Painting with a Purpose

February seems to be a busy birthday month! How do you celebrate your birthday when you hit a milestone? This month Lloyd turned 60 and Josh turned 40, and on two separate occasions we coordinated Behrend Builders projects for them.
It just so happens that Lloyd is a fabulous photographer and has artist friends. With the help of his friend Judy Beth they drew an amazing mural on one of the walls at Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV). With images of its founder Mitch Snyder and other community members surrounded by a colorful tapestry, there was so much to paint that Lloyd’s 50 birthday party guests didn’t get the mural finished. Though the mural is still a work in progress, all 50 guests had a great time and felt like they really made a difference for the residents. The mural fills one of the residential hallways, and the inhabitants that came in and out throughout the day were thrilled to see the bright colors as opposed to the usual white wall.

Bright colors weren’t the request at Transitional Housing Corporation’s (THC) Partner Arms I. This amazing facility is one of THC’s many apartment buildings focused on helping the homeless become self-sufficient. THC asked for a clean coat of crisp white paint through the apartment building, and that’s what Josh and his party guests gave them. We provided supplies, connections and support for the project while Josh and his wife brought their friends, pizza and a cake to celebrate his birthday.

Both parties were a great way to not only celebrate milestone birthdays but a way to give back to the community. While Lloyd and his partner Ruth made a donation to help support the costs of the project, Josh asked his friends, in lieu of gifts, to please make a donation to Behrend Builders. It was a win-win for everyone!

Keep Behrend Builders and the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service in your mind for celebrations. We can custom make a project to your wants and needs. It’s a great way to give back to the community, celebrate your birthday, bat mitzvah, retirement and have fun all at the same time. For more information contact Erica Steen at ericas@washingtondcjcc.org.

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Recounting the Count

There are few people that respond to the call of a panhandler or approach a homeless individual, much less engage in a personal survey in the dead of winter.  But that is exactly what happened on January 25, 2012, across the United States, with the Point in Time (PIT) survey.  Planned for the coldest night of the year, this annual volunteer-led effort sets out to provide a snapshot of exactly who experiences homelessness.  Within a 24-hour period, volunteers comb streets, alleys, fast-food restaurants, parks, and other urban or rural spaces to count and ask personal questions to unsheltered individuals.  Additionally, permanent supportive housing programs, transitional housing agencies, hypothermia units, and other service organizations conduct a count of their own.

Collecting data tracks progress and informs service providers, policymakers, the public, and other anti-poverty measures.  This data can lead to more accurate program and policy assessment, site-specific development, and greater funding to alleviate homelessness and underserved communities. Typically, a regional report is released in early May by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Nonetheless, there is controversy on how to count those living “doubled up” with friends and family members (people who have lost their job, house, or apartment for various reasons).  Such individuals are not considered homeless by the Department of Housing and Urban Development standards and are not addressed in the count.

In DC, over 200 volunteers set out at 930pm to predesignated city neighborhoods. In the 12 year history of PIT in DC, yesterday was the first non-hypothermic evening, raising questions as to whether or not the count would be as accurate with less individuals accounted for in the shelters and more out on the streets.  Regardless, volunteers remained diligent in canvassing, and any overlapping of individual surveys would be amended. Questions included age, history of mental illness, current physical disabilities, military status, length of homelessness, and sources of income.  In return for their participation, individuals received a gift card to McDonald’s and hand warmers.  

Our group set off in Golden Triangle, zigzagging from M to P, 19th to 23rd, and back again.  After a slow start, we encountered several individuals sleeping in Dupont Circle.  Responses were warm, wary, fatigued, and sometimes scattered.  More apparent was the general confusion brought on by the apparition of such a blatant group of outsiders, and our genuine interest in their stories.  Some chitchatted and cracked jokes with us while others asked for food or money.  Most quickly answered our questions, closed their eyes, and drifted back to their cold and hard slumber. 

 

Special thank you to the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the entire Point in Time Coordinating Team, and dedicated volunteers.

