A Monarch Butterfly Spreads His Wings

Guest post by Karen Gardner, Executive Director, Reading Partners

This is the first post in a new blog series on Building A Safer, Stronger DC, featuring stories from grantees of the City Fund Safer, Stronger DC portfolio. View the full series here.

 
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Right around this time last year, we first got to know Anthony* as a charismatic second grader who really liked to tell tales. Tall ones. One of the stories he liked to tell was about a shark in his bathtub, which included what the shark ate, how the shark got into his bathtub and even where it went when the water was drained. Anthony was an imaginative thinker who had thoughts and opinions on just about any topic. But when you asked him to read, the normally outgoing student would transform into a shy one, barely uttering a word.

Anthony found decoding and reading fluently a challenge. It caused him to daydream in class and rarely engage in reading, so his teacher recommended him for Reading Partners, a one-on-one literacy tutoring program for kids struggling with reading. Thankfully, Anthony’s school, Malcolm X Elementary in Ward 8, was one of two schools where Reading Partners’ program expanded significantly with the support of the City Fund just two years prior.

Anthony was about a year below grade level. When the site coordinator assessed him, she noticed that because he struggled to decode words, he would just skip over a word if he didn’t know it. He was quickly paired with two seasoned community tutors, Ms. Layla and Ms. Beth, who both had experience with shier students.

To help Anthony move past his shyness and gain more confidence, his tutors worked with their site coordinator to find ways to incorporate his own stories into the lessons. They figured if they could get him to talk about something he was really interested in, he might become more comfortable with them and therefore more comfortable reading aloud.

One day, Anthony was completing a normal lesson with Ms. Layla. The site coordinator was listening in on their session because they were always full of energy. After reading a book about butterflies, Anthony began asking Ms. Layla questions about the text just as she would have done. The site coordinator listened more closely and realized he was quizzing Ms. Layla specifically about the Monarch butterfly and was utilizing information from a previous session. She was so astounded at his confidence that she sat back in awe. Anthony went on to show Ms. Layla where in the text certain answers were and shared the information he previously learned.

This interaction showed that all his hard work had paid off. He was able to decode larger words, understand the text, and relate it to his own prior knowledge. This once shy student had developed into a now confident super reader that read literally everything on the walls as he walked the hallway with his site coordinator!

Reading Partners gave Anthony a place where he could move away from feeling like he might make a mistake, to where he had the courage and knowledge to correct a mistake. In the reading center, he could be himself. Now, in class, he is more inclined to raise his hand and readily speaks up. Anthony learned how to use the context clues in the text to better understand vocabulary words and no longer shies away from multisyllabic words. He is a much more fluent reader and now reads with expression.

Without Reading Partners, Anthony’s full potential might not have been realized. He would have continued to be afraid to read for fear of making a mistake and he most likely would have fallen even further behind.

If not for the literacy skills he acquired, Anthony also might not have discovered that he loves facts and that non-fiction books are his thing! And he might not have made new friends in Ms. Layla and Ms. Beth, who truly loved listening to his stories, no matter how tall. Their commitment to Anthony’s success contributed to the fact that he’s now on a path to a brighter future. I’m thrilled to share that Anthony finished the school year on grade level. He now understands that reading matters.

Reading matters because it is the foundation for all future learning. Yet nationwide, 80% of students from low-income households are not reading proficiently by fourth grade. In addition, not reading proficiently by the end of fourth grade makes students four times more likely to drop out of high school. Illiteracy in our country is an epidemic with serious consequences for our communities — but it’s a solvable problem. In fact, research shows that no one factor can so dramatically shape a person’s chance of success and well-being as learning to read.

Reading Partners is fully committed to strengthening our communities by working with students like Anthony. At Reading Partners, community tutors from all walks of life come together to share their love of reading and learning, empowering the next generation to succeed in school and in life. Anthony’s accomplishments are a great example of what can be achieved when a community comes together and encourages a child to excel.

In the words of his site coordinator, “Without Reading Partners, Anthony may not have blossomed into such a wonderful, brilliant student. He always has a tall tale and he can go on and on about these stories. I can see him writing a script for a children’s movie someday. When I think of Anthony, I think of the Monarch butterfly.”

*Names have been changed.

 
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“Inner City Blues”: The Dual Reality of Building a Safer, Stronger DC

By Manon P. Matchett, Community Investment Officer, Greater Washington Community Foundation

As a proud and happy resident of the Hillsdale community for the past 15+ years, I have dutifully crossed the Anacostia River every day to travel to work. Most of that time has been spent working in philanthropy. The landscape has changed significantly these last few years.    

