What a Wonderful World! A Celebration of Cultural Relevancy in Education Through Reading in Montgomery County

By Grace Kim, AmeriCorps member at The Community Foundation

On March 2, 2022, the Children’s Opportunity Fund of the Greater Washington Community Foundation hosted a social media event ‘What a Wonderful World! A Celebration of Cultural Relevancy in Education through Reading in Montgomery County’.

The event was part of Read Across America Day -- the nation’s largest celebration of reading which inspires individuals, both young and old, to pick up a book and read.

This event was completely virtual, with videos being released on our social media platforms (@communityfndn) at the top of each hour from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

Some inspiring takeaways from our spotlights were:

  • Helen Winder, program coordinator for Wheaton Woods Imagination Library program, explained how "culturally relevant books help children shape their identities." The Wheaton Woods Imagination Library program coordinator, provides free books for young students ages 0-5.

  • Cultural relevancy is "not a zero-sum game" where "some groups will lose and others will gain. No one loses, we all gain," from Diego Uruburu, who co-founded the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Excellence and Equity and is the Executive Director of Identity Youth.

  • Shebra Evans, member of the MCPS Board of Education, shed light on the school district's "asset-approach to expanding culturally relevant literacy into the instruction and that means that we are viewing the skills, knowledge, background that each of our students bring to their educational experience and that we value it."

  • Myrna Peralta of CentroNía explained the influence of linguistic diversity on which educational resources are brought to classrooms with different language-speaking instructors. She also shared that it's a "natural developmental requirement that we acknowledge and promote the diversity with our children from a very early age." CentroNía incorporates bilingual and multicultural supports to provide quality early childhood education to students.

  • For the last segment of the event, Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz and MCPS Principal Shawaan Robinson read aloud Juana Martinez-Neal’s book, Alma and Her Name, in Spanish and English respectively.

Parents, students, and educators were encouraged to participate by using the hashtag ‘#ReadAcrossMoCo’ on social media. See below for the complete list of videos!


Nonprofit Partner Spotlight - Story Tapestries

In this video, we spotlight nonprofit partner, Story Tapestries, and the creative ways that they promote cultural relevancy in learning.

Nonprofit Partner Spotlight - Imagination Library

In this video, Helen Winder, Montgomery County Public School Parent Community Coordinator shares the impact that Wheaton Woods Imagination Library is having in the lives of children at Wheaton Woods Elementary.

Nonprofit Partner Spotlight - Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity & Excellence

In this video, Diego Uruburu, co-founder of Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence shares what it means to be culturally relevant.

Community Partner Spotlight - Shebra Evans

In this video, Shebra Evans, Montgomery County (MD) Board of Education Member shares why cultural relevancy and literacy are so important to Montgomery County Public Schools.

Nonprofit Partner Spotlight - ISPOT

In this video, one family shares the impact that ISPOT, a Children's Opportunity Fund nonprofit partner, has had on their learning experience.

Nonprofit Partner Spotlight - CentroNia

In this video, Myrna Peralta, President and CEO of CentroNía shares the importance of incorporating cultural relevancy into everyday classroom learning.

Nonprofit Partner Spotlight - Arts on the Block

In this video, Chris Barclay, Interim Executive Director at Arts on the Block explains how their program is supporting culturally relevant learning through the arts.

Read-Aloud in Spanish & English

In this video, Gabe Albornoz, Montgomery County (MD) Council President and Shawaan Robinson, Montgomery County (MD) Public School Principal read "Alma and How She Got Her Name" by Juana Martinez-Neal.

Children's Opportunity Fund and Partners Reactivate Equity Hubs

Recent school closures across Montgomery County, due to the Omnicron variant of COVID-19, led Montgomery County Public Schools to turn to the Children’s Opportunity Fund (COF) at the Greater Washington Community Foundation and its partners to reactivate a proven program to support virtual learning for children and their families.

Initially launched in the Fall of 2020, the Educational Enrichment and Equity Hubs program provides a safe, structured learning environment for children from low-income families who lack internet access or technical support at home.

Each equity hub follows strict safety protocols and has adult staff on-site to support virtual learning and after-school programming. Last year, the program served more than 1,500 students at 70 different locations throughout Montgomery County. For more information about the Equity Hubs Program, click here!

Although the pandemic and necessity of virtual learning may be temporary, the Greater Washington Community Foundation recognizes that many of the challenges that students and families face are not. The Children’s Opportunity Fund will continue working with the community and its partners to understand the evolving needs of the most marginalized youth and families in order to close the opportunity gap in Montgomery County.  

The Children’s Opportunity Fund can only do this work with the help of cross-sector partners across Montgomery County. You can play an active role in ensuring that young people continue to have access to safe, quality learning opportunities and enrichments that support their academic and personal development, regardless of socio-economic status, race, or housing situation. Join us to ensure that all children have access to the essential services and growth opportunities they need to thrive.

The Community Foundation Invests $6.2+ Million in 70 Nonprofits Nurturing Equitable Recovery

Grants aim to increase food security, close the opportunity gap, support survivors of domestic violence, and build stability for more families.

The region’s largest local funder has announced more than $6.2 million in grants to 70 nonprofits addressing issues facing families and communities in the Greater Washington region as they adapt to a post-pandemic life. 

The Greater Washington Community Foundation is investing in equitable recovery targeting a wide range of challenges, from helping families facing food insecurity, to advancing educational equity, supporting survivors of domestic violence, and building stability for more families. 

These grants represent initial investments that lay the groundwork for The Community Foundation’s new 10-year strategic vision to close the region’s racial wealth gap. The Community Foundation’s new strategy focuses on increasing economic mobility by prioritizing historically underinvested BIPOC neighborhoods that have been systematically denied access to wealth building opportunities. The Community Foundation is specifically interested in neighborhoods and census tracts that are experiencing the highest incidences of system-induced inequities in the areas of health, homeownership, education, employment, income, and life expectancy. 

“The pandemic not only increased demand for housing, food, and educational supports, it also exacerbated and brought longstanding inequities into focus,” said Tonia Wellons, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Community Foundation. “These grants will help our nonprofit partners sustain and continue to adapt their services to support equitable recovery by providing individuals and families with what they need to survive and thrive today and for the long-term.”

 

Food Security

With 1 in 10 Montgomery County residents facing food insecurity due to COVID-19, The Community Foundation’s Food for Montgomery initiative is marshaling the resources of nonprofits, faith communities, local businesses, farmers, and county agencies to increase food access and help families recover from crisis. Grants totaling $959,590 will build the resiliency of 14 nonprofit and faith-based partners to more effectively and efficiently meet the needs throughout Montgomery County.

Afrithrive to support its two-acre farm and community gardening program to engage African immigrants in growing culturally specific produce which is hard to obtain through most food distribution providers. 

American Muslim Senior Society to support staffing, equipment, and cold storage necessary to strengthen its food security work and maximize the power of its volunteer network.

BlackRock Center for the Arts / Up-County Consolidation Hub to hire a bilingual social worker to connect vulnerable families to sustainable food resources and supports that are vital to their recovery.

Celestial Manna for staffing needed to advance food recovery efforts that prevent food waste and save thousands of dollars.

Charles Koiner Center for Urban Farming to support the development of an urban farm and community gardening program in Wheaton, MD that will enable residents to grow their own culturally appropriate food.

Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER) to support community-garden work that will engage Long Branch area residents to grow their own food for their community.

Guru Gobind Singh Foundation to support expanded storage that will enable this volunteer-driven effort to sustain its food security work.

Kingdom Fellowship CDC / East County Consolidation Hub to support the development of an innovative cold storage resource to help hub partners prevent waste and distribute food more efficiently. Hub partners include Kingdom Fellowship, Rainbow Community Development Center, Kings & Priests Court Int'l Ministries, and People's Community Baptist Church. 

Manna Food Center, A Place of Hope, Co-Health, Ethiopian Community Center Maryland, Identity, Kings and Priests’ Court International Ministries, and Southern African Community USA to enable outreach partners to connect residents with Manna Food Center’s resources and provide vouchers to purchase culturally specific foods to meet their needs.

The Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland and its partners, the Crossroads Community Food Network and FRESHFARM, to build the capacity of local farmers markets so they can more effectively reach and serve customers that rely on federal nutrition benefits, thereby increasing access to healthy food from local farmers.

