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July 30, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

A quick look at D.C.’s economy

The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute has “Four Quick Facts on D.C.’s Economy and Its Impact on Residents,” a brief glimpse at how people are getting by in the city. The key findings showed a number of areas for improvement, particularly with regard to the high cost of living. (DCFPI, 7/29)

Poverty affects one in five DC residents. For a family of three, that means living on less than $19,090 a year. Children under the age of 18 are much more likely to live below the poverty level than adults. And one in four black DC residents and one in five Hispanic DC residents live in poverty compared with under one in 10 white non-Hispanic residents.

– The Hattie M. Strong Foundation has an 86-year history rooted in building close relationships with those they serve. Such a long and successful history doesn’t come without a little revamping along the way, however.  Here, you can read about how they embraced change and learned some key lessons along the way. (NCFP, 7/29)

- A recently retired leader in philanthropy makes some thoughtful reflections about the future of the sector and what needs to happen in order to continue to press forward. (HuffPo, 7/28)

- From foundation president to zen practitioner, Brian Byrnes shares his perspective on philanthropic practices and the flaws that threaten success in this podcast as he makes his transition out of a leadership role in the sector. (Chronicle, 7/30)

- As Montgomery County sees a surge in immigrants from Central America, the school system focuses on how to accommodate the more than 100 unaccompanied minors who have recently been enrolled. (WTOP, 7/30)

DCPS and charters are sparring over joint planning, but the real question is how to preserve neighborhood schools (GGE, 7/ 29)

YOUTH/FOOD │ In places like New York City, Baltimore and Waco, TX, where many children qualify for free or reduced meals during the school year, mobile delivery systems – or food trucks – are being used as part of the summer meals program for a fun and convenient way to bring healthy foods to children. Maybe we’ll see a few in D.C. soon. (WTOP, 7/29)

REGION │ Prince George’s And Fairfax Counties on Shortlist for FBI Headquarters (WAMU, 7/29)

This year, a Georgetown grad may just be the youngest congressional candidate.


July 29, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

New map shows how average weekly wages in the region compare

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently put together an interactive map that shows how average weekly wages in U.S. counties compare to one another. In the region, D.C. came out slightly higher than its neighboring counties, according to the data. Of course, the higher wages also come with a high cost of living. (In The Capital, 7/29)

At $1,598 per week, D.C. appeared on the high end of the national spectrum represented on the map, which is to be expected, considering other areas with high costs of living, such as California’s San Mateo County ($1,983) and Manhattan ($1,956), also show up in deep, dark orange.

D.C. stayed ahead of its neighboring counties, though. Fairfax County ($1,504) and Montgomery County ($1,273), trailed just behind the District, keeping weekly wages up in the four-digit zone before they drop below $1,000 and keep falling to the west.

- Following up on the recent report that examines how the region’s low-income workers are faring titled, Bursting the Bubble: The Challenges of Living and Working in the National Capital Region, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region is holding a briefing for funders. The event will take place on Wednesday, August, 20th at 12 PM and includes a panel of experts. Funders can register for the event and find out more here.

YOUTH │ Maryland continues efforts to recruit foster parents for the influx of unaccompanied minors who have come to the U.S. from Central America. The state website has also posted an appeal to the public asking for other forms of assistance for migrant youth. (WaPo, 7/28)

EQUALITY │ Maryland Senator Ben Cardin speaks out against voting laws in the region that may restrict a number of Americans – particularly African Americans – from being able to vote. (WAMU, 7/ 28)

EDUCATION │ The Montgomery County Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a plan to bring 100,000 devices to students by the 2017-2018 school year. The major technology initiative will include laptops and tablets in an effort to further engage students in an evolving learning environment. (WaPo, 7/25)

TRANSIT │ Reminder: There’s Still Time to Comment on D.C.’s Longterm Transportation Plan (DCist, 7/29)

ART/HOMELESSNESS │ An artist is traveling the country to buy handmade signs from the homeless and turning them into art as part of his “We Are All Homeless” project to bring greater awareness to those who are often overlooked.  You can view some of his art and read more about his travels here. (NPR, 7/27)

POVERTY The middle class is 20 percent poorer than it was in 1984 (WaPo, 7/29)

Who knew?! Not only is today National Chicken Wing Day, but it’s also National Lasagna Day. I hope to celebrate both.



