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Docs In Progress: Small but Mighty!

by Erica Ginsberg, Executive Director, Docs In Progress
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Everyone has a story, and almost everyone has the potential to tell those stories through a tool you probably have in your back pocket or purse. Documentary video production has expanded enormously in the past decade with reduced costs of technology and the ease of sharing video. Yet simply having access to tools to make and share videos does not automatically make one a great storyteller. That is where Docs In Progress comes in. Our mission is to give individuals the tools to tell stories through documentary film to educate, inspire, and transform the way people view their world.

Our programs started in 2004 when we started organizing “docs-in-progress” screenings so local documentary filmmakers could get feedback on their films when they were at the “rough cut” stage. It was a way to help filmmakers step back from projects they’ve been living with for so long — often years — in production and editing, and see their films with new eyes by hearing what audiences thought was working really well and where the storytelling lagged or was confusing. While we presumed these screenings would attract other filmmakers, we were pleasantly surprised to see other folks coming as well, including people who were interested in the topics of the films and those who were experts on those topics.DocsInProgress_CommunityStoriesFestival

We became a nonprofit in 2008, and increased our programming to include programs for filmmakers to share and discuss works which might be at an even earlier stage, as well as training classes and professional development workshops in all aspects of documentary filmmaking for both adults and youth. Since then, we have expanded to offer an array of filmmaker services (fiscal sponsorship, fellowship programs, and a residency) and an annual Community Stories Film Festival which showcases short documentaries produced by our students and others about local stories from across the Washington DC Metro area. We have also worked to foster professional development for nonprofit organizations in the areas of video communications through seminars and workshops.

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Audio-visual storytelling used to be the domain of filmmakers who went to film school or spent years apprenticing to develop their craft mastering expensive and complicated cameras, sound recording devices, and editing systems. Now all of these tools are much more accessible through low-priced cameras, high quality imaging on our phones, and editing systems on our computers. However, technology is just a means to an end. Good storytelling is still at the core. While we have embraced the reality that many people have stories to tell without the time or money to dedicate to film school or apprenticeship, we still want to arm them with the skills and community to be able to develop those stories to their fullest potential.

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Success is all relative. I quit a comfortable job in the federal government to devote myself full-time to Docs In Progress back in 2009. Many people thought I was bonkers to go into the great unknown of a start-up arts organization in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression. And I probably was. The early years of Docs In Progress were very hard, but it made us scrappy and determined to ensure that we had a good mix of income streams – grants, individuals, and earned revenue from our programs.

After a few years, we began to receive grants from local, regional, and national sources, including the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Being accepted into the Catalogue for Philanthropy convinced me that we could continue through the long haul.

I would still consider Docs In Progress a “small but mighty” nonprofit. Last year, more than 1000 people participated in our programs. People are often surprised to learn that our staff consists of only me and two part-time staff. A cadre of talented teaching artists and an enthusiastic board of has helped us continue to grow. Seeing the impact we were making on the field and being a part of fostering what has become the third largest non-fiction filmmaking region in the country (after New York and Los Angeles) has been what has kept us going, even as we want to keep building our capacity.

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I am inspired every day by the folks in our community. Yes there are the films which have seen traditional markers of success. Let The Fire Burn, The Lost Dream, Fate of a Salesman, The Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan, and City of Trees all screened on public television. Indivisible has been playing at film festivals and community screenings across the country, building dialogue about immigration policy. There are some incredible films coming down the pike which deal with just about every social issue you can imagine — labor issues, autism, water pollution, human rights, and the state of our divisive politics. There are also some humorous films which go against the grain that documentaries are all doom and gloom, asking us to reflect even as we laugh.

Even as I feel proud of these successes, I also see success in the confident smile of a shy 13-year-old at the Community Stories Festival after answering questions from an audience of strangers about a film he helped create in our summer camp. I have witnessed the “a-ha moment” a first-time filmmaker experiences when she moves from being creatively stuck to figuring out a solution to the structure of their film. I feel it when I learn that two filmmakers met at one of our roundtables and decided to collaborate on a new project together. I notice it when someone who didn’t think he was all that important becomes a rock star to the audience watching his life unfold on the big screen. In a world where we are asked so many times to provide measurable outcomes, sometimes it is these small observations which remind me why Docs In Progress exists.

