Plans for redevelopment in Seven Corners cause concerns

REGION/ECONOMY
As the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors prepares to vote on a redevelopment plan for the Seven Corners area, some groups have grown concerned over various aspects of the proposed plans and what they may mean for the near future (WaPo, 7/28):

Urban planning groups say the kind of walkable, transit-friendly communities envisioned for Seven Corners are needed in aging suburbs that have become homes to mostly vacant office buildings and discount stores with little commercial traffic.

“The future of Fairfax lies in these aging commercial corridors,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smart Growth. “It certainly can be a win-win and enhance Fairfax’s competitiveness.”

Michelle Krocker, who heads the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, said there aren’t enough guarantees in the plan to keep lower-income families from being pushed out, which could have long-term repercussions for the Washington region.

“If there’s no place for them to live affordably, we potentially lose them as employees in the area or they move far out into the hinterlands,” Krocker said. “And, then they’d have to commute in, and that’s problematic for everybody.”

AGING/ARTS | Fairfax County has implemented some fun new ways to make the county more age-friendly and keep older residents engaged. (WAMU, 7/24)

WORKFORCE
– 
What would it take to attract more millennials to Loudoun County? At the recent Loudoun County Business Chamber’s State of Loudoun’s Workforce event, attention was turned to three main areas where the county could improve to bring in more millennials: affordable housing, the right jobs, and more walkable areas. (Loudoun Times, 7/25)

Related: Following WRAG’s first-ever Loudoun Philanthropy Conference in May, WRAG recently hosted a community meeting on the next steps to develop and maintain a strong social sector in a county whose needs are often overlooked. Check out the #fundloudoun hashtag on Twitter for highlights from the meeting.

Opinion: A writer explains how America can be especially hard on working moms, even when they make up a large portion of the country’s workforce. (Salon, 7/25)

MENTAL HEALTH | As many as 2 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia, making a steady job extremely difficult to find and keep, despite a strong desire to work. For many, the right mix of treatment and a regular routine can put them on the path to employment. (Atlantic, 7/28)

EDUCATION | George Washington University is joining a list of institutions that have recently dropped testing requirements for some freshman admissions in an effort to reduce barriers for disadvantaged students to attend. Critics, however, worry whether the change is enough to recruit low-income students. (WaPo, 7/27)

FOOD | The second edition of a cookbook featuring nutritious recipes for food stamp recipients was recently published with several brand new recipes. The cookbook is geared toward helping the nearly 47 million people in the SNAP program eat well on $4 a day, and offers a more refreshing take on cookbooks aimed at food stamp recipients. (NPR, 7/27)


Are you an “expert” or an “over claimer?”

-Ciara

Promoting effective philanthropy for Greater Washington | A second quarter report to the community

By Tamara Copeland
President
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

A few years ago, there was a lot of talk in the social profit sector about moving from good to great. Some in that sector may be surprised to learn that folks in philanthropy have been having a similar conversation. What does it take to ensure effective philanthropy? How can we ensure that funds are being invested in the best way to truly improve the region?

So, for the second quarter of 2015, WRAG took “promoting effective philanthropy” as our focus:

WRAG’s “Fundamentals of CSR” seminar, held in April, aimed to promote effective partnerships between corporate funders and the region’s social profit community. Our belief was that corporate philanthropy’s impact would be strengthened by having community partners who better understood the unique philanthropic perspective of corporations. Over 50 members of the local social profit community participated in this very well-received workshop and told us that their knowledge about CSR improved from an average of 4.8 on a 1-10 scale before the seminar, to 7.9 by the end of the two-day seminar. Great. Now, we have to wait a bit to see if that knowledge gain makes a difference.

In May, Community Wealth Building took front and center as we hosted – along with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, the Consumer Health Foundation, and City First Enterprises – the first community update on this initiative. The standing-room-only audience was eager to learn the status of the first business launched under the community wealth building umbrella, and to consider if they saw a place for themselves in this initiative. Many did! So, after several years of planning, community wealth building is taking off in our region. Great? I sure think so.