Rainbow Community Development Center for staffing necessary to foster resiliency in the East County region through collaborative work with key partners and to sustain the organization’s expansion spurred by the pandemic.

Red Wiggler Community Farm to employ adults with developmental disabilities to grow healthy food for group homes and food distribution partners throughout the county.

Shepherd’s Table to support the necessary equipment and kitchen improvements to sustain and deepen collaborations bringing prepared meals to individuals and families facing food insecurity.

WUMCO for expanded cold storage that will enable the collection of more donations from local farmers and hunters to distribute in the rural, Up-County area. 

 

Education and Literacy

The Community Foundation’s Children’s Opportunity Fund (COF) is a public-private partnership that invests in innovative, evidence-informed efforts targeted at reducing educational disparities to close the opportunity gap in Montgomery County. Reading mastery is a key predictor of a student’s career attainment, and the most critical time to gain these skills is between birth and third grade. Recent grants of $200,000 will further COF’s strategy to improve third grade literacy rates by supporting early literacy programs, tutoring programs, and out of school time activities. 

Kid Museum to create an intentional curriculum for students in Grades K-3 that integrates STEM, literacy, and social emotional learning at Rolling Terrace and Strathmore, two Title 1 Elementary Schools -- in the spring the program will be piloted at additional elementary schools. 

Imagination Library to expand its program developed for children from birth to age 5 in seven zip codes to receive free, high-quality, age-appropriate books delivered to their home every month. 

 

Survivors of Domestic Violence

In partnership with the Prince George’s County Department of Family Services, The Community Foundation administers the Domestic Violence Community Grants Fund to support nonprofits assisting families and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking to achieve a greater level of independence and self-sufficiency, cope with healing, and rebuild the family unit. Grants of $120,00 to four organizations will support counseling services, housing and transportation, and legal services.

Community Advocates for Family and Youth to support the recently launched Begin Again and Thrive program to address housing needs by providing emergency accommodation, permanent relocation, and financial assistance. 

Community Crisis Services to provide shelter transportation, limited rental support, and to meet individual needs such as school lunches or school supplies for a family or student. 

Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County to continue funding a staff attorney position and program offering legal assistance.

House of Ruth Maryland to support the provision of counseling/therapy services including IPV education, safety planning, and trauma reduction. 

 

Children, Youth, and Families

The Community Foundation administers the Fund for Children, Youth, and Families, a five-year initiative, to invest in effective organizations working to make the community more vibrant, healthy, and stable. The 2021 cycle includes nearly $4.8 million in multiyear grants to 50 nonprofits offering housing services, permanency support, academic support, and early career development programs.

826DC to help students improve writing skill development and increase fluency with writing based on the National Writing Project standards.

Adoptions Together to provide training for families interested in fostering and to place foster children in permanent homes.

The Arc of Prince George’s County to support participants of the Ready@21 Program, which helps young adults through career coaching and resume development to increase job readiness, improve college awareness, and develop self-advocacy skills.

Aspire! Afterschool Learning to improve reading instructional level by one grade or more for students in its afterschool care program.

The Barker Adoption Foundation to provide older foster child adoption training and facilitate the placement of older foster children and/or sibling groups.

Bread for the City to support advocacy efforts for families at risk of housing displacement and to provide direct services to families through the Food Program, Clothing Program, Medical Clinic, Social Services Program, and Legal Clinic.

Bright Beginnings to support early childhood development for children ages 0-5.

Carpenter's Shelter to help families who enter shelter to gain stability and transition to permanent housing and sustain independent living.

CASA for Children of DC to provide advocacy support for reunification, adoption, or guardianship for foster youth and workforce development activities for older foster youth.

Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) to provide trainings and support for pre-adoption and post-adoption guardians.

Central American Resource Center to provide financial training and planning to support stable housing for Latino immigrants.

Children's Law Center to provide legal representation for child welfare cases to ensure children are growing up in permanent, stable families.

Community Crisis Services, Inc. to assist households experiencing homelessness and/or domestic violence to access safe, permanent housing.

Community Family Life Services to provide intensive financial coaching, financial case management, and wrap around supports for women seeking housing stability.

Cornerstones, Inc. to provide rental assistance services for at-risk tenants.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/ Prince George's County, Inc. Support the Job Readiness and Transitioning Youth program, which ensures that at youth participants who emancipate will do so with stable housing

Voices for Children Montgomery to provide placement in safe homes for clients at case closure.

DC SAFE to help clients move to safe transitional or permanent housing after their stay in SAFE Space.

DC Volunteer Lawyers Project to offer advocacy and referrals, including enforcing victim rights in housing, employment, and public benefits, as well as provide legal assistance and advocacy with victim legal rights.

DC127 to help teen parents who are aging out of foster care be prepared for a life of independence with stable housing, jobs, and increased access to supportive services.

District Alliance for Safe Housing to help families transition from emergency shelter to more permanent housing with increased economic and housing stability.

District Of Columbia Grassroots Empowerment to help secure long-term housing for residents displaced and impacted by public housing redevelopment.

Doorways for Women and Families to provide re-housing supportive services to help participants achieve stability and transition to permanent housing.

The Dwelling Place, Inc. to help program residents remain stably housed and maintain compliance with program requirements through case management, increasing financial stability, and home visits.

Family & Youth Initiative to assist participant teens in foster care with finding an adoptive family and provide continuing support to participant youth who age out of foster care.

Fihankra Akoma Ntoaso to provide afterschool and summer programs for children in the child welfare system to allow them to develop positive relationships with adults and peers.

Crittenton Services of Greater Washington to increase school attendance, academic engagement, and grade point average for Goal Setting Girls participants.

Foster and Adoptive Parent Advocacy Center (FAPAC) to provide training, peer support, financial stability, and individual advocacy to foster families in DC.

Homeless Children's Playtime Project to provide ongoing play programs and supportive services for homeless children in DC.

Hope And A Home, Inc. to help resident families increase financial stability and make progress towards transitioning into and/or maintain permanent, stable housing.

Horizons Greater Washington to provide literacy and math academic enrichment support for students.

Housing Up to provide employment support, rental assistance, and financial support services for affordable rental housing buildings.

Interfaith Works Inc. to help families experiencing homelessness achieve stability and transition to permanent housing with the assistance of case management and supportive services.

Martha’s Table to support academic enrichment for the six developmental domains — early literacy, early math, language, cognition, physical development, and socioemotional development.

Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care, Inc. to support the Home Visiting Program, which encourages early childhood development through reading, storytelling, and singing with young children daily.

Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, Inc. to help residents maintain on time rent payments and permanent, stable housing.

My Sister's Place to help residents increase income, provide case management, and transition to transitional or permanent housing.

National Housing Trust Enterprise to help NHT households participate in financial programs and maintain stable housing.

Neighborhood Legal Services Program to host “Know Your Rights” presentations and represent clients in cases involving housing discrimination, illegal eviction, rent increases, housing conditions, voucher termination, and loss of subsidies.

Neighbors Consejo to assist low-income families in transitioning from shelter to rental housing, while helping them improve their personal and financial stability.

Northern Virginia Family Service to provide foster care pre-service training and Resource Parent certification.

One Common Unity to improve course grades, increase class attendance, and reduce punitive disciplinary actions for students in the Fly by Light program.

One World Education to increase research and writing skills as well as social and emotional learning for students.

The Platform of Hope to provide housing, education, employment, family stability, finances, and health support services for low-income families at risk for homelessness.

Prince George's Child Resource Center, Inc. to improve language and cognitive abilities through participation in child development and parent/child learning activities.

Reading Partners to help students meet or exceed their primary, individualized end-of-year literacy growth goal.

Right Beginnings Inc. to provide career development, mentoring, and career counseling to homeless women seeking to increase financial stability to find housing.

Rising for Justice to provide tenant rights educational trainings and legal services for tenants in need of improved housing conditions or facing eviction.

Sasha Bruce Youthwork to help at-risk youth achieve safe and stable living environments.

Stepping Stones Shelter to help resident families increase their income during stay and move on to stable housing utilizing a subsidy program.

