Partnership to End Homelessness Awards Housing Justice Grants in Honor of Waldon Adams

The Partnership to End Homelessness (The Partnership) is pleased to announce $350,000 in grants awarded to seven organizations and coalitions leading systems change efforts in DC. Selected nonprofits receive $50,000 in funding to support work to end homelessness and increase the supply of deeply affordable housing.

Systems change is the intentional process of working to make population level change for whole groups of people by disrupting and dismantling the structures of cultural, social, and economic systems that perpetuate inequities. There are many ways to transform and disrupt systems. We know that in order to end homelessness, we must create systems that center people experiencing housing instability and homelessness and that prevent homelessness in the first place. To do that, we focus on efforts developed and led by people most directly impacted by homelessness and housing instability.

Our second round of Housing Justice Grants are made in memory of our Leadership Council member, Waldon Adams, a fierce advocate for ending homelessness who was tragically killed in 2021.

This grant opportunity provides flexible funding to the seven organizations below to support their advocacy, organizing, and other systems change efforts. This funding can be used for local and federal advocacy efforts, community organizing and education, or even infrastructure to increase the capacity of these organizations and coalitions. It can be used for staffing, messaging and communications, research, or meetings and events. We know these grantees share our goal of ending homelessness and increasing the supply of deeply affordable housing and it is important to us that we support them, as the experts in how to make that happen.

SYSTEMS CHANGE Community Partners

  • DC Jobs with Justice

  • DC Fiscal Policy Institute

  • Empower DC

  • Fair Budget Coalition

  • Miriam's Kitchen

  • ONE DC: Organizing Neighborhood Equity

  • The Washington Legal Clinic For The Homeless Inc

Last year, the Partnership awarded our first grants to advance housing justice. Together with tenants and people with lived experience, our community partners led efforts to secure:

  • historic budget investments resulting in Permanent Supportive Housing for over 2,300 households;

  • $50 million for public housing maintenance and repairs;

  • protections for neighbors experiencing homelessness during the pandemic;

  • investments in rental assistance to ensure housing instability during the pandemic; and

  • more just and equitable housing policies.

These grants were made possible thanks to generous partners and donors to the Partnership’s Grantmaking Fund.

Read on to learn more about a few of our partners, their work, and strategic priorities to transform and disrupt systems and advance housing justice. 

WORKING WITH TENANTS TO BRING ABOUT SYSTEMIC CHANGE

Empower DC’s work emphasizes the housing needs of DC’s lowest income residents, those earning 30% of the Area Median Income or below, including people with disabilities, the retired, low wage earners and people coming home from incarceration or experiencing homelessness. Empower DC received $50,000 to engage in community-led planning to expand deeply affordable housing and to preserve existing affordable rental housing, including public housing.  

While DC has affordable housing laws that other cities envy – like Inclusionary Zoning (IZ), and the Housing Production Trust Fund – in reality, these programs have not stemmed the tide of displacement or addressed the need for low- income housing. DC’s existing policies and practices systemically fail to address the need for housing at this lowest income level, targeting instead incomes at 60 or 80% of the Area Median Income when units are built with public subsidy from the Housing Trust Fund or set aside by developers through IZ.

Empower DC addresses this inequity by organizing with people who need deeply affordable housing, including public housing residents, to push for greater investment in and protections for low-income tenants. Using policy, budget, planning and even legal strategies, Empower DC centers the expertise of low- income Black and Brown DC residents with lived experience of housing instability, elevating their voices as visionaries and champions for their communities. For more information or to get involved in Empower DC’s work, go to www.empowerdc.org.

-          Parisa Norouzi, Executive Director, Empower DC

 

WORKING TOGETHER TO SECURE LIFE-SAVING HOUSING INVESTMENTS

Driven by the truth that housing ends homelessness, Miriam’s Kitchen and The Way Home Campaign community worked together to secure historic investments to end chronic homelessness in last year's budget. Now, Miriam’s Kitchen is working hard to ensure that this funding translates into life-saving housing for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Miriam’s Kitchen received $50,000 to build capacity to push for resources, policies, and implementation that prevents and ends homelessness, and to enhance and expand The Way Home Campaign, a citywide movement to end chronic homelessness.

“Through our leadership of The Way Home Campaign, we continue to convene various stakeholders, including people with lived experience of homelessness, service providers, and advocates, to identify and advocate for policy solutions needed to quickly and effectively implement the over 2,300 new Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) vouchers available this year. Additionally, we, along with local and national partners, have spent much of the past year pushing back against Mayor Bowser’s harmful approach to homeless encampments and ensuring that our neighbors living outside are treated with respect and dignity.  

Mayor Bowser releases her budget proposal on March 16. This is a critical time to ensure that she hears from community members like you! Click here to urge Mayor Bowser to fully fund the recommendations laid out in Homeward DC 2.0, her strategic plan to end homelessness. To read our full budget recommendations and to join the over 7,000 individuals and 110 organizations pushing DC to end chronic homelessness, please visit www.thewayhomedc.org.”

-          Lara Pukatch, Chief Advocacy Officer, Miriam’s Kitchen

Historic Opportunities in the Fight to End Homelessness in DC

By Jennifer Olney, Community Investment Officer, Partnership to End Homelessness

As the Mayor and City Council are considering the FY2023 budget for DC, we face a historic opportunity to end chronic homelessness in DC. Last year, the DC Budget made significant investments in Permanent Supportive Housing, a proven solution to end housing instability for individuals who have experienced homelessness for an extended period of time and who struggle with complex health challenges such as mental illness, addiction, physical disabilities, or other chronic conditions.

This year, the Partnership to End Homelessness is working with our nonprofit, government, and public sector partners to build on this progress and leverage both federal and local resources available to end homelessness and make even more investments in long-term solutions.

We know that our investments alone will never end homelessness and that public sector resources must be targeted to support our neighbors who are struggling with homelessness and housing instability. That is why we created the Partnership to End Homelessness – to bring together public and private sector around a shared strategy to ensure all our neighbors have a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home.

We hope you will consider joining us in this critical work. There are three immediate and exciting opportunities to help advance the work of the Partnership in 2022:

  1. Securing Public Sector Investments for housing and ending homelessness
    Last week, we sent a letter to Mayor Bowser asking her to use the revised 2022 budget and 2023 budget to continue to address housing challenges — specifically by expanding Permanent Supportive Housing, as well as Rental Assistance and Eviction Prevention.

    In addition to our own advocacy, we’re making our second round of housing justice grants to support our nonprofit partners leading budget advocacy and other essential systems change efforts. Last year their work secured historic investments, including almost 2,300 new vouchers for Permanent Supportive Housing. You can read more about those grants and how to get involved here.

    If you live or work in DC, we encourage you to get involved! Our elected officials need to hear from you. Tell them that increasing access to affordable housing and ending homelessness are a priority and that our future will be stronger if we do these things. Our partners at The Way Home Campaign have made it easy, click hear to send a letter now .

  2. Investing in our nonprofits to leverage federal resources to end homelessness
    DC has an opportunity to leverage up to $20+ million in annual federal resources for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) services in DC. This year, DC will launch a new Medicaid Benefit that will provide higher reimbursement rates for nonprofit providers and new and ongoing federal resources for ending homelessness in DC.

    In order to successfully leverage these resources, nonprofits will need to adopt new practices, quality control checks, and new or updated internal systems related to human resources, accounting, and compliance functions. We are working with our partners to raise critical funds to invest across the system to ensure all nonprofit partners, including smaller Black and Brown-led organizations, are ready to make this transition and leverage these new resources.

    Learn more in our recent blog post or support this work now by contributing to our Grantmaking Fund.


  3. Ensuring housing stability through rental assistance and eviction prevention

    One of the key roles that we, as philanthropy, can play is that of convener. In response to the devastating effects of the pandemic and economic crisis, for over a year now, The Partnership has been working with Urban Institute and The DC Bar Foundation to convene key partners – including local government, philanthropy, legal services, landlords, and housing counseling organizations – to prevent evictions and connect tenants to available rental assistance.