July 28, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Overcrowding in Fairfax County a response to affordable housing shortage

In Fairfax County, many families are staying in overcrowded living situations in order to be able to afford to remain in the area. While county officials search for consensus on an affordable solution, one woman tells her story as her family of three shares a two-bedroom apartment with an unrelated couple. (WaPo, 7/27)

“This is what one must do in order to provide a home for your children,” said [Dionicia] Gomez, whose apartment is part of a bustling complex that overlooks a golf course outside Falls Church. “There are a lot of people in this area living the same way.”


So far this year, county inspectors have investigated 497 complaints of overcrowded housing, with about two-thirds of that number leading to citations, officials said. Last year, 814 homes were cited for overcrowding in places including Falls Church and Annandale. Homeowners complain that the problem is far more widespread than the number of citations would suggest, while housing advocates argue that the citations illustrate an increasing need for more affordable options.

EDUCATION │ When high performing high school students from lower-income areas go off to prestigious colleges in higher-income areas, the experience can prove to be a bit of a culture shock. A valedictorian from D.C.’s Dunbar High School shares his challenges getting through his first year at Georgetown University. (WaPo, 7/27)

- The efforts of smaller foundations and individuals can often fly under the radar when it comes to their impact on causes. In this video, panelists discuss the issue and the growing influence small grantmakers have. (Chronicle, 7/28)

- OpinionSocial Change Requires Foundations to Help Nonprofits Extend Their Digital Reach (Chronicle, 7/25)

HEALTH │ The Red Cross says that D.C. is facing a big drop in numbers of those donating blood, resulting in a heavy shortage in the area. (WTOP, 7/28)

SIBs Social Impact Bonds: Phantom of the Nonprofit Sector (NPQ, 7/25)

Though a firm handshake is considered the professional norm, should we actually be fist bumping instead?


July 25, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Terri Lee Freeman stepping down from the Community Foundation to head National Civil Rights Museum

After 18 years of service, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, Terri Lee Freeman, is stepping down from her post to head the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. Terri’s tenure lead to immense growth for the foundation. She has a long history of being deeply involved with WRAG, including serving multiple terms on our board of directors. She is the immediate past chair of the board.

Upon hearing of her resignation, WRAG president, Tamara Copeland commented,

While I am saddened by Terri’s decision to leave the Community Foundation, I am grateful for her impact on the Greater Washington region. Through her years at the Community Foundation, and as a member of WRAG’s board, she has exemplified the ideal of philanthropy going “beyond dollars” by using the foundation’s resources, time, and voice to improve the lives of all who live in the region. It has been an honor to work with Terri, a true champion for change, over these years.

– A proposal to bring more affordable housing for low-income and young professional residents of Fairfax County is unlikely to proceed. Though the Planning Commission plans to vote on the proposal next week, it is expected to be tossed out due to a lack of community consensus and opposition from neighborhood groups. (WaPo, 7/24)

The measure was conceived as a way to address homelessness and overcrowded housing in a county where poverty is taking hold even though it is among the wealthiest in the country.

It was eventually expanded as a way for developers to build new studios for young professionals whom the county is eager to attract to its revitalizing neighborhoods, notably Tysons Corner.

- Talk Poverty kicks off its “In Our Backyard” series addressing inequality and poverty with this blog post on the affordable housing crisis in the District. (Talk Poverty, 7/21)

- A new study out of Rice University and Cornell University finds that African Americans are much more likely to go from owning their homes to renting them. The study also suggests that black homeowners are no better off today than they were forty years ago. (City Lab, 7/24)

- Manhattan’s West Side will soon be home to the first “quantified community” – a mixed-use and “fully-instrumented urban neighborhood that will measure and analyze key physical and environmental attributes.” The community is an experiment in urban studies and social sciences that, if successful, could be a template for other urban areas….like D.C. perhaps? (CUSP, 4/14)

Opinion: In light of recent reports on racial disparities in the disciplinary actions against students, one parent writes about her personal struggles to combat hidden prejudice against her sons. (WaPo, 7/24)

- In response to the post above, The Kojo Nnamdi Show recently discussed “Discipline in Preschool,” with an expert panel. You can access the audio or read the transcript here. (WAMU, 7/24)

ARTS │ Last weekend, at the international 2014 Brave New Voices Festival, a D.C. youth slam team came in first place, taking home the world championship. You can hear the poem that won the team a spot in the semi-finals, written by a 2014 Cesar Chavez graduate who is headed to Princeton University in the fall. (WaPo, 7/23)


In light of the Silver Line’s inaugural weekend, take a look at how far the Metro system has come over the past few decades.