The optics of my commute change as I travel downtown. As I exit the Frederick Douglass bridge and drive past the new DC United Audi and the Washington Nationals stadiums on each side of me, I am reminded of how change has come, slowly and sometimes painfully. Neighborhoods that were crime-ridden and desolate are now thriving communities with quaint restaurants, trendy boutiques and high-rise luxury apartments. Streets have awoken from their coma with a promise never to sleep again. This is a new city hustle and bustle, that is energizing, even calming. Yet, not all communities are experiencing the region’s progress and prosperity in the same way.

The reality of the work that I do at The Community Foundation and how our focus on improving our communities personally affects me and my family has hit home in recent weeks. Within the last month, yellow crime tape has decorated my street. Shots were fired. On the street where my family lives. The most frightening experience was watching Metropolitan Police officers canvassing my block for bullet casings. I walked away after the twelfth marker was placed on the street. Last Sunday, a young man, with a bright future was gunned down on his way home from the corner store. I purposely drive in the opposite direction, so I do not have to see his deathbed – a small plot of bloodstained grass.

As a community leader, funder, convener and advocate, The Community Foundation has a long history of responding to urgent and emerging community challenges by addressing both short-term needs and creating long-term solutions. Most recently as the number of violent crimes committed in the District has surged, particularly in communities like mine which are located East of the River, I have participated in conversations with the philanthropic community, community-based organizations, and the District Government to identify ways we can contribute to and accelerate various violence prevention strategies. As a result of these conversations, The Community Foundation has mobilized the generosity of local funders to support the implementation of a pilot program that targets a small set of District neighborhoods using the Cure Violence methodology. While this program is just beginning to launch, I am heartened by the ongoing work of local community groups who are already offering a range of solutions to address violence prevention in our homes, in our schools, and in our communities.

In 2016, the Greater Washington Community Foundation assumed grantmaking for Mayor Bowser’s Safer, Stronger DC initiative. This was a targeted, place-based approach to meet the unique and varying needs of high crime neighborhoods. Since then, we have successfully conducted three grant rounds totaling $4 million to 95 organizations serving 13 Police Service Areas in Wards 1, 5, 7, and 8. I am immensely proud of what this portfolio of organizations is achieving.

Over the next few weeks, grantees from the City Fund Safer, Stronger DC portfolio will share their stories of how their respective organizations provide necessary safety-net, violence prevention and violence intervention services to some of the most vulnerable populations and under-resourced communities in the District. None of them will tell how grueling and sometimes discouraging their work can be. Many mask the pain of being unable to help everyone. Quite a few are still grieving the loss of life and potential of those they have served. Yet, all of them wake anew each day ready to start all over again filled with hope and courage.

My own commuting mentality is evolving. On good days, I am not just crossing the river, I am crossing a bridge. I am coming home to new residences, redeveloping commercial corridors and more options for shopping and dining. Despite all this, I make the journey home filled with anxiety and trepidation because I do not know what to expect. To ease my spirit, I hum the lyrics to “Inner City Blues” from the iconic and native Washingtonian Marvin Gaye. Some days “it makes me wanna holler and throw up both my hands.” My heart calms as I turn onto my street and see an MPD cruiser parked nearby. It is temporary solace knowing that my community has one more night of peace.


 

A Safer, Stronger DC Blog Series

 

Fund Combats Domestic Violence in Prince George's County

 Photo provided by Community Advocates for Family & Youth

Photo provided by Community Advocates for Family & Youth

“We have seen a dramatic reduction in crime in Prince George’s County over the last decade, but some of the most horrific violent crimes that have occurred in recent years stem from domestic violence,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III.

That is why in March 2017 the County Executive established the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Grant Fund to assist nonprofit organizations who are working on the front line to protect women and men from domestic violence.

“The effects of domestic violence are deep and long lasting,” said Jackie Rhone, Division Manager of the Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Division of the County’s Department of Family Services. “When we know better we do better; through education, prevention and partnership we can end the cycle of abuse.”

Since its creation, the division has been working to address domestic violence in multiple ways – from education and prevention to direct services for survivors. For instance, says Rhone, her office implemented an evidence-based curriculum called “Safe Dates” that has been used in County middle schools, sponsored a series of men’s conferences on domestic violence and developed a partnership with House of Ruth Maryland and other nonprofits in the County.

