As you have probably read by now, the Step Up DC job placement program launched in September. Step Up DC connects women at Calvary to employers in DC, with the goal of helping them achieve independent living. The program is already seeing strong enrollment. Some candidates are already working but are striving to move forward in their careers or into better-paying positions. Others have been unemployed for years and are getting re-acquainted with the job application process (which may look completely different today compared to what they remember).
Here is a quick set of facts on this exciting new program:
- Step Up DC is open to women in the Calvary Transitional Housing Program, Pathways and Sister Circle. Women must have prior work experience and enter the program through a referral from their case manager. Step Up DC candidates are ready and eager to work!
- Current and past employees of Calvary’s STRIDE (Search Together to Resume Dignified Employment) program are also eligible to participate in Step Up DC. STRIDE currently employs one chef and two cleaning assistants.
- LEAP (Life Skills, Education and Arts Program) and Step Up DC go hand-in-hand – afternoon classes cover job preparedness topics like computer basics, professional presentation, stress management and effective communication.
- Volunteers with relevant experience can get involved with Step Up DC by leading workshops on employment-related topics, conducting mock interviews with candidates and reviewing resumes.
- Job Developer Robinson Cook oversees Step Up DC. He facilitates relationships between candidates and potential employers, coordinates with job mentors, assists with job placements and works directly with women at Calvary throughout the job search process. Robinson’s energy and commitment are great assets to the program.
Step Up DC represents a new frontier for Calvary Women’s Services. We are thrilled to be offering job placement services for women who are actively working toward independent living!
As one Calvary staff member recently observed, the LEAP education area is a place full of laughter and joy! Through creative activities like painting, drawing and writing poetry, women find unique ways to express their stories. These artistic opportunities also give women a chance to unwind and relax. We think these photos of women decorating pumpkins for an upcoming event exemplify the spirit of Calvary. Even when pumpkins serve as the canvas, it is always exciting to see what women create. Although women at Calvary may be facing difficult personal challenges, they are still able to look through them and smile.
By Elaine Johnson
Our connection with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) began as an outgrowth of Calvary’s Green Committee. Thinking that we should approach a new recycling campaign holistically, I was asked to reach out to organizations that would get residents into the environment that is affected by our recycling efforts.
Two organizations that came to Calvary over the summer were the Anacostia Watershed Society and WABA. Both groups gave wonderful presentations, but the representative from WABA was serious about getting women at Calvary on bikes and feeling the freedom and ease of movement that they remembered from childhood.
That day finally came on a recent beautiful October morning. With the help of three expert volunteers from WABA and Capital Bikeshare, eight women ventured out on bikes, many for the first time in decades. First, pedals were removed from all of the bikes for the walk down to the Anacostia Recreation Center parking lot—that way women could focus on the weight of the bike in their hands and using hand breaks (versus coaster breaks from their childhood). In the parking lot, they practiced balance exercises with no pedals and power starting with one pedal. Later they had the freedom to bike at-will around the parking lot with both pedals on. The joy was palpable!
Everyone did so well that there was time for a lesson in group ride etiquette before cycling confidently back to Good Hope Road.
We have another ride scheduled for this month…and who knows after that?
Elaine Johnson is the Education Coordinator and oversees LEAP at Calvary Women’s Services.
Lisa has always been an independent woman. Although she moved all over the country as a young woman, she always found a job. When her marriage collapsed after just a few years, she worked hard as a single mother to support her family.
It wasn’t long after Lisa came to Calvary that she started pursuing a different kind of work that is beneficial to herself and to others. She learned about the Foster Grandparent Program through a community action agency in DC. Foster grandparents serve as role models, mentors and friends to children in the community with special needs. They volunteer their time at hospitals, daycare center, juvenile correctional facilities and other locations.
Lisa set her sights on becoming a Foster Grandparent at a hospital, and went through the lengthy process of applying and undergoing a full background check. She was accepted to the program and took a two-week instructional class before being placed in a daycare. Now every weekday, she spends several hours providing comfort and care to babies in need by feeding them, rocking them and playing with them. She hopes that soon she will be able to work in a hospital.
When Lisa first came to Calvary, she says that she had lost more than just a home – she had lost part of herself. Volunteering her time to care for others has revived Lisa’s spirit. She beams with pride as she talks about caring for infants and comforting them when they cry.
“You always learn from mistakes. I’ve had plenty of them, but I always learned,” Lisa says with a broad smile. “I’m still Lisa. I’m proud of myself.”