July 24, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Higher rate of Virginia children living in poverty, study shows

Although children in Virginia are faring better in terms of education and health, 15 percent are living in poverty – up from 13 percent in 2005. This comes out of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report highlighting four areas of life for children. It is believed that the increase in poverty could be a result of the increase in single-parent households in the state. (WAMU, 7/24)

Ted Groves is the Kids Count Director at Voices for Virginia’s Children. He says much of that relates to the increased number of single-parent homes. He says raising a child on one income is difficult.

[...] it’s unlikely that trend will revert back to the two-parent norm soon. So a solution is to find ways to support single parents.


Another contributing factor is the number of people living near poverty. Groves says more Virginians now spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing, which makes it challenging to meet other family needs.

HOUSING │ In light of the recent report from The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, the lack of low-income housing, due in part to the needs of the middle-class, is broken down here. (WaPo, 7/24)

- A pilot summer program for D.C. Public School students, “D.C. Meets Washington,” is teaching youth about careers in the city. Students are learning about the possibilities in the fast growing fields of information technology, hospitality and engineering, while meeting with professionals and taking field trips in an effort to get them thinking about career choices before high school. (WaPo, 7/23)

- Also out of the new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, are state-by-state rankings on how students are doing academically. (WaPo, 7/22)

- Fairfax schools to vote on spending millions to turn half-day Mondays into full class days (WaPo, 7/23)

- Opinon: In this blog post featured in The Washington Post, Hollywood writer/producer-turned-English teacher Ellie Herman writes about the strong links between generational poverty and struggling schools, and how the conversation surrounding them must change. (WaPo, 7/24)

– Urban farmers in the Petworth neighborhood’s Twin Oaks Community Garden are opposing plans by the D.C. Department of General Services to pave over a portion of the garden in order to provide parking space for Powell Elementary School. (WAMU, 7/23)

- Opinion: Why is D.C. a Food Co-op Desert? (OPinions, 7/23)

HIV/AIDS Opinion: Recently, officials at the International AIDS Conference reported that ending the epidemic by 2030 is possible. Ralf Jürgens writes on the Open Society Foundations blog about the need for further funding of human rights programs to realistically approach that goal. (Open Society, 7/23)

ARTS │ A Prince George’s County teen was recently awarded a gold medal in a competition for his inspirational artwork depicting his heroes. (WaPo, 7/22)

A photographer is taking “family portraits” to a whole new level by photographing complete strangers in a familiar way. Take a look!


July 23, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Local foster care agencies struggle to manage caseloads as unaccompanied refugee children continue across border

The recent surge of children from Central America into the U.S., particularly in the Greater Washington region, has been a heated topic as of late. Many children cross the border in hopes of being reunited with family, but some have no one to reconnect with once they arrive. In the region, the foster care system is struggling to keep up with the pace. (WAMU, 7/23)


As federal, state and local authorities deal with the influx of nearly 60,000 Central American children — and counting — who have crossed the border alone, one legal priority is to reunite the children with relatives in this country while their deportation cases proceed. But what happens to the unaccompanied immigrant children who have no relatives here?

Lutheran Social Services of the Washington region has tripled its caseload of unaccompanied refugee children in the past year. The agency says it gets calls every day from federal authorities seeking foster homes for what could eventually be as many as 3,000 Central American children lost, lonely and with nowhere to go.


Report: D.C. youth more likely to attend preschool, have health insurance (WaPo, 7/23)

- In an effort to fight hunger in youth during out-of-school time, Mayor Gray announced that the District’s Free Summer Meals Program will expand to include Saturdays for the second year in a row. Youth up to age 18 will be able to get free meals at libraries and recreation centers across the city. (One City Youth, 7/22)

- The District saw a sudden increase in the number of infant deaths between July 13-22.  D.C.’s rate of infant mortality is already higher than the national average, but officials worry that the most recent surge could be caused by the dangers of babies sleeping in bed with parents instead of in cribs. (WTOP, 7/23)

HOMELESSNESS │ Recently, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development hosted a webinar titled, “Core Principles of Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing,” about the core components of the Housing First approach and the Rapid Re-Housing model to help end homelessness. (USICH, 7/23)

WORKFORCE │ President Barack Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into law, aimed at improving federal training programs to make them more “job-driven.” (White House, 7/23)

TRANSIT │ Thousands of Fairfax County commuters will experience longer and more expensive travel as a result of the Silver Line’s upcoming opening. (WAMU, 7/22)

Murals in D.C. are making a big comeback.

