Volunteer Spotlight: Madeline Nygaard

Madeline This month get to know N Street Village volunteer Madeline Nygaard. Madeline has been volunteering in the community since August 2014. As part of her class requirements at George Washington University, Madeline needed to complete 12 service hours per week at a non-profit, and thankfully she chose N Street Village. During her internship, she became an important part of volunteer and in-kind office and a wonderful addition to the community. We wouldn’t have been able to survive the holidays without her! Let’s get to know Madeline…

I am a senior at George Washington University, majoring in Public Health and minoring in Human Services. Next year, I plan to attend graduate school to earn my master’s degree in public health. I started volunteering at N Street Village for a service-learning class at George Washington University. At N Street Village, I helped sort and organize donations, entered data in the donor database system, and prepared and served breakfast and lunch. Additionally, I facilitated a weekly Mystery Solvers class where I would ask clients various brainteasers and they were encouraged to work together to find solutions to scenarios presented. In my spare time, I enjoy playing volleyball, reading, and exploring D.C.! 

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area?  I am from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and have been living in D.C. for 3 years.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? Lupo Verde

On a Saturday evening you will find me…Trying a new restaurant or bar with friends.

What is the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)?  I’ve probably seen Love Actually 20 times…I still enjoy it though!

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? The Lincoln Memorial

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less.  Empowering, welcoming, strong.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village?  Getting to know the staff, volunteers, and clients. Everyone has been so welcoming and positive.

What makes N Street Village unique to you?  The variety of services and classes offered to the women.

What has been one of your biggest surprises about N Street Village? How people who have faced so many challenges can still have so much hope.

Volunteer Spotlight: Lynne Brehmer & Polina Kropacheva

Lynne and PolinaThis month get to know N Street Village volunteer sewing team, Lynne Brehmer and Polina Kropacheva. Since March 2013, Lynne and Polina have been facilitating a 3 hour sewing class once a month in the Day Center. During their visits, they introduce new projects and encourage clients to develop their creativity while learning new skills. Their projects include, wallets, shoulder bags, and recently the clients learned how to sew sock monkeys. When Lynne and Polina are not volunteering, they enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and travelling to exotic places. Let’s get know Lynne and Polina…

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area?

Lynne: I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and studied business at UNC Chapel Hill. I work as a product manager at AARP managing their mobile apps. I heard about N Street Village through one of my friends who volunteered here in the past. I really liked the programs they offered and decided to attend a volunteer orientation session. They mentioned they needed someone to take over the sewing class. I have been sewing since I was a kid and was really excited to find a way to put one of my skills to use while helping out at the same time.

Polina: I was born in Russia and moved to Chicago at the age of 10 with my family, so I consider myself a Chicago native first. I first moved to DC in 2001 to attend college at Georgetown. I moved away for a brief period after graduating in 2005 and found myself back in DC again in 2007 for law school at Catholic University.

What is your favorite D.C. landmark?

Lynne: My favorite DC landmark is the National Mall. One of my favorite things to do is to run down to the Mall in the morning before the city gets hectic and stand at the top of the hill at the Washington Memorial and watch the sun rise. The city is so beautiful at that time of day.

I really love the Dumbarton Oaks Garden.

On a Saturday evening you will find me at…

Lynne: I love taking weekend trips, especially camping trips. My most recent camping trip was a rock climbing adventure in Seneca Rocks, WV with Polina.

Oftentimes on my couch and every once in a while roasting marshmallows in a campfire at some faraway campsite.

Where is the last place you travelled to?

Lynne: I travelled to Switzerland a couple of weeks ago with my mom to celebrate her birthday. We went to Montreux, Zermatt, and Saint Luc. We had an amazing time visiting the Matterhorn and hiking through the Alps.

Polina: Almaty, Kazakhstan

What is the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)?

Boyhood. They filmed the movie over a 12 year period. It was amazing. Go watch it!

Polina: I just watched Bridesmaids for probably the 7th time. Most recent new release I watched was The Trip to Italy.

What is the last book you read…
Lynne: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Polina: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village?

Lynne: I love seeing how proud the ladies are of the creations they have made at the end of sewing class. Many people come into the class with no prior sewing experience and are not confident they will be able to use a sewing machine. Seeing their faces light up at the end and watching them show off what they’ve made makes me feel really great.

Polina: The positive energy. I love seeing how nice and supportive everyone is.

Share one of your favorite N Street Village memories?

Lynne: One of my favorite recent moments was learning that one of the N Street staff members and one of the members of the class had become so confident in their sewing skills that they started teaching sewing classes on their own.