Meet our 2021 Montgomery County Philanthropist of the Year, Kevin Beverly

Kevin Beverly grew up in a segregated community on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Finding inspiration in his mother’s support and older brother’s example, and he left to pursue his higher education goals at the University of Maryland where he met his wife, Diane. After graduation, they moved to Bethesda, Maryland where they raised their two boys. Kevin’s career took him to the World Health Organization, National Library of Medicine, PSI International, Computer Sciences Corporation, BAE Systems, and Abt Associates. He ultimately then came to Social & Scientific Systems, Inc. where he served as Vice President and Executive Vice President from 2003 to 2014 and President & CEO from 2014 to 2020.

Kevin’s thoughtful approach to philanthropy is grounded in a practice of listening and learning from the community. As a corporate leader, Kevin empowered the Social & Scientific Systems employees to shape the company’s giving priorities. Leading by example, he encouraged them to develop relationships with high-impact nonprofits addressing the most pressing needs throughout the community where they lived and worked. From literacy to hunger and much more, Kevin rolled up his sleeves alongside his employees, demonstrating the profound satisfaction and deep impact one can make from investing time, talent, and treasure.

Knowing education was key to his success, Kevin has devoted much of his personal time and resources to advance organizations helping children and youth achieve their full potential. He has chaired the boards of CollegeTracks and Bethesda-Chevy Chase YMCA and the steering committee for the Children’s Opportunity Fund at The Community Foundation. He also served on many other key youth-focused boards: Boys and Girls Club of Montgomery County, Montgomery Moving Forward, Passion for Learning, and Universities at Shady Grove.  He also chairs the Mission and Oversight Committee on the Board of CareFirst of Maryland.

The Community Foundation also had the great fortune of having Kevin serve two terms and chair our Montgomery County Advisory Board plus serve on our regional Board of Trustees. His leadership has been pivotal in helping more people and businesses learn about the needs in our community and how to make a powerful impact by teaming up with others who care.

We have seen firsthand how his knowledge, keen insights, and strategic thinking enable organizations to tackle problems, reimagine what’s possible, and pursue bold goals for our community. We are especially grateful for how Kevin’s passionate leadership inspires others to join in supporting worthy causes throughout our community.

On behalf of the thousands of lives touched by his leadership and generosity, we congratulate Kevin on being named the 2021 Montgomery County Philanthropist of the Year. We know his story will continue to inspire many more by showing the powerful difference we all can make when we give where we live.

Emerging Leaders Impact Fund Awards Inaugural Grants to Combat Chronic Absenteeism

The Emerging Leaders Impact Fund (ELIF), a new giving circle for young philanthropists in Prince George’s County, recently completed its inaugural cohort and culminating grant round. ELIF members – 40 young professionals from area colleges, businesses, and civic organizations – selected 5 Prince George’s County nonprofits to receive $11,500 in micro-grants to provide a broad range of services that are designed to address chronic absenteeism and high truancy rates in Prince George’s County schools.

School absenteeism, a problem that leads to learning loss and other negative outcomes, has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis and the need for a transition to remote learning. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to be proficient readers by third grade. By sixth grade, those who miss more than 10 percent of school are more likely to drop out altogether. Frequent school absenteeism has long-term negative effects on academic performance, income, and health. The ELIF has partnered with five nonprofit organizations to address this pressing issue:

  • Jacob’s Ladder to support the Academic Enrichment Program that provides tutoring, basic literacy skills, one on one instructions, small group sessions, confidence building and mentoring to students that have low grades, high rates of truancy, absenteeism, suspensions, and behavioral issues.

  • L.E.E.P. to College Foundation to support pilot learning pods to enrich student learning, increase student engagement, and provide mentoring and emotional well-being support.

  • Mentoring Through Athletics to support tutoring services in mathematics, reading comprehension, and writing as well mentoring and physical activities.

  • S.E.A.C., Inc. (Seaton Empowering Action in the Community) to support the Math Achievers Program that provides individualized and/or small group instruction, consistent relationships between instructors and students, parental involvement, and reinforcing that learning math can be fun. 

  • Sisters4Sisters, Inc. to support the Daughters of Destiny mentoring program for girls which provides workshops focusing on leadership skills, career mentoring, developing self-esteem and avoiding peer pressure.

Jacob’s Ladder Founder and Executive Director Jarriel Jordan, Sr. talks about the organization’s mission and its Academic Enrichment Program.

L.E.E.P to College Foundation Founder and Executive Director Lisa Rowe talks about how ELIF funding will help create an academic enrichment program.

Mentoring Through Athletics supports kids and families on and off the field with mentoring, tutoring, food support, and athletic programming.

“School absenteeism and truancy threatens to undermine our children’s success. We’re pleased to be partnering with so many great organizations to address the issue. These grants will help ensure that every Prince Georgian has the opportunities necessary to reach their full potential,” said Davion Percy, Co-Chair, ELIF.

The strength of ELIF lies not just in how many grants it awards, but more importantly in its ability to bring a diverse group of people together to learn about issues affecting Prince George’s County residents and make investments in programs that can help transform our communities.

The ELIF enrollment period is now open to all emerging leaders (45 years of age and under) and others that support the County’s future leaders. If you’re interested in joining a diverse group of passionate people who use the power of philanthropy to make a positive difference in Prince George’s County, click here to learn more about ELIF and become a member today!

Senior Nonprofit Leader Joins Our Prince George's County Team

We are thrilled to welcome Darcelle Wilson as our new Senior Director for Prince George’s County.

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Darcelle brings deep expertise in fundraising and community engagement. Darcelle has worked with some of the leading nonprofit organizations in our region including Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and University of Maryland. She’s helped raise millions of dollars to address community needs, and we couldn’t be more excited that she has joined our team.

As the new Senior Director in Prince George’s County, Darcelle will work with donors to explore opportunities for achieving their philanthropic goals and facilitating their commitment on critical community issues affecting county residents. She will also prioritize developing and deepening relationships with community leaders and organizations throughout the county.

This leadership change in Prince George’s County is occurring because our beloved colleague Amina Anderson is leaving The Community Foundation after 14 years to spend more time with family and friends and work on special projects.

Our President and CEO Tonia Wellons shared, “Amina’s contributions to the Greater Washington Community Foundation have been numerous. She started as a program lead in Prince George’s County, then shifted to working with and understanding the priorities of our DC-based fundholders, before returning to Prince George’s County two years ago and elevating our presence there. Amina moves seamlessly with a keen thoughtfulness and quiet power that is incredibly valued and will be sorely missed.”

Please join us in welcoming Darcelle Wilson and wishing Amina Anderson all the best on her new adventures!

AN ENDURING LEGACY: THE TRANSFORMATIONAL GENEROSITY of JANE BAINUM AND THE BAINUM FAMILY

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The Greater Washington Community Foundation is deeply saddened by the passing of Jane Bainum, a beloved wife, mother, and philanthropist.

Jane and her husband, Stewart Bainum, were deeply passionate about supporting the well-being of children and families.  In 1968, they established a charitable foundation which is known today as the Bainum Family Foundation. Guided by their values and vision, the Bainum Family Foundation strategically works to build an equitable society that supports all children and families, particularly those who have been systematically excluded from power, resources and opportunity because of poverty and racism.

“We are grateful to Jane and the entire Bainum family for working toward our shared vision of communities where every child has the opportunity to thrive. Her extraordinary commitment and generosity deeply impacted the lives of children across our region,” said Tonia Wellons, President and CEO, Greater Washington Community Foundation.  

We send our heartfelt condolences to the Bainum family and all those touched by Jane’s extraordinary life.  She will be sorely missed, but her enduring legacy will continue to inspire all of us. 


In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer that memorial donations may be made to the Jane Bainum Fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation, which supports a range of nonprofits serving children and families as well as faith-based organizations. Gifts can be made online at www.thecommunityfoundation.org/donate (specify the "Jane Bainum Fund") or by check to Greater Washington Community Foundation, PO Box 49010, Baltimore, MD 21297-4910. For online condolences, please click here.

Our 2020 - 2021 Year in Review

Over the past 18 months, we have all been impacted in some way by COVID-19. Although our experiences may be different, our community came together -– as neighbors helping neighbors -– to support each other through this crisis.

Since March 2020, we have mobilized over $40 million in community support to help our neighbors facing hardship. Thanks to the incredible donors, nonprofit partners, and community leaders who stepped up to meet this challenge, our collective response demonstrated the power of what our community can accomplish by coming together. 

