Forward With Hope: Remembering 2nd LT. Richard W. Collins III

Guest Post by Richard Collins II

On May 20, 2017, a local tragedy occurred when 2nd Lieutenant Richard W. Collins III was fatally stabbed in an apparent hate crime three days before he was set to graduate from Bowie State University. We are honored to share this post from his parents, Richard and Dawn Collins, who have decided to pay tribute to their son’s legacy through a memorial fund at The Community Foundation.


Richard Collins II

Richard Collins II

We first learned of the Greater Washington Community Foundation through a long-time family friend who happens to be an attorney.  Following the tragic death of our son, my wife and I contacted the foundation to discuss establishing a foundation to continue his legacy and build a lasting tribute to honor our son’s memory.

Our vision for creating our foundation was two-fold.  First, we believe that it is important for us to make sure that our son’s life is given purpose even though he can no longer be present with us physically.  While the pain of no longer being able to speak with him or hear his voice is at times overwhelming, the work involved in continuing his legacy through our foundation provides us with some measure of comfort. 

Secondly, we intend to use our foundation as a vehicle of change through which private citizens are educated of their civic empowerment under the law in the communities where they live. It is intended to raise individual awareness of the civic duty of all of us to acquire and act upon the knowledge of the law regarding individual rights and protections. In addition, we must hold our elected officials and civic institutions accountable to ensure that the law protect, respect, and value the right to life of all citizens.

We partnered with The Community Foundation when we realized we did not know anything about starting a foundation on our own. We concluded we’d be able to get up and running faster if we used the experience of an established organization. 

2nd Lieutenant Richard W. Collins III

2nd Lieutenant Richard W. Collins III

We officially launched our foundation four days prior to our son’s 25th birthday on December 12, 2018.  Although taking this step provided us with a sense of accomplishment, it was also a bittersweet reminder of the reason that we found ourselves on this path in life. 

As the date marking the second anniversary of our son’s murder approaches, we still struggle to understand why God chose our family to experience this horrific ordeal.  It is a date that for us marks the month of May with dread rather than the anticipation that normally accompanies the spring season.  It is our hope and prayer that at some point, our heartbreak will transform itself into a state of consciousness that provides us with a sense of peace.  We feel it is our purpose to stay connected with our son by turning sorrow into an opportunity to bless the lives of others.  Our goal is to use the platform we have been placed on to bring attention to the need for confronting the challenge represented by hate and bias violence and to help provide education opportunities through our foundation.  We believe our foundation provides us the best avenue to have a positive impact in the lives of people and in their communities.

Help Victims of the Landover Hills Fire

On Tuesday morning, our community was shocked to learn a fire has severely damaged an apartment complex in the Landover Hills neighborhood of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Thankfully, all residents escaped the fire. Three firefighters and one resident sought treatment for injuries suffered during the fire. The former residents will need assistance relocating and other support after the loss of their homes.

If you would like to support the Landover Hills residents in this time of need, you can make a gift (or grant from your fund) to the Prince George’s County Neighbors in Need Fund. The Community Foundation will work in partnership with the Department of Social Services to support the immediate needs of those impacted including temporary housing, clothing and food.

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Victories in Advocacy

What do paid sick leave in Maryland, limiting drinking water contamination in Virginia, and protecting housing for Chinese Americans in DC’s Chinatown all have in common? These are victories that were made possible by advocacy, led by our nonprofit partners.

Advocacy—activities that can influence public policy, including work connecting community members to other decision-makers—is a key tool we use to build thriving communities.

“Investing in advocacy is a critical part of creating real and lasting social change,” says Silvana Straw, Senior Community Investment Officer and Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation. “Advocacy efforts increase public awareness and public will, increase public and private funding, and strengthen public policy.”

One example of a recent victory is the work of Washington Interfaith Network (WIN), which we have helped fund. WIN’s campaign in DC’s Northwest One neighborhood engaging community residents and leaders in housing advocacy, led to a plan to build 518 units of affordable housing at 33 K Street NW, formerly Temple Courts. WIN and former tenants have been working with the developer to secure jobs commitments for former and current tenants.

Building on 30 years of experience, including advocacy which preserved $80 million of public funding for safety net services in the region, Straw’s current work focuses on housing and ending homelessness.

