The Impact of the City Fund's Investments in DC

By Tonia Wellons, Interim President and CEO

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Imagine someone gave you $15 million to invest in local programs to help improve lives. Where would you invest those dollars? What information would you need to help make those decisions? How would you know if that $15 million was well spent?

While this sounds like a fantasy scenario for a foundation, these are some of the hard questions the Greater Washington Community Foundation had to ask when the District of Columbia entrusted us to lead the City Fund.

The City Fund was established in 2013 via legislation passed by the DC City Council to support former Mayor Vincent Gray’s One City Action Plan to grow and diversity the District’s economy, educate and prepare the workforce for the new economy, and improve the quality of life for all DC residents. It was designed as a five-year initiative, with the final round of City Fund grantmaking concluding in 2018. The City Fund was an unprecedented government/philanthropic partnership for our region. For the first three years, the City Fund was focused on driving community improvement around seven priority issue areas—the arts, education, the environment, health, public safety, senior and disability services, and workforce development. Over time, the City Fund’s focus shifted to support Mayor Bowser’s Safer, Stronger initiative with investments focused on improving the lives of individuals and families in District neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by inequities related to social determinants of health, including access to educational, economic, and job opportunities; access to health care services; quality of education and job training; and recurring exposure to violent crime.

The Community Foundation worked with Mayor Gray as a trusted local philanthropic partner to design a rigorous, transparent, independent, and community-informed grantmaking process to support dozens of excellent nonprofits working in all 8 wards throughout the District. The grantmaking program focused on investments in programs and building the capacity of nonprofits to provide quality services that will make the District a more healthy, stable, and vibrant place to live for all its residents. Over the course of several grant rounds, The Community Foundation’s staff engaged community members—including issue area experts, Community Foundation board members, and other vital stakeholders—to help us make funding decisions.

District of Columbia Youth Orchestra, one of the City Fund's grantees, performing at the White House in 2016.

District of Columbia Youth Orchestra, one of the City Fund's grantees, performing at the White House in 2016.

We are proud today to unveil a final online report to the community that encompasses the breadth and depth of our City Fund initiative. We have partnered with mySidewalk to create the City Fund Dashboard. The Dashboard provides an analysis of the scope of the City Fund’s investments, the impact of our nonprofit partners, and the context in which the investments were made. By exploring the dashboard, we are hopeful you will learn something new about our community and the incredible work that our nonprofit partners undertake each and every day to make our community stronger. In doing so, you will follow in the footsteps of the dozens of community stakeholders, issue-area experts, and partners who contributed their expertise and lived experience to this initiative. We thank them for their service to our community!

With a fund this large, it can be difficult to realize the impact on individuals in our city. We invite you to read the story of Chloe [name changed], an 11-year-old who found a home before she became a victim of sex trafficking. She was assisted by FAIR Girls, who used funding from the City Fund to hire a youth case manager whose full-time job is to serve trafficked and exploited children in the nation’s capital. You can read more about FAIR Girls and Chloe’s story here.

The City Fund is just one example of how The Community Foundation partners with local governments as a trusted grantmaking partner. The Community Foundation thanks the District of Columbia government, the Council of the District of Columbia, Mayors Bowser and Gray, and all the fantastic grantees who made the City Fund initiative a success.

For more information about the City Fund, or how you can partner with The Community Foundation, please contact Benton Murphy, Associate Vice President of Community Investment, at

Strategic Emergency Response Insights from the 2019 Partial Federal Government Shutdown

"People know what their needs are. We [funders] need to listen."

These words from Terri D. Wright, Vice President of Program and Community at the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, kicked off our roundtable discussion about the partial federal government shutdown. Six months and two days after the end of the shutdown, which ran from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019, The Community Foundation, our Resilience Fund Steering Committee, and our partners at United Way of the National Capital Area convened funders, nonprofits, and experts to discuss lessons learned about what worked well and what we could have done better.

During the shutdown, our Resilience Fund, which responds to changes in federal policy and the resulting climate of intolerance and hate, disproportionately impacting local people of color and immigrant communities, mobilized community support from our neighbors. The response was inspiring.

Giving during the shutdown reflected an outpouring of philanthropic support at all levels. The Community Foundation received gifts ranging in size from $10 to $50,000, in total receiving $125,000 in individual donations and institutional commitments. We provided funding to the Capital Area Food Bank, United Communities Against Poverty in Prince George’s County, Manna Food Center in Montgomery County, the Greater DC Diaper Bank, and the Excellence in Education Foundation for Prince George’s County Public Schools and the Dine with Dignity Program of Montgomery County Public Schools Foundation.