Photo of the Week


Bethany Women’s Center staff enjoy their new conference table, which is rumored to have once belonged to Hillary Clinton.

Photo of the Week


Long-time N Street Village supporters Joan and Oscar Dodek prepare to serve a meal from the Bethany Women’s Center servery.  Joan has been serving lunch every Friday from this very spot since 1996.

Photo of the Week


Richard Waganer with CRE-A-TV captures community footage for this year’s gala video. This is Richard’s sixth year shooting the Comcast sponsored video that will be viewed at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, DC on April 10th at N Street Village’s Annual Gala.   Pictured: N Street Village Executive Director Schroeder Stribling with the 2013 Erna and John Steinbruck honorees in N Street Village’s Bethany Women’s Center.

Photo of the Week

With the week of Thanksgiving approaching, a photo from our drop-in day center’s “Attitude of Gratitude” wall.  What are you grateful for this holiday season?

Village Inspiration

Sign created by N Street Village Program Assistant Tanya Kahn; displayed in Bethany Women’s Center.

Sixth Annual Luncheon in One Word – Inspirational

N Street Village’s Sixth Annual Luncheon on June 6th was nothing short of an inspirational success, raising nearly $20,000 in support of our programs.

Over 250 supporters enjoyed our featured speaker Gloria Mayfield Banks, who was introduced by Dr. Johnnetta Cole. The Community Ally award was presented this year to the Washington, D.C. Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.

The highlight of the luncheon came from N Street Village’s Elaine Weber who recounted her own powerfully moving story about her journey from the streets to her recovery at N Street Village. While struggling with addiction, Elaine used to sleep in an abandoned building just blocks away N Street Village. Six years ago, she entered our recovery housing program. Today, Elaine is now a program assistant at our Bethany Women’s Center where she welcomes new clients to our community.  And the abandoned building she used to sleep in is now Erna’s House, N Street Village’s newest residence for women with a history of chronic homelessness.  Enjoy photos from the lunch.

Former Annual Luncheon featured speaker Dr. Johnetta Cole was the event emcee.

N Street Village alumna and current N Street Village drop-in day center program assistant Elaine Weber shares her story.

N Street Village Executive Director, Schroeder Stribling, congratulates Elaine Weber after she steps down from the podium.

N Street Village Board Member and Sixth Annual Luncheon chair, Dr. Keith Harley, Jr., presents the Community Ally award to the Washington, D.C. Chapter of The Links, Incorporated representative Denise Sessoms.

Featured speaker, Gloria Mayfield Banks, takes the podium to share her touching and inspirational story.

View more photos from N Street Village’s Sixth Annual Luncheon

Staff Spotlight – Molly Chamberlain

This month we would like to introduce you to N Street Village staff member Molly Chamberlain.  Molly is working as a Program Assistant/Interim Crisis Care Specialist in Bethany Women’s Center as part of her Loretto Volunteer Corps service year. She is a graduate of Siena College where she earned a degree in Social Work. During her undergraduate career Molly was a member of the Division I Water Polo and Swimming teams.   Originally from Pennsylvania, Molly spends her time outside work volunteering with the Human Rights Campaign, cooking with her roommates, and exploring D.C.

NSV: Why did you decide to work at N Street Village?
MC: I came to N Street Village through the Loretto Volunteer Corps. I thought that a year of service would be the perfect middle ground between going to graduate school and going straight into the “real world.” I picked the Village over other non-profits because of the opportunity to do direct service. In college I completed a practicum working with high school students with substance abuse issues; I wanted to see if direct service was going to be my calling.

NSV: What do you do on a daily basis at N Street Village?
MC: My official title is Program Assistant of Bethany Women’s Center. Besides that I also coordinate the monthly activity calendar and serve as the interim Crisis Care Specialist. I am on my feet a lot, which I like; I’ve never been a desk job person. I am responsible for making sure the day center runs smoothly which can include setting up for meals, attending to any of our clients’ material or emotional needs, and resolving any conflicts.

NSV: Describe working at N Street Village in three words or less.
MC: Love. Healing. Laughter.

NSV: What do you enjoy most about the culture of N Street Village?
MC: “Be glad there is one place in the world where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.”  Going to work is a lot like attending Thanksgiving dinner. All the members of your family are there; maybe they’ve brought some new faces with them this time around. Everyone checks in on one another throughout the day, catching up on each other’s lives. After the meal there is some occasional napping. And there is always delicious food around. It’s a lovely place to work.