    We know that our Black and Brown neighbors have faced higher rates of unemployment and eviction during the pandemic With 21,000 DC residents currently unemployed, we cannot stop working to ensure tenants can stay in their homes. We will continue to advocate for additional resources for tenants and to work with our partners to develop new systems that support tenants and their landlords to increase housing stability.

We know that increasing housing stability and ending homelessness will pay off, in stronger families, stronger communities, and a stronger future for this region. Research confirms that housing instability harms a child’s development and an adult’s ability to get and retain employment, and that providing housing stability creates better health and better futures for children, their families, and single adults.

This year presents an opportunity for DC. How will we respond? Ending homelessness will take everyone working together and doing their part. We hope you will join us.

The Partnership to End Homelessness works to ensure homelessness is rare, brief, and nonrecurring in Washington, DC. By joining together, we can increase the supply of deeply affordable housing, bolster our response system to help more people obtain and maintain stable housing, and ultimately end homelessness in DC

Letter to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser from the Partnership to End Homelessness Leadership Council

Dear Mayor Bowser:

We are writing on behalf of the Greater Washington Community Foundation and its Partnership to End Homelessness Leadership Council to thank you for your commitment to addressing homelessness in DC. As you work to finalize your budget proposal for fiscal year 2023, we ask you to take bold action to end homelessness and make substantial investments in housing that is affordable to DC households with extremely low incomes.

As you know, the Partnership to End Homelessness is a collective effort of private sector business leaders, philanthropists, and national and local nonprofits working to ensure homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring. We are committed to doing our part to end homelessness in DC. However, we know that we cannot do it alone. Public sector investment and commitment, aligned with private sector resources, is the only way to ensure that everyone in our community has the stability that housing provides.

The pandemic has emphasized how critical the role of housing stability is to everyone’s health and security. It has reminded us that far too many DC households are faced daily with housing instability and little or no financial cushion. And it has shown us what we can accomplish as a community when we commit to finding the resources to end homelessness.

As leaders in the business, philanthropic, and nonprofit sectors, we all want to live in a community that has worked to end homelessness, and we know that the District’s future will be stronger if we do. Ending homelessness and ensuring housing security will help children succeed in school, help workers be more present and productive, improve the overall health and well-being of residents, and reduce stresses on DC’s social safety net.

We are deeply appreciative that the budget for the current fiscal year took a major step toward ending homelessness, with funding to help thousands of people to move from homelessness to permanent affordable housing, and that you and the Council devoted a substantial amount of federal pandemic aid to address immediate housing security needs and create more long-term affordable housing opportunities. It is investments like these, sustained year after year, that will bring us to the place we all want: a District of Columbia where everyone has stable, secure, and decent housing that they can afford.

This is why we are asking you to use the revised 2022 budget and the 2023 budget to continue to address pre-pandemic as well as pandemic-driven housing challenges faced by so many, and to make continued progress toward ending homelessness and creating deeply affordable housing. We align with the recommendations of our community advocacy partners in calling on the District to use the Fiscal Year 2023 budget for bold action on our deepest inequities, especially homelessness and affordable housing for extremely-low income and very low income households.

Increased Rental Assistance and Eviction Prevention: The District has done an outstanding job of getting federal emergency rental assistance to those most at risk. Unfortunately, given the major lack of affordable housing, rising rents, inflation and ongoing unemployment, the need is so great that the District is running out of this resource. An estimated 40,000 DC residents remain at risk of eviction. We echo the concerns outlined in the letter submitted by DC Fiscal Policy Institute and 37 other organizations on January 27th, and urge you to invest:

  • Necessary resources – estimated to be $200 million in rental assistance and $20 million in utility assistance – through ERAP or other programs. We urge you to do this now, through a supplemental budget for FY2022 or other means to tap the $566 million FY2021 surplus and higher-than-expected revenues this year.

  • Substantial funding for rental assistance and emergency rental assistance in the FY2023 budget.

Expansion of Permanent Supportive Housing to end chronic homelessness: Even with the substantial investments in the FY2022 budget, under your new comprehensive plan, Homeward DC 2.0, we know that nearly 500 individuals and 260 families still face chronic homelessness. We urge you to implement your plan’s recommendation and invest:

  • $25.9 million in permanent supportive housing for 500 individuals and 260 families

Investments to make homelessness truly rare, brief and non-recurring: The challenge of homelessness is not static, meaning that we cannot house those currently facing homelessness and expect the problem to end. Homelessness is affected by the continued and significant loss of affordable housing and the relentless increase in rents throughout DC– including the increase this year for rent-controlled units. In order to prevent homelessness and the long-term impacts of homelessness on our neighbors and our communities, we urge you to invest:

  • $700,000 to prevent homelessness for 400 additional individuals through Project Reconnect

  • $6.3 million in well-targeted Rapid ReHousing, including high-quality case management, for single adults

  • $27.7 million in Targeted Affordable Housing for 1,040 households

  • $24.2 million toward ending youth homelessness

  • $1 million in workforce programming for homeless youth

  • $558,000 to create a mobile behavioral health team than can meet youth where they are

  • $1.8 million to continue the ReEntry Housing Pilot for Returning Citizens

  • $1 million to fund B24-0106, the “Fair Tenant Screening Act of 2021,” and B24-0229, the “Human Rights Enhancement Amendment Act of 2021”

  • $12.5 million to provide 65 units of transitional housing and 15 affordable housing units to survivors of domestic violence

Outreach and Other Services: While we work to ensure everyone has safe and stable housing, we must:

  • Continue to provide PEP-V, non-congregate shelter options for residents experiencing homelessness who are at high risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19

  • Fund robust street outreach, focused on housing

  • Invest $300,000 in additional capital funds to build two 24-hour, 7-day public restrooms

Preserve Public Housing, Expand Affordable Housing: We urge you to use the FY 2023 budget to make a substantial commitment to deeply affordable housing for households earning 0- 30 percent of the Median Family Income (MFI). Housing that is affordable to households with extremely low-income households is the only real long-term solution to ending homelessness. This includes:

  • At least $12.9 million in Local Rent Supplement Program vouchers to ensure that half of the Housing Production Trust Fund units will be affordable to people below 30 percent MFI, as required by law.

  • Maintain stable funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) and strengthen transparency and reporting requirements to ensure the fund is meeting statutory affordability requirements.

  • $17.3 million for 800 Local Rent Supplement Tenant Vouchers, to assist those on the DC Housing Authority waitlist.

  • $60 million to repair and preserve public housing.

  • $20 million to preserve affordable housing though the Housing Preservation Fund.

  • $1.3 million to expand and provide tenant vouchers to 60 returning citizens .

In a community where over 85% of individuals experiencing homelessness are Black, addressing homelessness and investing in deeply affordable housing is a matter of racial equity and social justice. Our city and nation’s history of denying access to economic opportunity to Black people and those in other marginalized communities – relegating Black people largely to lower-paying occupations, denying access to federally guaranteed mortgages, allowing restrictive covenants and more – created the conditions we now see, where median Black household income is less than one-third median white household income and median wealth for Black households is less than one-eightieth the average white household wealth. The large majority of Black households are renters and thus subjected to the relentless increase in rents as the District develops, and most do not have the finances needed to move to homeownership, leading to displacement and/or homelessness. We have an obligation to reverse these conditions– especially as the Nation’s Capital.

Opening up opportunities to affordable housing and wealth building will pay off, in stronger families, stronger communities, and a stronger future. Research confirms that housing instability harms a child’s development and an adult’s ability to get and retain employment, and that providing housing stability creates better health and better futures for children, their families, and single adults.

Thank you again for your leadership and commitment to ending homelessness in our city. We urge you to make 2023 the year that DC makes bold and significant investments to end homelessness and to increase the supply of deeply affordable housing.

