fleeing their homeland.

Some clients have more complex situations. For example, “Mariela”, from Bolivia, whose status here depended on her U.S. citizen husband, who was abusing her. Using the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act, Just Neighbors helped her obtain a green card and establish an independent new life.

As the Board Chair and not a lawyer, I am far from an expert on immigration law. I’m always learning, and what amazes me, is how complicated our immigration system is. It takes experienced immigration attorneys to sort through the thicket of rules, procedures and possibilities and find the right kind of help for each person.

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Just Neighbors staff attorneys specialize in what, to me, are very arcane matters. Even though they are sacrificing the significantly higher salaries they could earn in a firm, they love their work, and you can see them hugging clients when they bring the good news that a work permit has been approved. They especially love to hear how their clients fare afterwards.

Head attorney, Dominque Poirer was thrilled to get a note from a former client: “You told me to call you when we had big changes in our life. So I wanted to tell you that I got married, I have a new address because I bought a house, and I joined the Navy and am shipping out on Friday.”

The staff attorneys determine how many people Just Neighbors can assist, and that’s why one of our top priorities is to reach the financial standing that would enable us to increase our legal staff from three to four attorneys.

The staff attorneys time is golden for Just Neighbors, because every case must go through their hands. But one of the best things about Just Neighbors is how it uses volunteers to leverage that scarce resource. Volunteer attorneys assist staff attorneys in preparing cases, upping caseloads the organization can handle. In addition, ordinary folks like me can help with client interviews and office administration. The organization seeks to give volunteers a chance to reach out in compassion to others. It believes that when volunteers connect personally with immigrants they see the individuals, and immigration itself, through new eyes. In fact, creating a welcoming community through volunteers is part of the mission. Volunteers save money too: the estimated value of donated time is about 80 percent as large as Just Neighbors total budget.

Right now there is great uncertainty about the future of immigration policy, and that is putting stress on Just Neighbors while making its work more important, and a little different, from the past few years. For example, we don’t yet know whether the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be continued. DACA provides work permits for undocumented young adults who were brought to the U.S. as children, often called “Dreamers”. Just Neighbors has helped nearly 900 DACA applicants since the program began in 2013 and would like to continue to enable these young adults to take their places in society.

In addition, the stepped up enforcement of deportation orders by immigration authorities is creating fear and uncertainty throughout the immigrant community. This leads Just Neighbors into a new role: responding to calls from people seeking answers and advice. Although Just Neighbors cannot assist those who have no legal pathway, it offers advice on how to respond if someone is stopped by the police, how to prepare for children to be cared for if the father or mother is deported, and what a person’s rights are in those circumstances. Just Neighbors is taking on this essential educational role on top of its regular caseload out of caring for the communities it works with, trying to get the word out to as many people in those communities as it can.

One of the great things about Just Neighbors is that a relatively small (and really pretty inexpensive) intervention can make an enormous difference in someone’s life. When a person gets a work permit, escapes an abusive relationship, or rejoins a family, she often feels that her life has just begun. Just Neighbors gives its clients a tangible acknowledgment that they belong in this community and an ability to look at their future with confidence. I love it for that.

If you’d like to find out more about Just Neighbors, see http://cfp-dc.org/nonprofits/1352/Just-Neighbors/

Pathways to Brighter Futures

cfpdc2013org-DoorwaysforWomenandFamilies-94291-2541 Doorways for Women and Families is a local nonprofit, community service organization that creates pathways out of homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault leading to safe, stable and empowered lives. The causes of family homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault are profound and varied.

Doorways works to break the cycles of poverty and violence through every interaction we have with our clients and by advocating for systemic policy change. We are successful because we treat each person as an individual, tailoring our programs and services to help every adult and child we serve overcome trauma, build life skills and ultimately unlock their full potential. From immediate crisis intervention to counseling, housing and employment support, we offer real options and multiple pathways to build brighter futures.

Together with our community, Doorways puts thousands of adults, youth and children on paths to brighter futures by providing:

  • An immediate, safe response to our neighbors in crisis, including Arlington’s only 24-Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline (703-237-0881)
  • Safe housing options, from emergency shelter through long-term housing, including Arlington’s only Domestic Violence Safehouse, Safe Apartments and Safe Kennel
  • Comprehensive support services that help our clients achieve and maintain stability, including Children’s Services

At Doorways, we have an unofficial motto coined by one of our team members: “Do for; Do with; Cheer on.”

