As an organization of active, involved, educated women, the Junior League of Washington (JLW) feels strongly about using its resources where we can have the largest impact. Accordingly, since 1999, we have chosen to devote our resources – volunteer and financial – to combat a great challenge our community faces, illiteracy.
The ability to read, write, and communicate affects far more than a person’s knowledge of literary masterpieces. It changes their access to jobs, health care and transportation, and the way they raise their children.
JLW has adopted a broad approach to solving the literacy challenges our community faces by addressing the issue from many angles: adult, child, and cultural.
We are honored to partner with over 20 organizations throughout the area. See below to find out where we are contributing in our community.
JLW members volunteer on Saturday mornings with the Reading All-Stars program, a major in-school partnership between 826DC and the Harriet Tubman Elementary School, located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington DC. Our volunteers provide weekly, intensive, one-on-one reading and literacy support to students — with the goal of helping all students read at or above their grade level as determined by the school’s administration — and serve as caring and reliable informal mentors and models for a lifelong love of reading.
JLW volunteers established in 1990 and continue to support Bright Beginnings, a nationally accredited child and family development center for over 150 homeless infants, toddlers, and preschoolers every day. Throughout the year, volunteers provide childcare while parents receive literacy and life skills training, plan literacy events for the children and their families, and organize a holiday party with wish list items donated by the community. JLW volunteers also organize the Bright Beginnings 5K Race held annually in April.
Each year, JLW volunteers support the important mission of the Higher Achievement Program (HAP): to develop academic skills, behaviors, and attitudes in academically motivated and under-served middle school children to improve their grades, standardized test scores, attendance, and educational opportunities.
Late one night in 1989, Karin Walser stopped at a gas station in Anacostia where several young children offered to pump her gas for some change. Over the ensuing years, Karin enlisted friends to join her in working with these and other children in their Ward 8 neighborhood by taking them on weekly Sunday outings, and in 1991, Horton’s Kids was formally established. In 1993, the organization began offering Tuesday night tutoring sessions. Horton’s Kids began Monday night tutoring sessions in the U.S. Capitol in 2001 and added Wednesday afternoon tutoring sessions in 2004. After nearly 18 years, Horton’s Kids has become a second family to hundreds of children and families in Anacostia. Horton’s Kids has 125 regularly attending children, with a waiting list about one year long.
JLW members volunteer with The Literacy Lab’s Ready to Read program at DC General Family Emergency Shelter, the largest of Washington, DC’s government-run family shelters, and work with children through weekly Child Literacy Development Workshops. Ready to Read is a critical reading readiness program for families with toddlers and young children ages three to seven, providing a consistent amount of read-aloud and print exposure to high-risk homeless children. By providing individualized reading instruction, which targets fundamental skills, The Literacy Lab’s trained volunteers lead students to higher reading levels and increased confidence.
The Reading Connection (TRC) strives to improve the lives of at-risk children and families by helping them create and sustain literacy-rich environments and motivation for reading. TRC believes that time spent reading and access to books can make all the difference between academic success or failure. For more than 27 years, TRC volunteers have been reading with children who have no one else to read to them and giving books to children who have none. In a new partnership for 2017-2018, JLW members support the TRC Read-Aloud Program by reading with children at a partner housing site and engaging them in conversation and related activities. At the end of each Read-Aloud, volunteers help the kids choose a new book to take home to add to their personal libraries. Through this partnership, TRC and JLW hope to stimulate a love for reading and learning in at-risk children that will improve their educational outcomes and change their lives.
JLW volunteers provide regular one-on-one help to students of the Washington School for Girls (WSG) on Saturday mornings. Special academic activities, designed to improve literacy skills and academic performance, are available to all students, but frequented by those needing extra help. WSG is an independent, financial-scholarship-only, year-round school located in Anacostia (Ward 8) serving grades three through eight. WSG’s mission is to close the education gap and broaden educational opportunities – to help each girl find her potential and succeed. WSG received JLW’s first multi-year grant starting in 2015 and became a full community partner starting this year.
JLW volunteers assist A Wider Circle in their mission to help individuals and families rise out of poverty. Started in 2001 by Dr. Mark Bergel, A Wider Circle has grown from a nonprofit run out of his home to now furnishing the homes of more than 16,000 children and adults each year delivering educational programs to thousands of men, women, and children. Since 2016, JLW volunteers contribute in a variety of ways, including leading professional training events for job seekers, acting as mock interviewers during professional “boot camps,” and sorting children’s books and professional clothing in the A Wider Circle warehouse.
Calvary Women’s Services is a nonprofit organization that offers housing, health, education, and employment programs that empower homeless women in DC. JLW volunteers offer these women tools and support through Calvary’s Life Skills, Education and Arts Program (LEAP). Through LEAP, JLW promotes literacy with film nights, conversation, and discussion. These activities support women in their path to a new life with confidence building, independent thoughts, and critical thinking.
JLW volunteers plan and facilitate bimonthly life skills training for the Community Family Life Services (CFLS) parents, as well as educational activities for the children, all of whom are residents of a transitional housing center run by CFLS. CFLS is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help low-income and homeless individuals and families returning home from a period of incarceration achieve personal growth, social and economic self-sufficiency, and independence through a web of integrated care, regardless of their faith.
For more than 20 years in partnership with IONA Senior Services, JLW volunteers have delivered meals to 100+ Washington, DC, seniors each Saturday who are unable to afford private in-home service. Over 80 percent of the deliveries are to food insecure individuals and over 60 percent live alone. In addition to the Weekend Meal Delivery Program, JLW members also participate in other IONA programs including the quarterly Senior Art Installation receptions, toiletry and food bank drives, and Friendly Visitor/Grocery Shopping Programs.