Sincerely,

Tonia Wellons
President and CEO, Greater Washington Community Foundation
Partnership to End Homelessness, Leadership Council Co-Chair

David Roodberg
CEO and President, Homing Brothers
Partnership to End Homelessness, Leadership Council Co-Chair

The Community Foundation Reflects on Black History Month

During the month of February many organizations make statements intended to honor Black people’s legacies of struggle and triumph in this nation. While these statements are often made as a genuine celebration of and commitment to Black America, at the Greater Washington Community Foundation, we recognize that our words must be matched with action. We know that commitment to an idea — or in this case, to the Black community — is so much more than a monthly theme that begins on February 1 and ends on February 28. 

So, instead of a traditional Black History Month statement, we take this opportunity to openly acknowledge and wrestle with our past — and to model, perhaps imperfectly, an appropriate way to honor and venerate Black history past, present, and future.

We begin by acknowledging a hard truth: At various points in our region’s history, the Greater Washington Community Foundation has been part of efforts to advance Black people’s struggle and legacy of overcoming — and at times we have also been an actor in a system designed in many ways to undermine Black lives. While commitments to diversity and racial equity abound across the philanthropic field, the depth and the cost of this harm continues. Until we, as a foundation and a larger philanthropic community resolve to acknowledge and address this, it will be impossible to fully realize our purpose and our potential.

One thing is clear: as a community foundation with the sole purpose to support and strengthen our region, we need to do better. To that end, for the past several years, we have been on an organizational learning journey as we recommit to centering racial equity and inclusion in all aspects of our work — from our internal processes to our infrastructure, programs, and community leadership work. Recently, we completed a strategic planning process which culminated with our Board of Trustees and staff adopting a new 10-year strategic vision to close the racial wealth gap in our community.

As part of that strategic vision, we commit to focusing our leadership, advocacy, and investments on increasing economic mobility and directing more investment towards economically excluded neighborhoods and community organizations that serve them, which in our region are overwhelmingly Black.

This strategic vision for the future of our region was not developed in isolation. Rather it’s the culmination of many years-worth of conversations, studies, initiatives, and investments in and with our region’s BIPOC communities.

More recently, this vision has been shaped through our efforts to balance speed, equity, and impact as we distributed $11 million in community support through the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. Additionally, in 2020-2021, we made historic investments in Black-led social change, from grants to support Black leaders through the Black Voices for Black Justice Fellows to nearly $1 million invested in the sustainability of 17 Black-led organizations, to major investments in direct cash transfer programming.

These are but a few of the next steps in our efforts to support those who are making Black history every day in our region. At The Community Foundation, we recognize that there is still much to learn – and a whole lot more to do – before we can achieve racial equity in our region. Until then, we are proud and committed to stand with our Black neighbors and communities every step of the way. 

Black-led organizations share impact of last year’s sustainability investments

For many nonprofit organizations in our region, the COVID-19 pandemic tested them in ways they had never imagined. Faced with the combined challenges of an uncertain environment, limited availability for volunteerism and an overwhelming demand for services, many organizations and their staff were pushed to the limit.

But perhaps none have been tested so severely as Black-led nonprofits.

Historically, philanthropy has woefully underinvested in Black-led organizations. A report by Echoing Green and The Bridgespan Group found that even in areas where work targeted Black communities, Black-led organizations had 45 percent less revenue and 91 percent less unrestricted net assets than white-led organizations.

With a mission to advance equity and prosperity, the Greater Washington Community Foundation is working to close the racial wealth gap and mindful of our obligation to change how we look at our approach to philanthropy.

So last year when Facebook approached us with a generous gift intended to support BIPOC communities, The Community Foundation was eager to invest it in Black-led nonprofit organizations working in the critical area of Systems Change, serving Greater Washington. Grants were awarded to address immediate infrastructure needs such as leadership development, human resources and technology – areas that are traditionally difficult to fundraise for, yet incredibly vital to the sustainability of an organization – especially during a pandemic.

Recently, we reached out to them to understand the impact this funding had on their organization. Here are quotes from a few of those sustainability grantees:

Mamatoto Village is a DC-based nonprofit devoted to serving Black womxn and providing perinatal support services

Mamatoto Village is a DC-based nonprofit devoted to serving Black womxn and providing perinatal support services

"Receiving the Sustainability of Black-led Organizations grant has helped Mamatoto Village bolster our data and social impact initiatives. With this grant funding, our organization was able to purchase the SoPact Impact Cloud–– an innovative resource that is helping our organization accurately describe the social impact of our services.”

“The Greater Washington Community Foundation grant funding was instrumental in bolstering our advocacy and organizing efforts by allowing us to train and pay community members who are interested in advocating for maternal health rights and equity.

The Community Foundation grant funding has helped our organization meet necessary infrastructure needs as we continue to serve womxn, families, and communities in the Greater Washington region."
-Jordan McRae, Grants Manager, Mamatoto Village

“Racial Justice NOW is grateful for the support we've received from the Greater Washington Community Foundation's sustainability fund. This support has helped us with our strategic planning efforts as we work to map out our work and desired impact over the next few years. Without this support, it would've been extremely difficult to move forward with this process. The work we do in Montgomery County is very important because we center Black people unapologetically, that's self-determination!”

Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, Co-Founder & Director, Racial Justice NOW!

"Facing the challenges of COVID, the Greater Washington Community Foundation grant allowed us to add a social media advisor to our team to help us expand our presence across the community.  With the funds, we established a virtual classroom to 1) support our middle student tutoring program, 2) produce a series of issue-focused public service announcements, and 3) deliver our monthly community forums to address critical issues facing our families. "

-- Jim Paige, Executive Director, Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria

The Sustainability Grant allowed CCNA to bring on a social media advisor, who helped the organization to expand their community awareness, through social media graphics like this one.

2021 Sustainability of Black Led Organizations Grantees

  • African Communities Together

  • Bread for the City

  • Collective Action for Safe Spaces

  • Community Grocery Co-Op

  • Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria

  • Critical Exposure

  • DC Justice Lab

  • Dreaming Out Loud

  • Harriet’s Wildest Dreams

  • Life After Release

  • Mamatoto Village

  • Many Languages One Voice

  • ONE DC

  • Progressive Maryland

  • Racial Justice NOW!

  • Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid

  • The National Reentry Network of Returning Citizens

Quarterly Community Update

Dear friends of The Community Foundation,

I hope you and your family had a safe and healthy holiday season and a happy new year!

Thanks to the continued compassion and care of our community of givers during a time of deep uncertainty, 2021 was another record year for generosity in Greater Washington. In 2021, we welcomed more than 51 new funds to our Community Foundation family and our donors collectively invested more than $86 million to support nonprofits responding to critical needs, nurturing an equitable recovery, and working to strengthen our region and beyond.

If you plan to continue or grow your giving in the year ahead, please make sure to follow our updated gift transmission guidelines for a variety of ways to contribute to your fund at The Community Foundation. It is crucial that you follow these instructions – especially including the fund name along with your contribution – to ensure timely processing of your gift. If you have any questions or need assistance with your gift, please contact us at 202-955-5890 or donorservices@thecommunityfoundation.org.

At The Community Foundation, we are grateful to be your trusted philanthropic partner and proud of what we have accomplished together for our community. In 2021, your support enabled us to:

As we embark on our new 10-year strategic vision, we plan to engage our entire community in discussions about how we will work together to co-create a brighter future for our region where people of all races, places, and identities reach their full potential and prosper. From our quarterly book club convenings to our grantmaking and investment strategies, we are committed to fully embodying the values of racial equity and inclusion in all aspects of our work and operations. For example, our new Investment Policy Statement outlines our approach to exercising competent and socially responsible stewardship in managing financial resources in alignment with our vision for a just and equitable region.

Thanks to your generosity and the inspiring service of our community partners, I am hopeful about what we can accomplish together in the year ahead. There will be challenges still to come, but I am confident we can continue to get through them together.