 - Ciara

July 22, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Urban farming continues to grow in the D.C. area

The future of urban farming in D.C. looks bright – even with challenges of space and high taxes. Read how some farmers in the area have gotten creative with urban farming models in spite of those obstacles. (Elevation, 7/22)

The urban farming models that have proven the most successful here hinge on growing food for individuals or retail outlets on a contract basis — and not having to pay taxes on the land where the food is grown.

But new models continue to emerge, and city officials seem eager to consider how they might build a healthier ecosystem for locally grown food.


As some D.C.-based farming hopefuls wait in the wings for better policies or grow food outside the city, others have forged business models around the unique challenges of urban agriculture.

– In Prince George’s County, hundreds of incoming second graders are participating in a new, free summer school program that teaches math and reading fundamentals. (WaPo, 7/21)

- Tensions over DCPS-charter planning reflect different perspectives (GGE, 7/22)

Yesterday, in a move that is expected to affect a great deal of the nation’s workforce, President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals (HuffPo, 7/21):

The executive order has two parts: It makes it illegal to fire or harass employees of federal contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and it explicitly bans discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government. The part targeting federal contractors affects 24,000 companies employing roughly 28 million workers, or about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.

PHILANTHROPY Opinion: Philanthropy Must Step Up Action to Help Children Crossing the Border (Chronicle, 7/22)

Obama on D.C.’s statehood: ‘I’m for it (WaPo, 7/21)

- The Gateway Pavilion, the initial phase in the St. Elizabeths Campus redevelopment, has brought a number of new offerings and new people to the once elusive area in Ward 8. (DCist, 7/21)

What do you do with 19 hours of free time? Visit 86 metro stations….in one day!


July 21, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Youth unemployment remains stagnant among minorities

 An economist at Howard University explains how the youth unemployment crisis is hitting African Americans the hardest. (NPR, 7/21)

Young people are being chased out of the labor market. Though the national unemployment rate has fallen steadily in recent months, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high, and the jobless rate is even higher among young minorities. For young people between the ages of 16 and 24, unemployment is more than twice the national rate, at 14.2 percent. For African-Americans, that rate jumps to 21.4 percent.

-President Barack Obama announced the expansion of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative today.  The program will grow to include greater involvement from school districts, nonprofits and the private sector, and will also seek to tackle the needs of Asian  American and Native American boys. (White House, 7/21)

– Recently in Fairfax City, Lisa Whetzel, the executive director of Our Daily Bread, spoke to the city council on the links between affordable housing and food security, and the great need for both in the city. (Connection, 7/18)

- Could 8-by-40-foot shipping container boxes re-purposed into apartments be an answer to affordable housing? (WaPo, 7/20)

- Cost of Living Is Really All About Housing (City Lab, 7/21)

- Women living in poverty are giving birth to healthier babies, studies show. (WaPo, 7/20)

- Opinion: It is no secret that living in poverty can also lead to poor health, but in some cities doctors who can’t help patients in the office are referring them to lawyers who can help them in the courtroom. (NYT, 7/17)

- This Is Your Stressed-Out Brain on Scarcity (NPR, 7/14)

DISTRICT  │ Old home’s restoration helps to restore pride in Anacostia (WaPo, 7/20)

Read this harrowing account of one journalist’s endless appetizer-eating adventure.


July 18, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

D.C. helps youth combat hunger during summer months

For many children in the region the summer months can be a time of uncertainty when it comes to receiving regular, nutritious meals – making summer meal programs all the more vital. With a number of summer feeding sites across the city at churches, libraries, schools and nonprofits, leaders are aiming to do more than just keep bellies full (PBS, 7/16):

As junk food consumption rises, children gain weight three times faster during the summer months, often putting on as many pounds during the three months of summer as they do during the entire school year, research shows. Skipping meals is common too.

“That’s why we see both hunger and obesity spiking at the same time,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center. “Hunger because the kids aren’t getting school meals, obesity because the kids aren’t getting the healthier food that they get from those meals.”

Summer food programs try to temper the weight gain by providing meals filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

- The Arlington Food Assistance Center has seen a 40 percent increase in the number of families and individuals it serves since 2013.  The increase is likely attributed to the November reduction in SNAP benefits and expiration of unemployment benefits. (ARLnow, 6/3)

- Recently The Washington Post shared a story of one D.C. mother’s ordeal to have her children smuggled across the U.S. border from Honduras.(WaPo, 7/17)

Related: As more and more undocumented children are making their way to the border, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees has released a resource guide for funders on how they can respond.

