Staff Spotlight | Kristina Randelzhofer

Please join us in welcoming Kristina Randelzhofer!

Kristina joins N Street Village’s Volunteer and In-Kind Donations team as the new Volunteer and In-Kind Gifts Coordinator. Kristina first learned about the Village through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps and will be serving the community for the upcoming year. Let’s get to know Kristina in her own words…

I grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota with a B.A. in American Studies. I recently moved to D.C. as a member of Lutheran Volunteer Corps. I’m enjoying living in intentional, sustainable and simple living with my housemates. I am looking forward to getting to know all of the clients, volunteers and everyone in the N Street Village community! In my free time, you can find me reading, singing, cheering on the Green Bay Packers, and going to museums.

On a Saturday evening you will find me… At a concert, performance, or watching a movie with friends.

Where is the last place you travelled to? I last traveled to Florida.

What is the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)? My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Who is one of your favorite musicians, why? Lucy Dacus is one of my favorite musicians because she is a young female rock musician who has powerful lyrics and music.

What was the last book you read? I last read Origin by Dan Brown.

What are you most looking forward to in yearlong placement with N Street Village? I’m most looking forward to getting to know the clients and their stories.

What has been one of your biggest surprises about N Street Village? One of the biggest surprises has been the strong support network that N Street Village has built to help the clients whether that’s volunteers or donations.

Village Staff Spotlight: Meet Nicole Hall

Meet Nicole, an Assistant Manager at the Village’s
downtown emergency and temporary shelter, the
Patricia Handy Place for Women. Every night, Patricia
Handy welcomes 213 women and provides beds, meals,
showers, and medical care in a safe, loving community.

Nicole works in the low-barrier program on the second
floor, which is open to any woman in need of a safe
place to sleep for the night. Nicole’s goal is to get to
know each woman and help her work on her goals
towards healing, recovery, and a more permanent
housing solution.

How long have you been at N Street Village? I joined
the Village family in May 2018.

What keeps you motivated to come to work every
day? I love knowing I can make a difference in
someone’s day by offering a meal, giving words of
encouragement, or simply by smiling. The work I do
reminds me on a daily basis that any woman, including
myself – regardless of race or socio-economic status –
could find themselves at the doors of N Street Village.

What was your favorite Village moment in 2018?
When I got to work on Thanksgiving morning, the
residents were so surprised to see me! It truly made an
impact for them to know the staff and I were taking
time from our own families to spend the holiday with
them. Throughout the day, you could see how much the
Village is truly a family – as donations and meals came
in, all the residents were looking out for each another,
making sure everyone ate and received a new hat, gloves,
toiletries, etc.

Staff Feature: Meet Keleigh

Meet Kenyatta Brunson, Director of Programs

Kenyatta recently celebrated one year as our Director of Programs at the Village. Our Chief Executive Officer, Schroeder Stribling, has admired Kenyatta’s work in homeless services for years, and we are delighted to have her on our team.

Prior to coming to N Street Village, Kenyatta spent over ten years managing women’s shelters, transitional programs for families, and hypothermia shelters in D.C. We recently sat down with Kenyatta to discuss her first year as a member of the Village Senior Leadership Team.

N Street Village: Why did you want to join the N Street Village family?

Kenyatta: I have known Schroeder Stribling for over ten years through working in the same sector, and the reputation of N Street Village is stellar. When the Patricia Handy Place grant was announced and the new positions opened at the Village, I thought this would be a great opportunity. Before I applied, I did some research and asked friends who worked there what it was like. They all talked about it being a peaceful place to work where they felt really supported.

N Street Village: Can you describe the Village in three words or less?

Kenyatta: Supportive, Innovative, Energetic.

N Street Village: What makes N Street Village unique to you?

Kenyatta: My job is much more than managing programs; I see my role as connecting with the whole community of people who come to our Village. Whether client or staff or volunteer, I want them to come to the Village and feel that they matter.

N Street Village: How long have you lived in the D.C. area?

Kenyatta: I was a Military brat growing up, we moved around constantly. My father was career Air Force – we lived in Korea, Hawaii, Texas, the Philippines… Finally, my mom said, we need to settle down somewhere! So we landed in the D.C. area.

N Street Village: We all have tourist friends come to town, where is your favorite place to take them?