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There are lots of ways to engage with Docs In Progress. We hold free or pay-what-you-can screenings just about every month. Some of these are works-in-progress where you can provide the filmmaker constructive feedback on what is working and what can be working better in their films (even non-filmmakers can be helpful because we all consciously or sub-consciously can sense where story development is strong and where it might be slow or confusing).

Like many other nonprofits, we are always on the lookout for great board members. Being a filmmaker or part of the film industry is not a pre-requisite. Being passionate about our mission and having some skills (fundraising, accounting, public relations, etc.) are.

For our fellow nonprofits, we also have two ways your work could be spotlighted. When we are teaching first-time filmmakers how to make a short documentary, we have them work on doing a profile of local people, small businesses, or nonprofits. While these are primarily learning exercises for our students and not professional works-for-hire, some of them turn out very nicely and have actually been used by the profiled nonprofits for their own outreach. One thing we realized, as we have interacted with other nonprofits through professional associations and having our students document their activities, is how much impactful stories can be conveyed through visuals. If a still image is worth 1000 words, then a moving image might be worth a million. Not just metaphorically either. Some funders, including our local arts council, recommend applicants provide a video with their proposals. Find out more about the parameters for being spotlighted by our students at http://www.docsinprogress.org/doc_production_stories

Since 2015, we have also offered a video production workshop specifically for nonprofit staff to expand their visual communications skills. This workshop is offered two mornings a week over the course of a month at a much lower fee than our regular production classes. The 2017 workshop will take place July 11-August 1. The deadline to apply is June 19. Find out more at https://eventgrid.com/Events/33604/hands-on-video-production-for-nonprofits-ie1-1113/Dates/45168

Expanding our DC Leadership Team

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The board of directors of the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, celebrating its 15th year, is pleased to announce the selection of Bob Wittig as its first executive director. The Catalogue recognizes the region’s best small charities, is a leader in developing their capacity, and has helped raise over $37 million since its inception in 2003.

“This is an important step in ensuring the Catalogue’s longevity,” said board member Lauralyn Lee. “As the Catalogue expands its reach, and adds popular Learning Commons training and development programs, Bob’s 25 years of experience working in philanthropy and with small nonprofits makes him an ideal fit for our work going forward.”

After 15 years of overseeing the exceptional growth of the Catalogue, founder Barbara Harman has decided that it is time to move to the next phase of her presidency. She will focus on the Catalogue’s creative work, on partnership development, external relations, and future initiatives. “During this anniversary, it seems particularly important not just to celebrate the past but also to ensure the Catalogue’s future by strengthening its leadership team. As a founder-led organization that represents and supports nearly 400 community-based charities, we want to be a model for how nonprofits can remain vital and how transitions can be effective and powerful,” Harman said.

Wittig has a long record of leadership and commitment to the nonprofit community in the DC region, including a 14-year history as a reviewer of Catalogue applicants, and a facilitator in its training programs. He has been executive director of the Jovid Foundation in Washington, D.C. since 2002. Prior to that, he served as executive director at Academy of Hope, Development Director at Joseph’s House and Direct Marketing Manager at Special Olympics International, all D.C.-based organizations. In 1992, he was part of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Ukraine. Wittig is an author and expert on nonprofit capacity building and board governance.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with Bob to ensure that the Catalogue continues to serve the needs of donors who want to invest in our community and nonprofits whose strength and passion we admire and seek to support,” said Harman.

“I am thrilled to join the Catalogue and its talented team, both to continue and to build upon its impressive achievements,” Wittig stated. “I look forward to working with Barbara, with the Board, and with the donor and nonprofit communities that the Catalogue so successfully brings together.”
The executive search firm LeaderFit worked with the board of directors on this search.

LearnServe Helps Young People Find Their Voice

By Scott Rechler, Learn Serve International

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LearnServe believes in the power of young people to affect social change, and in the power of social change work to shape young leaders.

Youth have the energy, creativity, and passion to identify injustice and drive innovative change,yet often feel powerless to act on that potential. LearnServe helps them find their voice. We envision a new generation of young leaders standing up for the issues that matter to them most.
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A basketball tournament designed to bridge DC teens and police officers. English classes for immigrant and refugee students in northern Virginia. Support for girls building self-confidence and a healthy body image. A fleet of electric school buses. Meet the high school students behind these dynamic new ideas and more at the 8th Annual LearnServe Panels and Venture Fair on Thursday, April 27 from 5:00 – 8:00 pm at Washington Latin Public Charter School (5200 2nd St NW, Washington, DC 20011).
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Students teams will present their ideas in short pitches to panels of business and community leaders, and in a science-fair style exhibition with the opportunity to win up to $200 in seed funding for their projects. RSVP online at http://learn-serve.org/programs/fellows/2017-panels-venture-fair.

