By Southwester Staff

Among the unfortunate consequences of COVID-19 is its impact on community non-profit groups that count on major events for the donations necessary to support their activities. The situation has forced these organizations to cancel annual events and either brace for a lean year or come up with alternatives to traditional fundraising.

For Waterfront Village, a small member-based organization serving older adults in the Southwest and Navy Yard neighborhood, the coronavirus meant the cancellation of its single most important fundraising event, its annual walking home tour of the Southwest Waterfront. In its place, the Village will broadcast a virtual home tour in a celebration of life in Southwest on three Sundays, October 11, 18, and 25, at 4 p.m.

“We were sad that the coronavirus forced us to cancel the walking tour since so many people look forward to it each year,” said Len Bechtel, the Village’s executive director. “We believe the new approach is both innovative and entertaining, and I hope that people are willing to give the broadcasts a shot.”

Bechtel said that COVID-19 forced the Village to think about fundraising in different ways, since it is tough to bring people together for a cause when you cannot assemble them together physically. As the Village’s management team assessed the possibility of a virtual tour, there were some advantages to the virtual format that jumped out at them immediately.  

Primarily, the virtual tour will connect with people at a more emotional level because the broadcast will include narration directly from owners and offer an opportunity for viewers to ask the owners direct questions. Depending on the home, viewers could be treated to stories on the history of the home, details about renovations, and/or revealing information about personal items shown on camera. Each week, three homes and a houseboat will be featured. 

Some of the things viewers will learn through the homeowner stories include: what life was like for a U.S. vice president when he lived in the neighborhood; when and where to park your car if you live within a stone’s throw of Nationals Park during baseball season; and how to gut a houseboat and rebuild it to your own taste.  

“As we started to film the home segments for the virtual tour, we realized how fascinating it was to hear the stories directly from the owners. Viewers are going to be amazed at how interesting and informative this show is,” Bechtel said. “What the program may lack by not having a physical presence in the homes, it more than makes up for in emotion and the personal touch provided by homeowners.”

Anne Martin, the president of Waterfront Village, added that she is very impressed by the work done by the home tour committee, especially the filming and production of the video segments by Bruce Moody and Vania Georgieva. “They took the idea of a virtual tour and gave it life. If you live in Southwest, you will feel good about your neighborhood after watching this show.”

Instead of selling tickets, the broadcast of the tour will be free to viewers and rely on sponsorship and donations to raise funds. Registration will be required, and links to the broadcast will be sent to registrants shortly before the broadcast. Anyone interested in viewing the home tour can register on the event website at:  

Waterfront Village is a community nonprofit organization that enables its members to age in place comfortably and safely, by providing them with a range of practical services, referrals, advocacy, and an active and enriching social calendar. While membership is open to everyone and includes all programs and events, home and health services are only provided to those 62 years and older.

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