Kenyatta: After driving an hour and half each way to get into D.C. every day, when friends come to town we usually stay closer to our house in Maryland! Sometimes we will venture up to Baltimore to the Science Center or the Port Discovery — my daughter loves these places! And when the weather is nice, we love the parks.

N Street Village: What’s the last movie you saw, or book you read, and really liked?

Kenyatta: Kids movies or adult movies?! My favorite adult movie was Hidden Figures. I found it so inspiring. With my master’s in psychology, I also love psychological thrillers. My daughter’s favorite movie is Frozen. If I hear “Let it Go” one more time…

Thanks for getting to know another member of the Village leadership team.

Meet the Newest Member of Village Leadership — Cathy Solomon, Chief Operating Officer

Meet the Newest Member of Village Leadership — Cathy Solomon, Chief Operating Officer

Cathy Solomon joined N Street Village as Chief Operating Officer in March 2017. She has over 20 years of operations and finance experience in both the private and public sectors, most recently in the Obama White House as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Administration. Cathy previously served the Obama Administration as Chief Financial Officer for the Executive Office of the President, and as Advisor for Recovery Act Implementation in the U.S. Department of Education. She managed the budget for the Presidential Transition Team, and served as a Budget Director and Financial Operations Director on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign. She has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.  Cathy and her husband live in Washington and have two grown daughters; she is adjusting to the empty nest by spending more time biking, hiking, and going to the theater.

We recently sat down with Cathy for an informal interview.

N Street Village: Why did you want to join the N Street Village team?

Cathy: I was a political appointee in the Obama administration so my job officially ended on January 19, 2017 and leaving the White House really makes you think long and hard about what you want to do next. I did a lot of soul searching and knew I wanted to use my operations and finance skills to help and organization with a mission that I cared about deeply.

When I was leaving the White House, one of my favorite employees who was a career civil servant said she that she knew exactly where I should go – she recommended N Street Village. She had the good fortune of attending a session led by N Street Village Program Manager, Kenyatta Brunson, and Village ED, Schroeder Stribling. My friend was so impressed by the mission and recognized that N Street Village was in a pivotal place where my skills could be useful. I sent myself an email to look into N Street Village, but before I even got a chance another friend saw the Chief Operating Officer posting and sent it to me.

I’m a city person – I grew up in suburban Pittsburgh. I lived in Chicago for 23 years – in the city. That’s what really awakened me to the need for deeper, boarder social services. I learned through educational ventures in Chicago that wraparound services were so important for the success of any program, especially to help break the cycle of poverty. I see this wraparound approach at the Village and this really spoke to me.

N Street Village: Even though you’ve only been here a short time, can you describe the Village in 3 words or less?

Cathy: Passion, dedication and community.

N Street Village: What makes N Street Village unique to you?

Cathy: The focus on community and empowerment – the fact that N Street Village is more about just a meal and a bed. I met Cheryl and she talked about coming to the Village Day Center for the first time for a meal and someone asked her what she wanted– no one had ever asked her what she wanted before. The respect for the individual and developing a community where you’re valued and known is really amazing. Being part of a community where people know you and value you is huge.

The focus on empowerment was something that really struck me through the interview process as well. The way I’ve always approached management in terms of empowering people to be their best so the organization can be its best – that’s how N Street Village is empowering women, to achieve the best life that they can.

N Street Village: How long have you lived in the D.C. area?

Cathy: I came to D.C. in November 2008 – the Sunday after the Presidential election. I was asked to be a member of the Obama transition team and I had a week to move. I lived in a temporary apartment in Penn Quarter and something that really struck me, and many of my colleagues who came from Chicago, was the homeless population.  There’s a homeless population in Chicago, but it’s less visible. Downtown is built on two levels and the majority of the homeless population stays on what’s called “Lower Wacker Drive” – it’s underground so not something you see every day, unlike D.C.

In 2009 after my family moved from Chicago, we moved into a townhouse on the east side of Dupont Circle. I’ve seen 14th Street develop in the 8 years that we’ve lived here. I’ve seen things improve, but you know that part of that is pricing people out as well. Part of urban life is making it thrive for all of the residents – that’s another important part of the work at N Street Village. Knowing that you’re doing a job that helps individuals in your neighborhood is incredible gratifying.

N Street Village: We all have tourist friends come to town, where is your favorite place to take them?