Last November, a small but mighty group of cyclists participated in the first Roundabout Century Ride – a 100-mile bike ride organized to raise funds for Calvary Women’s Services. In less than one month, the 2nd annual Roundabout Century takes place! The Roundabout Century was organized by Calvary’s IT consultant, Gillian Cook, and her friend Matt Bond. Both Gillian and Matt will be participating in the ride again this year – we thank them for their enduring support of Calvary.
There are still spaces for riders interested in participating in the ride on November 1. Please visit http://bit.ly/roundaboutcentury for more information and to register for the event. Your registration fee and any additional funds raised will be donated directly to Calvary Women’s Services and used to support our housing, health, education and employment programs for women.
This year’s event is generously supported by The Bike Rack, a DC bike shop. The Bike Rack will accompany riders on the route and perform bike tune-ups and adjustments prior to the ride. Female cyclists are welcome! The Bike Rack is committed to promoting women in cycling at all levels, from casual cyclists to commuters to competitive riders.
Riders will enjoy a healthy lunch at the Amsterdam Falafelshop in Annapolis. Amsterdam Falafelshop is offering riders a 10% discount on their meal. Immediately following the ride, participants and friends are invited to a happy hour celebration at the Ugly Mug located in Southeast DC. Celebrate your 100-mile accomplishment with hearty food and drinks. The Ugly Mug will also be donating 10% of sales from the group to Calvary!
By Lindsay and Emily Dessem, volunteers from the Junior League of Washington
We’re happy to announce that after a summer hiatus the Calvary book club got back to reading a few weeks ago! Every other Sunday, Junior League volunteers meet with women at Calvary to discuss the current book. The PEN/Faulkner Foundation provides books for women and even arranges for the author to visit for certain books.
The book club at Calvary brings together women from different walks of life and gives us a common purpose. We all come from different experiences but the books we read unite us in a passion for reading. Our discussions in book club show us how alike we are and remind us of our common experiences as women. Books serve as the common ground through which we share, learn and form friendships.
This fall we are focusing on short stories, followed by a novel in January and poetry in the spring. Currently we are reading Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans. The collection of short stories has been well-received and has sparked great discussion about growing up, motherhood, race and family. Danielle Evans visited Calvary last spring and gave us all great insight into her process and world views.
The engagement and enthusiasm of everyone in the room is apparent during book club meetings. Book club encourages women in the process of changing their lives to adopt a healthy habit for life and inspires us all (whether living at Calvary or not) to read more. We look forward to many more books and many more great discussions at Calvary!
Eva has been a wonderful asset to Calvary’s Life Skills, Education and Arts Program (LEAP). She currently teaches Conversational Spanish and Yarn Works classes, expanding the horizons of Calvary’s residents. Her enthusiastic, conversational approach to learning can be applied to any topic. Eva has also battled with a knee injury since joining us, and her response has been a lesson in and of itself – she sent knitting photos from her hospital bed, told tales of navigating public transport with crutches and shared her attitude of keeping an optimistic outlook through difficult times. Thank you, Eva, for caring for women at Calvary by sharing from your experience! Read about Eva’s volunteer experiences at Calvary below.
Where are you from?
I was born in Mexico and grew up in Los Angeles.
Share a fun fact about yourself!
I have my own podcast where I talk about sports, culture and news topics of the week.
How did you first hear about Calvary?
I did an online Google search for a women’s shelter and Calvary came up!
Why do you volunteer at Calvary?
I chose Calvary because I did similar professional and volunteer work in Los Angeles in the Skid Row area before coming here. I was looking for a small organization that provided the rare smaller program environment to their participants. Calvary is unique because it focuses on quality vs. quantity!
What do you like best about your work with Calvary?
I like that it’s a close knit community. Being a volunteer in a small organization allows me to meet more women at the center and connect with them at a real level.
What has been your most memorable experience at Calvary?
This summer I had surgery on my knee and the women made me a get well card with Spanish phrases!
What has surprised you most about volunteering at Calvary?
The fact that every five days one woman moves from Calvary and into her own home.
What would you tell someone considering getting involved with Calvary?
You are always learning something at Calvary! Calvary staff and participants want volunteers to enjoy their experience and learn as much as possible about the programs they offer. You are offering your time and a service to help but the volunteer learns a lot too!
If you had to choose ONE word to describe Calvary, what would it be?
LEAP facilitators such as Eva are committed and enthusiastic instructors who lead educational and enrichment classes on a wide variety of topics for Calvary residents on weekday afternoons. We welcome volunteers who can commit to lead ongoing classes for up to 15 participants that offer tangible skills and promote well-being. This is a great opportunity for skilled volunteers to share their knowledge, and a great chance to develop a meaningful relationship with our residents. If you would like to learn more about volunteering at Calvary, please contact Catherine Bisson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 678-2341.