Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Tossed and Found Experience

When I was a new member (in 2003-2004), I volunteered for my new member shift at Tossed & Found move in day at the previous site, Tuesday Morning in Rockville. It was cold, dirty, wet and my first assignment was to sweep the floor and clean it up as best I could. Within an hour, I was covered head to toe in dirt and dust, with water spots from the leaking ceiling. An hour later I found myself working the book section with 3 other new members- Angie Quinn (my best friend from college), Kim O’Connor Tuomey, and Elisabeth Somerville. Angie and I met Kim and Elisabeth the first time that day in books…at one point I said to the other three, “Who would ever want to be on this committee?” They of course agreed….

A few years later, I received a call from nominating to be the Chair for Tossed & Found’s 2010 sale. For some reason I said yes…even with doubts and memories of my first Tossed & Found experience at Tuesday Morning on my mind. Turns out the great site that Vornado has donated in Crystal City for the past 7 years is nothing like Tuesday Morning and it gets better with each year. This year, Tossed & Found has a new site at 251 18th Street South, 5th Floor, Arlington, VA 22202- with windows!

It turns out that thanks to that dreadful morning at the Tuesday Morning site, Kim, Angie, Elisabeth and I are extremely great friends today. I returned for a second stint as Chief of Staff. Kim is a co-chair for the 2013 sale and Angie for the 2014 sale. We all love T&F for the camaraderie, the satisfaction of seeing a warehouse full of piles of clothes, kitchen items and furniture all transform into a neatly organized store and lots of low dollar purchases can all add up to over $120,000 for JLW’s literacy initiatives.

I hope to see you at T&F this weekend or if you are unable to make the sale, please consider purchasing a Community Cash Card! Your donation provides a JLW Community Partner, a Neighbor In Need, or Community Organization of your choice the opportunity to purchase $40 worth of items at our 2013 sale.

Amber Huffman
Tossed and Found, Chief of Staff

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bright Beginnings 5K Race

Despite the cold temperature and gusty winds, the 18th annual Bright Beginnings 5K Race, held on Saturday, March 2, 2013, had the largest turnout on record. With over 900 registered participants—almost twice as many as last year—the 5K race raised nearly $47,000. That is $10,000 more than last year!  D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser even joined in the fun and ran the 5K. Without a doubt, this was a banner year for the Junior League of Washington (JLW) volunteers on the Bright Beginnings Committee who plan the race.

The annual 5K race is the largest single fundraiser for Bright Beginnings, Inc., a nonprofit child and family development center that supports homeless children of preschool age and their families. Bright Beginnings was founded by the JLW in 1991 as an independent 501(c)(3) developmental day center. In addition to volunteering with Bright Beginnings throughout the year and hosting special events focusing on literacy, JLW committee members spend their time planning, preparing and fundraising for the 5K race. Bright Beginnings committee members Laura Shull and Liz Cassady individually raised $1,435 and $900 respectively.

Although the 5K race has typically taken place in May, it was moved to March this year to take advantage of a new, larger 5K course and less competition with sporting and other events that traditionally take place in May. The earlier race date meant that JLW committee members had less time to promote the 5K race, but chair Natalie Hardy and co-chairs Sasha Strohm and Starling Marshall, worked hard to ensure the event’s success. The 5K race added a number of new features this year, including a virtual 5K option, a stroller brigade, and the ability for participants to raise funds through CrowdRise, an online fundraising platform. Nancy Register, a JLW member since 1993 and current President of the Bright Beginnings’ Board of Directors, spoke at the start of the 5K race on Bright Beginnings’ impact on the local DC community.

The Washington Post sponsored the Start/Finish line and named Bright Beginnings a PostPoints nonprofit partner, enabling PostPoints members to earn points for participating in the 5K race. Other sponsors included Danya International, Inc.; Dominion; Deloitte; Duff and Phelps; Luminpoint; the United States Chamber of Commerce; TDI; New Editions Consulting Inc.; XML Financial Group; the National Academies of Sciences; SilverStar Consulting, and a number of individual sponsors.

The Bright Beginnings Committee is already looking ahead to the 2013-2014 year, and hopes to break the 1,000 participant mark next spring. Please share your favorite story from the Bright Beginnings 5K race with us in the comments.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

JLW Chair Extraordinaire- Mandy Martin

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
- John Quincy Adams

We are proud to honor Mandy Martin, chair of Development and Training, as JLW Chair Extraordinaire. An eleven-year Active, Mandy has brought exceptional energy, organization and direction to this year's trainings. Her can-do attitude, strategic vision and winning smile have greatly enhanced the experience not only of her committee members, but also the JLW as whole. Mandy and her team have brought the training portion of our mission to life this Centennial year. Congratulations, Mandy and keep up the good work!

Did you know there are more than 125 leadership positions in the JLW? Each year, an amazing group of women answer the call to serve and their talent and skills form the support structure upon which our organization runs. Just as we value and appreciate your membership, we appreciate their service. The JLW Chair Extraordinaire is a new award for our Centennial year. Each month, council directors may nominate a leader for consideration and one chair will be recognized by the president.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Why I Serve- Literacy Labs

The Washington Post recently highlighted the plight of homeless families living in the DC General Family Emergency Shelter, which is located in the old DC General Hospital. You can find the articles here and here. The Post articles noted that 900 people are currently living in the shelter. This number includes 600 children who are growing up in a challenging situation. 

Homeless children living in an unstable environment face particular challenges when it comes to literacy. Statistics consistently show that young homeless children experience developmental delays, especially in speech. The instability of their living situation makes it difficult for these children to consistently attend preschool programs, which are rarely available to begin with. Because of these challenges, the Junior League of Washington (JLW) has recently partnered with Literacy Lab to assist with an early literacy program for toddlers and young children up to five years old, in the DC General Shelter. The name of the program is Ready to Read.

On Saturday mornings, the women of one of the JLW’s newest committees, the Literacy Lab committee, join with Literacy Lab instructors to help young children develop early literacy skills. The Ready to Ready program also provides parents with strategies and skills to support their children’s learning. Volunteers spend time reading and playing educational games with the children and assist with the parent skills workshop. Volunteers also observe the children, looking for developmental milestones to assess the children’s progress, as well as any skill deficiencies. The children and their parents are a joy to work with, and it is incredibly rewarding to be involved with such an impactful project.

As the Washington Post articles highlight, homeless families in the DC General shelter are faced with difficult challenges on a daily basis, including transportation to programs outside the shelter.  Establishing an early literacy program within the shelter allows parents and their children to attend the program on a regular basis and provides them with tools to help achieve future academic success.

If you are interested, please stop by Literacy Lab’s table at an upcoming Placement Information Event on either Saturday, April 13 or Thursday, April 25.

Cary Gibson, JLW Member on Literacy Lab Committee