When clients first arrive at Doorways, they are escaping crisis; basic needs such as safety and shelter are their top priority. In the beginning, we “do for” our clients by seeing to these immediate needs for them. Next, we “do with” our clients by partnering with them to set goals for their brighter futures. Through trauma-informed counseling and other tailored services, we help clients address the underlying causes of homelessness and violence and teach them critical skills for achieving and maintaining stability. Finally, we “cheer on” our clients when they are ready to take steps on their own, celebrating their independence while continuing to support their journeys.

From our immediate response to safe shelter and housing to our Comprehensive Service Model, Doorways empowers our clients every step of the way. Learn more about Doorways unique approach at www.DoorwaysVA.org/our-approach.

Who We Serve

Doorways serves our community’s most vulnerable members: families experiencing homelessness and survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Experiencing any one of these in your life is traumatic, but many of Doorways clients have experienced all three. Family homelessness and domestic and sexual violence impact everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. We serve women, men, youth and children; in fact, more than half of Doorways clients are kids. Meet three of our amazing clients, Christina, Erica and Khadeejah, and hear about their journeys firsthand:

 

Hope for a Brighter Future

While the issues of family homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault may seem too pervasive to solve, we know that, together, we can make a difference. Doorways envisions a community where all people live free of violence and have safe and stable housing.

Through the generosity of our partners and supporters, Doorways empowers our most vulnerable neighbors to survive crisis, rebuild their lives and achieve brighter futures. In so doing, we help break intergenerational cycles of homelessness and abuse, building the brightest possible future for those we serve and our shared community. The strength, courage and resilience of the women, men, youth and children we serve inspire us each and every day.

Sharing in our belief in their potential and hope for our clients brighter futures, Doorways dedicated and generous supporters enable us to respond to the increasing demand for safety and the growing complexity of the needs of survivors and families seeking self-sufficiency, despite the uncertain, restrictive funding climate that threatens our ability to deliver lasting change in our client’s well-being.

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Everyone’s journey to a brighter future is different each individual has their own story, needs, goals and dreams; their pathways vary. We celebrate victories big and seemingly small: a baby’s homecoming or first steps; a mother’s new, better paying job; a family’s new apartment; a young man’s breakthrough in counseling; a child’s creation in art therapy. Each step forward makes for a great day at Doorways.

We also know that the challenges that arise along the way are part of the journey, and we’re here to help our clients face and overcome them. We’re humbled to be part of their life and see the transformation that is possible. Through Doorways, this support has helped our most vulnerable neighbors achieve the following in the last couple years:

  • 90% of clients experiencing intimate partner violence enhanced their safety by developing a safety plan, obtaining a legal protective order, and/or receiving accompaniment for emergency medical treatment post sexual assault.
  • 87% of households experiencing homelessness exited to safe housing.
  • 95% of children with social-emotional issues received services and treatment to address their needs.
  • 80% of adults improved or maintained employment or earning capacity, and nearly 70% built savings.

Join Our Cause

The time is now. The need for Doorways programs and services has never been greater. Over the past two years, every Doorways program serving survivors of violence has grown. Last year alone, Doorways responded to 1,347 calls to our 24-hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline impacting 2,206 adults and children a record number in the organization’s history.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in America. This month offers opportunities to raise awareness about sexual violence and resources available to survivors in our community, including our 24-Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline, Hospital Accompaniment for survivors seeking medical attention, Court Advocacy, and our Revive Domestic & Sexual Violence Counseling Program, which offers individual and group counseling to survivors of all ages.

Visit www.DoorwaysVA.org/saam to learn how to participate in our awareness days and events, and how to help raise awareness during SAAM. Go to www.DoorwaysVA.org/join-our-cause for ways to stay involved all year long.

Passion and Conviction with JCADA

By Spencer Cantrell, Legal Access Program Director for the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse’s (JCADA).Spencer provides legal information and referrals to victims of domestic abuse experiencing a variety of legal issues.
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My work at JCADA allows me to combine my passion for helping survivors with a faith-based sensitivity and perspective. JCADA is terrific at helping survivors regardless of race, national origin, ability, background, faith, gender or sexual orientation while also providing a religious and cultural sensitivity that, I believe, makes us unique.