Our Annual Report features the impact that The Community Foundation, our donors, and partners have had on this region from April 2020 – March 2021, and beyond.

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Read our Annual Report

Deepening Our Impact: 8 Highlights from the Past Year

Along with the release of our annual report, we’re celebrating our most impactful stories from the past year--from helping launch the Black Voices for Black Justice DMV Fellowship, continuing our work to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, to advancing housing justice in partnership with Flock DC’s birdSEED Fund. Read on for stories of meaningful collaboration and coordination that helped make a difference in our community. 

Uniting for Change

We believe true change rises from strong alliances. We’re proud to share stories about how our community partnerships have helped make a difference.

 
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Introducing the Black Voices for Black Justice DMV Fellows

Launched last fall (2020) in partnership with the DC-based nonprofit GOODProjects, and with seed funding from Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the Black Voices for Black Justice DMV Fellowship supports activists, organizers, and leaders who are on the front lines of advancing social justice and racial equity. Each Fellow received a $30,000 grant to support their racial justice work in our region, and beyond. Meet these inspiring change-makers, and learn what fuels their fight for justice.

 

DC Cares Program: $5M Undocumented Workers Relief Package

Thousands of immigrants in Greater Washington were excluded from federal stimulus efforts due to their documentation status. Together with our partners at Events DC and the Executive Office of the Mayor, we launched the DC Cares Program in summer 2020, disbursing a total of $5 million in direct cash assistance to excluded workers experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. In January 2021, we launched Phase II of the program, providing over $8 million in relief funding.

 
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$1 Million Arts Forward Fund

In partnership with the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and eight other funders, we launched Arts Forward Fund to provide critical support to local arts and culture organizations impacted by COVID-19. In October 2020, we awarded over $1 million in grants to 43 arts organizations. Currently, we’re reviewing a second round of proposals, supported by a generous $1 million gift from MacKenzie Scott.

Investing for Impact 

Learn about some of our most impactful investments this year.

 
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Legacy Fund for Small Business Development

Seeded with a $1 million gift from a generous donor, the Legacy Fund for Small Business Development provides critically needed access to capital for small businesses in Prince George’s County. It’s part of our work in Prince George’s County’s to advance equity and economic mobility by eliminating social and economic disparities in the County. In November, we awarded relief funding to 173 small businesses in Prince George’s County to help minimize business closures and retain 650 jobs.

“Ninety-five percent of all businesses in [Prince George’s County] are small businesses and they contribute nearly half of all jobs in the county. Through the Legacy Fund, we hope to preserve the small business infrastructure, ensure job retention, drive economic development, and enable the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, leaving a lasting legacy for families and Prince George’s County.” --Tonia Wellons, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Community Foundation.

 
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Fund for Children, Youth, and Families Awards $1.99 Million

At the end of last year, the Fund for Children, Youth, and Families (FFCYF)awarded nearly $2 million in grants to 49 nonprofits serving disadvantaged children, youth, and families. Local WDVM covered the announcement, highlighting the investment’s focus on closing the achievement gap, supporting children in foster care, and helping families experiencing homelessness.

Jana-Lynn Louis, Community Foundation program officer for FFCYF, said:  “It’s all about supporting where our region needs help the most and trying to fill in those gaps that often fall by the wayside.”

Community Connections

Oftentimes, it's our staff and partners who say it best. These guest posts highlight different voices and perspectives in our community on the issues that matter most.

 
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How to reconstruct an equitable future for our region

How can we reconstruct an equitable future for our region coming out of the COVID-19 crisis? In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, our CEO Tonia Wellons and Ursula Wright explore a new framework to respond to emerging needs, re-engage our community, and reconstruct and shape a new normal for this region.

 
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Flock DC: Down payment Grants for a more just future

BirdSEED Fund, launched in partnership with local real estate firm Flock DC, helps advance housing justice by providing down payment grants for first-time Black and Brown home buyers. In her guest-authored blog, Flock DC founder and CEO Lisa Wise shares her passion for justice and why she believes it’s crucial we work together to reimagine a more equitable future.

 
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Food for Montgomery: A Community-Wide Response to the Rise in Hunger

As our community’s need for food skyrocketed during 2020, our Montgomery County leaders, community stakeholders, and The Community Foundation teamed up to create Food for Montgomery. Anna Hargrave, Executive Director for Montgomery County, shares how this remarkable public-private partnership is helping prevent food insecurity in the County, and ensure no residents go hungry.

Hungry for other Community Foundation impact stories? Check out ‘A Year of Impact: Our Top 10 Stories of 2020,’ published as an annual wrap-up last December. 

Community Foundation Invests Nearly $1 Million in Black-led Organizations Leading Systems Change

The Community Foundation is proud to announce an investment of $940,000 in 17 Black-led organizations in Greater Washington working in the critical area of systems change. These one-year awards will help support organizations’ immediate infrastructure needs, including staffing, strategic planning, marketing and communications, professional development, and more. 

Enabled through a generous $1 million gift from Facebook, The Community Foundation launched this new funding opportunity in April 2021. The following investments align with our new strategic focus, which prioritizes support for BIPOC-led and serving organizations and local neighborhoods where racialized socio-economic disparities are the greatest. 

“Discrimination and disparities based on race, income, and gender continue to threaten both the lives and livelihoods of people of color, especially Black residents. It is vital that we invest in organizations that are working to disrupt and transform systems perpetuating those inequities,” says Dawnn Leary, Senior Community Investment Officer at The Community Foundation. “I am thrilled this funding opportunity will support the immediate infrastructure needs of 17 organizations on the front lines organizing, empowering, and advocating with and for residents of Greater Washington.” 

African Communities Together, to support building an infrastructure for  member recruitment, retention, and leadership development, including a member phone bank and data clean-up project. 

Bread for the City, to support the hiring of a racial equity manager to drive efforts, that shift organizational culture to ensure racial equity. Funds will also support workshops for staff hosted by Service 2 Justice and the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.

Collective Action for Safe Spaces, to sustain and expand staff and board leadership through strategic planning, financial planning, and personnel recruitment.

Community Grocery Co-Op, to strengthen marketing and communications, fundraising, canvassing community stakeholders, hiring of staff, and leadership team development.

Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria, to support fundraising, training and mobilization, and website and video upgrades.

 Critical Exposure, to support hiring a full-time Human Resources and Operations Manager, a key role to meet sustainability goals for the organization.

DC Justice Lab, to support organizational needs such as equipment for a home office/remote work, IT, marketing and communications, development and fundraising collateral, and staff/board professional development and training. 

Dreaming out Loud, to support the installation of a new CRM system, the implementation of public relations, and developing a comprehensive communications plan that improves community engagement. 

Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, to hire a second full-time staff member, and support cover artist and speaker fees at their vision salons. 

Life After Release, to support leadership development and wellness for a team of six organizers (five formerly incarcerated women and one man), the development of their organizational communications infrastructure, and office equipment for staff to work from home as needed. 

Mamatoto Village, to support data collection, leadership training, and marking and communications needs. 

Many Languages One Voice, to support MLOV’s investment in and building of a membership database in Salesforce, and  hiring a strategic communications consultant. 

ONE DC, to help re-open Black Workers and Wellness Center (BWWC) and resume activities housed in the center, namely Cooperation DC.   

Progressive Maryland, to invest in new AI technology, provide training, streamline processes, and expand contacts.  

Racial Justice NOW!, to support the development and implementation of a five-year strategic plan.  

Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid, for the organization including, conducting a board assessment, and hiring a consultant to train the board on governance, fundraising, budget allocation, human resources management and strategic planning.

The National Reentry Network of Returning Citizens, to support the development of a community space hub focused on returning citizen visibility and leadership, and provide the critical infrastructure needed for their staff and programs.

Food for Montgomery Partners with Feed the Fridge and Mary's Center to Fight Hunger

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Food for Montgomery, a COVID-19 response initiative co-led by the Greater Washington Community Foundation, has partnered with Feed the Fridge to innovate another solution to solving hunger in the region with a new fridge at Mary’s Center. The new location partners with Jalapeño Mexican Grill from the community kitchen of Crossroads Community Food Network to provide meals for those in need.