“It's truly satisfying to hear how our neighbors and local nonprofits rose to meet community needs during the shutdown," said Resilience Fund steering committee member Elaine Reuben. "The shutdown was so hard on so many; it's good that we can shed light on some of the incredible community responses."

Our nonprofit partners shared stretched themselves more than ever before to keep up with increased demand during the shutdown. One challenge for nonprofits was how to find a way to provide services to communities they’d never reached before. Corinne Cannon, Founder and Executive Director of the Greater DC Diaper Bank, said, “People were in need but didn't want to go to food banks. People thought 'I'm not in poverty, this isn't for me’.” Despite that reluctance, the Greater DC Diaper Bank staff were able to distribute 102,000 diapers, 161,000 period products, 20,000 incontinence pads and 850+ 8oz bottles worth of baby formula.

Volunteers sort produce the Capital Area Food Bank provided to furloughed federal workers and contractors at popup markets around the region during the government shutdown. Photo provided by the Capital Area Food Bank.

Volunteers sort produce the Capital Area Food Bank provided to furloughed federal workers and contractors at popup markets around the region during the government shutdown. Photo provided by the Capital Area Food Bank.

Radha Muthiah, CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, shared how the food bank relied on data about where most GS6 and GS7 employees lived. They partnered with Giant Foods and Safeway to distribute supplies in their parking lot, where these employees were already used to going to get groceries, and they relied on local media to help spread the word. In total the food bank served a total of 4,189 individuals during the shutdown. Partners for distribution sites and communication are key to make sure people know where they can receive emergency cash, food and other assistance during an emergency. During the shutdown, the Capital Area Food Bank was supported both by the Resilience Fund and by United Way of the National Capital Area.

In addition, our Resilience Fund supported Manna Food Center in Montgomery County providing food support to 748 people - 304 children and 444 adults. United Communities Against Poverty in Prince George’s County thought outside the box during the shutdown. They provided rent assistance that kept those affected from suffering eviction, in addition to meals for 109 individuals. They helped enroll recipients into peer support programs to deepen networks within the communities of those affected.

Our nonprofit partners also let us know that monetary donations at all levels are more useful than donations of goods. Physical donations take staff time to sort through, but in an emergency, staff need to prioritize distribution to the community.

Robert G. Ottenhoff, President and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, reminded us that emergency relief plans are most effective when they are written well in advance of emergencies. Ottenhoff suggested organizing a committee that meets regularly so that communities are prepared to lead in a crisis. It can be helpful to have first responders identified in advance, as well, so that they can be funded as quickly as possible in advance of – or during! – a crisis. The Center also offers a Disaster Philanthropy Playbook that offers promising practices and innovative approaches to keep in mind in advance of disasters.

“We are so proud of the community’s response to the shutdown, and we want to learn as much as we can for this event,” says Tonia Wellons, our Vice President of Community Investment. “We are excited to continue to share our insights and new plans with the greater community at large.”

We’re partnering with United Way of the National Capital Area and Metropolitan Washington Council on Governments to continue our deeper look at how our philanthropy can be prepared in case of emergency.

How Budgets Shape Communities: Race Equity Analysis in Maryland and DC

There is no better way to understand a society’s priorities than to look at how they are spending their resources.  One only needs to look at the newspaper during budget season to understand that states, counties, and cities in our region face difficult budget choices every year. Many jurisdictions have expressed a desire to do more to ensure their work is addressing race-based inequity. But are they putting their money where their mouth is?

At The Community Foundation, we are increasingly seeking to center our work and investments on race equity. The Workforce Collaborative seeks to support our local jurisdictions to better use the power of the budget to achieve equity goals. DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI) and the Maryland Center on Economic Policy (MDCEP) are two grantees that are working to raise awareness of how well the District government and the Maryland State government, respectively, are budgeting for equity. We asked Kamolika Das, Policy Analyst at DCFPI, and Kali Schumitz, Director of Communications and Partner Engagement at MDCEP, to share what they learned in their recent budget analysis.  

Kamolika Das, Policy Analyst at DCFPI:

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI) influences DC budget and policy decisions to reduce poverty and income inequality and to give residents the opportunity for a secure economic future. Funding from the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative housed at the Greater Washington Community Foundation allows DCFPI to support research, education and advocacy efforts to promote better workforce development programs in DC.

Staff members of the The DC Fiscal Policy Institute presenting their 2020 DC budget analysis.

