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Sustainability is Front and Center at Iona Senior Services

by Rosie Aquila, Iona Senior Services

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

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

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

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

Gardening W&A

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashlea and cucumbers

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

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

Breast Care for Women Provides Peace of Mind

By Beth L. Beck, President and CEO

Dr. Regina Hampton and Beth Beck co-founded Breast Care for Washington to ensure that all women have access to lifesaving breast cancer screening, diagnostics and treatment, regardless of their ability to pay.

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Three years ago, outraged over the breast cancer mortality rates found in the Washington DC area, they felt it was important to bring a state-of-the-art breast care facility to the area where the need was great and resources limited. Since opening doors in May 2014, over 2,700 women have received care at our facility in Ward 8 and 25 cases of cancer have been diagnosed.

Every day we are motivated by the women who walk through our door, looking for help with a health issue. They come to us after searching the internet, by word of mouth, or from a referral from another health facility that refuses to see them because of their insurance status. When we connect to a woman with a lump in her breast, who has nowhere to turn, and we are able to provide her with immediate care, information and peace of mind – we know we are definitely in the right business!

As a relative young nonprofit, Breast Care for Washington continues to grow and we have not reached our patient capacity yet. Through the development of our robust community outreach program we are now able to reach more women with critical information about the importance of screening and early detection. We work hard to break down barriers to care including adding non-traditional screening times (weekends and evenings) to make our services as accessible as possible to busy women with competing priorities in their lives. Our vision includes a mobile mammography component in the next few years so that we are able to take care directly to our patients where they live and work.

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Breast Cancer is 95% curable if caught early and treated. Women hesitate to get mammograms because of fear, fear of the pain of the procedure as well as fear of something being found. Every day we work to overcome women’s fears by taking the time to explain how mammography works, by creating a warm and friendly environment for medical care, by getting to know our patients and remaining their supporters and advocates over time.

Whether we are working with a woman scared to get her mammogram for the first time or welcoming back a patient for her third annual mammogram with us, seeing the smiles on our patient’s faces makes our day. And we know that the more we encourage women to get their mammograms and make their health a priority, the more lives we will save.

Breast Care for Washington is located in the Conway Health and Resource Center. 4 Atlantic Street, SW Washington, DC 20032. For appointments and information please call 202-465-7164 We do not require referrals for screening mammograms.

Living Life to Your Fullest Potential

Deborah.Drawing about NVTRP

As nine-year-old Deborah Busch – with her twinkling eyes and sweet, shy smile – sits at her kitchen table and chats about why she loves all things horse-related, you would never imagine the challenges she has overcome.

Her mom, Jessica, adopted her out of foster care three years ago. “Deborah suffered from extreme abuse and neglect,” she explained. “When I got her, she was six but she could barely talk and she had no core strength. It was hard just to lift her into the car. She was that floppy.”

On her way to work each day, Jessica would drive past the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP), located in Clifton, VA. Having ridden horses as a child, Jessica knew a connection with animals would play an important role in helping Deborah heal.

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For over thirty-five years NVTRP has helped riders to recognize the unexpected potential in their lives by providing equine-assisted activities to children and adults with disabilities, youth-at-risk, military service personnel and their families.

Students improve fitness level and mobility through horseback riding by gaining core strength, muscle control and balance. Working closely with horses and volunteers inspires them to build self-esteem and further socialization, and also helps to provide a sense of community and belonging.

“Deborah has so many diagnoses: fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD, significant learning disabilities, it was really hard for her to connect emotionally to anything when she came to me,” said Jessica. A connection with animals is a great way for people to develop empathy. That’s absolutely been the case for Deborah.

Learning to ride and care for a horse not only improves the physical health of a rider, but also generates a critically important sense of achievement.

“Riding helps me do my work a lot. Some things are hard for me, like math and reading, and when I get frustrated, I think about the horses. That makes me feel better.” added Deborah.