Sincerely,
Tonia Wellons
President and CEO

P.S. In case you missed it, our OCIO recently recorded this video to share an investment outlook and performance update.

Top 10 Milestones to Remember: 2021 in Review

Now that 2021 is over, we’re reflecting on and celebrating our most impactful stories from the past year – from releasing our new strategic vision, to historic investments in Black-led change, to a $1 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott that boosted our recovery work for local arts groups. Here are some of our most meaningful milestones from 2021. 

Together, We Prosper: Launching a New Strategic Vision for Closing Our Community’s Racial Wealth Gap

In October, we shared the culmination of months of deep heart work: our 10-year strategic vision to close our region’s racial wealth gap. First unveiled at our annual meeting, the vision centers on three core leadership pillars: leading with racial equity and inclusion, aligning business with values, and closing the racial wealth gap. We envision a future where all have the opportunity to prosper – and know together, we can realize this vision as reality.

Celebrating Our Community’s Champions

View a recording of our Celebration of Community Champions program.

In May, our virtual Celebration of Community Champions lifted up our collective COVID-19 response efforts and the everyday heroes – local individuals and companies – who stepped up for our region in exceptional ways. We were proud to highlight Feed the Fight as our Community Hero; Food for Montgomery as our Collaborative Hero; CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield as our Corporate Hero; and Dr. Monica Goldson, Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (in memoriam), Steve Proctor, and Dr. Alvin Thornton as our Civic Heroes. The evening also featured special performances from Arts on the Block, DC Jazz Festival, the Prince George’s County Youth Poet Laureate, and Synetic Theater.

Historic Investments in Black Leaders and Black-Led Nonprofits

Jawanna Hardy, a US Air Force veteran, leads an outreach program providing resources to communities affected by youth homicide, suicide, and mental health illnesses.

We were proud to make several historic investments in Black-led change impacting our region. Through our Black Voices for Black Justice Fellows, an initiative launched in 2020 with Bridge Alliance Education Fund and GOODProjects, we selected 10 inspiring Black leaders and activists on the frontlines of advancing racial equity and social justice. Additionally, a generous gift from Facebook enabled investments of nearly $1 million in 17 Black-led organizations leading systems change work. These awards supported the immediate infrastructure needs of grantees, including staffing, strategic planning, marketing and communications, professional development, and more. 

Direct Cash Transfer as a Vehicle for Speed, Inclusivity, and Equity

During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Community Foundation and many of our philanthropic partners embraced giving directly—transferring cash to people—as an effective and efficient means of providing relief to those hit hard by the sudden economic and health emergency. Since the onset of the pandemic and in partnership with donors, nonprofit organizations, and local government agencies, we facilitated the administration of approximately $26 million in funds, distributed in increments of $50 to $2,500 to approximately 60,000 residents across the Greater Washington region. Urban Institute published a report chronicling the goals, strategies, and short-term achievements of our effort to develop and implement cash transfer strategies at the height of the pandemic. 

Advancing Housing Justice and Preventing Evictions

Housing Counseling Services received a grant to help tenants apply for rental assistance by meeting them where they live, learn, pray, and play.

Our Partnership to End Homelessness continued its critical eviction prevention work in response to the pandemic and economic crisis. Its work to advance housing justice included more than $300,000 in grants to address our region’s housing crisis and inequalities by funding seven nonprofits leading advocacy and organizing efforts. Hear from our Community Investment Officer Jennifer Olney on the Partnership’s eviction prevention work and her explanation of common misperceptions about homelessness – and how you can get involved in helping more people obtain and maintain stable housing during a crisis and beyond.  

Improving Equity and Economic Mobility in Prince George’s County

Jacob’s Ladder was selected by ELIF members to receive a microgrant for its Academic Enrichment Program that provides tutoring, basic literacy skills, and mentoring to students.

Our Emerging Leaders Impact Fund (ELIF), a new giving circle for young professionals in Prince George’s County, announced its inaugural grants to five Prince George’s County nonprofits working to combat chronic absenteeism in County schools. ELIF is currently recruiting new members for 2022; Interested candidates can apply here. While our Equity Fund, which works to eliminate social and economic disparities in Prince George’s County, awarded $440,000 in grants to help 19 nonprofits advance food security, affordable childcare, and workforce equity. These grants were made possible thanks to a generous gift from the Ikea U.S. Community Foundation. 

Increasing Food Security and Educational Equity in Montgomery County

Food for Montgomery received our Collaborative Hero Award for its public-private effort to coordinate and expand food distributions, support local farmers and small businesses, and improve food systems to combat food insecurity in Montgomery County.

Our Children’s Opportunity Fund was recognized by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading as a 2021 Bright Spot community for its COVID-19 response work, including the launch of Educational Enrichment and Equity Hubs. Equity Hubs offered a safe place for low-income students to participate in remote learning during school closures, welcoming more than 1,400 students across 70 sites. Our Food for Montgomery initiative has marshaled the resources of nonprofits, faith communities, local businesses, farmers, and county agencies to increase food access and help families recover from crisis. It has raised and deployed over $2.1 million to double the number of food distribution sites, help sustain local farmers and small businesses, and improve the hunger relief system to meet today’s challenges and future crises. 

Gift From Mackenzie Scott Enables Additional Relief Funding For Local Arts Groups

Dance Institute of Washington received a grant to support its facility renovation and a program evaluation with a focus on racial equity.

Arts Forward Fund was established in partnership with The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation to help struggling arts and culture organizations to adapt their programming to survive and recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. In 2021, the initiative was recognized by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott with a $1 million gift as part of a cohort of equity-focused efforts. Thanks to Scott’s generosity, we were able to award a second round of grants in September 2021, investing in nearly 90 local arts groups. In total, the fund has made nearly $2.7 million in grants to 130+ organizations – 60% of which are BIPOC-led or BIPOC-serving.

Turning Ideas Into Action for Community Change

Learn about several of our Community Action Awards supported projects in this video produced by our partners at Comcast.

As the last step in our three-part VoicesDMV community engagement initiative, we awarded our inaugural Community Action Awards microgrants to 50 local activists, artists, and advocates leading neighborhood-based projects which advance equity and inclusion. Projects included public murals in Brookland, Forest Bathing in Maryland, yoga and dance accessibility, and more. In December, our former Senior Advisor for Impact Benton Murphy reported back how grantees are doing – and the collective impact of these projects - read his post for several inspiring videos and photos. 

Aligning Our Business With Our Values: A New Partnership With SEI

Check out this video featuring our OCIO providing an update on your investment options and their performance.

We believe to truly affect change, our values must inform and drive our actions – and this was the impetus for partnering with SEI as our outsourced chief investment officer (OCIO). The leading global investment firm is known for its focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, values we wholeheartedly share. As an OCIO with 450+ clients worldwide – more than 170 of which are nonprofits – SEI serves as an extension of our staff, providing world-class investment expertise and constant focus on managing the charitable funds you have entrusted to us. Check out this new video featuring our OCIO providing an update on your investment options and the performance of our investment portfolio.

In Memoriam: Diane Bernstein, Jane Bainum, Milt Peterson, Senator Mike Miller, Waldon and Rhonda

As a member of our Partnership to End Homelessness Leadership Council, Waldon Adams was instrumental in our work to ensure everyone has housing they can afford.

Last year, we lost several special members of The Community Foundation family. We pay tribute to former Trustee, donor, and friend Diane Bernstein; Jane Bainum, co-founder of the Bainum Family Foundation and longtime philanthropic partner; Milt Peterson, trusted donor and founder of Peterson Companies; and the beloved Senator Mike Miller, one of our 2021 Civic Hero honorees. We also remember and honor our friends Rhonda Whitaker and Waldon Adams, two tireless advocates for ending homelessness who passed away unexpectedly in April. 