Staff members of the The DC Fiscal Policy Institute presenting their 2020 DC budget analysis.

For the last several years, DCFPI has worked with partners to advocate for issues including increased funding for the Career Pathways Innovation Fund, free public transportation for adult learners, and increased transparency about District-wide workforce spending. As a leading source of information on the DC budget, DCFPI releases analyses of the workforce development budget, as well as other issue areas, through the annual “Budget Toolkits”. DCFPI also finalized a report that highlighted the number of workforce development providers in the District that could qualify for federal funding through the SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program and shared the results with the Department of Human Services which operates DC’s SNAP E&T program.

DCFPI is consistently working to embed a racial equity analysis into our work and is currently in the process of completing a report highlighting the working conditions of Black DC residents. The report will highlight how systemic racism has contributed to inequities in job quality between Black residents and white residents and provide recommendations for workforce development providers and policymakers to design training and education programs that lead workers to high-quality jobs.

The Workforce Collaborative’s funding is crucial for maintaining the capacity needed to create independent research, engage with policymakers, bring diverse advocacy groups together, and collectively work towards a more equitable future for all DC residents.

Kali Schumitz, Director of Communications and Partner Engagement at MDCEP:

Much of the Maryland Center on Economic Policy’s work focuses on the state budget because it provides the clearest reflection of our priorities as a state. Choices about where we invest our shared resources can help or hinder children’s education, economic security for families and communities, and public health and safety.

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In 2018, MDCEP published its first “Budgeting for Opportunity” report looking at portions of the state’s budget through this lens. The first report focused on the health, education, and transportation portions of the budget. It highlights the ways the state spending choices affect people’s lives and often reinforce inequity. For example, more than half of Black students in the state attend a school that is under-funded according to state standards, and Black workers in southern Prince George’s County spend an average of 55 more hours per year commuting than their white neighbors. The report recommends policy solutions that support thriving communities in all parts of the state.


MDCEP is using this report to help our partners, policymakers, and the public better understand how choices in the budget affect families and communities across the state, and to advance policy changes that can improve equity. We also conducted several trainings aimed at helping other nonprofit advocates do their own racial and ethnic equity analysis of the portions of the budget that they focus on.

Thanks in part to support from Workforce Collaborative housed at the Greater Washington Community Foundation, we are now working to expand our analysis to other sections of the budget. Our forthcoming report will focus on criminal justice and workforce development. We are looking forward to sharing our findings later this year.

Let’s Address the “Hidden” Issues Undermining our Kids’ Futures

By Agnes Leshner, Steering Committee member of the Children’s Opportunity Fund and Board member of 4Montgomery’s Kids

“The child may not remember, but the body does.” 

This quote stuck with me after watching the documentary, Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope How does one truly overcome trauma?  How can we break cycles of poverty and toxic stress from perpetuating across generations?

Still from the film  Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope.

Still from the film Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope.

These questions have been at the heart of my 25-year career in Child Welfare Services of Montgomery County, MD.  That is why I was so pleased to join the most recent Funders’ Roundtable gathering, which featured a rich discussion with local foundation leaders and Community Foundation donors after watching Resilience

Resilience centers on a seminal study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente which demonstrates how high exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can wreak havoc on children’s brains and bodies. In addition to hindering academic achievement, exposure to multiple traumatic childhood events (such as abuse, neglect, persistent hunger, parental conflict, mental illness, and substance abuse, etc.) can result in long-term negative effects on learning, behavior, and health.

Many attendees were shocked to learn…

  • ACEs are common.  In fact, one in four people have had at least one adverse childhood experience. 

  • Individuals with three ACEs were found to be twice as likely to develop heart disease.

  • Individuals with four ACEs were found to be four times as likely to suffer from depression.

  • Individuals with six ACEs have a 20 years lower life expectancy.

For many low-income children ACEs are even more damaging. Experiencing a high number of ACES alongside additional challenges, such as racism and community violence, without the buffer of supportive adult relationships, can cause toxic stress.  While we all need a certain amount of stress to promote positive growth, children whose stress responses are constantly active due to ACEs actually experience physiological changes to the brain that can disrupt learning, change behavior, and even modify their DNA. Because of this linkage, the American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that ACES are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat for children in the United States.

But history is not destiny.  The studies around ACEs have led schools, healthcare providers, nonprofits, and social service agencies to try bold new interventions. Here are some examples:

  • The Center for Youth Wellness in the Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood of San Francisco, CA – a traditionally underserved community - has established a protocol to screen all its pediatric patients for ACEs. Center staff work with local social service providers to pilot treatments for toxic stress and share their findings nationally.

