The Fourth of July is fun, especially if you can find a friend whose rooftop overlooks the National Mall without having to camp out there all day, but Thanksgiving has always been America’s great secular holiday. After all, what could be more patriotic than eating too much turkey, passive-aggressively sniping at your relatives after a few glasses of wine, and rooting against the Dallas Cowboys?
As befits our nation’s consumer-minded culture, of course, there’s a retail element to the feast day, too. Forget Black Friday or Cyber Monday; doorbusters now begin on Thursday, with the appropriate handwringing and angst about a War on Thanksgiving to go along with the trend, too.
But if Thanksgiving is the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, it can also be the kickoff to some holiday-minded generosity, which is where this week’s Washington City Paper comes in. For the second year in what we intend to become an annual tradition, City Paper has worked with the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington to produce Give It Up, D.C., our guide to local nonprofits that need—and deserve—your support.
It doesn’t take much reflection, after all, to realize why charities could use some help from those of us who can afford it. Our city and region are among the richest in the nation, but they’re also among the least affordable. The District has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the country; the top 20 percent of residents earn 29 times what the bottom 20 percent do, according to a March study by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. Not every group in this list works to ameliorate statistics like that one, but many do. Others tackle worthy issues in the environment, education, and the arts.
Founded in 2003, the Catalogue has helped raise more than $18 million from new donors for its featured nonprofits in less than a decade. It enlists 115 reviewers from foundations, corporate giving programs, and peer nonprofits to evaluate about 250 applicant groups every year, selecting 70 to feature based on how efficiently they use their resources, how creative their missions are, and how effectively they help their cause. Each one chosen has a budget of under $3 million; none of the organizations on this list is a fundraising behemoth, but all do good work with what they have.
Typically, that list of 70 nonprofits is published as a book and distributed to “high net worth individuals,” but we’re publishing it here, too, on the theory that the very rich aren’t really that different from you and me, after all: Around the holidays, we all start to think of ways to help the people around us. You can donate to these groups directly from City Paper’s website or via the Catalogue’s site at cfp.-dc.org, which also lists previous years’ selections. Give it up, D.C.—and pass the leftover turkey.
2012 Giving Guide
In the Chesapeake Bay, untreated stormwater is perhaps the gravest source of pollution. But dc greenworks aims to halt this rush before it begins, by installing rain barrels, gardens, and cisterns and creating living green roofs. Moreover, each project becomes a hands-on educational experience.
Combining environmental and nutritional education, WYG works with low-income and underserved communities to encourage healthy lifestyles through hands-on, year-round growing and gardening programs. Garden science is the medium—and horticultural, nutrition, and life skills are the message.
Presenting feature, documentary, animated, experimental, and children’s films for two weeks each spring and welcoming 30,000 visitors, the EFF has grown into the world’s largest showcase for environmental films—and is an enduring window into the marvels of our natural world.
The Anacostia River touches countless communities. AWS mobilizes locals to return the river to life and better health by advocating on the river’s behalf, engaging students in service learning projects, and collaborating with thousands of volunteers to clean and restore the watershed.
While its programming culminates in the annual FotoWeek DC Festival, FotoDC is active year-round, serving 8,000 artists through competitions and workshops and teaming up with museums, galleries, and embassies to show off local, national, and international photographers to more than 50,000 visitors.
The only multidisciplinary arts center in upper Montgomery County, BlackRock has become a destination for art, music, and theater lovers and the cultural anchor of Germantown. It offers 35 performances from September to May and a free summer concert series.
Committed to educating artists of all ages and to creating residencies in which upcoming creators can thrive, AAC is a vital element of the cultural world of greater Washington. For international and local artists alike, it can provide the next, key stage in their growth.
Its annual Helen Hayes Awards are just the beginning: The only organization dedicated solely to promoting, representing, fostering, and supporting the region’s dynamic and diverse theater community, theatreWashington is a leading player in our cultural scene.
Epic stories in an intimate space are the signature of Constellation, the ensemble-based theater company at Source Theater on 14th Street NW. Productions lure the audience into a rich visual world through heightened performances, bold design, and live music.
Fusing drama, movement, dance, mime, text, and music into a distinct form of non-realistic drama, Synetic Theater has taken Washington audiences by storm. Recipient of 24 Helen Hayes Awards and 92 nominations since its inception, Synetic is a theater on the move.
In the heart of Columbia Heights, GALA mounts classical, modern, contemporary, and new works by artists from Spain, Latin America, and the Caribbean. A children’s theater produces bilingual musicals that enrich family life while reinforcing Spanish language and Hispanic culture.
Words Beats & Life meets kids on their own ground, offering hip-hop-inspired arts activities at its DC Urban Arts Academy and connecting traditional academics to music, dance, and even video production. Innovation is this program’s hallmark.