From Crisis to Recovery: A Pivotal Year

You can also view our FY 2021 annual report for more highlights from our crisis to recovery work in 2020-2021.

Following up with our Community Action Award Winners

By Benton Murphy, outgoing Senior Advisor for Impact

Earlier this year, the Community Foundation issued $100,000 in small grant awards to community partners across the region through our Community Action Awards. The Awards were provided to a cohort of 50 activists, artists, and advocates leading neighborhood-based projects that would spark change in their communities. 

The Community Action Awards are part of our three-part VoicesDMV series, a powerful community engagement initiative launched in 2017 to explore our region’s most pressing challenges and opportunities. In 2020, VoicesDMV tapped into Community Insights through a regional survey and convened hundreds of residents from across the region to discuss ways to make our communities stronger through On The Table conversations.

While many of our Awardees are still working to finalize their programs, we are thrilled to share some highlights of some excellent programs that have taken place over the past year.

American University and EL Haynes Public Charter School received an award to support their Action Research for Community Change project. The project, sparked by a conversation that took place as a part of our On the Table day of dialogue in 2020, was an innovative and impactful partnership that paired AU college students and high schoolers at EL Haynes Public Charter School in conversations on race and equity. Students at both institutions participated in virtual classrooms together, co-learning and co-designing a community action research project. AU students developed a curriculum and guide for community action research. EL Haynes students conducted a bilingual survey of the student body with more than half of student responding. Based on student responses, the action researchers made a series of recommendations that yielded commitments from school leadership to hire a new social worker, offer two new elective courses focused on centering Black lives, and a commitment to using student surveys to inform future teacher professional development. What’s more—AU students developed a workbook on action research that the students can use in future years to continue to lift up student voices for change!

The Brem Foundation received an award to provide funding for its Wheels for Women program which helps connect women to breast care appointments. The District of Columbia has the highest death rate for breast cancer in the United States, and despite being diagnosed at the same rate, Black women have a 40% higher death rate from breast cancer than white women. Brem used funds to support 76 one-way rides for women to get to their breast care appointments, the majority of recipients were Black women. Brem also was able to use funds to expand from 8 to 9 community partners for rides, which will be useful for the many recipients who live very far from their health care provider.

IMPACT Silver Spring used its award to support its Sewing Academy for Latina Women. The Academy was the brainchild of IMPACT’s Women’s Empowerment Collective, composed mostly of parents of IMPACT’s youth programming or who became interested through direct outreach at local schools. The award funded the purchase of sewing machines and supplies, as well as compensation for experienced seamstresses who served as instructors in the program. Twenty women registered for the Academy over a six-month period. The women of the Academy both built their sewing skills as well as strong bonds and a new support network. Participants were also supported to participate in civic actions, including providing testimony at Montgomery County Council hearings on the importance of affordable vocational education. When the Academy students gathered with their family, friends, and IMPACT staff for their graduation in July they held a fashion show to showcase the students’ work, with one participant noting: “I made three dresses. I never thought I could do this. I’m making my dreams come true.”

This has been an especially meaningful program for me to take on as I wrap up a 17-year stint here at The Community Foundation to move on to other opportunities. Having led our inaugural Community Action Awards program, it is so wonderful to see how impactful these small-dollar grant awards can be. It is instructive for us as funders and individual donors that even a small gift can be meaningful for those who are striving to make the world a better place for everyone. I am hopeful that you will find our next crop of Awardees as inspiring as I have found this one!

View the Impact of Several Projects

Got You Covered Diaper Bag Project

Live It Learn It for Drew Elementary School

DC KinCare Alliance Relative Caregiver Community Board Outreach and Education Project

Zoom Pals, an intergenerational pilot project in a partnership between American University and Hyattsville Aging and Place

Investing in Nonprofit Capacity to Leverage Federal Funds to End Homelessness

The Partnership to End Homelessness is excited to announce a $250,000 investment from The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation to double our support for this important project. Together, we are working to leverage ongoing federal funding to support our nonprofit partners providing Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH).

In April 2022, DC is expected to launch a new Medicaid Benefit that could result in an additional $20+ million in annual federal resources for PSH services in DC.

The new benefit will allow nonprofit providers to bill Medicaid for PSH services. The additional federal funding that will be leveraged through this investment will result in higher reimbursement rates for nonprofit providers, meaning the ability to improve retention of talented, experienced staff and build internal capacity to meet new quality and outcome metrics.

PSH is a proven model for ending chronic homelessness and an effective tool that works by pairing housing with wrap-around support services. PSH services are voluntary, flexible, and individualized to help people achieve their personal goals, such as stabilizing and improving their physical and mental health, gaining employment, reconnecting with family, and participating in the community. These supports help people experiencing chronic homelessness obtain affordable housing and remain permanently housed. 

To learn more about Permanent Support Housing, check out our blog post featuring former Leadership Council member, Waldon Adams.

Image courtesy of Open Arms Housing, one of our PSH provider partners

In DC there are currently around 4,000 clients in the PSH program. Across the city, nonprofits provide supports for clients in the PSH program including housing navigation, housing stability and the basics of landlord-tenant relationships, connection to employment and training, navigation through public systems, and connection to community resources. Services can also provide clients with tools to cope with mental health, addiction, trauma, physical health problems, and other issues they might be experiencing that jeopardize housing stability.

Opportunity for Impact

In order to make this transition to billing Medicaid, nonprofits will need to adopt new practices, quality control checks, and new or updated internal systems related to human resources, accounting, and compliance functions.

Through the Partnership to End Homelessness, The Community Foundation is uniquely positioned to leverage and align private sector resources to support PSH providers to increase capacity and begin billing Medicaid. This could include technical assistance and coaching from consultants with expertise and experience with Medicaid billing and enrollment, or one-time technology investments to set-up necessary systems and tracking to bill Medicaid.

Advancing Racial Equity Goals

Ensuring all PSH providers, big and small, are able to make the transition to Medicaid billing is an important part of our goal to increase racial equity in the homeless service system. Smaller organizations, many led by Black and Brown leaders, are often the organizations that don’t have additional support and resources to increase capacity. By investing across the system and ensuring all providers have access to capacity building resources, it is our goal to ensure that all organizations will have the support they need to make the transition to Medicaid billing and benefit from federal funding and higher reimbursement rates for services. 

Advancing Public-Private Solutions to End Homelessness in DC

The Partnership to End Homelessness was created to leverage private philanthropy, in alignment with Homeward DC, the city’s Plan to End Homelessness, to create sustained investment in the homeless services system.

The Partnership is working with partners at the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) to coordinate these funds and support PSH providers and the system as a whole to make the necessary investments to access ongoing federal funds.

How Can You Help?

Join the Partnership to End Homelessness and The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation in our efforts to leverage federal funding and increase the capacity of our nonprofit providers. We are bringing together private funders in order to bridge the gap between opportunity and impact. Contributing to this project can make a significant impact in ensuring support and stability for our neighbors in Permanent Supportive Housing.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Olney, Community Investment Officer, Partnership to End Homelessness, at jolney@thecommunityfoundation.org.

Changing Perceptions About Homelessness in DC

By Jennifer Olney, Community Investment Officer, Partnership to End Homelessness

This week, communities across the country marked Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week, an annual program designed to bring people together to share information and stories that help draw attention to the persistence of hunger and homelessness in our community. Through our Partnership to End Homelessness, one of our goals is help to our partners and community members better understand who experiences homelessness and why, and what we can do about it.

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about homelessness and housing instability.

It is no secret that DC has a severe shortage of affordable housing. As local housing costs continue to outpace people’s incomes, nearly 1 in 5 residents reported they could only make it by for less than one month if they lost their current sources of income. A person working a minimum wage job would have to work two full-time jobs in order to cover rent on a one-bedroom apartment in DC. Without stable housing it is hard to focus on your health, get an education, maintain employment, or take care of other basic needs.