  • In New Haven, CT, Strong Elementary School partnered with the Center for Post Traumatic Stress to bring Miss Kendra’s List to students beginning in kindergarten. This program teaches children the norms of child safety and gives them an outlet to express their worries to guardian figure named Miss Kendra, a fictional character who has overcome adversity and demonstrated resiliency. ALIVE Counselors write back to every child to help build their inner strength.

  • In the early 2000s, over 30 counties in Washington state brought together educators, social workers, parents, police officers, and healthcare professionals to spur education, dialogue, and community building around ACEs. By implementing specific strategies, the counties were able to significantly lower suicide rates, incidents of domestic violence, and youth arrests, which has saved the state $1.4 billion over 10 years.

If you are passionate about this issue, please join us!  Contact Kimberly Rusnak, Project Director of the Children’s Opportunity Fund to learn more about innovative strategies at work right here in our local community and help us bring together more people who will want to use these findings to improve the lives of children throughout our Montgomery County community.

After the screening of  Resilience,  the Community Foundation hosted a post-film discussion with Anna Hargrave, Executive Director in Montgomery County, Mindi Jacobson, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Future Link, Diego Uriburu, Executive Director of Identity, Dr. Carrie Zilcoski, Executive Director of Aspire Counseling, and Terrill North, Executive Director of Montgomery County Collaboration Council.

After the screening of Resilience, the Community Foundation hosted a post-film discussion with Anna Hargrave, Executive Director in Montgomery County, Mindi Jacobson, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Future Link, Diego Uriburu, Executive Director of Identity, Dr. Carrie Zilcoski, Executive Director of Aspire Counseling, and Terrill North, Executive Director of Montgomery County Collaboration Council.

Resilience Fund Announces New Grants to Nonprofits Supporting Immigrants and Sexual Assault Survivors

The Resilience Fund has announced $90,000 in grants to three local organizations conducting advocacy on behalf of immigrants and victims of sexual assault and providing direct support for immigrants facing deportation or applying for benefits. These grants fit within the Fund’s overall focus on responding to federal policy shifts affecting our neighbors and communities in the Greater Washington region.

The Resilience Fund’s latest grants will support:

  • $35,000 grant to Civic Nation’s It’s On Us program to conduct advocacy with local and national partners to combat harmful proposed rule changes to Title IX that will infringe on the civil rights of sexual assault survivors on college campuses.

  • $30,000 grant to support Northern Virginia Family Services’ immigration legal services program to provide consultations and representation to more than 1,700 individuals annually in deportation defenses and applications for immigration benefits.

  • $25,000 grant to support Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy to engage at least 20 immigrant congregations in advocacy on policies to make Virginia more welcoming to immigrants and to build relationships between 50 ally congregations and immigrant leaders.

According to Tracey Vitchers, the executive director of It’s On Us, “The grant received by Civic Nation for It's On Us will empower our staff and students in the Washington, DC area to fight back against the Federal Department of Education's harmful proposed rule changes to Title IX that will make college campuses less safe and leave survivors more vulnerable to ongoing harm. We are grateful to the Resilience Fund for supporting our work to combat sexual violence.”

“NVFS Immigration Legal Services strives to respond to the needs of vulnerable immigrant communities in Northern Virginia by ensuring access to competent, trauma-informed, affordable legal advice and representation,” said Tori Andrea Babington, NVFS Director of Legal Services. “This has been challenging in recent years given the rapid and continuing changes to immigration policy and the fear that our immigrant neighbors are experiencing in response. We are so grateful to the Resilience Fund for supporting these critical legal services, giving us the flexibility to go where the need is greatest.”   

Kim Bobo, Co-Executive Director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, said, “Thanks to the timely grant from the Resilience Fund, we’re reaching out to immigrant congregations around the state to engage them in advocating for a Driver’s Privilege Card for immigrants and in-state tuition for immigrants students. ‘Welcome the immigrant,”’ a core tenant of faith communities, is especially poignant for immigrant congregations and we need their engagement on these critical fights.”

These three grants show the range of the Resilience Fund’s investments in both policy interventions through Civic Nation and Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and nonprofits providing direct service work through Northern Virginia Family Services.

About the Resilience Fund

The Resilience Fund was created in early 2017 as a collaborative partnership of the Greater Washington Community Foundation, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, and other foundation and individual contributors. It seeks to address the critical needs of nonprofits responding to changes in federal policy and budget priorities, as well as the climate of intolerance and hate, both of which are disproportionately impacting local people of color, and immigrant and refugee communities.