Lessons at NVTRP are diverse and include instruction in riding skills, exercises, and games, while also focusing on grooming and horse care. Under the guidance of certified riding instructors, each year over 250 volunteers come together to help more than 350 students achieve an enriched quality of life while overcoming physical, mental, and emotional obstacles.

Deborah began riding at NVTRP in the Spring of 2014 and her mom delights in the success she has found.

“I can’t tell you how great it is to see Deborah do something independently,” Jessica said. “She needs so much support in everything else she does, but it’s like she’s a different kid on the horse. Listening and paying attention are so hard for her every place else. Riding just flows out of her. Riding is what’s fun for Deborah, and it’s so important that she has something fun in her life.”

NVTRP is accredited and nationally recognized by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Int’l). Lessons are taught by PATH Intl. Certified Riding Instructors who are assisted by up to three volunteers per rider. This type of structure and supervision enables riders to participate in a challenging, physically active sport that gives them confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
To learn how you can help riders like Deborah live life to their fullest potential, please visit www.nvtrp.org or call (703) 764-0269.

Do More 24

There’s still time! Nonprofit organizations across the region are participating in DoMore24 (until midnight tonight!) a day of giving towards community causes. So many of “the best” charities featured in the Catalogue are raising funds today — for soccer uniforms, to publish teen authored books, to provide legal services to homeless individuals and low-income refugees and so much more.

Need some inspiration? Check out our listing of great nonprofits here!

And as a bonus, several of our charities have matching funds to double the impact of your gift today. Take a look at these Catalogue charities, listed by category:

ARTS

ENVIRONMENT & COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT

EDUCATION

HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

Around Town: 10/11-10/17

No matter what type of event you are looking to head to this weekend, the events featured below will all help you make a difference in your community. See what you can do to give back to great nonprofits in your own backyard. Continue reading

Around Town: September 27-October 3

Catalogue nonprofits are staying busy! If you are looking for something fun to do with your friends and family this upcoming week, try one of these events put on by some great Catalogue nonprofits!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Beethoven’s Eternal Masterworks

National Philharmonic
Soovin Kim, violin, Piotr Gajewski, conductor – Come hear award-winning violinist Soovin Kim perform one of the most popular works ever written: Beethoven’s only violin concerto, a virtuosic masterpiece both lyrical and serene, radiating surprises and a soaring spirit. When Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 was premiered, the press commented that it “projects its force upon all people of all ages, just like the great natural phenomena, which leave us in awe every time they appear. This symphony alike, will still resound centuries to come, for as long as there will be man and music.” Beethoven Violin Concerto Symphony No. 5
When: Saturday, September 28, 2013 (8:00 PM)
Where: The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD 20852
Fee? yes $28-$84 (Kids Free)
Contact: Deborah Birnbaum, (301) 581-5100
For more information: click here

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Montgomery County Farm Tour (by bike!)

Montgomery Countryside Alliance
MCA is partnering with Potomac Pedalers for the 5th annual MoCo Farm Tour. Bikers can choose from winding farm routes of 17-75 miles through Montgomery County’s Ag Reserve. There is also a picnic for bikers and event volunteers at Kingsbury’s Orchard.
When: Sunday, September 29, 2013 (09:00 AM)
Where: Start: Pooleville Golf Course, 16601 West Willard Rd, Poolesville, MD 20837
Fee? no
Volunteer Info: Help set up the picnic for bikers- shuttle biker’s belongings back to their cars, engage with event attendees about the purpose and importance of the Ag Reserve. Service learning hours are available for MCPS students.
Contact: Kristina Bostick, (301) 602-4013
For more information: click here

Beethoven’s Eternal Masterworks

National Philharmonic
Soovin Kim, violin, Piotr Gajewski, conductor – Come hear award-winning violinist Soovin Kim perform one of the most popular works ever written: Beethoven’s only violin concerto, a virtuosic masterpiece both lyrical and serene, radiating surprises and a soaring spirit. When Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 was premiered, the press commented that it “projects its force upon all people of all ages, just like the great natural phenomena, which leave us in awe every time they appear. This symphony alike, will still resound centuries to come, for as long as there will be man and music.” Beethoven Violin Concerto Symphony No. 5
When: Sunday, September 29, 2013 (3:00 PM)
Where: The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD 20852
Fee? yes $28-$84 (Kids Free)
Contact: Deborah Birnbaum, (301) 581-5100
For more information: click here