Community Service Up Tos

By Erica Steen, Director, Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service

What we’ve been up to:We’ve had a busy summer so far, including four weeks of camp–three weeks for high school students and one for middle-school students. The four weeks took a lot out of us, but we think the students learned a bit, and so did we.

One of our favorite days of camp was volunteering with Street Sense and their Vendor-for-a-Day program. Our group paired up with local vendors (you’ve seen them on the DC streets wearing highlighter yellow vests) to help them sell their Street Sense papers. Our students are neither homeless nor hungry, but they truly got to experience what it might be like).

Students stood on the corners in their borrowed yellow vests hocking the paper: “Help the homeless; only $1” or “Buy Street Sense, a paper written by the homeless, only $1.” The students noticed many business people answered cell phone calls without the phone ringing, crossed the streets to avoid them, or just looked away. We also had people donate money and not take the paper, pay $5 for an issue (opposed to the suggested $1) and (our favorite) people who stopped to ask questions about who we were and why were selling the paper (since we didn’t seem homeless). Over the three sessions with Vendor-for-a-Day we raised over $400. It was an amazing experience for all of us.

The next time you see a Street Sense vendor on the street, buy a paper, it makes a difference.

What we will be up to: We’ve got a new volunteer project this month that you should register for! We’re going to volunteer with Common Good City Farm (CGCF). They are an amazing community garden in LeDroit Park. We’ll begin July 31, and in August we’ll be going on the 4th Sunday evening of each month. Volunteers will help the staff with whatever’s needed everything from picking the weeks harvest to helping teach a class on healthy eating. We will be at the mercy of the CGCF staff, but it will be a good time no matter what! But don’t take our word for it…the CGSF has the endorsement of the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Prince of Wales.

How you can be a part of what we’re up to: It’s easy; just visit our website to see all of our upcoming volunteer projects!

Other UP TOs…we’re on Twitter at VolunteerDCJCC and in September and October we’re doing a sock drive, drop NEW socks off at the JCC front desk and we’ll make sure they get a good home.

What to do Christmas Day? Volunteer in DC!

by Erica Steen, director of the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service at the Washington DCJCC

Volunteer on Christmas DayWhat’s a nice Jewish girl to do at 6am on Christmas Eve morning you ask? Or 5:00am which is when my eye lids actually opened? It is literally 24 hours before my largest event. Tomorrow at this time I will already be at the Washington DCJCC. Santa won’t have even made it there yet (he shows up at 7:45). Anyway, my brain won’t shut off, so blogging to you all it is! Of course this won’t be posted until later this morning but I promise, it’s early, even for me on Christmas Eve.

Do you have any idea what I am blabbing about? If not, it is one of the best days of the year, and I am Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. At the Washington DCJCC, we in the Community Service Department, put on the most amazing Day of Service you have ever seen. 1000 volunteers, 60 social service agencies, 80+ volunteer projects, we really make a difference in the lives of DC social service staff and their low-income/homeless clients. We cook, serve, paint, visit and put on the best darn Christmas parties you’ve been to.

So if you are considering the traditional Chinese food and a movie or even opening presents from Santa allllll day, consider changing your schedule and adding in a volunteer project (1-4 hours of your day). We know a lot of home-bound seniors who would like your company for an hour or some homeless men that just for a bit want to forget they are homeless. Come, help them out, help us out and spread a little holiday cheer.

Registration  is open today until Noon but feel free to walk in tomorrow (between 8am and Noon), we may still have a few of our 1000 spots left for you to join in on.

So back to the original question, what is a nice Jewish girl to do at 6am on Christmas eve? A lot, that is the answer. If the stores can open at 4am on Black Friday, why not on Christmas Eve? Staples opens at 8am and the bank and Target at 9am so I might as well get myself going and if I time it right I might get to Costco at 10am right when they open the door. If I thought I’d have time later to write I’d tell you how this Jewish girl deals with only 3 hours of sleep while working a 15 hour day, but, I think I’m going to be a little busy.

See you tomorrow! Happy Holidays, whatever and however you celebrate.

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