It’s important to remember that homelessness is not a choice or an individual failure. Homelessness is the result of systems that are failing our neighbors and as a result, failing our community. Due to systemic racism and decades of discrimination in housing, employment, and access to healthcare, Black and Brown residents are much more likely to struggle with housing instability and to experience homelessness. Although Black residents make up less than half of DC’s overall population, they make up 87% of people experiencing homelessness in DC. As we talk about racial and social justice, we must also talk about housing justice.

It’s important to remember that people who lose their housing and experience homelessness and housing instability are our neighbors.

People like Shelley, a mother and veteran, who could not make enough income to afford housing for her and her daughter. Or Janet, who lost her apartment after she was laid off when her employer shut its doors.

In DC, nearly 1 in 100 residents are without housing on any given night. They’re our neighbors including working adults, people suffering from chronic health conditions, families, college students, senior citizens, LGBTQ+ youth, and veterans. With the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, many households who were already struggling, lost their jobs or childcare and quickly fell behind on rent. According to a recent analysis by DCFPI, renters in DC still owe over $70 million in back rent.

We know that in order to reach our goal of preventing and ending homelessness, it will take all of us working together and doing our part. Over the past year, we have been working closely with our nonprofit and government partners to ensure that no one loses their housing during the pandemic. We’ve also been inspired by innovative partners like Empower DC and Horning Brothers who are going above and beyond to connect tenants with available resources to help them remain stably housed.

Join us in our work to ensure everyone has safe and stable housing that they can afford.

In 2019, we launched The Partnership to End Homelessness, a public-private partnership aimed at uniting DC government and the private sector around strategies to ensure homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring. We believe that ending homelessness in DC starts with creating more supportive and deeply affordable housing and strengthening our system so people have the supports they need to obtain and maintain stable housing.

With support from our donors and investors, the Partnership has helped to leverage and align over $12 million in funding to build and preserve affordable housing, provide critical support to nonprofits working on the front lines with people experiencing homelessness, and to support advocacy efforts that secured funding for housing for an additional 3,500 households in this year’s city budget.

We are making progress, but there is more to do. During Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the Partnership is ramping up its efforts to end homelessness in DC and I hope you will join us. To learn more about our work, and how you can get involved, we invite you to explore our website or our most recent Impact Report, and consider supporting our work with an a donation to our grantmaking program.

Quarterly Update to the Community

Dear Community Foundation Fundholders,

I hope you and your family are enjoying the beautiful fall weather!

 Thanks to the continued generosity and care of our community of givers, we collectively awarded more than $21 million in grants last quarter to nonprofits working to strengthen our region and beyond.

In August, we were proud to release our 2020-2021 Annual Report and share how we mobilized $40 million in community support to help our neighbors facing hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis. Thanks to the incredible donors, nonprofit partners, and community leaders who stepped up to help us meet this challenge. In case you missed our 2021 Annual Meeting or the release of our Annual Report, you can find the recording and resources here.

Last quarter, our community impact work included:

  • A new partnership between our Food for Montgomery initiative and Feed the Fridge to provide meals for families in need at Mary’s Center.

  • Our Partnership to End Homelessness participated in the White House Eviction Prevention Summit and invested in Housing Counseling Services to help more tenants apply for and access rental assistance.

  • Historic investments to address the infrastructure needs of 17 Black-led organizations, enabled through a generous $1 million gift from Facebook. 

  • Additional investments from Arts Forward Fund totaling nearly $1.7 million to help 89 arts and culture organizations recover from the impact of the pandemic.

  • Welcoming new funds like America Remembers Fund, which supports the “In America: Remember” art exhibition that blanketed the National Mall with 660,000+ white flags, each honoring a person lost to COVID-19.

We were proud to welcome new and diverse leaders to our Board of Trustees, Advisory Boards, and staff.

This month, we are excited to release our new 10-year strategic vision with a sharpened focus on closing the racial wealth gap in our region's underinvested neighborhoods where racialized disparities are the greatest. As we begin this journey, our intent is to engage you and our entire community in conversation to inform our learning journey and align our understanding about the root causes and the most effective solutions for closing the racial wealth gap.

With the end of year approaching, our staff can assist with carrying out your philanthropic goals for 2021. Please be mindful of our December 17 deadline for your year-end grantmaking activities to ensure your nonprofit partners receive their funds by December 31.

Thank you for your continued partnership in serving our community’s needs today, and in building a better tomorrow for the Greater Washington region. 

Sincerely,
Tonia Wellons
President and CEO

A Thankful Tribute: Uplifting Community Foundation Trustees

This fall, we welcomed Sarah Moore Johnson to our Board of Trustees and bid farewell to two long-standing members: Kenny Emson and Mary Pat Alcus. As a warm welcome and thankful tribute, we share their stories below – and celebrate what makes each one of them an invaluable part of The Community Foundation family.

Fueling the Power of Disruption

Sarah Moore Johnson, our newest Trustee, is a passionate champion for racial justice. As a tax and estate planning attorney, she leverages her positions of influence to advocate for racial equity and inclusion.

“I’ve been troubled by how under-represented Black and Latinx communities are in the wealth planning industry,” Sarah says, “and I see a connection between this and the racial wealth gap. Tax policy can be a means of restorative justice.”

As co-chair of The Community Foundation’s Professional Advisor Council, Sarah was inspired by the organization’s focus on racial equity - and knew she must get involved. She joined the Board of Trustees this fall, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I believe in the power of disruption,” Sarah says. “The Community Foundation is positioning itself as an innovation lab for ideas which disrupt the racial wealth gap. It’s exciting to collaborate with talented people who share the same goals.”

Sarah is a founding partner of the law firm Birchstone Moore LLC, and immediate past president of the Washington, DC Estate Planning Council, where she established its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. She’s also spoken out publicly in support of H.R. 40, the House Bill to study reparations for African Americans - and is working with Howard University’s law school to develop an externship program for underserved Black and Latinx communities.

We’re thrilled to welcome Sarah to the board, and look forward to partnering with her to advance racial justice in our community, and beyond.

A Legacy of Impact

“Proud, honored, and excited.” These are the words Kenny Emson, former Community Foundation Trustee and staff member, uses to describe his service.

Emson, who just concluded six years of service on the board, also worked on staff from 1990-2011. During his 20-year tenure as staff, he was Director of Finance, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Development Officer, helping grow The Community Foundation’s assets from $15 million to $350 million.

Current staff member Silvana Straw, who joined the organization around the same time as Kenny, salutes his deep expertise and passion for the work:

“Kenny’s strong financial and development expertise, work ethic and people skills, along with his genuine care for the community, is a very important part of The Community Foundation’s success story. He gave so much through the decades, and worked hard and had fun doing it. He was truly mission-driven.”

Kenny will continue to support The Community Foundation through donor stewardship and cultivation. He hopes cultivating additional investments will help propel the organization’s new strategic focus on closing the racial wealth gap.

“My hope (and expectation) is we have just started to scratch the surface,” he says. “I believe The Community Foundation is well-positioned to achieve the growth required to help our community bridge the racial wealth gap.”

Thank you, Kenny, for your words of support and tireless years of service. We will miss you at The Community Foundation - but look forward to nurturing our continued friendship.

Kenny Emson (far left, back row) and Silvana Straw (far right, front row) joined The Community Foundation staff together in 1990.

Kenny Emson (right) pictured with our former CEO Bruce McNamer (center) at the 2019 Celebration of Philanthropy.

Head (and Heart) First

Mary Pat Alcus was first introduced to The Community Foundation in 2008 through the mother-daughter giving circle in Montgomery County. A friend invited her and her daughter Claire to join - an experience she says “opened a whole new world.”

Soon after, Mary Pat joined our Sharing Montgomery Grants Committee and the Montgomery County Advisory Board. In 2013, she became a Trustee, eventually chairing the Investment Committee and serving on the Professional Advisors Council, along with other special committees.

“We discovered when Mary Pat makes a commitment, she dives in head (and heart) first,” says Anna Hargrave, Executive Director for Montgomery County at the Greater Washington Community Foundation.