The County’s Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund was established at the Greater Washington Community Foundation with an initial contribution of $250,000 to provide annual grants and capacity building support to nonprofits to support enhanced services for individuals and families directly affected by domestic violence. The goal is to help families achieve a greater level of independence, strengthen families’ ability to cope with healing, and rebuild the family unit by helping to remove challenges to gaining self-sufficiency – such as providing legal services, counseling services, support groups, employment, training and housing.

“We are passionate about our work, but we quickly realized government can’t do this work alone,” said Elana Belon-Butler, Director of the Department of Family Services. “That’s why we collaborate with others such as the Greater Washington Community Foundation. The Community Foundation is a great partner because of their knowledge of both domestic violence and of our community needs. They also share our sense of urgency, accountability, follow through and reporting. These are things that can’t be minimalized.”

In 2017, some of the critical services that the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund supported included: public awareness campaigns that targeted certain areas heavily impacted by domestic violence; services to individuals and families directly affected by domestic violence; legal issues (protective orders), counseling and family services; emergency and basic needs to survivors as well as other kinds of wraparound supports. In 2018, the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund will include support for survivors of human trafficking. 

“Domestic violence can affect anyone – regardless of income, background or location,” says CAFY CEO Arleen Joell, who received a grant in the amount of $75,000 from the fund.

Community Advocates for Family & Youth (CAFY) supports victims of crimes in Prince George’s County – from those affected by breaking and entering crimes to family members who have lost a loved one to homicide. But the largest percentage of their clients – 52 percent – are victims of domestic violence. Those clients face multiple challenges. Thanks to the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund, nonprofits like CAFY are increasingly able to address those challenges with wraparound services such as legal and mental health services, security deposits, first month’s rent and transportation assistance.

For instance, CAFY recently helped a client who had a protective order and was in the process of moving to another city by putting her up in a hotel for several nights, paying to store her worldly possessions until she found a new job and place to live, and covering the cost of a U-Haul when she was ready to relocate. When another woman with a protective order needed her locks changed, CAFY took care of that critical need for her. They also provided legal counsel, so she could file for child custody and begin divorce proceedings. The client would not have been able to afford these costs on her own.

Desiree Griffin-Moore, Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Prince George’s County, points out that this is not the first time the Community Foundation has partnered with the County. The Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative Fund was established at The Community Foundation in 2014 by The Office of the Prince George's County Executive and Prince George’s County Public Schools to support community-based organizations providing quality free and/or affordable out-of-school time programming for youth and families. “We have a longstanding relationship with the County which has always valued our transparent, equitable process and our knowledge of the community,” she said.

Adds Jackie Rhone: “The work is easier when we don’t have to educate someone about the County and its demographics.”

“This is hands down one of the best partnerships Prince George’s County government has entered into,” adds Belon-Butler. 

How You Can Help with Hurricane Florence Relief Efforts

As heavy rain and rising floodwaters continue to threaten residents and communities across North Carolina and South Carolina, many of you have asked how to aid recovery and relief efforts to help people impacted by the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence.

When disaster strikes, it is a good idea to seek out information from the local community foundation regarding how you can best support recovery efforts. Community foundations have deep community knowledge and a lasting commitment to community improvement.

In anticipation of the effects of Hurricane Florence, the Foundation For The Carolinas established a relief fund to support those affected by the unprecedented storm. Donations to the Hurricane Florence Response Fund will be directed to nonprofits in North and South Carolina providing relief to victims of the storm. Grants will be distributed to areas of greatest need once the full impact of the hurricane is realized. You can find more information and make a donation via credit card by visiting www.fftc.org/HurricaneFlorence. If you would like to make a contribution via a donor-advised fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation, you can make a grant request in Donor Central or contact or submit a grant recommendation form to Kathy Matthews, Grants Manager at 202-263-4773 or kmatthews@thecommunityfoundation.org.

If you are looking for additional ways to help, here is a list of other local and national organizations that are accepting donations to aid victims and recovery efforts:

  • Central Carolina Community Foundation One SC Fund — The fund provides grants to nonprofits that are providing relief, recovery, and/or rebuilding assistance to affected individuals and families. 100 percent of monies donated will go directly to help Hurricane Florence relief efforts.

  • North Carolina Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund — The North Carolina Community Foundation reactivated its Disaster Relief Fund to help North Carolinians affected by Hurricane Florence. All funds raised for the NCCF Disaster Relief Fund will go directly to nonprofit organizations serving the needs of local individuals and communities in the impacted areas of North Carolina.

  • The Center for Disaster Philanthropy 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund will focus on medium- and long-term recovery needs, including rebuilding homes and businesses; meeting the needs of young children; and supporting mental health (among other needs).

  • American Red Cross. To make a financial donation, visit their website or call 1.800.RED CROSS.