NSV: What story about a woman who has used our services has stuck with you most?
MC: My favorite story is about a client who is now an alumna of the program. She stopped by to visit one day and told me her story. Before she gained entry to our housing programs she walked from Silver Spring, Maryland all the way down to Bethany Women’s Center and back each day. Since coming to N Street Village she has maintained her sobriety and started working in social services. I love her story because of her strength and perseverance; she was capable of making changes, N Street Village just gave her the little push that she needed.

NSV: Where are you originally from? What do you miss most about your hometown?
MC: I am originally from Kingston, Pennsylvania (20 minutes from Scranton, for you “The Office” fans). Honestly, I miss my family. I have not gotten to go home much since I started college and I wish I got to see them more often. Family aside, I miss the chocolate milk! Hillside Farms has the best chocolate milk in the world.

NSV: What drives you? What are you inspired by?
MC: The desire to do things right and efficiently.  Since a very young age I’ve been an athlete and that culture is hard to get away from, even after you play your last game. I want to be the best at everything I do. I know the world doesn’t always work that way, but I cannot help it! My brain is wired to think that way.

A Pot of Black Beans for the Ladies at N Street Village

By Sylvie Nguyen – Original post can be viewed on Sylvie’s blog Thrifty DC Cook.  You can also follow Sylvie’s delicious ideas and cost-cutting tips on Twitter.

For the past six years, I have been a regular volunteer at N Street Village, a women’s center in DC that helps low-income and homeless women. When I first started volunteering, I showed up once a week to help serve food to the women during my lunch hour. Over time, I volunteered to do other things such as build furniture or help recruit volunteers and walkers for the annual walk-a-thon. Then I started to lead groups of new volunteers on the weekends through DC Cares to help prepare salads, heat up casseroles, and serve. It hit me one weekend that I wanted to start cooking my own food for the women. I talked to N Street Village and asked if it was ok for me to start my own group and serve once a month. For the last 3 years, my wonderful friends and family have helped me serve great food to these women and it has been an amazing experience.

There is this great joy when you see people eat and like the food that you make and it is especially special when you know these women really need it. The most elaborate meal we made was when a friend, who is a chef, came and made individual meatloafs served with mashed potatoes and a mushroom gravy. During the summer, we love bringing sliced up cold watermelon because it always produces smiles. It is clearly an appreciated treat. A family friend once brought in 15 rotisserie chickens which she quartered, dredged in BBQ sauce and roasted again until the sauce caramelized on the chicken. We left that day with an applause from the women. I turned to my family friend and said, “Ok, now we have top that.”

Each month is a struggle to figure out what would be the most economical, healthy and delicious dish to make. My friend Joy has been a master at finding good recipes that will serve large groups (we aim to make enough to feed 50 people.) We also try to bring in fruit and vegetables when we can because people need nutritious food regardless of their financial status. This past week, we planned to make enchiladas and I decided to make a side of black beans.

I found this “Mexican Black Beans” recipe from Epicurious. It looked simple and had all the flavors I was looking for in a recipe. To feed 50 women and keep the cost low, I picked up the items at Food Rite in Arlington, VA. I multiplied this recipe by ten in order to have enough.

Mexican Black Beans
adapted from Epicurious

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large jalapeño chili, seeded, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 pound of dried black beans soaked in water overnight
1 14 1/2-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
Fresh lime juice
Chopped fresh cilantro
Chopped green onions
Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Place oil in a 3qt dutch oven and bring to medium heat. Saute garlic, onions, jalapenos until onions are translucent. Add cumin and mix in. Cook for 30 seconds. Add black beans and chicken broth. Add water until it is right above the top of the beans. Bring to boil. Turn off stove.

Place dutch oven (with the lid on) into the heated oven. Since I used dried beans, the cooking process took longer than the recipe on Epicurious. I kept the beans in the oven for 2 hours. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

They were perfect when they came out of the oven. The beans were soft but not mushy. The cumin and garlic gave it this rich flavor and worked great as a side for the enchiladas. I added a bit of lime juice and we had bowls of chopped cilantro and green onions on the side to put on top of the beans. The entire pot of beans made for 50 women cost around $10. A 5lb bag of beans was $5.50. A container of cumin cost $1.29. Cilantro was $0.89. Onions and jalapenos cost less than $3. I had the rest of the ingredients from previous purchases. These beans would be delicious just served with white rice and maybe some hot sauce. The amazing thing is that we still had half a tray of beans left over after serving all the women and giving out seconds. It felt great to bring something that was delicious and healthy for them to enjoy.

If you would like to join me on Saturday, February 18th (10am to 1pm) to cook and serve a meal at N Street Village, please email me at thriftydccook at gmail dot com.