LearnServe International is a non-profit organization that equips students from diverse backgrounds with the entrepreneurial vision, tenacity, confidence, and leadership skills needed to tackle social challenges at home and abroad.

Each year LearnServe brings together 100+ students from public, charter, and independent schools in the Washington, DC area. We strengthen their academic and professional success through three complementary programs. The LearnServe Fellows program guides students as they design and launch entrepreneurial ventures with social goals. LearnServe Abroad introduces social innovation through a global lens, as students volunteer with entrepreneurs overseas. Seeding Social Innovation offers curriculum materials to bring social entrepreneurship into the classroom.

We invite you to join the community of individuals, businesses, and schools committed to sparking a new generation of social entrepreneurs across the DC region. Get involved and learn more about our programs at www.learn-serve.org.

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)

 

 

 

 

Saving the Amazon Rainforest with Science

By Ana Folhadella, Development and Communications Associate, Amazon Conservation Association

The Amazon rainforest is under attack. While the region still maintains vast tracts of intact, megadiverse, and carbon-rich forests, it faces escalating threats from illegal gold mining, illegal logging, illegal drug plantations, unsustainable agriculture, cattle pastures, and road construction. At current rates, more than half of the Amazon rainforest may be destroyed or severely damaged by 2030.

Keeping the Amazon standing is crucial for our survival as a species. The Amazon has long been recognized as one of the most biologically rich regions on Earth. It is home to millions of species of animals, plants and insects, essential not only to the indigenous communities living in the region, but also to the overall health of our planet. The rainforest is not just some far-away land that gets showcased at National Geographic specials from time to time, and deforestation happening there affects us right here in the U.S.A. This forest stores 80 to 120 billion tons of carbon, which helps stabilize the Earth’s climate. Destroying such a large storage of carbon will have devastating effects on all of our lives.
ACA5 The Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) was established for the sole purpose of protecting the Amazon rainforest and all those who call it home. Since 1999, we have been pioneers in conservation, focusing our efforts on a key area where the Amazon rainforest meets the Andes mountains in Peru and Bolivia.

Our founding program provided financial and technical support for Brazil nut harvesters in Peru, as an incentive for helping protect the Amazon rainforest. We now work with more than 100 communities in the Andes-Amazon to help them make a living in ways that also sustain biodiversity in the forest and have widely expanded our conservation efforts into other areas. Moreover, now we:

  • Protect over 3.8 million acres of Amazonian rainforest through the creation of legally recognized protected areas and other conservation strategies;
  • Plant tens of thousands of trees every year to help restore damaged habitats;
  • Use innovative satellite imagery to monitor deforestation in near-real time and alert key stakeholders of potential illegal activities;
  • Host hundreds of researchers annually, who advance our understanding about biodiversity, conservation methods, and the impacts of climate change;
  • Partner with indigenous communities to develop forest-friendly livelihoods;
  • And much more!

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A vital part of our conservation approach is the use of cutting-edge science to inform projects on the ground, promote rational discourse on tough policy questions, and educate and inspire the next generation of conservationists. To this end, we manage some of the best biological research stations in the tropics where each year we host hundreds of scientists and students from all over the world, conduct biological monitoring, and provide workshops and educational opportunities for local communities.

To this date over 200 research projects have been conducted at our stations, including studies on the effects of climate change on amphibians, the impact of overgrazing on threatened high altitude wetlands, the dynamics of mixed-flocks of birds, the diet of Andean bears, and the diversity of orchids in the region.

Dr. Miles Silman, Professor and Director at the Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability at Wake Forest University stated that ACA’s field stations are our laboratories and windows into the future of Earth’s highest biodiversity area. They are important not only to understand biodiversity now, but how it will survive in the future.

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Our scientific approach can also be seen in our Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), where we use high-resolution satellite imagery from sources like NASA to track deforestation in the Amazon and analyze its causes. Not only do we use science to track this deforestation in near real-time, we also have formed closed alliances with local authorities who now use this data as a key piece of information to stop deforestation before it gets to a point of no return. The information we publicly post on MAAP is strictly scientific and unbiased, which helps authorities and lawmakers utilize it to further conservation efforts.