Since 1989, interPLAYcompany Band has been dedicated to opening the music worldwide. Alongside professional musicians in annual concerts at Strathmore, band members play drums, bells, and tambourines—and most have moderate to severe cognitive, intellectual, or physical disabilities.
Winner of the 2011 D.C. Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education, Dance Place is a hub of activity in Brookland: a 45-week presenting season, bustling dance school, and neighborhood cultural center thrive on one another’s energy.
In close partnership with nearly 40 schools and community organizations, ETC brings theater and artists directly into local classrooms. All programs are participatory, and students are able to make theater—write dialogue, paint sets, analyze and create characters—not just watch from the audience.
Twelve ensembles participate in weekly classes, rehearsals, performances, and even a summer session; an inventory of 800 musical instruments is available for students to use and rent. Now in its 52nd year, DCYOP is a place where children from around the city can learn and play, in concert.
An advocate for the importance of local culture in the development and health of our city, CTDC is a coalition of more than 230 arts, heritage, and community organizations, and offers walking tours, shares D.C. history, and promotes the city’s hidden resources.
At 18 low-income schools around D.C., Playworks replaces the chaos of the playground with safe, healthy, inclusive play: trained, caring young adults (“coaches”) organize games and activities, establish rules for recess, teach conflict resolution, and lend a hand with homework after school.
An all-volunteer organization of retired and working scientists (from doctors to brain scientists to NASA engineers), ReSET partners with pre-K and elementary-age students to lead hands-on experiments, and encouraging students to consider a future in science.
Cooking is fun, but it also requires reading, math, creativity, teamwork, and leadership—all skills that students need to succeed. Brainfood ensures that youth develop those skills in after-school and summer programs that include complex meal preparation, ambitious field trips, and community service.
For students of WILL, the natural and cultural worlds of the Washington area are their classrooms. On Saturdays, school holidays, and summer breaks, WILL brings together at-risk high schoolers for engaging, challenging trips—enabling them to explore the region, work as a team, and develop crucial leadership skills.
A grassroots mentorship nonprofit, M2M provides personal and academic support to African-American middle and high school boys in Prince George’s County. Through weekly group mentoring and tutoring, youth develop collaboration and life skills, enjoy team sports and community service, and come together for a leadership retreat.
The name says it best: At New Futures, extremely low-income D.C. students receive the financial guidance and job mentorship necessary to finish school and build meaningful careers. Partnering with local nonprofits, New Futures offers scholarships and College Bound funds, and works with students to find schools that match their aspirations.
Expanding from its base in Shaw and Columbia Heights, For Love of Children now presents opportunities for hundreds of D.C. children and teens, offering one-on-one tutoring that brings students to grade-level proficiency in reading and math as well as intensive college workshops that help high school seniors navigate the application process.
For teachers and students, strong support from outside the classroom can make a world of difference inside. Education Pioneers specializes in just that: recruiting and fostering the development of smart, driven individuals for leadership roles in education through a highly selective fellowship program.
Currently enrolling 62 at-risk Latino youth, San Miguel School serves as a model of innovative Catholic education. Academically rigorous and nearly tuition-free, it limits classrooms to just 14 students, all boys, focusing on the mastery of basic academic skills, and nurtures the physical and emotional wellbeing of each boy.
AOH knows that knowledge is power. So Adult Basic Education is where it starts: Students gain real-world skills in technology, math, reading, and writing. Then they can study for the GED, pursue rigorous certification programs, or create personalized plans for higher education.
Find your passion! That is the rallying cry of P4L—which strives to close the K-12 academic achievement gap through dynamic after-school programs for low-income students in Montgomery County, focused on technology, media, journalism, and creative writing. Older students often return to mentor the newcomers.
Each year, hundreds of college student volunteers bring an innovative early literacy program to 700 children at 18 preschools—ensuring that each child has a successful transition to kindergarten and beyond. Volunteers serve at least eight hours per week, and learning is built into each moment.
Through a unique partnership between public elementary schools and nearby private schools, Horizons offers Saturday and summer enrichment programs that build problem-solving skills, self-esteem, and a love of learning. Just as important as academics are teamwork and respect, and those values stick: Ninety-five percent of students return each summer.
When does a passion for reading begin? ICIC creates literacy-rich environments for the youngest children by working with the childcare centers where they spend their days. On-site training guarantees that teachers know how to use the books; new shelves and rugs create cozy classroom libraries.
In Guatemala, Pueblo a Pueblo works with indigenous Maya to address their most vital needs: children’s health and education, along with maternal care. Now, 122 students in Chacaya, Panabaj, and Chukumuk receive supplies, shoes, and health care; 61 have scholarships to attend primary school.
In wards 5, 6, 7, and 8, Fair Chance identifies passionate, dedicated groups that fill critical needs (from job skills training to cultural enrichment) and helps them reach their full potential through free, year-long, customized partnerships; with this “fair chance,” local nonprofits can build staff, capacity, and impact.