DCFPI is a key partner of the Way Home: the campaign to end chronic homelessness in Washington DC and helps organize major advocacy events led by the campaign.

DCFPI is a key partner of the Way Home: the campaign to end chronic homelessness in Washington DC and helps organize major advocacy events led by the campaign.

Straw also works with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI), a key partner in the fight for affordable housing and ending homelessness in DC. Their research revealed that in the past decade DC lost more than half of its affordable housing. Last year DCFPI laid out a blueprint for the investments needed to fully address DC’s housing needs. DCFPI’s research shows that extremely low-income families face the greatest need and supports advocacy for DC’s Local Rent Supplement Program, including a 2019 increase which was the largest in years.

Another victory is thanks to Housing Counseling Services (HCS). Their advocacy has helped tenants at Wah Luck House, mostly Chinese American seniors, keep their housing in DC’s Chinatown. They helped tenants exercise their Purchase Rights when their building went up for sale. Ultimately, tenants successfully negotiated a contract with the purchaser that preserves the HUD subsidy for 20 years and guaranteed an entire building upgrade.

Workforce development remains another key advocacy area for The Community Foundation. Benton Murphy, Senior Director, Community Investment, says,

“Over my years at The Community Foundation, my grants portfolio has included a large number of advocacy projects focused on things like encouraging transparency in our local and state government funding and budgets, advocating for better working conditions and rights for undocumented workers and day laborers, and helping more adults with literacy challenges receive better, more targeted education and job training supports.”

Last March, members of Job Opportunities Task Force spent the day in Annapolis, marching, advocating, and meeting with legislators to advance key issues, including colleges and universities removing the arrest/conviction question from applications.

Last March, members of Job Opportunities Task Force spent the day in Annapolis, marching, advocating, and meeting with legislators to advance key issues, including colleges and universities removing the arrest/conviction question from applications.

Some recent workforce victories include the passage of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. This act will require employers with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick days in one year thanks to work alongside Job Opportunities Task Force and Maryland Center on Economic Policy. Another victory with these groups was the passage of the Maryland Fair Access to Education Act that requires colleges and universities who do not use a third-party admissions application to remove the arrest/conviction question from the initial admissions application, ensuring more equitable access to education.

In DC, the DC Adult and Family Literacy Coalition led by a Steering Committee (Academy of Hope Public Charter School, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, DC Public Library, Literacy Volunteers & Advocates, So Others Might Eat, Southeast Ministry and YWCA National Capital Area) convened at the Community Foundation’s offices, successfully advocated for the District to provide free public transportation to adult learners. This is important because many students miss class and fail to complete their programs if they don't have bus or subway fare. The 2018 DC budget included $2 million so that adult learners can travel for free using public transportation to and from class

Advocacy remains a key practice for community foundations and nonprofits to make the region more equitable for all our neighbors, including our most vulnerable populations.

To read about advocacy in action, check out this blog post from the Potomac Riverkeeper Network about how they worked to ensure passage of a bill to properly dispose of more than 27 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash currently sitting in holding ponds, safeguarding Virginia residents at risk of toxic contamination from pond leakage.

Apply Today for LEARN Scholarship

The Landover Educational Athletic Recreational Nonprofit (LEARN) was established in 1996 to support education programs for Prince George's County youth residing in the vicinity of FedEx Field stadium. Since its inception, the LEARN Foundation has awarded close to $1 million in scholarships and grants to Prince George’s County students and community organizations.  Embedded in the foundation’s mission is the belief that the future is now, and that through partnerships and collaboration young people residing in the targeted areas can benefit through post-secondary education opportunities. 

In 2002, the LEARN Foundation became a component fund of the Greater Washington Community Foundation. Since that time, hundreds of students have benefited from scholarship awards toward college and other career preparation opportunities.The fund is now accepting applications for 2019 awards. Interested high school seniors must apply by Saturday, April 29, 2019.

For more information please contact The LEARN Foundation via phone (301) 499-3500 or email learnfoundation18@gmail.com.