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Not only do we use science-based conservation in all of our protection efforts, we also strive to train the next generation of conservationists who will be at the forefront of environmental conservation years from now. We believe that supporting new conservationists early in their careers will be key in ensuring the Amazon is protected by trained experts for generations to come.

ACA’s very own General Science Coordinator, Sandra Almeyda, started off as a scholarship recipient and is now a full-on biologist contributing to the protection of the Amazon. “I started my scientific career thanks to a scholarship granted by ACA to develop my undergraduate thesis,” she says, “now as the General Science Coordinator, one of my main motivations is to inspire young scientist and provide them with opportunities to follow their passion, to experience science first hand, and to fall in love with their profession, like I did.”

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We hope you will join our conservation journey to keep the Amazon rainforest safe and our climate in check. You can make a difference by:

Learn more about how your support is helping protect the Amazon and how you can become a conservation hero at http://www.amazonconservation.org/.

PS: All the beautiful images in this post were taken at our biological stations in Peru and have NOT been photoshopped! Come experience this magical place in person!

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!

Hello My Sunshine People! Transforming Lives with Open Arms Housing

by Marilyn Kresky-Wolff, Executive Director, Open Arms Housing, Inc.

Open Arms Housing, Inc. (OAH) establishes homes for some of the most vulnerable women in Washington, D.C.
blog-march13Janet Starke waves to a passing neighbor outside of her new home in N.E. D.C. With support from Open Arms Housing, women like Janet, who were previously homeless, have moved into permanent homes with a welcoming and supportive environment.(Photo credit: Kate Patterson/For The Washington Post)

This Women’s History Month, we think of women in need of housing who have been overlooked for many years who finally have a place to call home.

Our mission is to provide permanent supportive housing for women who have a wide range of mental and physical challenges, and who have lived for prolonged periods on the streets and in shelters.

Open Arms offers individualized services in welcoming environments, using a Housing First approach. The Housing First approach does not require agreement to mental health treatment or sobriety as a criteria for obtaining housing, which is important to expedite getting women off the street and out of shelters. Our vision is to be a leader in the eradication of long-term homelessness for women in Washington, DC who have a variety of mental health and physical challenges.

During this year’s Women’s History Month, we are excited to report a growing national spotlight on the women we house. Open Arms is proud to be among agencies across the country who are engaging in a national campaign called the “One in Four Initiative”. This initiative addresses the stunning fact that 25% of the nation’s homeless population is female and seeks to identify how their needs differ, as well as highlight solutions to meet their needs; from housing alternatives that build community, to treatment modalities that recognize an almost universal experience of sexual and physical trauma, to the opportunity to reawaken needs for self-expression, creativity, and self-worth.

OAH has long recognized the need for specially designed housing services for women. Single buildings, with onsite support services and activities are critical. OAH developed two buildings with efficiency or one-bedroom units, equipped with full kitchen appliances and private bathroom, onsite support service staff, and overnight resident assistance.

A wonderful day at OAH is when one of our longest residing residents says “Hello my sunshine people!!” Or one in which a woman for the first time accepts mental health services with a caring professional…or paints a canvas in art class…or reaches out to a fellow resident who has suffered a loss in her family…or testifies before the D.C. City Council on the need for affordable housing… or tells her personal story of recovery.

Over the next few months, we look forward to finding housing in the wider community for 51 additional women, through a new contract from the D.C. Department of Human Services, which will more than triple the number we currently help. We will be able to offer greater choice in housing, with case managers providing mobile services and linkage to community resources. Each person’s case manager will help her move in, furnish the apartment, make adjustments to living in the community, coordinate the community services, and support her efforts to live independently.

At OAH, we measure outcomes such as 95% housing stabilization rate, 85% resident satisfaction, 100% resident engagement in relationship with support staff, 95% participation in program activities, 70% of participation in mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, and 95% application for all financial benefits for which client is eligible.

Help us support the new residents of our Permanent Supportive Housing Program by donating “Move-in bags” with household supplies, personal hygiene products, and linens.
Join us for An Evening of Food, Drinks and Celebration in Rockville, MD on March 30th at 6:30 – R.S.V.P. to marilyn@openarmshousing.org For more information, please contact us at info@openarsmhousing or call 202-525-3467.