InsideNOVA: Nonprofits enrich the fabric of our community

Nonprofits enrich the fabric of our community

By Analiese Kreutzer
Published: Oct. 27, 2020 

Nonprofits support our community in so many ways. Here are three that offer valuable services to young people, members of the military, and aspiring business leaders in our area.

Urban Alliance

As a high school student, Eva Mercado worked alongside her entire family at night in a dirty newspaper warehouse that lacked ventilation. She was so exhausted that she had trouble keeping up in school. When she heard about Urban Alliance, she saw it as a way to pursue her dream career in politics.

Urban Alliance believes that young people—no matter their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background—deserve equal access to the skills training, paid work experiences, and professional networks needed to achieve economic mobility. The organization provides meaningful work experiences to high school students, including year-long internships for high school seniors.

“It’s all about providing youth from communities of color with the social capital, skills, and experience needed to bridge the opportunity gap in the working world,” said Emily Rogers, Urban Alliance’s communications director.

Urban Alliance placed Eva in an internship at the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, where her diligence, maturity, and work ethic quickly made her a valued employee. Through Urban Alliance, Eva was able to take control of her future. She is now a rising junior at Wheaton College.

“The current climate has only strengthened our resolve for our work and our belief that what we’re doing really matters. COVID-19’s disproportionate and devastating impact on communities of color has laid bare pre-existing racial and socio-economic disparities across the country,” said Rogers.

Urban Alliance partners with more than 250 employers and has provided more than 5,700 internships to high school seniors in the Washington region since 1996. Each intern is assigned an Urban Alliance program coordinator and a one-on-one workplace mentor who guide the intern’s professional development and post-high school planning.

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Thousands of resources are available to members of the military community in our region, but navigating them can be overwhelming. ServingTogether provides a coordinated care model to refer active duty, National Guard, and reserve service members, veterans, and their families to the health and human services resources they need.

“In our area, the biggest needs are employment, income support, and housing, which are often co-occurring,” said Christy Kenady, senior program manager at ServingTogether. “Since COVID-19, we have also seen a huge increase in the need for food assistance, so we’ve partnered with a few organizations to really focus on that.”

ServingTogether takes the time to learn about its clients and whether they would benefit from additional referrals. As a result, ServingTogether averages 2.64 referrals per client. For example, a woman who was divorced from her active duty military husband recently contacted ServingTogether because she needed help with some custody paperwork. The staff referred her to legal assistance but also talked to her about other struggles she was experiencing. They discovered she had a lot of credit issues and needed help with housing as well as mental health assistance for her and her son.

“We uncover additional areas of need and get people connected to resources as seamlessly as possible. We try to do one intake, so they don’t have to tell their story multiple times to get connected to what they need,” Kenady said.

ServingTogether also works with area businesses to help them support their employees who may be military veterans or family members.

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George Washington Leadership Institute

The George Washington Leadership Institute helps both experienced and aspiring business executives develop their strategic thinking, communication, and collaboration skills. Located in the Washington Presidential Library at historic Mount Vernon, the Leadership Institute has a reputation for effective, innovative, and impactful historically-based programming.

“We provide full-day programs of Institute-delivered content oriented toward senior staff development,” said Dr. Peter Cressy, director of executive programs. “Our curriculum draws on lessons of the past to reflect the challenges and opportunities of the future.” In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Leadership Institute added virtual programs to its options.

The Leadership Institute also works with area organizations to customize programs to meet their goals, from half-day off-site retreats to multi-day board meetings. In 2019, the Leadership Institute hosted 110 programs for corporate boards, association boards, senior staff, and the leadership of federal agencies.

“The positive feedback we have received from across the spectrum of commercial, government, and associations strongly supports the effectiveness of our programming, which emphasizes the extraordinary leadership, management, and character of our founding father George Washington,” Cressy said.

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