Stop the Violence: Responding to our Community's Spike in Gun Violence

By Jamie McCrary

Last July 4, as DC’s annual fireworks display burst over the National Mall, an 11-year-old boy lost his life.

Davon McNeal, who was visiting family in Anacostia, was fatally struck by a bullet in crossfire from a neighborhood shooting. He was coming from a Stop the Violence cookout that his mother, who works as a city violence interrupter, helped organize. Davon was shot as he stepped from their car. 

"This is ridiculous," John Ayala, Davon’s grandfather, told National Public Radio. “Our babies are being gunned down. This has got to stop."

Davon McNeal

Davon McNeal

Davon was one of at least six children killed by gun violence across the country that weekend, and one of four killed in DC during the first few days of July 2020. This aligns with an alarming trend seen in 2020, which, according to the Gun Violence Archive, was the deadliest year for gun violence in two decades. 

COVID-19, which confined many to already volatile home and neighborhood environments, helped fuel this uptick in violence. The country’s largest cities, like Atlanta or Los Angeles, suffered the highest spike, at 30%. And like COVID-19 itself, this has disproportionately affected our nation’s Black and Brown communities. 

This spring, DC residents Mary Grace and Al Rook leveraged philanthropy to respond. The couple was deeply troubled by this spike in violence in our community. As a magistrate judge for DC’s Superior Court, Mary Grace has seen the impact of violence on children and families, and felt she needed to do something. 

After consulting Crystal McNeal, Davon’s mother, the Rooks founded the Davon McNeal Memorial Fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation. Established in April 2021, the Fund aims to give at-risk youth in Wards 7 and 8 a respite from potential violence through pro-social programs in sports, the arts, and education. The Rooks hope this Memorial Fund will also help to increase awareness about community violence, which Al says is lacking, due in part to “a real dichotomy between one side of the river and the other,” which ultimately fuels this violence. 

“Mary Grace and I believe that our community can step up and help to provide support and resources that will create safe and healing spaces for kids,” Al says. “The constant exposure to violence and resulting trauma that [these] young children face impacts them in so many ways.”

The Davon McNeal Memorial Fund builds on a history at The Community Foundation of addressing violence in the Greater Washington region. From 2013-2018, we administered the City Fund, established with DC government to invest $15 million in programs focused on reducing incidents of violent crime, and combating domestic violence and human trafficking. More recently, we partnered with the Public Welfare Foundation on the DC Fund for Just and Peaceful Neighborhoods, which supported nonprofits working to transform the criminal justice system and implementing violence intervention and prevention services in DC.

Other efforts include supporting the implementation of a pilot program targeting a small set of District neighborhoods using the Cure Violence Methodology, partnering with the City on The Navy Yard Relief Fund in 2013, and, most recently, becoming the fiscal sponsor to the Peace for DC Fund. Peace for DC will build community capacity and fund evidence-based gun violence intervention solutions to drastically reduce DC homicides over the next 5 years—and help bring racial and economic justice to DC’s most under-resourced communities.

We’re proud to support these anti-violence efforts as they continue. However—it is important that we also acknowledge that this violence derives from a longer and more protracted history that is embedded in American culture. 

Systemic racism, disinvestment, economic exclusion and other social determinants reside at the heart of generations of targeted violence against BIPOC communities. Our will and capacity to address these issues will directly impact our collective efforts to eradicate this kind and all forms of violence from our city. In the face of these challenges we remain committed to finding real solutions and mobilizing our community to support those most affected by this public crisis. 

A little over a year has passed since Davon McNeal lost his life, and while the pain of this loss ensues, so does our hope for a brighter future. We hope you’ll join us in honoring his legacy and re-imaging our community as a place free from the painful binds of violence and trauma. 

For more information on The Community Foundation’s anti-violence initiatives and impact funds, visit https://www.thecommunityfoundation.org/grantmaking

Introducing Our New Advisory Board Members

The Greater Washington Community Foundation welcomes Anna Behnam, Christopher J. Martin, and Ana Morales to its Montgomery County Advisory Board, and Glenda Wilson to its Prince George’s County Advisory Board. 

These individuals join a diverse group of passionate and dedicated advisory board members. They, along with their colleagues, are responsible for advising The Community Foundation on the challenges and opportunities specific to their respective counties, and sharing their knowledge on issues of community leadership for greater impact.

Meet our Newest Montgomery County Advisory Board Members

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Anna Behnam
Behnam & Associates

Anna has worked 22 years in the financial advisory business and is the managing director and active financial advisor with Behnam & Associates. Anna is an active member of The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce. She has co-chaired committees such as the Chamber’s annual gala, The Big Event and is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors. Anna is also a member of the Chamber’s Elite Forum Club. In addition to the BCC Chamber, she has served on the board of Coral Reef CPR and Dast2Dast.

Anna graduated from George Mason University with a B.S. in Accounting and a B.A. in Biology. She also has a Certificate in Financial Planning from Georgetown University. Anna lives in Bethesda with her husband, and two children. Her family puts great emphasis on charitable actions and giving back to the community. In her spare time, Anna enjoys photography, painting and reading.

Christopher J. Martin
C. J. Martin Law Group

Christopher J. Martin is a seasoned attorney, experienced in helping individuals, families and small business owners with their legacy planning needs. Chris works closely with his clients to create and implement plans to benefit their families and communities through various methods including both lifetime gifting and postmortem wealth transfers. In addition to his work with individual clients, Chris regularly speaks to both public and private organizations and has contributed to numerous publications including articles for the National Business Institute and The Business Monthly.

Formerly, Chris worked for a boutique estate planning firm in Montgomery County, Maryland, overseeing a variety of estate planning and probate matters and managed a solo estate planning practice. Chris also had the pleasure of serving as a law clerk for the Honorable Sheila R. Tillerson Adams, Chief Administrative Judge for the 7th Circuit of Maryland.

Chris earned his law degree from Howard University School of Law, and his undergraduate degree from Saint Louis University, from which he graduated magna cum laude and was on the Dean’s List.

Ana Morales
United Bank

Ana is Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Commercial Services at United Bank. Her Team is responsible for driving commercial deposit growth throughout United Bank’s footprint, which comprises of 223 offices across Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Ana has been in the financial industry for 22 years and has worked in various areas of banking, including International Banking, Private Banking, Retail Management and Treasury Sales.

Ana serves on the Board of Directors for NAMI-MC (National Alliance on Mental Illness – Montgomery County) and the Catholic Business Network of Montgomery County. She collaborates with Catholic Charities’ Financial Stability Network to organize financial literacy workshops in Spanish, and volunteers as a financial mentor. Ana previously served on the Board of Cornerstone Montgomery and Liberty’s Promise. She also served on the Business Engagement Committee for Imagination Stage.

Ana was born in Guatemala and moved to Montgomery County with her parents and 3 sisters when she was 9 years old. She lives in Kensington with her husband, daughter, and English Bulldog.

“Anna, Chris, and Ana share our commitment toward building thriving communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive,” says Anna Hargrave, Executive Director for Montgomery County at The Community Foundation. “We are thrilled they will bring their knowledge, creative thinking, and community leadership experience to the Advisory Board as we seek to help our community rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and build a stronger, more equitable Montgomery County for the future.”

Meet our Newest Prince George’s County Advisory Board Member

Glenda Moore Wilson
Vice President, LEARN Foundation

Ms. Glenda Moore Wilson has been in service to Prince George’s County for over three decades.  She was appointed Chief of Staff, in 2011, by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III.  She guided and facilitated the implementation of the Baker Administration’s vision and mission in the core areas of economic development, public safety, education, and healthcare. Ms. Wilson was a pivotal team member in the development of the unprecedented Prince George’s and MGM Community Benefit Agreement associated with the $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor Casino Project.  

Previously, Ms. Wilson served as Senior Advisor and Chief of Staff during the administration of Wayne K. Curry, the County’s first African American elected County Executive. During that eight-year tenure, she played a critical role in Mr. Curry’s transformative accomplishments that turned Prince George’s County into a regional economic hub.  

Ms. Wilson is actively engaged in the county, but she has an unparalleled dedication to the LEARN Foundation, established during the Curry Administration as part of the Redskins Stadium project to relocate the team to Prince George’s County. The LEARN Foundation awards scholarships to youth in the stadium impact zone and grants to nonprofit organizations serving the impact area.