Farewell to Desiree Griffin-Moore

By Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

This week, we bid a sad farewell to Desiree Griffin-Moore, Executive Director of our local Prince George’s County office. Desiree has been tireless in her efforts, her outreach and her leadership at The Community Foundation for more than 20 years. As Executive Director in Prince George’s County, she has played a vital role in building community, strengthening the capacity of non-profits, engaging with the government and private sectors and raising money to support our work. Underlying all of her work as been her passionate commitment to social justice—a passion that has driven her entire career.

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Desiree arrived at The Community Foundation in 1998 with extensive experience working in the nonprofit sector to advance low-income and marginalized communities through roles with the Freddie Mac Foundation, the United Way of the National Capital Region, and the District of Columbia Department of Human Services. As Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Prince George’s County, she led the way in creating corporate relationships with, among others, the Peterson Companies, Walton Group, and MGM National Harbor.

In times of crisis, Desiree crafted solutions that worked to bring stability and security to our community. During the 2008 housing crisis, she worked with United Communities Against Poverty on foreclosure prevention efforts. And around the same time she helped launch the Neighbors in Need Fund. During her tenure she also initiated Sharing Prince George’s, a communal grant making program; the PGC Coalition for the Enrichment of After School Programs; the PGC Education Initiative Socratic Forum; and the Partnership for Prince George’s County, which raised over a million dollars to support capacity building for non-profits in the County. 

Photo of President and CEO Bruce McNamer, guest Terese Taylor, former Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Prince George's County Desiree Griffin-Moore, and Chair of The Community Foundation's Prince George’s Advisory Board, Bill Shipp, at the Civic Leadership Awards in Prince George's County.

Photo of President and CEO Bruce McNamer, guest Terese Taylor, former Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Prince George's County Desiree Griffin-Moore, and Chair of The Community Foundation's Prince George’s Advisory Board, Bill Shipp, at the Civic Leadership Awards in Prince George's County.

On a day-to-day basis, she was the face of the Foundation in the County, continually engaged with Foundation donors, and acted as our touchstone with literally hundreds of dedicated non-profits. In 2006, she and the Board of Advisors launched the Civic Leadership Awards, which to this day powerfully lift up the civic contributions made in different spheres by so many in building a thriving County.    

And there was more. As important and imaginative as her work has been, we who know her also respect and love her for how she has worked. She is a natural leader and a wonderful human being. Seemingly so comfortable as a speaker, listener, counselor, cheerleader, or friend, Desiree is able to inspire with her passion and her eloquence, to connect with her warmth and great sense of humor, and to lead with purpose, intellect and heart. She is special. We will miss her.

Surprising Stats from VoicesDMV

As a community foundation, your perspectives – the voices of our community – are key to our work. We are committed to responding to our community’s needs through responsive grantmaking and by amplifying local voices in public and private sector conversations. To best speak in partnership with our community, we have to listen. We have to connect directly with the people and communities we serve and understand our neighbors’ experiences in their neighborhoods, jobs, schools, with local government, and with each other — and to identify the role philanthropy can play in enhancing or improving those experiences.

About a year ago, the Greater Washington Community Foundation proudly announced the release of Voices of the Community: DC, Maryland, Virginia. Designed to amplify the voice of the people—those who live and work in our region—VoicesDMV included a survey of more than 3,000 of our regional neighbors as well as community conversations with hundreds of stakeholders across the region. This allowed The Community Foundation to hear directly from locals about the region’s strengths, challenges, and overall quality of life.

We saw this as a way to better understand the story of our region. We launched this initiative recognizing that although our region is data rich, few efforts systematically capture the voices, experiences, attitudes, and perceptions of people who live here, especially across jurisdictions.

VoicesDMV was envisioned as a north star for The Community Foundation – a way for us to ensure our grantmaking and community leadership efforts are aligned to the needs most strongly felt by our neighbors. We have also offered the data collected through this initiative as a public good, available to anyone seeking to do good in our region. And we made a commitment to revisit this survey every two years to keep our finger on the pulse of our region.

Our efforts have paid tremendous dividends. Through VoicesDMV we learned so much more about our region, especially our neighbors experiences in their communities and the role philanthropy can play in enhancing or improving those experiences.

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A community member speaks at a community conversation in Northern Virginia.

Photo by AOTA Creative Group.

VoicesDMV revealed that even as our region continues to prosper, deep disparities in income, education and opportunity persist and the gap continues to widen:

  • Nearly one in five residents has faced some form of housing or food insecurity in the past 12 months. That number increases to one in three people for our region’s black and Hispanic populations.