Highlights from the 2019 Celebration of Philanthropy

On March 25, a standing-room only crowd at Arena Stage celebrated the civic leadership of former DC Mayor Anthony A. Williams, and the incredible giving spirit of the national capital region at the 2019 Celebration of Philanthropy.  

In addition to honoring Anthony Williams, CEO of the Federal City Council, with the 2019 Civic Spirit Award, the evening raised more than $670,000 to support local causes, and showcased performers and artists who make up the region’s vibrant local art scene and have benefited from The Community Foundation’s support.  

Proceeds will help The Community Foundation expand charitable resources to ensure that our communities are equitable, just and thriving all who call the region home. The Community Foundation is the largest funder of nonprofits in Greater Washington – having invested more than $1.2 billion in thousands of nonprofit organizations since 1973.

At the event, Community Foundation President and CEO Bruce McNamer said:

“Tonight we gather to celebrate community philanthropy and civic spirit, including the individuals and organizations who dedicate their time and resources to help make our region a more vibrant, equitable and inclusive place to live. Their actions inspire so many of us and demonstrate that in communities throughout the Greater Washington region, we take care of each other. This generous spirit of neighbors helping neighbors is central to our work at The Community Foundation, where we focus on Building Thriving Communities that are ripe with opportunity for all who call our region home.”

Last year, The Community Foundation granted more than $96 million to about 2,600 nonprofit organizations, 68% of which directly serve the Greater Washington region. In addition, it received more than $80 million in contributions during the year — a testament to the generosity and commitment of our community of givers.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton was on hand to congratulate Anthony Williams, and she thanked The Community Foundation for its “wise philanthropy to improve the lives of our citizens and to strengthen the many aspects of our City which make the District of Columbia unique.”

Civic Spirit Award Honoree Anthony Williams remarked on the significance of the evening:

“In these tough times, we’ve got to hang in there, we’ve got to believe, we’ve got to reach, we've got to dream, and then figure out a practical way to do it."

David Bradt and Katharine Weymouth served as co-chairs of the Celebration. Major sponsors included Brown Advisory, Morgan Stanley, Nancy and Jorge Kfoury Foundation, 2030 Group, Capitol One, CareFirst, Kaiser Permanente, PNC Bank, Washington Gas, Pepco, FiscalNote and other businesses, philanthropists, and local civic leaders.

The evening featured performances and exhibits from:

  • CityDance Dream

  • Foundation for the Advancement of Music and Education – FAME

  • Halau Nohona Hawaii

  • The Keegan Theater’s production of From Gumbo to Mumbo

  • Strathmore Artist in Residence Josanne Francis

  • The PB Eclectic Steppers

  • B-Roll Media and Arts Inc.

  • Luis Peralta Del Valle

Photo credit: Platinum Photography by Kevin Fennell

Feeling at Home: Going on a Sharing Montgomery Site Visit

Guest Post By Bobbi Shulman

Editor’s Note: Sharing Montgomery is a strategic, donor-led funding effort for community members who want to give where they live. This year the Sharing Montgomery Fund granted out $385,000 to 62 nonprofits that provide educational, workforce development, safety-net or capacity-building services in Montgomery County. Sharing Montgomery Committee members not only review grant applications – they go out into the community to visit the nonprofits making a difference for low-income children, youth and families. In our latest grant round, the Sharing Montgomery Committee went on 33 site visits from October 2018 to March 2019. Bobbi Shulman contributed this post to share her personal experience serving on the committee.

I’ve been on the Sharing Montgomery Committee since 2015. My family has been connected to The Community Foundation for more than five years, beginning when we started our foundation. I particularly enjoy going on site visits because I am constantly amazed by the depth, scope, and professionalism with which organizations do their jobs. 

Last January, I visited Rebuilding Together Montgomery County with fellow Sharing Montgomery Committee members. Rebuilding Together offers low-income homeowners (50% of area median income) safe and healthy home repairs at no cost to the recipient. In 2018, they completed 240 projects in 113 homes.

I was under the impression that Rebuilding Together was all about construction and repair of homes.  I had no idea of the aggressive wrap-around services they provide by becoming actively involved with the homeowner and engaging a variety of other non-profits to provide them needed services, including facility maintenance. It wasn’t until we conducted a site visit to Jill’s home that I fully understood the depth of their work. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Jill’s house had deteriorated to the point where the house was condemned, and she was forced to move in with friends. Rebuilding Montgomery learned of her difficult situation and pitched in to repair drywall, electrical, plumbing, flooring, and more. The ultimate success of the project allowed Jill to avoid permanent homelessness and return to live in her own home in safe and healthy conditions.