Cathy: A walk around the Tidal Basin. I love the beauty of the memorials – that’s my favorite memorial walk because you get Jefferson, FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr. all together.

N Street Village: What’s the last movie you saw and really like?

Cathy: Hidden Figures. I was a math and economics major at Dartmouth. The school had only been coed for only seven years when I started; there were not a lot of women math majors. I was an oddity, which had hurdles, but nothing like the prejudices the women of Hidden Figures experienced. In a way, I could relate though, and it was incredible moving.

N Street Village: What is your favorite place in D.C.?

Cathy: Capital Crescent Bike Trail. My perfect weekend has a long walk one day and 2-hour bike ride the other day.

Please join us in welcoming Cathy to the Village!

Looking Back: Five Special Memories from My First Year at the Village

To celebrate his first year at the Village, Volunteer and In-Kind Services Coordinator Adam Brunell shares five special moments at the Village made possible by volunteers and donors.

1. All Volunteers: Family and Friends Day – May 6th, 2016

Last spring, Heidi [N Street Village’s Volunteer and In-Kind Services Manager] and I were worried that because of the weather we had to postpone, and possibly cancel, one of the most exciting days at the Village: Family and Friends Day. Those who were in D.C. last May remember that it rained a lot—and I mean a lot. Last spring it rained for a D.C.-record fifteen days in a row, shattering the previous record by five days. In middle of these rainy weeks, Heidi and I wondered, “Should we cancel Family and Friends Day, or should we pray the weather gets better?”

In a Friends and Family Day miracle, the sun came out of the clouds just in time for over 70 volunteers from Studio Theatre, Bucknell Alumni Association, and the D.C. area community to replant the Village’s garden together. After spending the morning weeding and replanting the our garden with strawberries, tomatoes, kale, basil, and more, we all went inside and enjoyed an ice cream social. For my first major volunteer event, Family and Friends day was a smashing success and a great opportunity to connect with long-term members of the Village family. A huge shout out to all our volunteers for spending the morning keeping the Village beautiful!

2. Bloomberg BNA: Washington Kastles Tennis Match – August 2nd, 2016

A long-term supporter of the Village, Bloomberg BNA sponsors all kinds of events at the Village, such as workshops helping women enter the workforce an advance their careers. The most anticipated event of year, however, is the yearly Bloomberg-sponsored tennis match. This past August, Bloomberg provided a dozen women (and me!) with tickets to the six-time champion Washington Kastles as they took on the visiting New York Empire.

The women, Bloomberg, and myself watched the Kastles men’s and women’s teams narrowly triumph over the Empire in a what turned out to be a wildly unusual battle. At one point, the head coach—who had been retired for decades—had to enter mid-match after a Kastle player went down with an injury. The coach surprised both teams and the audience with a turn-back-the-clock performance behind the raucous cheers of the home crowd. For many of the women the match was the first live tennis event they had attended. We at the Village thank Gopi, Peter, and all the Bloomberg team for treating us to a wild night of live tennis.

3. Morgan Stanley: Coat Drive – November 4th, 2016

Out of all the donation drives for the Village, perhaps the most important is the Annual Winter Coat Drive. With the addition of Patricia Handy, the number of residents at the Village doubled to over 400, and our donors stepped up to the plate.  The next step was getting the coats to our clients at every site, so Heidi and I brainstormed how we were going to be able to distribute hundreds of coats to four housing programs across the district. We soon realized we would need outside help to make the task possible.

We reached out to our friends at Morgan Stanley, and together we developed a plan just in time. Morgan Stanley rented a bus for the day, so each woman could take the shuttle our main site. The plan was a success–women got a chance to see our entire coat selection and pick out their favorite coat.  In addition to renting a bus for the day, Morgan Stanley sent a dozen employees who provided much-needed event support for what turned out to be a surprisingly complex operation. All in all, we distributed nearly 200 coats to women in the Village family with the help of Morgan Stanley—thank you for making this possible!

4. Women@Hyatt: Patricia Handy Winter Holidays Party – December 13th, 2016

Soon after I joined the development team at the Village, our new Chinatown housing program, the Patricia Handy Place for Women, opened its doors. By May, the Village had welcomed over 200 women into the newly renovated facility in the heart of Chinatown. Getting the program up and running so quickly was a challenge, a challenge that would have been insurmountable without the support of our team of volunteers.

