Neighboring Now at Greater DC Cares

In 2009, Greater DC Cares was one of three organizations to receive the Neighboring Model Demonstration grant. Greater DC Cares was provided $25,000 to partner with the community to identify and help build programs around its assets, skills, and needs. The agency participated in monthly conference calls and webinars and served on a panel at the National Conference on Volunteering & Service.

Greater DC Cares’ Neighboring initiative, calledNeighboring Now, has increased capacity at dozens of nonprofits and found shelter, addiction services, healthcare, and healthful food for hundreds of residents. However, its greatest success has been creating safe spaces throughout the large and densely populated neighborhood:

 

  • The GADGET Center brings together skilled persons from the neighborhoods who offer individuals and business owners advice about everything from taxes to credit cards. GDCC partnered with the GADGET Center, skilled community volunteer leaders, and dozens of tax prep volunteers to host a VITA site serving 145 clients and generating $85,000 in revenue for the neighborhood.
  • Together with dedicated neighborhood volunteers, GDCC rejuvenated programming at the Park View Recreation Center. Parents in the blocks surrounding the center were uncomfortable sending their children out to play unsupervised in an area rife with violent crime. With the implementation of weekly arts workshops, reading circles, and “FUN Saturdays” enrichment programming, background-checked volunteer leaders cultivated the feeling that well-meaning neighbors can be trusted to watch children in the park on a Saturday morning. The adult community members, as they help keep the children safe, spend time with their neighbors and create strong community bonds.

In the past year, volunteer engagement in this community has increased dramatically. All told, 1,413 volunteers, including 357 community volunteers and 34 community volunteer leaders, participated in one of dozens of projects. And those are just the ones who signed up to be counted. Greater DC Cares has created a powerful program in which the resources of a large volunteer mobilization operation can be targeted toward the needs of a single community. As a result, hundreds of families are stronger and an entire community has been transformed.

The CEO of Greater DC Cares highlighted Neighboring during a showcase of the agency’s changes at a recent Business and Nonprofit Philanthropy Summit and Awards. For 2010, the agency has recruited three AmeriCorps VISTA members to carry on the Neighboring work.

Greater DC Cares has noticed more and more success with sustainability among the Neighboring projects. New leaders have been recruited through the projects and the outreach of existing volunteer leaders. Additional projects have been created and then sought Greater DC Cares support to help them flourish and make their impact even deeper.

Individuals have been motivated to volunteer and lead in new ways and within new frameworks. They have learned employment-related skills such as networking, painting, building, landscaping, time management, workplace etiquette, and tax preparation. Many say they feel more closely linked to their communities and credit the Neighboring work of Greater DC Cares.