This fall, Mary Pat concluded eight years of board service, with 13 years of volunteering with the organization overall. For her, contributing a professional skill set as an investment advisor was especially meaningful - and helping directly impact the region by providing donors with strong investment results and more philanthropic funds.

“I hope I have demonstrated to my peers that the time, talent and treasure you put into The Community Foundation is deeply rewarding,” says Mary Pat. “I’ve learned so much about the community and its most pressing needs.”

We will be forever grateful to Mary Pat for all the ways she has advanced our mission and impact throughout the community. She truly is a champion of The Community Foundation.

Mother-Daughter Giving Circle donors Mary Pat Alcus (left) and Susan Freed worked with The Community Foundation to establish a legacy of giving–especially giving locally–in a new generation of young women.

Recap from our 2021 Annual Meeting!

Sponsored By

Thank you for joining us at the intersection as part of our 2021 Annual Meeting! It was an incredibly powerful and inspiring conversation -- from Michelle Singletary sharing her reflections and personal experiences with misperceptions about race and inequality, to the stories of impact from our community, to the exciting preview of our new strategic vision. Together, we will chart a path toward a just, equitable, and thriving region where everyone prospers and thrives. 

In lieu of providing lunch for the meeting, we invited participants to help us select a hunger relief nonprofit to receive a special grant. Thanks to a generous challenge match by several Community Foundation Trustees -- Dr. Charlene Dukes (who instigated the challenge), David and Peggy Shiffrin, and Sarah Moore Johnson -- we are able to award grants of $2,500 each to Bread for the City, Capital Area Food Bank, Manna Food Center, and United Communities Against Poverty. What an incredibly inspiring act of generosity!

In case you missed the discussion, or would like to revisit the conversation, you can now watch a recording of the event. You can also learn more about your investment options as a fundholder on our website.

And finally, we hope you will join us on Friday, October 29 at 9:00 a.m. for our next quarterly book group discussion of Michelle Singletary's 10-part series for the Washington Post. Click here to register to join us for this continuing conversation.

We appreciate that you have entrusted us as your charitable giving partner. Thank you for sharing your passion for philanthropy and service with us.

If you have any questions, you can reach us at 202-955-5890 or email donorservices@thecommunityfoundation.org.

We remain committed to working with you to strengthen and support our region now and for the future.

Sincerely,
Tonia Wellons
President and CEO
Greater Washington Community Foundation

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. 

‘The Sum of Us’ Is Within Our Reach: Reflections on Book Club Convening

By Ronnie Galvin, Managing Director, Community Investment

On June 25, a cross-racial, cross-sector, cross-jurisdictional group of 30 people representing different aspects of the Greater Washington Community Foundation family convened to discuss Heather McGhee’s Book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. This was the second meeting in a new Community Book Group experiment we launched at the beginning of this year to connect members of our community in more meaningful ways. As much as we desire to become more collectively informed as a result of reading important books together, we also intend to use the occasion to build a community of will that is aligned and ready to work on challenging issues affecting our region. 

Matters related to racial equity and the racial wealth gap are at the top of that list.

As we gathered together last Friday, people offered their reactions to the book and McGhee’s central argument: that racism has a cost that is accrued to all of us. She points out that the same system that stole land from indigenous peoples, that exploited Black people’s labor—and left us out of America’s capacity for producing prosperity—is now turning on the White working-class and middle-class. In a sense, “the chickens have come home to roost.”

Truth be told, it has always been this way. To this point, McGhee lifts up the history of drained public pools all across America (including in the North) as an example of the determination to avoid integration and to deny Black people’s access to public goods and opportunities for better health, wealth, education, and overall well-being. This practice, sanctioned by governments and underwritten by corporate power, signaled White people’s readiness to discard any public benefit that they had to share with Black people. Essentially this meant if White people couldn’t have the pool all to themselves, then nobody would have a pool.  

This posture, born of what McGhee calls the “zero-sum" paradigm, resulted in hundreds of closed pools around the country. Everyone’s quality of life was diminished as a result. This scorched earth pattern has played out well beyond the example of the drained pool. It is front and center in current day efforts that are intended to ensure more equitable public education, healthcare, housing, voting rights, employment, income, and wealth. 

A compelling through-line emerged from the perspectives of several Black book group attendees.  Each of them, in their own way, made it clear that the idea of racism costing all of us is yesterday’s news to most Black folks. They plainly articulated how they could no longer spend their energy educating White people about racism, nor invest their hopes in the possibility that White folks (as potential allies) might finally embrace this truth and move toward what McGhee calls the “solidarity dividend”—benefits that accrue to all of us if we were ever to believe that “we are all in this together.” 

There was also discussion about the durability and efficacy of multiracial coalitions as away to our collective salvation within our nation.  As we wrestled with the implications of this question, these same commentators expressed a level of suspicion and skepticism that many Black people have long held about multiracial coalitions and their ability to deliver the freedom and liberation that we have long struggled to achieve.

I hold this suspicion too—and at the same time, I am guardedly encouraged. The sentiment expressed by these Black commentators, could signal that the terms of engagement and what it means to be in solidarity with each other—perhaps in the context of the kind of multiracial coalitions that can produce equity, justice, and healing—are being redefined by the very people who have suffered the most in America’s racial caste system. The fact that this level of boldness and conviction found its way into an open forum that included nonprofit partners, philanthropic leaders, individual donors, and Community Foundation advisory board members, trustees, and staff could indicate that the “sum of us” contemplated by McGhee is within our reach.

At the end of our time together, I extended a soft invitation to the folks who convened with us. I asked them to consider joining us at the Greater Washington Community Foundation in an effort to design and establish the kind of truth, racial healing, and transformation effort that McGhee speaks about in her book. To be sure, the manner of transparency, deep listening, candor, and aspiration for something greater than we are already witnessing in our community book group could be the spark that just might catalyze such a game changing possibility for our region. 

Who’s with us? If you’d like to get involved, you can contact me at rgalvin@thecommunityfoundation.org.

Juneteenth: The Gap Between The Promise and the Experience of Freedom

By Ronnie Galvin, Managing Director, Community Investment

Juneteenth, an African-American ‘high-holy day,’ marks the date (June 19, 1865) that enslaved African people in Galveston, Texas, learned of their emancipation from slavery. This was over 2 ½ years after the initial issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, and its actual enactment on January 1, 1863.

You might ask (as I did when I first learned this history), why it took so long for Galveston’s African peoples to learn about their release from chattel slavery? Some have rationalized that Texas being the Union’s outermost slaveholding state is the reason why news of the proclamation arrived so late. Others ascribe to the belief that slaveholders in Galveston purposely withheld news of the Proclamation as a way to maintain their power, and to extend the exploitation of Black bodies. 

The first rationale here is perhaps plausible. The second rationale is most probable and likely.  

In preparation for our next DMV Community Book Group, I’ve been reading and contemplating Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. McGhee uses economics, history, and storytelling to make a point that some may know, yet others fully reject: that the persistence of racism that has undermined Black people’s aspirations and progress also has high costs for us all.

Connecting McGhee’s book to the history of Juneteenth and Lincoln’s Emancipation, I find myself reflecting on the gap between the promise of freedom, and the experience of freedom. She cites countless moments when a nation that proclaims to be “home of the free” actively reneges on the promise of freedom for Black people.

While the national narrative amplifies the idea that America is the greatest democracy the world has ever seen, electoral gerrymandering, police assaults on Black bodies and neighborhoods, and disparity gaps between white and Black people in the areas of income, debt accumulation, access to higher education, health, and wealth suggest otherwise. So much promise pronounced in anthems, speeches, and national myth, is only contradicted by so much pain, disappointment, and the feeling of betrayal that Black people continue to experience in this stolen land.