  • One in three people would not have enough savings to continue to live as they do today for more than two months if they lost current income sources.

  • The cost of living, especially renting or owning a home, was raised as one of the most challenging aspects of our region.

  • Nearly a third of Prince George’s County and Montgomery County respondents rated access to education and training as a “major” barrier to finding a job.

  • One in four people were discriminated against in the region in the past year, and the majority said it was because of their race or ethnicity.

VoicesDMV has influenced The Community Foundation at its very core. These findings drove the development of our new Building Thriving Communities framework, which underscores the importance of our continued focus on affordable housing in our region and led us to explore new opportunities to support entrepreneurship and prepare for the Future of Work.

And while we have put so much new work into practice as a result of VoicesDMV, our work to stay in touch with the community is not over. In the nearly two years since we initiated our first VoicesDMV survey, we have seen the birth of the #MeToo movement, new administrations taking the reins of power throughout our region, and Amazon deciding to set up shop.

With so much change happening, we are excited by the opportunity to circle back to the community for our second VoicesDMV survey, this time with a few new bells and whistles and plenty of opportunities to engage with us on the results. Stay tuned for more from The Community Foundation on ways that you can be engaged with VoicesDMV!

If you’d like to sign up for news and more information about our VoicesDMV initiative, please contact Benton Murphy at bmurphy@thecommunityfoundation.org

 

Resilience Fund Grants Respond to Ongoing Impact of Shutdown

The Resilience Fund announced that it has made grants to local nonprofits responding to the most pressing needs of federal workers, contractors and small business owners impacted by the partial Federal Government shutdown. These grants have provided support for emergency response, including funding for emergency cash and food assistance, as well as to help nonprofits restock, replenish and recover from the unexpected increase in demand for their services.

“It is heartening to say that the outpouring of support from our community has been incredible! We have more than doubled our original gift of $50,000 by raising an additional $125,000 in individual donations and institutional commitments, including gifts ranging in size from $10 to $50,000,” said Tonia Wellons, VP of community investment for the Greater Washington Community Foundation, and Terri D. Wright, VP for program and community for the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, who co-chair the Fund’s Steering Committee.

The Resilience Fund’s latest round of rapid response grants provided support to:

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.

This announcement comes as parts of the Federal Government reopened this week following a 35-day partial shutdown affecting an estimated 300,000 federal workers and contractors in our region. While this provides some relief for federal workers who will eventually receive back pay, we remain concerned for local contractors, small business owners, childcare providers, and service sector workers, among others, who may not be able to recover lost income and could continue to fall behind. The Community Foundation will continue to work with the Resilience Fund’s Steering Committee and donors to determine how to further allocate resources to address the ongoing impact of the shutdown on our region. 

You can help support our neighbors in need by making a donation to the Resilience Fund. You can choose for your donation to support nonprofits helping our neighbors affected by the shutdown or to contribute to one of the Resilience Fund’s other funding priorities, including immigration policies, justice reform and civil rights roll-backs, and efforts that expand access to citizenship and democracy.

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. The Fund has raised and leveraged more than $1 million and made grants to nonprofits responding to changes in federal policy and the resulting climate of intolerance and hate, disproportionately impacting local people of color and immigrant communities. Grants have supported immigrant-serving organizations responding to changes in immigration and deportation policies by providing advocacy, legal or medical services, training on legal and civil rights, and assistance to reunite families separated at the border. The Fund has also supported efforts to build community cohesion and combat anti-other sentiment by funding grassroots community engagement, voter education services, and the expansion of programs teaching tolerance, respect and inclusion.

Six Things The Community Needs You To Know About The Shutdown

Editor’s Note: Though the federal government has reopened for the next three weeks, we recognize that contractors, childcare providers and many other parties that Tonia Wellons highlights in this blog post may never receive backpay, and certainly still suffer from the consequences of the shutdown. In addition, if no budget is reached by February 15, the partial federal shutdown may resume. In light of these ongoing concerns, Wellons’ reminders and recommendations for ways to help still remain deeply relevant to our community.


