William J. FordCommunity

D.C. Seeks Volunteers to Help Inspire Black Youth, Young Men

D.C. held its third annual My Brother’s Keeper DC Volunteer Recruitment Fair at the National Press Club in Northwest Thursday, as officials with 53 agencies and nonprofit organizations stressed the importance of engaging in activities that support young men of color.

Delano Hunter, chief service officer for Serve DC, which promotes volunteerism through the mayor’s office, said supporting youth and young men of color ensures they help their community and beyond.

Among the suggested activities for volunteers: playing with and reading to less fortunate children, teaching young men public speaking skills and showing the proper use of social media.

“Any degree of success … we got was because someone took the time impart wisdom and show us the way to provide some form of support,” said Hunter, who added the agency hopes to register 500 volunteers. “I may not have an impact on what goes on in the national level, but I can control what goes on in my community.”

Prospective volunteers chat with various agencies and organizations during the third annual My Brother's Keep volunteer fair at the National Press Club in D.C. on Aug. 17. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Prospective volunteers chat with various agencies and organizations during the third annual My Brother’s Keep volunteer fair at the National Press Club in D.C. on Aug. 17. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Hunter said the recruitment fair ensures companies are all at one site and people can speak with officials about volunteer activities based on need.

DC Levee’s New Orleans and Back Community Action program enters its 11th year working with high school students to become more engaged in civic activities. Besides its request for volunteers to assist students in leadership skills, art and other talents, the program needs another home after being stationed at Idea Public Charter School in Northeast for a year and the first nine years at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in Southeast.

Jennifer Sonkin, founder and director of the DC Levee project, said students travel to New Orleans once a year to help residents in the Louisiana city after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the levee system in 2005 and caused massive floods. Earlier this month, part of the city and St. Bernard Parish flooded after heavy rains.

“We have no money and we have no home, but we have a wonderful program,” she said.

The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, housed at St. Stephen’s Church in Northwest, seeks volunteers for its “Play Rangers” program, which services at least 750 disadvantaged children annually. People are needed one night per week from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday for at least six months.

Those interested must attend volunteer training, complete an application, submit a background check and attend child sexual abuse prevention instruction.

“We usually have one volunteer for every three kids,” said Deborah Sherman, volunteer coordinator with the project. “These are children who need love and support.”

Although the fair’s main focus sought to help young men of color, Kathleen Scott wants to provide assistance to adult women. Behavioral and social services are offered by the Hillcrest Children and Family Center.

“Women who had children early in their lives need a boost later in life [which] helps everyone,” said Scott, who moved to the District in 2006 from Guyana in South America and received a doctorate in sociology last year from Howard University. “Volunteerism is one way to get off the fence [and] be a part of the process to really do work and have a commitment to change.”

Because a three-year federal grant expires this year, Serve DC plans to reapply for another grant so community organizations continue to receive a variety of services and volunteerism remains constant.

“We do so much more than just the fair. This is like the cherry on top,” Hunter said. “We want to keep this going for the city.”

For more information, go to www.serve.dc.gov, or Twitter at #IAMMBKDC.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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