Teddy Bear 5K & 1K Fun Walk/Run

Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center
Register now to Join Boston Marathon runners and a local Junior Olympiad recordholder for the Teddy Bear 5K and 1K Walk/Run on the W&OD Trail starting in the heart of Falls Church, VA. All participants will receive T-Shirts and great prizes will be awarded the top three male and female runners in 8 age categories, plus best overall male, female and Stroller-Runner. Bring your Teddy Bear or favorite stuffed friend to be admitted to a tea party after the race. Online Registration thru Sept. 26 at www.safetyandhealthfoundation.org/TeddyBear. Proceeds benefit the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, a high-quality early childhood education program serving all children, regardless of their family’s financial resources.
When: Sunday, September 29, 2013 (4:00 PM – 6:00 PM)
Where: W&OD Trail, 400 N. Oak St., Falls Church, Virginia 22043
Fee? yes 5K thru Sept. 26, $30; 1K thru Sept. 26, $15.
Volunteer Info: Volunteers welcome to assist along the trail, giving out water to runners.
Contact: Renee Boyle, (703) 534-4907
For more information: click here

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Volunteer Opportunity at the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Children’s National Medical Center

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC
Volunteer Opportunity at the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Children’s National Medical Center Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Greater Washington DC needs volunteers to work a weekly 3 hour shift in the Ronald McDonald Family Room located at Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC). Shifts are seven days a week: 9AM to Noon, Noon to 3PM, 3PM to 6PM and 6PM to 9PM. Volunteers will be cross trained by both RMHC and CNMC. A commitment of two shifts a month/60 hours a year is required. Contact: Karen Judson, 202-529-8204/kjudson@rmhcdc.org. www.rmhc.greaterdc.org.
When: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 (09:00 AM)
Where: Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC), 111 Michigan Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20310
Fee? no
Volunteer Info: Greeting and helping families, coordinate family programming activities and more.
Contact: Karen Judson, (202) 529-8204
For more information: click here

In the News…

Home Care Workers Get Minimum Wage: As Active Aging Week begins, the Department of Labor announced that the over 2 million home care workers in the US will earn minimum wage and overtime benefits starting January 1st, 2015. Home health aides — 90 percent of whom are women and 42 percent of whom are black or Latino –currently earn an average of $9.70 per hour. A Huffington Post article notes that the home health sector is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country, predicted to grow 70 percent from 2010-2020 as Baby Boomers age.

Kids Give! A report by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and the United Nations Foundation found that 90 percent of kids give to charity, sparking a discussion on how to get youth involved in giving . One of the report’s authors noted that “children whose parents talk to them about giving are 20 percent more likely to give than those whose parents don’t” and encouraged families and charities to find ways to engage kids in the giving and volunteering process. Read the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s article here or check out the study here.

Census Bureau Annual Report Released: The yearly report on poverty and income found that 21.8 percent of American children under the age of 18 lived in poverty in 2012 — and a Washington Post article notes that “the younger they are, the worse off they are.The percentage of children under the age of 5 living in poverty is 25.1 — and almost 1 in 10 live in extreme poverty.” Children of color are affected most with 37.9 percent of black children and 33.8 percent of Hispanic children living in poverty. Additionally, the statistics shows that 9.1 percent of Americans living in poverty are 65+.

The report also found that in today’s dollars, the median American household in 2012 makes less than in 1989. This is in stark contrast to the Forbes Top 400 list of the richest Americans, whose wealth has grown 15 percent since 2012 to a combined total of $2 trillion. Census data shows that households making over $191,000 are earning nearly what they had before the recession, yet the lower 80 percent are, on average, making significantly less than before the downturn, as noted in a NPQ article.