After a busy spring and fall, Pat Handy—as the shelter has come to be known—celebrated our new community and accomplishments with our first building-wide party, the Winter Holiday Party. Woman@Hyatt, an all-women group celebrating and advocating for women at Hyatt and in the greater community, threw an extravagant winter holiday perfect for this celebration od our new community. Woman@Hyatt decorated the multi-purpose room with holiday colors and served a three-course dinner with their usual contagious enthusiasm. Our gratitude goes out to Cherwana and Women@Hyatt for making the inaugural winter holiday season a special one at Pat Handy.

5.  Washington/Virginia Ministers’ Spouses, Widows, and Widowers: Bedding and Linens Donation Drive – April 13th, 2017

I couldn’t end this article without mentioning the support we receive from churches, synagogues, mosques, seminaries, and other religious-based organizations representing the Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i faiths, and more.

Just this month, the Washington/Virginia Ministers’ Spouses, Widows, and Widowers finished a four month tremendously successful linen drive. At the end of it all, they donated three car-fuls of blankets, sheets, pillows, bath towels, washcloths, and more! We send our appreciation to such a thoughtful, generous group for their huge donation drive.

Bonus Event: Irish Students Visiting the Village – Summer 2016

Last summer the Village was blessed with the presence of eight students from Ireland who were participating in Washington Ireland Program (WIP). From running a summer clothing giveaway to preparing breakfast for our entire day center, the Irish students worked hard to support the clients and even teach us some Irish slang along the way (did you know that calling a person “massive” is a compliment?). The students were studying a range of topics from different universities, and each day they utilized knowledge from their studies to bring excitement to the Village community. Thank you to all the WIP students who spent part of their semester volunteering with us. Fair play—you are savage volunteers and did a deadly job. (Did I do that right?). Thanks WIP!

 

There are far too many volunteers and donors who contributed their time, talent, and treasure to mention in this brief reflection. It was difficult to leave out so many wonderful people and organizations, but I want to take the time now to thank everyone donor, volunteer, and member of the Village family who worked with us to empower homeless and low-income women in D.C. The Village would not be able to carry out its mission without the support of 400+ individuals from local businesses, organizations, and families in the D.C. community—and beyond.

Looking back at my first year, I could not have had a better time and or felt more inspired by the Village community. I am eagerly looking forward to year two—may it be as exceptional as year one!

With appreciation,

Adam Brunell

Volunteer and In-Kind Services Coordinator

 

Storytelling and Advocacy

storytelling wordleRecently, the AVODAH Jewish Service Corps members had a lesson in advocacy. The facilitator began by asking: “how did you get here?” After some confused responses such as “I took the bus,” it was clear that the question should be interpreted in a broader sense: What is your story? What led you to social justice?

Each person revealed only a glimpse of his or her picture. Because in every story, there are many sub-stories, and within those sub-stories are even more stories. Stories define us and shed light onto who we are. The lesson from that night was the importance of storytelling for advocacy work—expressing why we’re interested in working in a community with its specific challenges and why the community’s struggles are ours as well. This is essential to engage people and gain support.

I’ve thought a lot about storytelling since then. At work, I noticed that all of my interactions with clients involved storytelling. I am the Wellness Center Program Assistant at N Street Village. My favorite part of this work is coordinating the team of Wellness Center receptionists—these are clients who volunteer their time in our community, which provides an opportunity to give back and build their resumes. I spend a lot of one-on-one time with our receptionists. The more we get to know each other and build trust, the more the women open up to me. They share their personal stories—these stories are beautiful, painful, funny, and uncomfortable. As I help put their stories in writing, the ladies participate in an incredibly empowering process. They learn how life experiences and traumas can transform into resilience and the ability to give back to the community.

Although this AVODAH lesson was the corps members’ first attempt at formally narrating our personal stories, most of us knew pieces of each others stories. Describing ourselves as a dysfunctional family, we know each other really well. A week after we moved in, a vivid thought struck me: “How is it possible that we already love each other?” It was remarkable how close we had become. It has been eye-opening to explore the relationship between storytelling and advocacy: at home with AVODAH-niks, at N Street Village with clients, and on my own. Thinking ahead about my future working on issues surrounding gender, health-care, and homelessness, I know the atmosphere of openness in my AVODAH and N Street Village communities has made me a better storyteller and, consequently, a more empowered and influential advocate.