Ms. Wilson is a graduate of South Carolina State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She is the recipient of numerous awards and a member of Leadership Greater Washington.

“Glenda shares our deep commitment to improving the quality of life for Prince George’s County residents. Her work very much aligns with our goals to increase philanthropy and ensure equity and economic mobility,” says Amina Anderson, senior director for Prince George’s County at The Community Foundation. “We are grateful that she continues to serve the county in a myriad of ways and honored that she has chosen to work with The Community Foundation. We look forward to partnering with Glenda to ensure that each and every Prince Georgian has an opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

Greater Washington Community Foundation Awards Over $330,000 in COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Grants

Ten Local Nonprofits Receiving Support to Address Vaccine Hesitancy, Mental Health, Food Access, and Reopening Schools

The Greater Washington Community Foundation is proud to announce an additional $337,000 in relief and recovery grants from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. Since March 2020, The Community Foundation has raised and distributed more than $11 million for coordinated emergency response and recovery efforts. These rapid response grants have helped local nonprofits to expand critical services, ensure continuity of operations, transition to virtual service delivery, and counteract lost revenue due to closures or event cancellations. 

The Community Foundation established the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to lead a coordinated regional philanthropic response to the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. Together with our peers in philanthropy, this effort focused on addressing urgent needs and reaching adversely affected communities, especially low-income households and communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by this crisis.

As we continue responding to urgent needs while fostering an equitable recovery, The Community Foundation’s new round of funding will make investments in 10 nonprofits working across four priority areas:

Supporting efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy and to open vaccination sites in impacted communities:

  • Family & Medical Counseling will receive $15,000 to support COVID-19 testing and vaccination targeting residents of DC and Prince George's County, especially those living in Ward 7 and 8 and in the southern areas of Prince George's County.

  • La Clinica del Pueblo will receive $15,000 to support COVID-19 testing and vaccination targeting majority Latinx communities in DC and Prince George's County.

  • Latin American Youth Center will receive $27,000 to support engagement and outreach efforts to disseminate information on combating spread of COVID-19 and testing and vaccination options to increase the vaccination rate among Black and Latino populations in the region.

  • Mary’s Center will receive $50,000 to replicate its mobile vaccine clinics, currently serving disproportionately impacted communities in DC, and expand into Montgomery County and Prince George’s County with a focus on hard-to-reach populations.

Addressing the mental health needs of frontline workers:

  • Wendt Center for Loss and Healing will receive $85,000 to provide emotional support sessions (workshops and process groups) for frontline professionals and social services nonprofits whose staff members have been deeply impacted by COVID-19.

Advancing efforts to increase food access:

  • DC Hunger Solutions and Maryland Hunger Solutions will receive $40,000 to deliver critical outreach to prospective and eligible SNAP participants, provide technical assistance on school meal programs, offer education and training, and advance advocacy campaigns to increase access to federal nutrition programs.

  • The Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition (MAFRAC) will receive $45,000 to extend its local food mini-grant program to resource BIPOC-led organizations with funds to purchase food through MAFRAC’s extended network of local food producers, including a number of Black-owned farms.

Ensuring an equitable and safe return to school:

  • Community Youth Advance will receive $25,000 to recruit, onboard, and train mentors for 25 students to work on a pathway for re-engagement in school, as part of a partnership with PGCPS and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) focused on re-engaging at-risk and chronically absent high school students.

  • DC Action for Children will receive $35,000 to support building strong partnerships between schools and Out of School Time programs to ensure an equitable and safe return to school and advocate for access to high quality learning opportunities beyond the school day that prepare DC’s youth for success in education, careers, and life.

“Due to the deep pre-existing inequities that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, we know that many communities in our region are still struggling—and will be for some time,” said Benton Murphy, Senior Adviser for Impact at the Greater Washington Community Foundation. “As our region’s crisis response leader, The Community Foundation and our partners will continue to respond to the critical needs of our community as we work towards building an equitable recovery and future for our region.”

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund was established on March 12, 2020 with support from nearly 1,500 foundations, corporations, and individuals/families. A list of the major partners and contributors to the Fund can be found here.

More than 1,600 nonprofits applied for a total of $60 million in grants – approximately six times the amount of funds raised to date. The Fund has provided support to 300 nonprofits providing food, shelter, educational supports, legal aid, and other vital services to our neighbors facing hardships due to COVID-19. Over half of all recipient organizations are led by people of color. A list of nonprofit partners can be found here.

Greater Washington Community Foundation Announces $1 Million Gift from MacKenzie Scott to Arts Forward Fund

Ten Local Funders Also Supporting New Funding Round in July

Author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has awarded $1 million to the Greater Washington Community Foundation to support Arts Forward Fund, an equity-focused funder collaborative formed in 2020 by local funders to help arts and culture organizations in the DC region to stabilize, adapt, and thrive through the COVID-19 pandemic. The gift to Arts Forward Fund is one of 289 grants totaling $2.7 billion that Scott announced through a June 15 blog post on Medium.

In her post announcing the gifts, Scott wrote:

“Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility . . . and improving mental health, so we evaluated smaller arts organizations creating these benefits with artists and audiences from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook.”

The purpose of Arts Forward Fund is to provide resources to help arts and culture organizations continue their work despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and respond to the national movement for racial justice. Created with a lead gift from The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Arts Forward Fund awarded 43 grants totaling $1,048,500 in October 2020. More than 60 percent of these grants and grant funding went to organizations that are BIPOC-led and predominantly BIPOC-serving, with most grants supporting the shift to online and digital programming. 

Including Scott’s gift, more than 20 foundations and individual donors have contributed just under $3 million to Arts Forward Fund since 2020. Major supporters include the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Diane & Norman Bernstein Foundation, England Family Foundation, Philip L. Graham Fund, Harman Family Foundation, Linowitz Family Fund, Nancy Peery Marriott Foundation, Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation, and Weissberg Foundation. 

In March 2021, a follow-up survey of 2020 Arts Forward Fund applicants confirmed ongoing uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic and a return to in-person events and programs. Frequently cited challenges included increased costs and limited revenue for online and limited in-person programs, audience reluctance to return to venues, staff capacity to maintain virtual programs while simultaneously restarting in-person programs, and concerns about maintaining individual donor support.

To provide relief and recovery funds to help organizations address these issues, Arts Forward Fund will open the application for another round of funding on July 6. With Scott’s gift and commitments from local funders, Arts Forward Fund anticipates an additional $1.7 million to award in grants. For the 2021 grant round, Arts Forward Fund’s focus will be on providing general operating support funding for community-based organizations with annual revenue of $3 million or less. Arts Forward Fund will continue to prioritize organizations that are BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving. Details will be posted here.

“As a steadfast supporter of the arts community, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation is honored to be part of the collective effort to help our local cultural organizations recover and reopen,” says Calvin Cafritz, President and CEO of the Cafritz Foundation, which made a lead grant of $500,000 to establish Arts Forward Fund. “In its first round of grantmaking, the Fund received 227 applications totaling nearly $8 million, evidence of the enormous disruption the COVID-19 pandemic created in the sector. Arts Forward Fund, including MacKenzie Scott’s generous gift, is only part of the ongoing community commitment that will be needed to support our region’s arts and cultural organizations as they rebuild and thrive.”

“Arts and culture organizations are a critical economic engine for this region, and they contribute immeasurably to our sense of community and our well-being,” says Tonia Wellons, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Community Foundation. “We are humbled by this recognition of the Arts Forward Fund’s efforts and proud to bring much needed relief to organizations in the region that enrich our communities and touch our lives.”

How Intersectionality Fuels My Activism

By Nora Olagbaju (she/her/hers), LGBTQ+ Fellow

Growing up in a Nigerian home as a lesbian, I often had to grapple with my own identity. Knowing that it was unsafe to be myself on the land of my ancestors still is a painful reality that I have come to terms with. Fortunately, my parents are both activists who encouraged me, from a young age, to advocate for myself and my community.

As early as high school, I was active in the community, interviewing people all over the DC area at the intersections of many avenues of oppression. Many of the topics that came up included issues like violence against the LGBTQ+ community, mental health disparities, unemployment, housing inequality and homelessness—issues that align with many of the priorities at The Community Foundation.