Around Town: June 8th

Don’t let Tropical Storm Andrea give your weekend the rainy day blues! See what you can do this weekend to help out our community with Anacostia Watershed Society and Smith Center for Healing and the Arts!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Beltsville Community Cleanup

Anacostia Watershed Society
Please join the Anacostia Watershed Society, the Beltsville Citizen’s Association, and Konterra to clean up a section of Little Paint Branch in Beltsville, MD. For more info and to register, visit: http://www.anacostiaws.org/calendar/beltsville-community-cleanup
When: Saturday, June 8, 2013 (09:00 AM – 1:00 PM)
Where: 4001 Powder Mill Rd., Beltsville, Maryland 20710
Fee? no
Volunteer Info: remove trash and debris from Little Paint Branch
Contact: Maddie Koenig, (301) 699-6204 ext 109
For more information: click here

Eating for a Lifetime: Cooking for People With Cancer with Laura Pole, Oncology Nurse, Health Supportive Chef

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts
When you have cancer, what you eat matters. Learn about the role of nutrition during the cancer experience in this fun and informative class.
When: Saturday, June 8, 2013 (10:00 AM – 1:00 PM)
Where: Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, 1632 U Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Fee? yes $30
Contact: Smith Center, (202) 483-8600
For more information: click here

 

The Two Sides of Hunger

Hunger and obesity may seem like far ends on the spectrum of food and nutrition, but both are symptoms of a near-epidemic problem in the US: food insecurity and malnutrition. Hunger’s victims suffer from the inability to provide sufficient food for themselves or their family; and a substantial group of the Americans now considered obese are either children, come from low-income families, or both. This week, at a panel discussion at the Center for American Progress, representatives from the private sector, public sector, and nonprofit sector shared thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of hunger in the US.

The statistics are staggering. After the “great recession” of 2008, the number of Americans living in food insecure households jumped to nearly 50 million, and over 16 million of those are children under age 18. In addition, one in three children is considered obese today, and that number increases to nearly half of all children living in poverty. On the other hand, programs that have proven to be effective on the front lines of ensuring food security for Americans falling into poverty (including school lunch programs, SNAP, and WIC) are facing intense scrutiny and potential cuts in upcoming budget discussions.

Fortunately, there are also some great examples of best practices and cross-sector collaborations making headway on not only alleviating hunger today, but attacking its root cause (poverty), of which malnutrition is only a symptom. Organizations like Share Our Strength are disproving the myth that healthy food is too expensive for lower-income families. This perception, and the all-too-real occurrence of food deserts across the county, highlight why children living in poverty are disproportionately like to be overweight or obese, as compared to children in middle- or higher-income families.

In the Greater Washington area, nonprofits like Brainfood and FRESHFARM Markets also work to make fresh, healthy, and nutritious food available to all – regardless of income. Brainfood is a non-profit youth development organization that uses food as a tool to build life skills and promotes healthy living in a fun and safe environment. A majority of the students involved with Brainfood struggle with poverty, violence, and a school system that fails to meet their needs. Through Brainfood’s programs, students gain practical cooking skills, an introduction to the food industry, a framework for nutritious eating, and leadership experience that prepares them to make a difference in their community.

FRESHFARM Markets is both a collection of farmer’s markets in the Chesapeake Bay region, as well as a voice advocating on behalf of farmers and the right to fresh, local food. They offer four different programs that help low-income people buy healthy foods in DC and Maryland markets — accepting SNAP (EBT/Foods Stamps), WIC, and SFMNP vouchers, and offering an incentive Matching Dollars program for those vouchers.

These are only two examples among the many organizations working to relieve hunger in our community — from Capital Area Food Bank, which distributes 33 million pounds of food every year, to local food pantries like Arlington Food Assistance Center, which serves 1,600 families a week. For more information on Catalogue charities addressing hunger and poverty in your community, check out the online catalogue here, and learn about ways that you can make a difference as a donor or volunteer.