The only shelter for youth in Northern Virginia, Alternative House offers safe and accessible places where teens can get help, develop important life skills, and improve family relationships—community outreach, counseling, and a transitional living program for teenage mothers all make a crucial difference.
The goal: prepare each child to enter kindergarten with age-appropriate skills, ready to succeed in school and life. The Center’s team includes an occupational therapist, speech and language therapist, English- and Spanish-speaking counselors, special education instructor, and well-trained teachers for each classroom.
D.C. has one of our country’s most frightening low birth weight rates. But HBP aims to reduce those rates—by educating young people about sexual health, providing childbirth education, improving infant health and preventing abuse, and teaching confident, effective parenting to new mothers and fathers.
For low-income, at-risk teenagers in South Arlington, Phoenix Bikes offers a unique opportunity to learn mechanics, business, and biking. “Earn A Bike” students build their own bicycles, take group rides, and complete service projects and job skills training. The plan is simple and effective: work hard, earn a bike.
With a new focus on youth leadership, SMYAL enables lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth to build confidence, develop life skills, and engage their peers in service and advocacy projects; the Youth Center provides a warm, welcoming environment and support groups explore health, safety, and self-esteem.
Each year, WTEF offers after-school and summer programs to 1,500 youth, including free activities in D.C.’s most underserved neighborhoods. Why tennis plus academics? Not only does tennis build strength and fitness, but its lessons in strategy, perseverance, and collaboration are essential—both on and off the court.
Last year, A Wider Circle furnished the homes of 3,272 needy children and adults—many of whom were sleeping on the floor or storing their clothes in plastic bags—and provided free educational classes on everything from job training to financial planning and healthy eating.
Founded in 1998 by the parents of nine children (all adopted from the Prince George’s County foster care system), CASE has since reached some 5,000 adoptive families, offering therapy and counseling for children and families of all adoptive experiences, plus professional training and education.
The cornerstone of the Horton’s Kids program is thrice weekly, one-on-one tutoring, plus emergency dental and vision care, and career and education services. Winner of the Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, Horton’s Kids is dedicated to educating and empowering the children of Ward 8.
The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence aims to build a community where domestic violence is replaced with human dignity. Eleven member organizations provide crisis intervention, safety planning, and financial assistance to victims seeking legal protection. DCCADV works to dispel myths about domestic violence via teach-ins and community education.
Since 1998, WTW has improved economic opportunity for women around the world by advocating for better resources for women and children, educating U.S. decisionmakers, and supporting grassroots women leaders. Sharing diverse stories and building alliances creates a community of compassionate activists—worldwide.
FAIR Girls was created to empower and speak for those who have been (or are at risk of being) trafficked. Through compassionate care, prevention education, and survivor advocacy, FAIR Girls creates opportunities for girls in high-risk communities to become confident, healthy, and safe.
While training as a team for a 5K race, the young GOTR athletes build both endurance and self-esteem. The D.C. chapter operates more than 150 teams (1,800 girls) in all eight wards, offering an affordable and active curriculum that speaks to runners of all backgrounds.
Focused on recreational inclusiveness for over 20,000 people in Fairfax and Loudon counties, JPMF ensures that children with special needs can swim and splash safely; the signature water safety program and fully-accessible zero-water-depth “sprayground” provide a welcome harbor for all families.
Founded by a licensed speech-language pathologist, SCC offers a supportive environment in which stroke survivors can receive affordable therapy while rebuilding their communication skills and lives. Stroke recovery is daunting; but SCC knows that, with the right support, it can happen.
The target population is girls as young as 12 and young men and women up to age 35 who are uninsured or underinsured. For those most in need, TAYA improves access to critical reproductive health care services, with a bilingual staff to provide free, or low-cost, culturally sensitive care.
For seniors living with physical and cognitive challenges, the arts do so much: lift spirits, spark memories, forge bonds. So Arts for the Aging is dedicated to creating high-quality, multimedia arts experiences for older adults at nursing homes and adult care centers—all at no cost.
The service is simple yet transformative: Clients place phone orders for dairy, meats, produce, household items, and fresh-cooked favorites; food is bagged and delivered to their kitchen counters. For 500 disabled and elderly people a year, supportive home deliveries are the key to independence and dignity.
Many clients work at one or more low-wage jobs; others have lost jobs in the economic downturn. None has insurance. To serve them, AFC draws on a network of 570 volunteers who can provide free primary and specialty care, women’s health and mental health services, and patient education.
A key component of aging well is “aging in place.” For 37 years, Iona has provided the support that makes this possible. Adult day programs, in-home services, arts and wellness classes, rides to appointments, meal delivery, and volunteer companions ensure that seniors can stay (and thrive) at home.