Next, affordable housing. We all know the current state of this as a crisis in our region. In May, WRAG and Enterprise Community Partners collaborated to present to the Federal City Council on a new funding pool that we are establishing for developers of affordable housing units. It will provide these developers with access to low interest bridge loans. This is exciting and innovative work for WRAG, and is creating buzz as we move into the impact investing arena. Stay tuned for an announcement next month about how you can be involved in this effort, too. It’s not just for institutional philanthropists. We can all play a role in enabling affordable housing in our region. Definitely a move from good (info gathering) –> to great (taking action and making a difference).

And, last, but definitely not least, what will it take to move the social profit sector in Loudoun County from good to great? More communication across sectors and more targeted and increased philanthropic investments. To get there, WRAG hosted our first philanthropy conference in Loudoun County. Over 100 people attended, including 40 funders, along with representatives of social profit organizations and local government. Now that interest in the county has been kindled, the next step is a meeting this summer to really talk about how to move from interest to action.

There will be no lazy, hazy days of summer at WRAG. Moving from good to great takes time, energy, and focus. We’re glad to play a part with philanthropy in our region. Happy summer everyone!


You can read Tamara’s first quarter report to the community about growing philanthropy in our region here

Varied quality for D.C. preschool programs

EDUCATION/DISTRICT 
A new report released by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education finds a great deal of variation in the quality of preschool programs across the District. Looking at data from the 2013-2014 school year, preschool programs in the city did well overall in terms of promoting emotional and social development, but not so well at providing instructional support. (WaPo, 5/18)

On a scale of 1 to 7, [researchers] have found that “threshold” scores of five or more in emotional support and classroom organization, and scores of three or more in instructional support, are associated with better outcomes for children.

Average scores across D.C. surpassed the threshold for emotional support (which includes positive climate, teacher’s sensitivity and regard for students’ perspectives) and classroom organization (which includes behavior management and productivity.)

But scores fell below the threshold for instructional support, with an average score of 2.5. That category includes concept development, quality of feedback and language modeling.

DCPS’ Biggest Challenge, in One Chart (WCP, 5/18)

HEALTH 
– Arabella Advisors outlines some of the approaches that health funders can take to fulfill unmet needs  in the ever-changing world of healthcare. (Arabella Advisors, 5/18)

Rise in Suicide by Black Children Surprises Researchers (NYT, 5/18)

– Keep powering up that Fitbit! Among 50 of the largest American metropolitan areas, the Washington region ranks number one in a list of the fittest places for the second year in a row. (WTOP, 5/19)

WRAG/PHILANTHROPY | Last week, leaders of nonprofits, philanthropies, and more, came together for WRAG’s first Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference. Check out this recap and some of the key issues that were raised during the event. (Loudoun Times, 5/15)

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | Montgomery County planners recently released a draft of their Bethesda Downtown Plan, which makes recommendations for the area over the next 20 years. Among other things, plans include new park space and the preservation of affordable housing through the density-transfer process. (Bethesda Magazine, 5/15)

ENVIRONMENT | How Has Fairfax County’s Rapid Growth Affected the Environment (WAMU, 5/15)

TRANSPORTATION/POVERTY | A number of recent studies have emerged on the ways in which inadequate transportation can fuel growing inequality in American cities and their surrounding areas, making access to employment, decent schools, and healthy food difficult. Though new modes of public transit pop up every day, low-income residents who live in less than posh neighborhoods still find it hard to get around. (Atlantic, 5/16)


My name is Ciara, but if I was born this year, it would be Nayeli. Find out what your name would be if you were born in another year, based on name trends from the Social Security Administration.

-Ciara

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments releases new annual report on homelessness in the region

HOMELESSNESS/REGION
Though there were a number of reports over the last few months that pointed toward disappointing numbers, newly-released results from the annual point-in-time homelessness count found that the Greater Washington region saw a 2.7 percent decrease in homelessness from last year. Despite the slight drop, there is still much room for improvement. (WaPo, 5/13)

The tally, released Wednesday, confirmed a continued crisis of homelessness in the Washington region evident to almost anyone who lives, works or visits the city’s downtown core during winter, when homeless men and women amass in entrances to Metro stops and many other spots where they can stay warm. It also may have understated the challenge still faced by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who has vowed to end chronic homelessness in the city.