This deeper connection to the community continues to give back, as evidenced by Jill telling Rebuilding Together she hopes to give back by volunteering and paying it forward.

What I learned by visiting Rebuilding Together is just one example of the surprises uncovered in site visits! For the past 40 or so years, my work has been on the policy level, particularly in workforce development.  Sharing Montgomery has given me the opportunity to observe organizations doing the work on a grassroots level.  I appreciate the opportunity to provide input into improving the grantmaking process.  I have seen many positive changes in the quality of the grant applications and in the process of evaluating them. 

I’m so glad that Sharing Montgomery has brought me in contact with a group of people who care about improving the lives of residents of the county.

Bobbi Shulman (the fifth person on the right side of this photo) and other members of the Sharing Montgomery Committee visit Interfaith Works, another nonprofit in Montgomery County.

Bobbi Shulman (the fifth person on the right side of this photo) and other members of the Sharing Montgomery Committee visit Interfaith Works, another nonprofit in Montgomery County.

Fighting Hunger, Feeding Hope

Anna Hargrave, The Community Foundation Executive Director, Montgomery County, and Jackie DeCarlo, Chief Executive Officer of Manna Food Center.

Anna Hargrave, The Community Foundation Executive Director, Montgomery County, and Jackie DeCarlo, Chief Executive Officer of Manna Food Center.

On Thursday, March 28th, the Manna Food Center saluted The Community Foundation as its Community Partner of the Year.  We were proud to accept this award on behalf of all our fundholders who have generously supported Manna over the years as well as the many contributors to our Neighbors in Need Montgomery Fund. Collectively, all those gifts over the last 20 years have tallied up to nearly $1 million. 

Our partnership with the Manna Food Center has evolved significantly in recent years.  A key turning point was in Fall 2008, when the economic downturn was heating up.  We were disturbed to hear that Manna was experiencing a 40% increase in demand.  In fact, people who used to donate during the holidays had to turn to Manna for help.

Cliff White, a newcomer to our Grants Committee at that time, challenged The Community Foundation to do more. 

“Many of us have a financial cushion and are able to weather an economic storm of this magnitude,” he said. “And for those of us who are, we need to give more than ever.”

Believing that people would step up if they were made aware of the growing needs, Cliff helped lead the creation of our Neighbors in Need Montgomery Fund to bolster support for the county’s safety-net providers. This effort galvanized donors of all levels (from $5 to $50,000) by providing them with an easy mechanism to support our key safety-net nonprofits providing food, shelter, clothing, and emergency assistance to prevent evictions.  For Manna in particular, our support enabled them to quickly replenish their supply of food while the need rose exponentially.

After the 2008 economic downturn, the Neighbors in Need Montgomery steering committee decided to take stock of its investments and explore what would be the most strategic use of our dollars going forward.  After listening sessions with community partners, the group challenged itself to pursue giving opportunities which both respond to the immediate needs of our neighbors in crisis while also transforming our safety-net systems to serve more people effectively.

Photo courtesy of Manna Food Center.

Photo courtesy of Manna Food Center.

Again, the Manna Food Center stepped up.  While impressively serving 30,000 people between their headquarters, 6 satellite locations, and 11 partner drop-off sites, they understood those efforts only met about half the need in Montgomery County. To reach even more deeply into our underserved communities, they requested start-up funds to convert a retired school bus into an innovative new kitchen-classroom and mobile food pantry on wheels.  During its inaugural year, this first-of-its-kind bus (nicknamed “Manny”) brought fresh produce to 300 County residents, including many isolated low-income seniors. It also hosted 1,238 class participants in hands-on cooking classes, helping kids learn to enjoy healthy and delicious veggies. 

Photos of programs, staff and volunteers inside Manna Food Center’s bus that serves as a kitchen-classroom and mobile food pantry on wheels. Photos courtesy of Manna Food Center.

Photos of programs, staff and volunteers inside Manna Food Center’s bus that serves as a kitchen-classroom and mobile food pantry on wheels. Photos courtesy of Manna Food Center.

The most rewarding aspect of our work at The Community Foundation is helping people connect with high-impact local nonprofits and discover the joy of making an impact in our home region.  We are grateful to the Manna Food Center for being a great partner for everyone who wants to fight hunger and foster hope throughout our community.