Focused on Columbia Heights, Park View, Shaw, Petworth, and the area around North Capitol Street, We Are Family is all about community-building: creating and mobilizing a network of volunteers that brings services directly to the doors of seniors in need and enables them to age comfortably in their own homes.
Aiming to help elderly community members “age in place” for as long as possible, the center provides life-enriching services at little or no cost. Last year, volunteers dedicated 2,400 hours to giving rides, paying visits, and handling home repairs; a health team provides referrals and helps navigate the care system.
Founded in 1996 by Latina breast cancer survivors and health professionals, Nueva Vida (New Life) has since delivered support services to more than 3,500 Latino families—speaking their language, guiding them through the difficult days of diagnosis, and assisting them with access to treatment and life-saving healthcare.
Once food, medicine, and transportation are covered, extremely low-income homeowners often have nothing left for home care. So RTMC’s volunteers provide repairs, accessibility modifications, and energy efficiency measures. For many, keeping their homes is the most affordable option; RTMC makes sure that it is the most comfortable, too.
To receive a meal, job assistance, or counseling, a homeless adult need only walk through the door. The Lamb Center is open six days a week and serves breakfast and lunch daily; once basic needs are met, the Lamb Center works closely with guests to achieve their long-term goals.
Each year, Thrive DC welcomes hard-to-reach homeless men, women, and children. Some suffer from mental illness or substance abuse; others have been victims of sexual violence. Visitors find healthy meals, personal care items, warm clothes, and showers and laundry facilities, along with housing, legal, and medical care.
Serving fresh produce, milk, bread, meat, and canned goods to 1,600 families each week, AFAC is the only Arlington organization devoted solely to food assistance for the homeless, the unemployed, the elderly on fixed incomes, and those with mental or physical disabilities.
Open 24/7, Stepping Stones offers emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing, food, clothing, employment, and financial education. Last year 33 families were helped (42 percent of which are headed by young mothers). When they left, 84 percent moved on to stable housing, and 93 percent had an income.
For 100 families a year, Homestretch provides hope: two years of housing (clients contribute 30 percent of their monthly income), job and life skills classes, counseling for substance abuse and domestic violence, and legal advice. Two years later, 90 percent of families continue to achieve employment and permanent housing.
For young, homeless mothers, Borromeo offers the structure and security they need to provide for themselves and their babies—from transitional housing to classes in parenting, household management, and job readiness. The only program of its kind on Northern Virginia, Borromeo gives teens a new beginning.
Among homeless women, the place has a reputation: When you’re ready to turn your life around, go to Calvary. Transitional housing (along with meals, education programs, and mental health and addiction recovery services) and a permanent housing facility provide safe, supportive places for those who need them most.
Prisons in Virginia house more people with mental illness than do state and private hospitals combined. The Brain Foundation was established to change those numbers—by educating the public about brain diseases and creating affordable, welcoming housing for those who suffer from them.
For families in profound financial distress in southeastern Fairfax County, LCAC is the place to go. Here, they can fulfill basic needs, provide for their children, and reclaim their lives. Last year, 2,492 people received warm clothes, furniture, food, household necessities, and financial assistance to prevent eviction.
The only organization providing bilingual, wealth-building services in D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia, LEDC aims to drive the economic and social advancement of low to moderate-income Latinos and area residents—through tenant education, homeownership counseling, financial services, and 844 hours of business coaching annually.
Combining research and policy work, CSG reviews and endorses development and transportation projects and policies, offers walking tours and forums, and has formed a committed network of community partners. The final goal? Well-planned developments and better transit choices for all those who call this region home.
A community-based restorative justice organization, OAR works annually with 850 individuals after their release from prison—ensuring that each is ready for a new life and unlikely to re-offend. Employment, housing, and supportive relationships are key to a successful transition, and OAR works with clients to secure all three.
Dedicated to free legal service that is linguistically and culturally accessible, the APALRC team (which includes four attorneys) represents countless low-income Asian immigrants and their families—and provides a multilingual helpline, a team of interpreters, and education and direct support to crime victims and abuse survivors.
Since 1996, Red Wiggler has provided meaningful employment for individuals with disabilities and educational experiences for youth and adults on a local farm. Working on seven acres of land, “growers” gain confidence, social skills, and a paycheck, while providing customers of all income levels access to healthy food.
The only Maryland organization offering year-round job training in the visual arts, AOB recruits youth from areas with high crime rates and engages them in community-building projects with professional artists: apprentices create mosaics for county agencies, schools, and businesses, and earn a training wage for their creative work.
Seventy-five percent of EWI clients are female heads of household and have experienced violence, abuse, or war trauma. But each is also a talented, high-potential artist or creative entrepreneur. EWI’s flagship program enables women to channel their talents and build the skills to launch small businesses.