***

pic of denaBy Dena Franco – Dena is working at N Street Village through the AVODAH Jewish Service Corps. As the Wellness Center Program Assistant, she assists clients with over-the-counter requests, coordinates the schedule of health promotion activities, manages the team of wellness center receptionists and teaches classes about the brain and mental health. Dena received her B.S. in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience from the University of Michigan and plans to pursue a dual degree in Social Work and Public Health.

N Street Village dives deep into HIV

“Statistics are less compelling than human lives.” 
Lisa Biagotti, Director of deepsou+h

The global epidemic of HIV overshadows the prevalence of the virus in America, particularly in the South. As much as we like to think HIV is “under control” in the United States that is far from the truth. Instead, we hide it, deny it, shame it, and ignore it. AIDS activism is historic, but the movement did not reach all the marginalized and vulnerable populations. The South has a unique culture, bares the imprint of slavery, and is poverty-stricken. HIV and AIDS in the South are not new problems. The difference is the recent media attention on the South’s epidemic.

deepsou+h is an unparalleled documentary about the rural American South that includes four mini-stories: an animated map that correlates slavery to poverty to HIV, the sermon of a Baptist pastor, the long drive of a rural social worker, and the sex education lesson of a health teacher. The film is not about black people with HIV or the “new face” of HIV/AIDS. Instead, it looks past the numbers and tells stories about the experience of what it is like to be affected by HIV.

deepsou+h is a lesson in human rights, and how we confine people in our communities. Unless we reduce the stigma and the shame associated with sex and sexuality, HIV will proliferate. Working directly with marginalized populations has taught me that HIV is not really about HIV. HIV is more about social inequity than the virus.

Join us, the N Street Village community, as we attend deepsou+h at the West End Cinema on Wednesday, March 5 at 7 pm. The screening will be followed by a question and answer with the director. We hope you will join us. It is guaranteed to be a powerful and thought-provoking evening.

[vimeo 31893050 w=500 h=281]

***

SARAH THAPPABy Sarah Thappa – Sarah is a member of AIDS United’s AmeriCorps National team with the Washington AIDS Partnership and serves as the HIV Health Promotion Specialist at N Street Village. She does HIV education, counseling, outreach, and testing in addition to health promotion classes on various topics. Sarah hails from Northern Illinois and graduated from Carleton College ‘13 with a B.A. in Biology.

Open Hart Studio

Open Hart StudioShould you drop in N Street Village’s Multipurpose Room on Tuesday afternoon, you’ll be greeted by a buzz of activity. Classic soul music plays in the background as women are absorbed by a variety of art projects. Women are gathered around different stations where they decorate small jewelry boxes, paint pictures, and crochet.

Welcome to Open Hart Studio.

Open Hart Studio is coordinated by N Street Village’s Community Organizer and unofficial Artist in Residence Sharon Hart. A woman may walk in thinking she has little creative talent but under the patient guidance of Sharon, she becomes an artist and creates things of beauty. Sharon’s past projects have included decorating gift bags for N Street Village’s volunteers, making sand art, assembling origami, and even icing cookies for N Street Village events.

Sharon also gives women the opportunity to follow their own passions. While some work on the projects she has designed, others are busy working on their own projects. One Tuesday while a group of women made their own boxes, Bobbie painted cards filled with flowers, while Petrina designed hers with abstract images. Other women were busying crocheting. For Bobbie, painting is therapeutic and allows her to get lost in the moment. For Alberta, the Open Studio brings out the kid in her.

Perhaps the most commonly recited refrain is Ann’s: “I never thought I could do this, until Sharon taught me how.” The women draw energy and inspiration from Sharon. Participating in the Open Studio is an opportunity to have fun, be creative, and brighten up the N Street Village community.

Photo of the Week

PIT Board

From right to left – N Street Village Executive Director Schroeder Stribling along with Village Board Members Gary Maring and Robin Halsband pause for a quick team photo during last night’s Point-in-Time Homeless Persons Count. The annual census collects data on homelessness in our community.  Results of the census are used to see what programs may have worked to reduce homelessness over the past year and to help our local government develop policies that can ultimately eliminate it.