By Tonia Wellons, Vice President, Community Investment

It has been one month since the partial Federal Government shutdown began and our neighbors in the Greater Washington region, especially in Prince George’s County, continue to be impacted. Most of you have heard the news stories, may be experiencing this first hand, or you have seen the long lines of working families in search of food and other forms of assistance.

We all know that when shocks like this hit the country, they hit communities of color the hardest. With incomes typically lower, personal savings often thinner, and access to networks with deep pockets limited, communities of color suffer the most and often have the longest recovery time. 

In my role at the Greater Washington Community Foundation, I have had the opportunity to work closely with nonprofits and funders who have organized very quickly to respond. Here’s a summary of what we have learned and how you might be able to help:

  • While federal workers are directly impacted, we must not forget that contractors, small business owners, and child care facilities are also affected. We should also be mindful that offices like child support enforcement can’t disburse what they can’t collect.

  • Local food pantries and food banks need to be replenished. The demographic impacted is unaccustomed to navigating human and social service systems. The response from local grocers, restaurants, and food markets has been welcomed. 

  • Prince George’s County Public Schools has received as many as 500 new applications for free and reduced lunch because of the federal shutdown.

  • There is an increase in concern about eviction prevention, particularly as we move into proximity of a second missed pay cycle. 

  • Child care is an expense that families are most likely to cut first since they are home. There is a ripple effect on child care providers, children, and workers; and it is often difficult for families to return once they leave.

  • Families need food and cash assistance to cover the cost of everyday household expenses and medicine.

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A community member sorts produce at a local food center.

This week as we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is only fitting that we look to his words to guide our steps. His life and his legacy represent the importance of pressing forward to change and challenge federal policies that impact the poor, working class, and especially people of color. His life and legacy is one of vision, advocacy, and action. In his honor, I invite you each to consider several ways that we can support our neighbors affected by the shutdown.

“The time is always right to do the right thing.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

How You Can Help Our Neighbors During and After the Shutdown

1.       Ask your friends and neighbors what they need. Reach out to people you know who work for the Federal Government and ask them what they need. Now is the time to get to know your neighbors, to reach out to your friends, and make yourselves available to them. Invite them over for dinner or offer to pay for their children’s school lunch.

2.       Donate food and cash to help families meet immediate needs. You can make a donation to your local foodbank, church or school pantry, or school lunch fund. Several of our nonprofit partners throughout the region have mobilized to offer pop-up markets, hand out food or gift cards, and provide support for household essentials and other resources. We have compiled a list of resources to help furloughed federal employees and contractors in need of assistance – and local governments in DC,  Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have released resource lists.

3.       Encourage those impacted to reach out to their creditors to defer payments. Local banks, utility companies and several other institutions have offered to work with customers to offer loans, flexible payments, and more. The United Way of the National Capital Area has opened four Financial Empowerment Centers located throughout the region, offering direct access to high-quality financial services and guidance at no cost to the client. Check our list of resources for more details.

4.       Consider supporting nonprofits addressing the long-term challenges facing our communities. Even after the shutdown ends, the long-term effects will continue to impact our community. Local nonprofits throughout the region will continue their work to support families in need and find solutions for disparities in income, access and opportunity in our communities. The Community Foundation can help you identify nonprofits working to alleviate poverty and hunger, expand access to a quality education, provide training to obtain a living wage job, and improve the quality of life for our region’s most vulnerable residents. Contact us to discuss.

If you are in a position to help our neighbors who may struggle to meet critical needs for food or other financial assistance during this period of uncertainty, please consider giving to our Resilience Fund. Established by individual and institutional donors in March 2017, and housed at Greater Washington Community Foundation, the Resilience Fund’s mission is to respond to changes in federal policy that negatively impact the most vulnerable in our communities. The Fund has set aside $50,000 to help local nonprofits address the most critical needs. With your support, these organizations can increase capacity to do more during this time of uncertainty for our friends, families, and neighbors. Contributions to this fund will support our neighbors now and in the future.


Tonia Wellons leads the Greater Washington Community Foundation’s Community Investment function, which includes competitive and discretionary grant-making, community engagement efforts, and strategic partnerships. She has over 20 years of experience spanning senior leadership roles at the Peace Corps and the World Bank Group to social entrepreneurship for a community-based fund that she founded. In 2016, Tonia was named one of NBC’s Women of Washington.