More and more, I see how social issues like these are interconnected. For example, did you know that almost half of the youth experiencing homelessness in DC identify as LGBTQ+? According to Maggie Riden, who runs the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, many more are at risk of winding up on the streets, too.

This is a perfect example of intersectionality, which I define as the unique challenges or discrimination one can feel as it relates to overlapping aspects of their identity and position within society. Intersectionality is deeply intertwined with the LGBTQ+ work we do at The Community Foundation because understanding these intersections helps better shape our priorities and navigate next steps. 

As the LGBTQ+ Fellow at The Community Foundation, I’m thankful for the opportunity to help address some of these inequalities. Our recent work with direct cash transfer programs, which provide immediate financial aid to those in need, and budget advocacy, to help increase funding and support for organizations, will have a direct impact on a vast portion of the community that is often overlooked. It is our hope that by advocating for LGBTQ+-focused or serving organizations, we can empower them to fight discrimination, and address intersectional issues like homelessness.

Outside of The Community Foundation, as a Howard University student who has grown up in the DC area, I feel a need to make sure that students are providing support to DC advocacy  organizations. In my junior year, I joined the Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality (CASCADE) as the deputy director of community service. Now, I serve on the Advancing Black Strategists Initiative advisory board, which aims to provide a network to amplify black strategists’ voices and power, while also providing leadership resources. My experience has been rewarding and healing, as I’ve been able to connect with like-minded people. 

My identity and lived experiences have made me an advocate both by necessity and passion. As a Black lesbian woman, I am more likely to experience violence, poverty, homelessness, and discrimination just for being who I am. I have seen the growth of my city while simultaneously seeing many of the people who have made a home here for generations being pushed out. I have seen the deep need for support of the LGBTQ+ youth in DC.

I’m excited to be working to help The Community Foundation emphasize intersectionality through its LGBTQ+-focused work. As we celebrate Pride Month, it is inspiring to see how far we’ve come--and it motivates me to continue to do the work that is needed. 


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About Nora Olagbaju

Nora Olagbaju is the LGBTQ+ fellow at The Community Foundation. She is currently a Senior at Howard University where she is pursuing a degree in political science and African studies. Her lived experience as a Black and lesbian woman has driven her advocacy within her community.

A Community Transformed: The Visionary Leadership of Milton V. Peterson

The Greater Washington Community Foundation is deeply saddened by the passing of Milton (Milt) V. Peterson, founder of the local real estate development firm Peterson Companies.  He was a business leader who never lost sight of the need to give back and support our communities and people in need. While Milt Peterson may be best known for his vision and the creation of National Harbor, we will remember him for his caring spirit, generosity, and deep commitment to Prince George’s County and the region. 

Peterson Companies joined The Community Foundation family of donors in 2007, establishing the National Harbor Community Outreach Grant Fund to support community, civic, religious, educational, and recreational organizations serving the residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Thanks to Peterson Companies, we were able to support the work of 128 nonprofit organizations working to increase economic security in the areas of education, workforce development, and safety net services in Prince George’s County.  

Peterson Companies has continued to support and partner with The Community Foundation, most notably through our Civic Leadership Awards, which recognizes, honors, and promotes outstanding community leadership in Prince George's County. The Peterson Family Foundation also recently supported our Food for Montgomery Fund to improve food security in Montgomery County and our Neighbors in Need and Equity Funds to help Prince George’s County residents facing economic hardship. 

 “The Community Foundation could not be more proud of our long-standing partnership with Peterson Companies. The National Harbor Community Outreach Grant Fund, and more, is a testament to Milt Peterson’s vision of what our region could truly be. His generosity has contributed greatly to our mission to build thriving communities,” said Tonia Wellons, President and CEO. 

We send our heartfelt condolences to the Peterson family and all those touched by Milt’s work, civic engagement, and philanthropy. Milt Peterson has forever transformed our community, and helped improve the lives of countless residents throughout the Greater Washington region. He will be sorely missed, but has left an enduring legacy. 

The memorial service for Milt Peterson will be live streamed on Wednesday, June 9 at 1 p.m. ET. Click here to watch the service.

Love and Activism: The Legacy of Diane Bernstein

Diane Bernstein was a champion for our community and a compassionate leader and activist. We were sad to hear of her passing on April 30, 2021.

A long-time member of The Community Foundation family, both as a board member and major donor, Diane began her decades-long relationship with us in the early ‘90s when she was invited to serve on the board by then Chair R. Robert Linowes. A deeply committed advocate for children for over 50 years, she chaired our grants and program committee, and supported the development of many youth and children-focused initiatives, including The Community Foundation’s first major initiative, The Circle of Hope. This violence prevention initiative focused on community organizing and advocacy, and increasing resources for youth and adults in the Barry Farms, Congress Heights, Columbia Heights and the Northwest One neighborhoods in Washington, DC.

In recent years, Diane and her family foundation, the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation, have generously supported the Partnership to End Homelessness, enhancing our efforts to bring deeply affordable and supportive housing to every ward of DC. Her support and advocacy have helped the most marginalized in our region, and allowed people experiencing homelessness to access critical services and safe, stable housing.

In addition to her six children and 12 grandchildren, Diane touched the lives of countless others:

“Diane took me under her wing 28 years ago when I was a new program officer at The Community Foundation. She became a mentor, close friend and was like a second mother to me. She taught me to trust my instincts and speak truth to power —how to use my voice on behalf of those whose voices are not being listened to,” said Silvana Straw, Senior Community Investment Officer and Philanthropic Advisor at the Greater Washington Community Foundation.

“She loved life. She was a nurturer and supported my work as a program officer and as an artist,” Silvana continues. “She was wise and brave. She was fun and funny as hell. I am blessed to have had her in my life.” 

Diane Bernstein will be missed by our community. Though she is no longer with us, her legacy will certainly continue—at The Community Foundation, and beyond.

Community Foundation Announces $500,000 Gift from Howard Hughes Medical Institute To Children’s Opportunity Fund

The Greater Washington Community Foundation is pleased to announce a new $500,000 contribution from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to the Children’s Opportunity Fund (COF). The gift will help the Educational Enrichment & Equity Hubs to close the opportunity gap by addressing racial inequities and expanding opportunities for Black, Brown, and low-income students and families in Montgomery County, Maryland. This gift recognizes HHMI’s support of the hubs concept and the work of the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence and its partnership with COF.

COF, an impact initiative of the Greater Washington Community, champions, plans, and funds strategic investments that improve the lives of low-income children and families in the county. The Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence focuses on eliminating systemic barriers for student to thrive. In response to the pandemic and school closures, COF along with the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence, with certified childcare providers, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), and community members came together to establish the Equity Hubs program in Montgomery County. Since September 2020, the Equity Hubs have welcomed over 1,300 students across 70 sites. Through the support of public and private community partners, COF initially raised over $4.2 million to fund the Equity Hubs for low-income students through the first semester. In February 2021, MCPS and Montgomery County Council provided another $3.6 million to continue this effort into the second semester.

“We are so thankful for partners like HHMI and others who have stepped up to help us close the opportunity gap by addressing racial inequities and expanding opportunities for Black, Brown, and low-income students,” said Tonia Wellons, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Community Foundation. “These contributions help bolster our ability to support our most marginalized youth and families in Montgomery County as schools begin to reopen.”

Recent news coverage has highlighted how the pandemic has exacerbated the documented achievement gap in Montgomery County. The efforts of the Children’s Opportunity Fund and the Black and Brown Coalition and its partners to support the county’s most vulnerable students came to the attention of HHMI President Erin O’Shea, who reached out to explore how HHMI could contribute.

O’Shea notes the value of targeted interventions that leverage school community member expertise to provide students with resources they need.

"We're pleased to support the innovative equity hub model catalyzed by the Children’s Opportunity Fund and the Black and Brown Coalition in Montgomery County," said O'Shea. "By ensuring that students have access to learning tools and support services, the hubs directly address systemic inequities in education that have widened during the pandemic."

Even as schools begin to reopen, the need to support our community’s children and families will continue, especially as the implications of the pandemic are more fully understood. COF will continue working with the community partners to understand the evolving needs of the most vulnerable youth and families to close the steadily increasing opportunity gap in Montgomery County.