I admire Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She said,”I am passionate about the law because many people forget what lawyering is about. It’s about helping people.” I keep this quote on my desk as a reminder of why I decided to become an attorney and what my motivations are at work on a daily basis.

Recently, JCADA started Family Law seminars, where an attorney is available to come in and share basic information with clients about different family law topics, such as the basics of filing for divorce or child custody factors. This is a great opportunity for clients to learn more, in a safe space, about what they might expect, but also for clients to learn from one another and receive some informal emotional support. I’m very excited to continue this series at JCADA and, eventually, branch out into the myriad of topics affecting our clients, including tax issues, enforcement of court orders, and wills and estate planning.

Working with victims of domestic violence can be quite demanding, and having friends, family and pets at the end of the day can be refreshing. ​​I advise people that want to do this work to maintain a solid, intentional work-life balance. I also advise people to celebrate their successes with clients, because it helps to identify any silver linings that can be found.

I love any success a client achieves, and I define success however a client does. When a client chooses to divorce an abuser and completes that process, it’s typically treated as a success. When a client is able to co-parent with an abuser or enforce their child custody arrangement, that is a success.

One of my favorites is something a highlighted on the JCADA blog last summer, where we were able to help a client in a myriad of ways:helping her write h​er victim impact statement, court accompaniment, crime victim’s compensation reimbursement, retaking classes missed due to court without penalty, and moving to a safer location. I loved thinking creatively of ways to help this client and watching her become more empowered through the process.

Elle Woods said in her commencement speech at the end of Legally Blonde, “passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law — and of life. It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world.” I try to live by these mottos in my interactions with clients.

Making Positive Life Changes at Friends of Guest House

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Friends of Guest House is a safe place in Northern Virginia for women to successfully re-enter the community after incarceration. While residing at Friends of Guest House the women have the opportunity to secure employment, obtain mental health and medical services, build community connections, and attain stable housing.

Each day we strive to challenge our clients to make positive life changes while also challenging the local community to disregard the stigma of ex-offenders. One of our former residents expressed her goals and the challenges of the preconceived opinion society has of her through a poem:

What do you see when you look at me?
Do you see a project to help you learn something?
or at first do you see a person going through things?
Do you imagine yourself to be better than me?

Oh enlighten me on what you see.
Do you see all the potential that I am trying to unleash?
Or maybe you just see the number that was given to me.

Oh ma’am, oh sir, tell me that you see a better life for me.

Well let me discuss what I see.
I see getting it by any and all means,
a growth that the eye cannot see.
Look into the future and that?s all I need
and maybe then you will be asking me
What do you see?

Our program has demonstrated that re-entry support is essential to breaking the cycle of crime and repeated incarceration. Without support, when returning to the community 70% of ex-offenders re-offend within two years. These numbers change drastically for Friends of Guest House graduates: fewer than 10% re-offend. With this in mind, our program offers three levels of support: Residential, Aftercare, and Outreach.

IMG_0218Our Executive Director, Kari Galloway, works tirelessly to ensure that the organization offers full support to the women we serve. She recently reached her 12-year anniversary with Friends of Guest House. Without her, the program would not be as strong and successful as it currently is. She inspires the staff to work hard and, more importantly, she inspires the women to succeed. Not only does she provide the encouragement and support to each client but she holds them accountable for their actions and offers the constructive criticism they need.

One of the biggest challenges for our clients is securing safe and affordable housing in the DMV. In order to afford the housing opportunities in the local area, our clients need to be able to find job opportunities that offer advancement and growth. Currently clients typically secure minimum wage positions and struggle to afford the local cost of living. Unfortunately, these women will typically decide to return home to unhealthy environments that challenge their sobriety and success.

We hope to address both the need for affordable housing and career oriented jobs through our most recent initiatives. The Workforce Development Program is a six-week program that allows clients to develop their resume, learn interviewing techniques, and obtain an internship and eventually a career. We are also piloting a subsidized transitional house for Aftercare and Outreach clients scheduled to open later this month.

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Come see our beautiful clients in action on April 4th at Sara Campbell’s Boutique 320 Prince Street – in Old Town, Alexandria from 6-8pm for a Friends of Guest House fashion show featuring current clients! It’ll be a fun evening to learn more about partnering with our organization while pampering our clients and giving them some time in the spotlight!

Friends of Guest House always welcomes volunteers, donations, and questions. Please visit us at www.friendsofguesthouse.org for contact information!