A Wider Community: A Weekly Roundup from AWC!

By Theo Blair

Welcome to another edition of A Wider Community, A Wider Circle’s ongoing blog exploring the goings-on in and around our circle!

This week, we’re covering:

Let’s get rolling!

2023: A year for advocacy, awareness, and getting to know our government!

Recently, A Wider Circle President & CEO Amy Javaid and Board Chair Marty Durbin got the chance to meet with Maryland’s Secretary of Human Services, Rafael Lopez, and other members of his team.

During the meeting, the group discussed how, through our Essential Support program, we’re able to support housing and family stability and how our efforts to expand that work in delivery and bulk donations/partner redistributions.

AWC President & CEO Amy Javaid providing Secretary Lopez and fellow elected officials a brief tour of our Center for Community Service.

This is just the latest instance of how our organization is strengthening our bond with public officials and facilitating more discussions with them and the communities they serve. However, it is not the only example!

Our Social Justice Committee (who, as shared last week, just elected its first leadership circle) has been hard at work attending council hearings to advocate for affordable housing and a living wage. They engaged in meaningful conversations and shared personal stories with members of the DC Council when they were crafting their budget back in March.

In addition to those increased advocacy efforts, we’ve been talking with local lawmakers about the needs we see in our community. Last year, A Wider Circle’s Lara Gagrica stepped into a new position as our Government Relations Manager. In this role, she raises awareness of the work of A Wider Circle with government officials all across the DMV.

From Left to Right, AWC Community Partnerships Manager Christopher Tobias, DC Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, and Government Relations Manager Lara Gargrica during a meet & greet at the Wilson building in January.

When asked about her role, Lara shared, “Many elected officials may know the broad strokes of what services A Wider Circle offers but do not necessarily know of improvements to our services — like our new needs assessment tool or our bulk donations — or the other programs beyond Essential Support, like our coaching model in Career Support or the fact that we have a Hub in Ward 8!”

Lara continued, “Long-term, we hope to use our position to amplify the voices of those we serve. A Wider Circle is fortunate to engage with policymakers locally, statewide, and federally, and connecting those with lived experience to those deciding the policies that affect us all is important.”

Though we’re in the midst of an incredibly punishing summer, fall is fast approaching and winter is right around the corner. The work to ensure all our neighbors have equitable access to safe and affordable housing is as important now as it ever has been. If you, like us, want to be more involved in conversations about how we can ensure we’re doing everything possible to keep families in homes and our community as healthy as it can be, consider reaching out at advocacy@awidercircle.org and see how you can get more engaged today!

Here for YOU, neighbor! Celebrating an anniversary brings reflection on the meaning of our work for AWC’s Manager of Administration.

If you’ve ever visited our Center for Community Service in Silver Spring, there’s a strong possibility that you’ve had a conversation with Marie Charles. In fact, she was probably the first face you saw when you walked through the doors!

This week, we talked to Marie, our Manager of Administration, who is getting ready to celebrate her 3-year anniversary at A Wider Circle next month. We explored what it is about being a part of this circle that inspires her and keeps her in love with the work she does.

You’ll often find Marie working diligently at our front desk to ensure that each day of service is running smoothly, greeting clients with a warm smile and a helpful demeanor, or brightening a co-worker’s day with a humorous conversation.

Manager of Administrations, Marie Charles, ready at the front desk to greet all who enter and enjoying a pleasant conversation with Volunteer Team Manager, Anthony Washington (and trying her best to ignore the camera!).

During our discussion, Marie shared how important being able to engage with her community is to her. “It keeps me healthy and aware!” she said while discussing how her work helps her stay plugged into the world. After retiring from her previous career of 20+ years, she knew she wanted to find some way to stay active and involved in the world around her, and A Wider Circle was that opportunity for her.

Thanks to Marie, countless neighbors have been able to find the support they need, and we’re immensely grateful for all she has done and continues to do for our wider community.

Thank you, Marie, and we wish you a happy work-iversary this September!

Putting the unity in community: celebrating our neighbors in Ward 8!

If you’re ever lucky enough to spend a day at our Ward 8 Hub in Southeast DC, you’ll quickly come to understand how that location is sustained by the love of the neighbors in the community. And this week, we celebrated them at our Community Appreciation Day!

Outside of the Ward 8 Hub on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon

“You had to be there!” is perhaps the easiest way to describe what went down this Wednesday at our Ward 8 Hub, but let’s dig a little deeper… 

There was elation, education, exercise, and eating some good, good food! Community Appreciation Day was everything that makes the Hub a staple of the Washington Highlands community, wrapped up in one massive expression of love for Ward 8!

Director of our Ward 8 Hub, YaVonne Boyd, playing Jenga with community members.

Community members of all ages enjoyed a wide variety of ways to celebrate. They learned about the services we offer as well as other community-based programs from Program Manager Daryle Morgan, while also playing games of all kinds, dancing, relaxing, discussing what was going on in the local paper, and more! Smiles and hearty laughter weren’t hard to come by during the festivities!

When asked what she cherished most about the Ward 8 Community, Ward 8 Hub Director YaVonne Boyd said it’s how they all look out for one another. The folks of Ward 8 are a strong community, celebrating each other’s joys and supporting each other through their challenges. “Resilient and kind” is how YaVonne chose to describe the Ward 8 community, and perhaps no words could be more fitting.

Advocate for our Partnership to Independence Program, Derrick Faison, prepares to lead community members in a Wellness Wednesday workout before lunch.

A big shout out to the team and community regulars of the Ward 8 Hub that work tirelessly to make the Hub a safe and accepting space for all who come through our doors!

Our Ward 8 Team is always looking for more ways that we can foster deep and meaningful connections between not just ourselves and the community we’re a part of, but between neighbors, so be sure to keep up to date on upcoming community activities by following the Ward 8 Hub on facebook!

Rounding out the circle

Upcoming events in the community:

Ways to get involved:

There are plenty of ways you can support the work of A Wider Circle right now!

Staff Recommendations:

This week, Director of Operations Chanel Giles shared that she recently enjoyed the 2023 Netflix series starring Barack Obama, Working: What We Do All Day. The documentary series explores an array of human stories across varied socioeconomic working-class groups of people.

Chanel found that the show reminded her of how interconnected we all are, drew strong parallels to working at A Wider Circle, and served as a reminder that we are all more alike than different.

Furniture Finds:

This pretty purple piece has already found its way into its new home! A neighbor’s child picked out this paisley loveseat to bring an astounding splash of color to their new apartment!

That’s all for this week’s edition of A Wider Community. Be sure to check back in next week for more news from around our circle!

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