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Good in the Neighborhood: Little Lights Urban Ministries

Good in the Neighborhood: Little Lights Urban Ministries

Hill Center’s annual Volunteer Capitol Hill is a staple in the community, as organizations from around Capitol Hill meet prospective volunteers, network with other non-profits, and celebrate the generosity of the Capitol Hill community.

The eighth annual Volunteer Capitol Hill was slated for May 2, 2020. While concern for one another’s safety and well being prevents us from gathering with our neighbors at Volunteer Capitol Hill, our non-profit friends are not slowing down. We wanted to highlight the wonderful work continuing to happen on the Hill.

Our first organization, Little Lights Urban Ministries, has participated in Volunteer Capitol Hill since the beginning. Little Lights “provides holistic ministry and services to children and families living in poverty in Washington, D.C., primarily focusing on Potomac Gardens and Hopkins, two public housing communities on Capitol Hill, as well as on Benning Terrace public housing, east of the Anacostia River in Ward 7.”

Steve Park, the founder and executive director of Little Lights Urban Ministries, kindly took the time to answer our questions about their work amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

How has your organization pivoted in the midst of the coronavirus?
We have pivoted dramatically in almost every aspect of the organization.  Instead of our normal programming, we are providing emergency relief on the ground at Potomac Gardens and Hopkins public housing in Capitol Hill. We are providing 70 To-Go meals per day during the weekday, nonperishable groceries and household supplies, diapers, board/card games, art supplies, and masks.

We are supporting students academically with individualized packets which students can turn back in for prizes. We are doing online tutoring using video conferencing technology.

We have had to cancel fundraising events but are using online tools as well as applying to new grants to continue to raise resources to maintain as much of our staff as possible.  

What projects are your organization working on right now?
Emergency Food Distribution and Critical Resources

  • We are distributing daily grab and go meals to students and families through a partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank. 
  • We are collecting donations of cleaning products, toilet paper, board games, art supplies, and non-perishable groceries for weekly distribution for our families and the community.
  • We are also passing out updated resource sheets every week and also distributing local resource information through using mass texting technology.
  • Our volunteers are providing masks to distribute to our families.
  • We are hiring public housing residents to help with the safe distribution of resources as well as to participate in youth development training.
  • We are providing tablets with internet installed to students and families for distance learning and for consistent internet access.  

Academic Support

  • We are creating and distributing weekly individualized academic work packets to students. They can return the packets to receive prizes. 
  • We are distributing reading level specific printable books for all of our students.
  • We have also started to tutor virtually using Zoom. 
  • We are also partnering with their local schools to help pass out their school packets.
  • Distributing Chrome laptops & tablets so students can participate in online tutoring.
  • We are creating Virtual Storytime videos on YouTube for our students to read along with our staff.

Emotional Support

  • We are doing phone and Zoom check-ins with all of our students and families to do physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness checks.

Clean Green Team & Family Center Operations

  • Our landscaping social enterprise, the Clean Green Team, is considered essential service and is continuing to work using social distancing and safety protocols.
  • Our Family Center is also still distributing free diapers to low-income families with infants as well as providing supplies and non-perishable groceries once a week. 

How are your volunteers assisting you at this time?
We have volunteers who have been making masks, mentors who are connecting by phone and video chat, tutoring using Zoom technology, and shopping for toilet paper, cleaning supplies, soap and other hard to find items.  

Are you currently looking for volunteers, either remote or in person?
We are still looking for volunteers to make masks for our residents. We may be able to use 1-2 volunteers to help us shop for hard to find products like toilet paper, cleaning wipes and liquid soap.

Anything else your organization would like to share? 
We are hustling to meet the most immediate needs of our underserved residents living in public housing. It is a stressful time for many nonprofits, but we are focused on assisting our students and families in the midst of unprecedented change and uncertainty. Thanks to all those who support our work. 

Volunteer Capitol Hill is sponsored by Pettie-Tubbs-Edwards Team at Coldwell Banker, Capitol Hill Community Foundation, National Capitol Bank, and Hill Rag.

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