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About the Greater Washington Community Foundation

Since 1973, the Greater Washington Community Foundation has been a champion of thriving communities and a catalyst for change through local philanthropic engagement, effective community investment, and civic leadership. We work with donors and partners to enhance the quality of life in the District of Columbia, Montgomery County, Northern Virginia, and Prince George’s County. As the region’s largest local funder, we have invested more than $1.3 billion to build more equitable, just, and enriching communities where all residents can live, work, and thrive.

About the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence

Cofounded in 2019 by Identity and the NAACP Parents’ Council, the Coalition’s mission is to ensure by 2025, all students, and particularly Black and Brown students, have equitable access to the resources, opportunities and supports they need to be successful in college, career, and life. The Black and Brown Coalition harnesses the power of two historically disenfranchised communities who have not traditionally advocated together. By joining forces, the Black and Latino communities leverage the influence of 54% of the MCPS student body to push to undo the deeply embedded impact of systemic inequity.

About the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

HHMI is the largest private biomedical research institution in the nation. Our scientists make discoveries that advance human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. We also invest in transforming science education into a creative, inclusive endeavor that reflects the excitement of research. HHMI’s headquarters are in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Introducing the Black Voices for Black Justice DMV Fellows

Meet our Black Justice Fellows: ten local Black leaders fighting for racial justice in our region, and beyond. These 10 visionary leaders were selected from 4,334 nominations representing 362 Black leaders, as the inaugural Fellowship cohort of the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund DMV. Launched fall 2020 in partnership with Bridge Alliance Education Fund and the DC-based nonprofit GOODProjects, the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund DMV supports activists, organizers, and leaders who are on the front lines of advancing social justice and racial equity.  

Each Fellow will receive a personal grant of $30,000 to support their work and living expenses for a year, in support of their racial justice work that is shaping and driving this powerful movement to build a fair, equitable community. 

Read on to meet (and congratulate!) these 10 inspiring Fellows—and learn what values drive them to continue pushing for change.  

Reginald Black: People for Fairness Coalition

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“My personal brand is giving the city everything it needs.”

Reginald Black is an advocacy director at People for Fairness Coalition, an organization aiming to empower people to end housing instability in the DC metro area using advocacy, outreach and peer mentoring. Their vision is to use practical and educational processes to get residents from poverty to self-sufficiency. In his spare time, Black serves as an artist and vendor for Street Sense Media.


Xavier Brown: Soilful City

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“I am rooted deeply in nature and the community. I’m focused on creating more leaders by working with people to find the power already within them. My personal brand is about building community connections, networks, and community power based on the wisdom of nature.”

Xavier Brown is a native Washingtonian and founder of Soilful City, an organization building bridges between urban agriculture, environmental sustainability and people of the African diaspora. Their work is part educational and part collaboration with fellow Black farmers. Brown sees nature as a way to uplift and heal stressed communities. He is considered the face of DC Black farmers. 

Aalayah Eastmond: Team Enough and Concerned Citizens DC

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“I am focused on uplifting the voices of Black youth and families—as well as the most marginalized groups, such as transgender Black women. These values are based on addressing the intersections of gun violence, the leading cause of death for Black youth, with racial equity/justice and police violence.”

Aalayah Eastmond is the co-founder and finances and operations director of Concerned Citizens DC, an organization aiming to improve the quality of life for Black people in DC and improve policing practices. As a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Eastmond experienced an attack by a gunman that resulted in 17 deaths among students and staff. Since, she has advocated against gun violence, in particular the chronic gun violence affecting Black communities daily. Eastmond serves as an executive council member for Team Enough, a youth-led organization working to end gun violence. She’s spoken about her experiences and mission at the 2018 March for Our Lives, the 2020 March on Washington and before Senate and House judiciary committees. Eastmond is also a BLM supporter who’s spent time at protest frontlines in DC.

Jawanna Hardy: Guns Down Friday

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“Our main value [at Guns Down Friday] is integrity: doing the right thing when no one is watching. Other values are commitment and consistency. We’re loved by the community, because we never gave up.”

Jawanna Hardy is the founder of Guns Down Friday, an outreach program that provides resources to communities affected by youth homicide, suicide and mental health illnesses. Hardy is a US Air Force veteran who recognized that DC streets were worse than the warzone. Guns Down Friday was founded in 2018 in collaboration with Hardy’s daughter Dnayjah Joseph. The organization provides services such as the mobile trauma unit emergency response, therapy, books, food and clothes giveaways and violence intervention.

Liz Jones: Greenwithin

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“My personal brand is being honest about your contribution to the earth and even more honest about how you care for yourself. Adopting eating habits that are best for yourself and the Earth. Having genuine connections and engagement with your community. An easily achievable plant-based diet. Simple sustainability practices.”

Liz Jones is the founder of Greenwithin, an organization creating sustainable food opportunities for underserved DC residents through local organic agriculture, plant based food and nutrition education. Jones hopes to refamiliarize her community with unprocessed, whole foods and to provide resources that lead to sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyles. She calls this her life’s work and family legacy.

Myron Long: The Social Justice School

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“My brand is love, learning, and liberation, and my values are community, family, justice, service, and spirituality. I am and have a reputation of being authentic because my professional persona matches my personal and spiritual identity. Who I am as an educator and entrepreneur is who I am as a community activist, husband, and father.”

Myron Long is the founder and executive director of The Social Justice School, a revolutionary DC charter school that educates with social justice and design thinking at its core. Long has served the DC community as a veteran teacher and a principal. He hopes the school, which will eventually expand to accommodate 5th through 8th graders, will develop students academically and produce social justice advocates with skills to interpret and dismantle systems of oppression.

Ashley McSwain: Community Family Life Services

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“My personal brand is relentless and unapologetic advocacy for justice-involved women.” 

Ashley McSwain is the Executive Director at Community Family Life Services, a nonprofit serving re-entry women and families by providing wrap around support as they move towards self-sufficiency. McSwain is a licensed social worker in Maryland and a certified domestic violence counselor. She has worked in the human services field for over 25 years and is a recognized expert in women’s reentry. 

Ty Hobson-Powell: Concerned Citizens DC 

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“My personal brand is radical love. I believe that the world only seems as careless as it does because we care less about each other than we should. The problem is that for so long there are many of us who’ve felt like we’ve had to do it all ourselves.”

Ty Hobson-Powell is the founder and Director of Policy of Concerned Citizens DC, an organization aiming to improve the quality of life for Black people in DC and improve policing practices. He has led protests in Washington, DC streets to bring awareness and dialogue to critical issues. Hobson-Powell is a child prodigy who graduated high school at 13 years old and earned his master’s in human services by 17 years old.

NeeNee Tay: Black Lives Matter DC (BLM DC)

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“I am seeking to solve a better education system for our children. To have health care and housing for all of our people. To dismantle systems that contribute to state sanction and inter community violence. To defund the police and re-invest funds into programs and resources that will empower marginalized people and communities.”

NeeNee Tay is an Activist and Core Organizer for Black Lives Matter DC, is a member-based abolitionist organization centering Black people most at risk for state violence in DC, creating the conditions for Black Liberation through the abolition of systems and institutions of white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, and colonialism. Tay’s current focus is on criminal justice reform, displacement and youth in the DMV area. Tay describes her activism as walking “in the spirit of Harriet Tubman.”

Bethelehem (Beth) Yirga: The Palm Collective

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“I am a single mom who values collective action, education and authenticity. The vision of a future deserving of my daughter is what keeps me fighting for racial justice. I have no choice but to use my power to prepare our emerging generation of leaders in DC, and beyond, through cultivating spaces of learning, collaboration and standing in your power.”

Bethelehem Yirga is the co-founder, chief strategist and lead organizer of The Palm Collective, a Black-led organization connecting individuals, networks and grassroots organizations working to end systemic racism in DC. Their goal is to create powerful communities through Collective Action. Yirga has over 10 years of experience as an educator. She believes in inclusivity, collaboration, collective action and fighting for Black, Brown and BIPOC people to matter.


About the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund (DMV)

The Black Voices for Black Justice Fund (DMV) was seeded by the Bridge Alliance Education Fund and Greater Washington Community Foundation. This local initiative stemmed from the national Black Voices for Black Justice Fund, which was launched from a partnership between many philanthropic organizations across the country.