Join us for a screening and discussion of America to Me on September 27 at 6 pm

The Greater Washington Community Foundation has partnered with Education Forward DC and the DC Public Education Fund to host a citywide screening and panel discussion of America to Me, a ten-part docu-series about race and equity in America’s public schools commissioned by Participant Media. Directed by Academy-Award nominee Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself, The Interrupters), the series follows a year in the life of students, teachers, and administrators at Oak Park and River Forest High School, a racially integrated high school near Chicago. 

Please join us on September 27 for the screening followed by a discussion with former U.S. Secretary of Education and CEO of Ed Trust, John King; Interim Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, Amanda Alexander; former Washington, DC Deputy Mayor for Education, Abigail Smith; and series-featured student, Jada Buford.
 
You can find more information in the invitation below. Please RSVP by clicking here.

Remembering 9/11

On the 17th anniversary of September 11, 2001, we honor and remember the innocent people who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist attacks carried out on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We mark this tragedy by finding hope in the response of our community which came together to help victims and their families during a time of immense devastation and loss. Following the attack on the Pentagon—which claimed the lives of 184 innocent people and directly affected thousands of other individuals and families—the Survivors’ Fund was established at The Community Foundation to direct the charitable response and caring spirit of some 12,000 donors, including families who sponsored lemonade stands and bake sales to major corporations and foundations contributing millions of dollars. Their generosity and care amounted to a $25 million fund, the largest dedicated solely to the Pentagon attack, which aided 1,051 victims and their families by providing access to both financial support and case management services needed to achieve long-term financial and emotional stability. Donors’ contributions, compassion and hope helped to sustain the Fund and, in turn, survivors of that terrible day, for nearly seven years (from 2001-2008). As our country reflects on these tragic events, we find inspiration from the stories of the individuals and families helped by the Fund and the generous contributions of our community. You can read more about the Fund and the people it served in a final report to the community released in 2008.

Sharing DC: Immersive Grantmaking

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What if you could visit a nonprofit, talk with key staff, and get a behind the scenes tour before deciding to give? What if you could get together with like-minded individuals to share your observations and learn about important issues facing Washingtonians every day? Sharing DC, an initiative of the Greater Washington Community Foundation, provides an opportunity to do just that. It allows donors and stakeholders alike to experience philanthropy in a visceral and meaningful way.

Meeting in early spring, the Sharing DC Committee gathers to learn about pressing community issues in the District. A lively discussion among members is facilitated by The Community Foundation’s dedicated Community Investment team, and a decision is made about which issue to focus on for the year.

This year, the Committee’s focus area is homelessness prevention and intervention. Our goal is to help single adults, families and youth exit homelessness and move to permanent housing by providing funds to help them meet key needs and address barriers to homelessness.

Starting in late September, Committee Members will travel across Washington, DC to visit nine amazing organizations that have been selected to apply for funding. The Committee will meet one last time, in early December, to share feedback and learnings and collectively make funding decisions.

The Sharing DC process helps answer our most fundamental questions about philanthropy: what are the most pressing issues in the District, what questions should I be asking of an organization I’d like to support, how can I ensure that my grant will have a meaningful impact? These are some of the questions we explore through Sharing DC’s hands-on, collaborative and donor-centered approach. This is the perfect opportunity for anyone who may wonder if they are making wise investments to immerse themselves in a grant review process.

Sharing DC is a remarkable program. Just ask the many participants who join us each year on visits to some of DC’s most promising programs, or read about one of our grantee organizations and its mission to provide DC youth with technology-driven education, information and skill development for sustained futures. This is but one example of The Community Foundation’s efforts to encourage philanthropy in our region and to bring people together. Collectively, we’re making a real difference in the lives of our neighbors and communities.

To join us for one or more visits, please contact Gisela Shanfeld.

Celebrate Giving in Montgomery County

 
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SAVE THE DATE

Thursday, November 1, 2018
6:30 - 9:30 pm
Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Join us on Thursday, November 1, as we celebrate the growing spirit of giving throughout our community and salute the 2018 Montgomery County Philanthropist of the Year, Linda Youngentob.

When

Thursday, November 1, 2018 6:30pm – 9:30pm

Where

Hyatt Regency Bethesda
One Bethesda Metro Center
Bethesda, Maryland, 20814

Sponsorships

Click here for more information about sponsorship opportunities.

Contact Bridget Hanagan at 301-496-3036 x 169 or bhanagan@thecommunityfoundation.org to learn more about the event, sponsorship packages, and opportunities to give a personal message of congratulations in the program booklet.