- A summer camp in D.C. is showing young girls how to become rock stars. The program not only teaches them about the District’s rich history in music, but it also teaches the young ladies a thing or two about about breaking down gender barriers. (City Paper, 7/17) This sounds like way more fun than the band camp I went to!

EDUCATION │ D.C. schools hire expert to help improve outcomes for African American boys (WaPo, 7/17)

- Mayor Gray has released his new plan to boost the District’s creative economy, “Creative Economy Strategy for the District of Columbia.” The plan outlines three specific areas for growth: make D.C. a national hub for creative start-ups and entrepreneurs, become a magnet for creative corporations, and create a resilient local entrepreneurial arts community. (DMPED, 7/16)

- Brookland’s Monroe Street Market project is looking to attract tenants in a very unique and aesthetically pleasing way – by first moving in talented artists who have opened up their spaces to the wandering eyes of the public. (WaPo, 7/15)

- A coalition is concerned that an artist’s plans to sink a gas station replica in the Anacostia River to bring attention to global climate change will greatly interfere with river restorationon the assumption that the public will misinterpret the artist’s message. (CityLab, 7/17)

HOUSING │ In a soon-to-be redeveloped housing unit on U Street, residents who currently reside in section 8 units are requesting to be separated from the incoming young, market-rate professionals who have different needs. (WBJ, 7/17)

PHILANTHROPY │ Read the Council on Foundation‘s statement with regard to yesterday’s passing of the “America Gives More Act” (H.R. 4719) (COF, 7/17)

How many of these not-quite-as-popular monuments have you seen in D.C.?


July 17, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

The impact of long, expensive commutes on women in the region

Many women in the area experience a number of transportation burdens, including continually rising costs and a lack of efficiency and safety. The Washington Area Women’s Foundation writes about the vital need for accessible transportation in order for women to achieve economic security. (WAWF, 7/15)

In addition to consuming time, commuting is also expensive in terms of dollars and cents. Transportation costs rose faster than income during the 2000s, increasing the burden these costs placed on already stretched budgets. For the working poor – those earning less than twice the federal poverty measure–these costs consume a larger portion of their earnings. In the Washington metropolitan area the cost-burden of commuting for this population is among the highest in the country, greater than the national median, and working poor households spend nearly three times more than other households, in relative terms. According to national data, transportation is the second largest expense for households: jointly with housing it accounts for more than one-half of all household spending.

- Terri Lee Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, appeared on News Channel 8 to discuss their new “Housing Security in the Washington Region” study. (WJLA, 7/16)

Low-Income Washingtonians Face Severe Housing Cost Burden(City Paper, 7/15) And also in Arlington County and Prince William County and Fairfax County and Prince George’s County…

- Amid reports of negligence and financial mismanagement, Muriel Bowser has requested an open investigation into the decline of Park Southern Towers, one of the District’s largest affordable housing complexes. (WaPo, 7/15)

- Piscataway Hills: The Prince George’s neighborhood that could be no more (WaPo, 7/15)

- Through a partnership with D.C. Housing Authority, The D.C. Green Scheme has brought two fresh produce gardens to residents in Wheeler Terrace and Lincoln Heights. Residents have 24-hour access to the garden and are also able to take part in other activities the organization provides. (WJLA, 7/14)

- In Alexandria, a new “farm camp” is teaching children about food origins with hands-on activities and, of course, taste testing. (WaPo, 7/15)

- Even more students will learn about sustainable farming and food sources thanks to a new initiative of the D.C. Healthy Schools Act with funding from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. The Farm Field Trip program will help send 23 D.C. public and charter schools to area farms. (Washington Informer, 7/14)

- The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia has recently awarded a total of $50,000 to seven schools and nonprofit organizations through its Innovation Fund to support innovative approaches to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education across Northern Virginia. (CFNV, 7/16)

- Prince George’s County will open two new high schools next year geared toward immigrant students and students who are learning English. In the county, nearly 30 percent of the students come from other countries. (WaPo, 7/15)

- A new report from Exponent Philanthropy titled “Outsized Impact 2014″ reveals that, when it comes to staffing at philanthropic organizations, smaller just may mean better. (Exponent Philanthropy, 7/17)

Yesterday marked the 224th anniversary of the Residence Act that basically made D.C….and here are 51 things you can do to commemorate that.



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