By Southwester Staff

A visit to the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk in 2019; Courtesy of DC STORM (Students Taught Organization and Respect through Mentoring)

In both good times and troubled times, Southwest residents can be proud of the spirit of volunteerism that imbues our community. Local volunteer groups are constantly at work to make our neighborhood a better place. This spirit shines through in the newly released annual report of Friends of Southwest DC, which details how more than a dozen local organizations used grants from Friends of Southwest DC for college scholarships, summer camps, elementary school tutoring, educational outings for neighborhood youth, Girl Scout programs, senior citizen programs, community days, and other worthy projects in our Southwest neighborhood. 

“We’re incredibly proud of how much our grantees have accomplished for Southwest,” said Friends of Southwest DC President Peter Eicher, “and we’re deeply grateful for the contributions from Southwest neighbors who make it all possible.” For Friends of Southwest DC, 2019 was a banner year, with more grants than ever before awarded to neighborhood groups.

Like much of America, Friends of Southwest is being impacted by the coronavirus. Despite the shutdowns, however, some grantees have been able to continue or refocus their programs. Community Scholar, for example, writes that “You have no idea how helpful this grant is going to be during this trying period!” as they switch to on-line tutoring for Amidon-Bowen Elementary School students. Southwest Community Gardens has been able to proceed with spring planting using tools and materials obtained with a grant. 

While many grantees will have to delay programs, Friends of Southwest’s flexible approach and rolling grant cycle means they can reschedule when the time is right. 

Over the course of 2019, most Friends of Southwest grants focused especially on youth activities. A local Girl Scout Troop took an overnight trip to southern Maryland to visit sites associated with Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. A group of teen boys enjoyed a three-day historical and educational trip to Norfolk to visit universities and historic sites. A group of elementary children participated in a trip to the Turkey Hill Dairy in Pennsylvania to learn about dairy culture and how ice cream is made.

Other youth activities benefitting from Friends of Southwest included Camp Arena Stage and Jefferson Academy’s participation in Arena Stage’s “Voices of Now” program. In one of the longest standing programs supported by Friends of Southwest, five Southwest high school seniors received scholarships of $1,500 each through SWNA: Nicla DeBiasi (Northeastern U.), Kendall Parks (Jackson State U.), Dayonna Queen (Hartford U.), Aaliyah Wilkinson (Johnson C. Smith U.), and Donja Wilkinson (Georgia State U.).

Beyond activities focused on youth, Friends of Southwest grants supported the Waterfront Village for seniors, the opening of Dent House in Buzzard Point where the Living Classrooms Foundation has a new home in Southwest, and a number of SWNA programs.

In total, Friends of Southwest DC awarded over $37,000 in grants in 2019 to over a dozen local organizations. Cumulatively it has awarded over $280,000 in grants since beginning its work in 1998. 

Sadly Friends of Southwest’s founder and longtime president, Coralie Farlee, passed away in January. We will deeply miss her leadership and guidance. The new Board of Directors is committed to carrying forward the vision and principles that have guided the organization’s work for the past two decades.

Friends of Southwest is always open for grant applications from local organizations and would particularly welcome proposals for projects that can be implemented during these difficult times. And, of course, donations are always welcome. Please see the Friends of Southwest website to apply or donate, or send a letter or check to Friends of Southwest DC at P.O. Box 44434, Washington, DC 20026.

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