For more than 25 years, JLW has partnered with Langley Residential Support Services (LRSS), a Northern Virginia-based nonprofit offering a variety of quality comprehensive residential and community services for intellectually disabled adults. JLW initially became involved with Langley through a joint project with the Junior League of Northern Virginia to fund the purchase of a new group home, later named “The Junior League House.” Nearly 30 JLW volunteers support Langley with weekly programs focused on improving literacy and life skills. Several times a year, the committee also plans weekend activities with Langley residents.
JLW has partnered with N Street Village, a center that offers a spectrum of services for homeless and low-income women in the Washington metro area, for nearly 30 years. Due to ongoing renovations at the N Street Village property, the Committee will work with Miriam’s House, a sister facility of N Street Village, for the 2017-2018 JLW year. Founded by Luther Place Memorial Church, the mission of Miriam’s House is to provide a dynamic residential community for homeless women living with HIV that empowers recovery from homelessness, disease, and addictions in an environment of compassion, integrity, and accountability. JLW volunteers plan two Sunday evening dinners each month, as well as special social events that allow the women time to socialize with the volunteers and other women outside of their specific programs. JLW volunteers strive to bring a dynamic and engaging presence to the women by encouraging community, celebrating milestones, and supporting the mission of Miriam’s House.
JLW volunteers have volunteered with the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) for more than 20 years, providing support and assistance to NRH patients and hospital staff. NRH is dedicated to the treatment and education of patients who have suffered strokes and traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries. Volunteers support NRH at weekly meetings where volunteers play interactive games, such as bingo, with the patients and their families. The games help with the patients’ motor skills and provide an enjoyable escape from the normal hospital routine.
Community Training Committee
Community Training Committee members provide training to community organizations to help their clients achieve personal goals as they process through recovery programs. Most clients are working toward staying clean, finding permanent housing and becoming a better parent. The CTC brings the clients closer to reaching their goals by training on topics that involve life skills (i.e., financial literacy, budgeting, borrowing basics, resume writing, etc.) and personal development (i.e., goal setting, stress management, conflict management, and nutrition).
The Done-in-a-Day Committee provides trained volunteers for short-term service in response to requests from community organizations. Our volunteers assist with a wide variety of events including charity 5Ks, sorting donations at the Capital Area Food Bank, and book fairs at local libraries. The DIAD committee also supports other JLW committees by assisting at the major JLW fundraisers and helping fill community partner shifts. To request volunteers through this committee, please click here.
Each year, JLW volunteers provide much needed support to the Folger Shakespeare Library, home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, by staffing events and educational programs. JLW is involved with the Folger Shakespeare Library to help educate and guide theatre and library visitors, and to ensure the continued knowledge of this valuable Washington institution.
Historic Alexandria Docents
JLW supports our American historic, cultural, and artistic history by volunteering at different historic Alexandria properties, working with the Mount Vernon Ladies Association (George Washington’s Mount Vernon), NOVA Parks (Carlyle House Historic Park), the Office of Historic Alexandria (Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary), and the Virginia Trust for Historic Preservation (Lee-Fendall House Museum). Today, more than 30 JLW volunteers serve these partners as docents.
JLW has partnered with the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) since 1982. NMWA is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. With its collections, exhibitions, programs and online content, the museum seeks to inspire dynamic exchanges about art and ideas. NMWA advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement, and social change, addressing the gender imbalance in the presentation of art by bringing to light important women artists of the past while promoting great women artists working today. More than 20 JLW volunteers help educate NMWA patrons, members, and friends on the collection and exhibits, staff the information desk, and support the museum’s public programs.
Other Literacy Partnerships and Initiatives
More than 400 JLW volunteers joined the Library of Congress to promote literacy at the 2017 National Book Festival on Saturday, September 2, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, managing the book-signing lines and staffing other locations throughout the festival, including the Pavilion of the States and the book sales tent. JLW has served as the Library’s primary partner for volunteer support since 2003. Follow the National Book Festival online here.
Resolution Read is a JLW initiative that puts new books in the hands of children who might not otherwise have access to them. Resolution Read concentrates JLW’s focus on literacy into three key areas: the importance of reading aloud to children; placing age-appropriate books in the homes of children; and providing more books to schools and libraries, with a large emphasis on children in Wards 5, 7, and 8 and children from birth through fifth grade. JLW partners with local nonprofit organizations across the community to select and distribute age-appropriate books. In addition to providing books to existing JLW Community Partners, JLW is working with organizations like Everybody Wins! DC and the DC Public Library to facilitate book distributions to targeted communities. Please click here for additional details on the Resolution Read program.
Targeted Grant Recipients
JLW makes a difference in the community through financial and volunteer support of literacy-focused programs. Our current Targeted Grant recipients include:
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and the Junior League of Washington (JLW) are teaming up to support Washington DC’s homeless youth. Over the next three years, the Junior League of Washington and Reading Is Fundamental are partnering to bring books, literacy resources, and activities to children and families served by Coalition for the Homeless and Kia’s Place. JLW awarded RIF a three-year targeted grant to provide funding for this initiative and will be volunteering alongside RIF staff at biannual family literacy events, each fall and spring. Featuring a book distribution, lunch, literacy activities, a STEAM-focused craft station, and a read aloud by members of the JLW, the focus of these events is to instill the importance of literacy in the participating students. Each event will benefit two program sites serving hundreds of families living in transitional housing during this partnership.
JLW is supporting Jubilee JumpStart’s implementation of their Family Literacy Program, using their bilingual Learning Games curriculum, in both English and Spanish. This will include parent training sessions to model how to using Learning Games curriculum and read to their children, as well as time to practice skills. JLW volunteers will be designing and leading literacy-focused activities for children throughout the year.