Photo caption: Sisters Tasia and Marshayla Bailey, with Girl Scout leader Monica Evans, describe their participation in programs funded by Friends of Southwest as board members and others look on.

Photo caption: Friends of Southwest scholarship grantee Asha Marshall (on screen) recounts her university success to meeting participants.

A broad array of small organizations is at work to make Southwest a better place, by organizing youth programs, assisting seniors, creating opportunities, and enriching our community. The achievements of these disparate groups were on display at the annual meeting of Friends of Southwest DC (FOS) at Westminster Presbyterian Church on the evening of March 30. In 2016, FOS provided grants to nine community organizations, almost all of which were at the meeting to offer their thanks and describe how their programs have benefited Southwest residents. Many grantees echoed the sentiment that “we couldn’t have done it without you.”

FOS President Coralie Farlee opened the meeting, thanking donors and reporting that FOS distributed grants totaling more than $22,000 in 2016, a new high for the organization. Because FOS is run by volunteers and has no paid staff, more than 95 percent of donations goes directly to grants that serve the community. FOS was particularly pleased to be able to assist four new organizations in 2016, in addition to renewing support for several groups previously funded.

An underlying theme that emerged from the meeting was that a little financial assistance can go a long way toward making community programs viable. FOS “gets a big bang” out of its small grants, remarked Jay Shorter, whose group Students Taught Organization and Respect through Mentoring (STORM) used its FOS grant to take a group of teen boys from Jefferson Academy on an educational trip. The boys traveled to Hampton, Virginia, making stops at two universities, a museum, and the Emancipation Oak, where freed slaves once gathered to learn to read and write. Support from FOS “means a great deal to us,” said Shorter. “We were able to take kids out of the city who otherwise would never have had the opportunity.”

Another 2016 FOS grant enabled two students from Jefferson Academy to attend Camp Arena Stage, which relies on grants for all such scholarships. A separate FOS grant helped make it possible for a full ensemble from Jefferson to participate in Arena’s “Voices of Now” program. Anita Maynard-Losh, representing Arena Stage, described the positive impact of the program on participants, citing one FOS grantee who progressed through the program to become a camp mentor and is now one of its teachers.

The youngest speaker at the meeting was Marshayla Bailey of Southwest Girl Scout troop 4298, who described her participation in a trip to the Chesapeake Children’s Museum for a one-day workshop to earn merit badges, made possible by a grant from FOS.

Emma Ward expressed appreciation for a grant that enabled her organization, EmmaUS Learning Center, to take a group of Southwest children on an educational visit to Philadelph, Pennsylvania. Thanks to FOS support, the trip has become an annual event. The outing, which focuses on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, is preceded by a visit to the National Archives. Participants also receive a lesson in personal financial management and, on the bus trip, learn basic rules of traffic and road navigation.

Although most 2016 grants centered on youth programs, FOS also contributed to an important new Southwest initiative for seniors: the creation of the Waterfront Village. The Village is an impressive program to enable seniors to stay in their homes and age in place, by providing them with assistance and services. Bob Craycraft, executive director, described how in its first month of operation the Village has dealt with well over 100 requests for assistance, from transportation to referrals for financial and legal services. Harlow Pease, a Village member, commented that the assistance he received has been “a huge boon in being able to stay in my home.”

The Amidon-Bowen Elementary School PTA used its FOS grant for a program to enhance the school’s image, foster a sense of identity, improve school spirit, and enable Amidon-Bowen to compete more effectively in attracting students. The Southwest Comm-Unity Forum received a grant to support its annual festival at Lansburgh Park, a family day that boosts neighborliness and community spirit. A representative from the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA), Vyllorya Evans, showed a video featuring the achievements of FOS college scholarship grantee Asha Marshall. FOS provides funding for two scholarships as part of SWNA’s broader youth program. Sacha Bruce Youthworks, which received a grant for infant, toddler, and youth programs at Randall Recreation Center, was unable to attend.

Farlee announced that an anonymous donor has pledged a “triple match” in support of the FOS spring fundraising drive. The donor will contribute up to $10,000 by tripling the contributions made by other donors between now and July 4. This presents an extraordinary opportunity for Southwest residents to give back to their neighborhood and to support the many community organizations working to make Southwest a better place.

In other business, the FOS board welcomed two new members, Peter Eicher and Lucy Rojansky, and expressed its thanks to Rodney Ross, who is stepping down from the board after several years of service. There are currently two vacancies on the board; Southwest residents interested in joining are encouraged to contact the board at FriendsSWDC@yahoo.com, or 202-488-4419. More information on FOS, including the Annual Report for 2016, is available on its website: friendsofswdc.org.

By: Peter Eicher, Friends of Southwest Board Member

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