Much of the overall dip resulted from a 300-person drop in homeless parents and children in D.C. shelters on the night of the count.

But unlike last year, when the number of homeless families peaked near the date of the 2014 federal count, this year several hundred entered shelter or were placed in overflow motel rooms in the District throughout February, March and even early April.

[…]

Beyond the District, numbers of homeless families also surged this winter in the city of Alexandria and in Fairfax, Frederick and Montgomery counties. Given that trend, few on Wednesday celebrated the slight decrease in the total from last year’s count.

The data comes from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments new annual report, Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington.

–  D.C. Department of Human Services Director Laura Zeilinger spoke on the District’s own six percent decrease in homeless residents, stating that a celebration of the results would be too premature, “because there are still far too many people [who are homeless.] (City Paper, 5/13) 

Southeast D.C. facility for homeless veterans gets a boost (WaPo, 5/13)

WRAG/PHILANTHROPY | Interested in following the conversation from WRAG’s first-ever Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference? Check out the hashtag #FundLoudoun on Twitter to see what panelists and participants are saying.

NONPROFITS | Next month, the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, in partnership with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, will hold a new, four-part communications series/training for leaders of nonprofits based in or serving residents of wards 7 or 8. The multi-day training seeks to help organizations strengthen their voices and raise awareness about issues affecting residents east of the river. For more information on how to register, click here.

POVERTY
Opinion: A number of emerging new studies are examining the long-term effects of government programs like the earned-income tax credit, Medicaid, SNAP, and more, on families. Though data can only go back so far, there is evidence that children whose families received benefits have better outcomes as they enter their 20s and 30s than those whose families were denied benefits. (NYT, 5/11)

Obama Urges Liberals and Conservatives to Unite on Poverty (NYT, 5/12)


How well can you read the emotions of others? Sometimes it’s all in the eyes! Take this quiz to see if you can tell what these people are thinking.

– Ciara

Food banks in the region prepare for summer

FOOD/POVERTY
Though Loudoun County is among one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, food banks there are preparing themselves for the summer surge in demand from many families who rely on their services (WaPo, 5/13):

More than 12,500 children in Loudoun public schools depend on free or reduced-price lunches through their schools, county education officials said. When the school year ends, the missing breakfasts and lunches place considerable pressure on economically vulnerable families, said Jennifer Montgomery, executive director of Loudoun Interfaith Relief.

“In the summer, you have this confluence of events — you have kids getting out of school, and now these parents are scrambling to pay for child care, and they’re also having to find food,” she said.

[…]

Although the percentage of people living below the poverty line in Loudoun is fairly low — about 4 to 5 percent, Montgomery said — about 30 percent of the county’s residents are underemployed and scraping by on less than a living wage.

Related: Tomorrow, WRAG will hold our first-ever Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference, focusing on the unique needs of the area with panelists representing the government, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors. The event will be held at the Middleburg Community Center and is supported by the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.

TRANSIT/VIRGINIA
A new report by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis finds that the need for further transit investment in Northern Virginia is critical in order to elevate the economy and spur business development. Business leaders and elected officials echoed similar sentiments at a recent gathering (Fairfax Times, 5/8):

“In order for this region to remain competitive, we have to have a 21st century transportation network,” said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

Many businesses are already voting with their feet and choosing to relocate to more transit-accessible areas, according to speakers at Friday’s forum.

A Virginia Tech analysis of 2011 U.S. census data found that 59 percent of the jobs in Northern Virginia are located within a quarter mile of a Metro or VRE station or a bus stop. More than 90 percent of new office space in the region is within a half mile of a Metrorail station, according to Shyam Kannan, director of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Office of Planning.

HOUSING | In a recent ranking of states with the least affordable home prices using 2013 U.S. Census data, the District came in at number two behind Hawaii. (Time, 5/11)


Though it may not be as hot as it was yesterday, outdoor movie season is officially here!