Even as I pen this piece, the United States Senate has unanimously voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. For some this is a cause of celebration. I cannot join them, however. Not while they actively block reparations legislation, fuel voter suppression efforts meant to discount Black voting power, bristle with the rise of critical race theory, and amplify “alternative facts” meant to sanitize America’s racist settler colonialist history. 

Symbolic pronouncements such as this, and the social-moral contradictions it reveals, are too much to ignore and can no longer be tolerated. To paraphrase the great Langston Hughes, this incongruity is yet another indication that the America that professes to be, “has never been America to me.” 

This nation will never reach the pinnacle of its potential as long as Black people continue to suffer this demise. As the country continues to grow in its awareness about the cost and loss that Black people have endured, McGhee gracefully (but poignantly) reminds us that this pain also accrues to the masses of Americans. In other words—we all lose as long as systemic racism prevails. 

It’s been nearly 160 years since the first Juneteenth, and our nation is still very much grappling with the origins of this milestone day. The way forward will require the kind of cross-racial, cross-class coalitions that have inspired the best moments in our democracy’s history. Moments that are once again taking their rise in current-day movements for better wages and income, healthcare for all, the generation and enjoyment of wealth, and repairing the damage we have done to the climate. To be sure, the threats to Black people—and all people—are significant and seemingly insurmountable, but they can be confronted and turned back in the face of the sum of us.

We are all in this together. We’re all we got. That’s more than enough.

A Drive for Justice: Local Asian Leaders Share Their Stories

Leading With Service

Trustee Veronica Jeon considers entrepreneurship—and service—core foundations of her career.

 “I am a product of entrepreneurial parents, [and] I’ve always played a part in giving back. I’ve been blessed and fortunate to do that in my community where I live, work, and play,” she says. 

As President and CEO of VSJ, Inc, a minority, woman-owned public relations and strategic communications firm, she serves clients across the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors. “Your success is our passion” is VSJ’s mission—a charge that also fulfills Veronica’s personal passion for service. 

Veronica also serves as the Chair of the Prince George’s County Advisory Board and as an executive committee member of our Emerging Leader’s Impact Fund in Prince George’s County, helping determine the focus of grantmaking and rallying resources to deepen impact in the County. 

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, she shares what inspires her to continue to serve in philanthropy in our region—especially in this pivotal moment in our nation’s history. 

“As we continue to emerge in Prince George’s County and beyond, I am committed to effectively grow the culture of philanthropy by advocating and leading initiatives; partnering to elevate and engage in philanthropy on all levels locally and regionally; and, mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders,” says Veronica. “As a servant leader in this pivotal time in our nation’s history, I am of the belief that we all must lead in such a way to make others better as a result of our presence. And, in doing so, making sure that impact lasts in our absence.”


Empowering Others Towards Action

The Asian American Lead Youth Council, a group of high school and middle school AAPI youth who advocate for diversity and racial equity, is working hard to combat gentrification in DC’s Chinatown. A VoicesDMV Community Action Awards winner, the Council is leading efforts to uplift residents’ stories to raise awareness of the negative impacts of gentrification. Stories are shared on their project-dedicated website, and in their petitions for change to city leaders. 

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“The main reasons that inspire me to continue to lead and invest in AAPI-focused work are the opportunities to inspire other scholars to fight for what they are passionate about and to spur change in my community,” says Maricarmen, AALEAD Youth Council member. “This work is so important because current social and political issues have created massive tension in communities, where voices are no longer heard. [It] allows the public to learn and spread awareness about the issue at hand.”

Through their work with Chinatown residents, youth leaders have developed meaningful, inter-generational relationships with community members. They’ve facilitated partnership conversations and presentations with groups, and had the opportunity to get to know those directly affected by Chinatown’s rising housing costs. 

“Something that inspires me to continue to lead and invest in this work is definitely my culture and background. Oftentimes Asian Americans in settings such as schools are seen as timid or not assuming of a leader. I aspire and live to prove that wrong. I want to be a role model and norm breaker for people out there and give my fellow Asian Americans inspiration as to what they can achieve even in a society filled with ignorance today.” – Jerry, AALEAD Youth Council member.

A Drive for Justice

The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) works to empower Koreans and Asian Americans as change-makers in their communities. Through expanding AAPI voting power; developing a new generation of youth and immigrant leaders; and building a sustainable movement organization, NAKASEC is forging a new future for Korean and Asian Americans.

As one of our Resilience Fund grantees, we were proud to partner with NAKASEC during the height of COVID-19 to help support individuals excluded from federal relief.

“Right now the spotlight is on AAPIs because of increased reporting of interpersonal discrimination, harassment violence towards AAPIs. None of this is new though to us. And while our communities are in focus - even for horrible reasons - this has created opportunities for AAPIs to re-assert belongingness, think about solutions to address the conditions behind the ‘anti-Asian hate,’ and expand the conversation to institutionalized oppression,” says Sookyung Oh, NAKASEC Director.

“People of Asian heritage have always played a central role in leading campaigns and movements for change in solidarity with others. I see this drive for justice among AAPIs who want to fight for change, but didn’t always have a political home or community to be grounded in. That’s what inspires me to lead NAKASEC Virginia. We want to be a place of connection and growth for AAPIs and this work is more important than ever.”

A Space for Healing: Reflecting on the COVID-19 Interfaith Memorial Service

By Ronnie Galvin, Managing Director, Community Investment

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, the Greater Washington Community Foundation was compelled to convene our community on April 16 for a time to lament, heal, and hope together. Following our COVID-19 Interfaith Memorial service, I am much clearer about a reality that frontline leaders in the Movement for Black Lives, Indigenous Movements, and Immigrant Rights Movements have been teaching us for some time now.

We cannot ignore the emotional and physical impacts we are experiencing in the face of multiple pandemics. These pandemics include but are not limited to white supremacist extremism, gun violence in neighborhoods and mass shootings all across the country, the ongoing killing of Black people at the hands of the police, and economic precarity felt by frontline workers.

We need spaces where we can retreat, take stock of what we have learned, and set the course for healing and acting together. This is especially true as our community looks to make meaning of the recent verdict following the senseless murder of George Floyd, and the recent tragic killings of Daunte Wright and Ma'Khia Bryant. These are just the latest among far too many other lives lost at the hands of police and gun violence, which has terrorized communities from Atlanta to Indianapolis to Boulder.

I believe that failing to create such spaces reinforces the status quo that sacrifices our humanity and collective well-being, for work and productivity. Without taking time and space, the possibility for creating a more transformed, equitable, and just region will continue to elude us.

We were humbled to offer such a space with the COVID-19 Interfaith Memorial service led by spiritual leaders and artists. This special convening was held as a healing space to acknowledge and honor the lives we’ve lost, reflect on our shared truths, and open our hearts and minds to building a transformative future. Service leaders included Sixth & I’s Rabbi Shira Stutman; National Council of Church’s Rev. Aundreia Alexander; MakeSpace’s Imam Makhdoom Zia; Singer, songwriter, and producer Tamara Wellons; and Rev. Raedorah Stewart.

During the service, we invited participants to create two collages: one listing the names of people we have lost over the past year and, the other, a collection of words that expressed the feelings we were holding. We invite you to add to each of them if you feel compelled to join us. 

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As we continue to feel the impact of multiple pandemics; as people rise to care for each other and defend our common humanity; as we celebrate the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial, while poising ourselves for the next attack on Black lives; my colleagues and I at the Greater Washington Community Foundation remain committed to creating these spaces for discussion, reflection, and community-building.

I am looking for thought partners and community builders who are already creating these kinds of truth-telling, meaning making, and healing spaces. If this sounds like you, drop me a line at rgalvin@thecommunityfoundation.org with the subject line “Community Builders Unite!” 

Thank you for standing with us in our continued quest for justice, and for healing. Community is our way. It is the only way.

Pumoja Tutashinde.  Together We Will Win.


Weren’t able to join us for our COVID-19 Interfaith Memorial Service? Watch the recording here.

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.