– Ciara

Friday roundup – April 20 through April 24, 2015

THIS WEEK IN AGING/POVERTY
Many older Americans across the U.S. are experiencing food insecurity, a lingering effect of the Great Recession that has not yet shown signs of recovery for the growing senior population. According to a new report ranking each state’s percentage of seniors facing the threat of hunger, the Greater Washington region’s senior population is among those facing hard times. (WaPo, 4/23)

A new national report on food insecurity among older Americans ranks the District fourth, just behind Mississippi.

The report says that more than 20 percent of the District’s elderly have concerns about eating enough food or the right kind of food, compared with more than 24 percent of seniors in Mississippi.

The estimates of senior hunger range from about 8 percent in Minnesota to more than 26 percent in Arkansas, which was ranked highest among states where seniors face the threat of hunger. Virginia and Maryland both had rates of about 14 percent.

The Atlantic explored the economic inequalities that exist for many Americans well beyond retirement age, despite the shared experiences of growing older that most seniors endure. (Atlantic, 4/20)

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY/EVENTS
– Lynn Tadlock, Vice Chair of WRAG’s board and Deputy Executive Director of Giving at the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, discussed the upcoming Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference on May 14 and how it aims to strengthen the “three-legged stool” of government, business, and the social sector to meet the often unnoticed needs of Loudoun County. (Daily, 4/22)

THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION/BUDGETS
– Prince George’s County braced itself for what could potentially be a $20 million loss in state school funding. (Gazette, 4/22)

D.C. schools budget includes wide range in per-student spending (WaPo, 4/23)

THIS WEEK IN THE REGION/ECONOMY
National Parks Brought $1.4 Billion to the D.C. Region in 2014 (DCist, 4/24)


WRAG EVENTS NEXT WEEK

Northern Virginia LEG: The Art of Successful Site Visits (co-sponsored with Exponent Philanthropy and the Southeastern Council of Foundations)
Wednesday, April 29  10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Brightest Minds: Dr. Isabel Sawhill on Creating a New Ethic of Responsible Parenthood (WRAG members and non-members)
Thursday, April 30  9:30 AM – 11:30 AM (At PNC Bank)


Today is the Library of Congress’ 215th birthday! Find out what’s actually in there.

– Ciara

Loudoun County:  Uncovering the Needs, Coordinating a Response

tadlock

by Lynn Tadlock
Deputy Executive Director of Giving, Claude Moore Charitable Foundation
Vice Chair, WRAG Board of Directors

I have worked in the Greater Washington region since college – mostly in public service – and have been amazed at the development, economic changes, and demographic shifts in our region. I’ve also seen the vast opportunities and difficult challenges that this growth and change have presented for many of our region’s jurisdictions and residents.

After a long career in Fairfax County government and now as the deputy director of one of the largest foundations in our region – the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation – I have come to understand that no one sector can fully address these challenges and opportunities alone, especially in this region where our issues are so connected and our populations are so transient. If we are to improve the quality of life in each of our jurisdictions and the region as a whole, we need a collaborative, multi-sector approach – what I call the “three-legged stool” – where government, business, and the social sector work in collaboration for the benefit of all.

We need that collaboration now more than ever. While some parts of our region are experiencing boom times, all jurisdictions are feeling the impact of federal budget cuts. Many nonprofits and faith-based organizations are experiencing increased demand for human services and burn-out of long-time leaders. While, at the same time, much of the business community is reducing or redefining its charitable giving.

This is all especially true in Loudoun County – our region’s fastest growing jurisdiction. And, the impact of these factors is amplified by the fact that their impact on residents often goes unnoticed in other parts of the region.

On May 14, cross-sector leaders from around the region will have the opportunity to learn about the unique needs and opportunities of Loudoun at the Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference. I invite you to join me and other philanthropic, nonprofit, government, and business leaders for this unique opportunity to learn about the needs in Loudoun, explore strategies for addressing those needs, and network with colleagues who are dedicated to improving quality of life in our region.

I am delighted that our region’s philanthropic sector is leading a conversation on how we can work together to ensure that the legs of Loudoun County’s three-legged stool are solid. Let’s make the Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference our starting point. I hope to see you there.