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Community Builder Spotlight: Claire Christian

While we cannot wait for the day when we can welcome volunteers back to the Village, we are spotlighting some of our incredible Community Builders that give time, talent, and treasure to N Street Village. Meet long-time volunteer and Community Builder, Claire Christian.

Q. How did you get involved with N Street Village?

A. I got involved with N Street Village when I was looking for somewhere to donate some leftover conference swag bag items. It was a long time ago and one of the items was a bunch of prepaid phone cards (remember those?). I tried to think of who could use them and I thought of people experiencing homelessness. I did some Googling and found N Street Village. I saw they had a lot of volunteer opportunities and I signed up for an orientation. I had a regular volunteer gig at my local library starting when I was nine and I really wanted to get back to doing weekly community service. The Village had a great mission and a well-run volunteer program, so I stuck with it!

Q. How long have you been serving the Village community?

A. That is a good question! I think I started in either 2004 or 2005. So about fifteen years. I have been serving breakfast almost every week during that time (unless I am out of town or sick).

Q. Can you share your favorite N Street Village memory?

A. One of my favorite memories is when one of the ladies told me that it was so nice to see my smiling face every week. Up to that point, I always wanted to give the ladies good service and I liked chatting with them if I got the chance, but I honestly never really expected them to pay much attention to me. One of the things we talked about in volunteer orientation is that many of the ladies have a lot going on in their lives. I always thought I was there as a breakfast volunteer mainly to do a job efficiently so people can get their breakfast and get a good start to their day. But when she said that, I realized I was looking at my role in a very limited way. I wasn’t just there to do a job – in a small way, I had become part of a community. I am proud to be a member of the Village community.

Q. What inspired you to become a recurring donor in addition to volunteering your time with N Street Village?

A. Volunteering is really valuable, but I work for a nonprofit myself and I know that fundraising is very stressful. The need for the services N Street Village provides is so great and I felt that being a recurring donor in addition to volunteering was the best way to make sure I was using all my resources to help provide consistent support for my neighbors in need.

Wrapping up this great interview, we have our own favorite memory of Claire at the Village. Director of Vocational Development and Volunteers, Heidi Gauthier shares a special moment she shared with Claire. “For the past few years in September, Claire brings all the ingredients to make pesto and we have a pesto making party with Village residents with the basil we grow in the flagship garden. One year, three residents from the Luther Place Night Shelter came to help. After we finished making pesto, we made a few dishes with the pesto we prepared and enjoyed dinner together. It was an amazing farm to table event filled with comradery and fellowship.”

Thank you, Claire, for all the ways you support the women of the Village!

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.

Polina:
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.

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)?

Lynne:
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.

Volunteer Spotlight: Emily Siegel

Emily SiegelThis month, get to know N Street Village volunteer, Emily Siegel. Emily has been an active volunteer in the Wellness Center since 2009. Emily facilitates “Listening to the Body,” a class that meets every Friday morning. Its focus is to teach clients how to read their body’s cues. Let’s get to know Emily…

I found N Street Village in November 2009 while enrolled in massage school. The following month I began teaching a weekly class on stress reduction. I enjoy teaching the women how to read their body’s cues. Many are surprised by the focus that I place on the feet and the body as a whole. My specialty is body-centered trauma-release. My doctorate and master’s degrees are in international public health and human nutrition from Johns Hopkins University and Emory University respectively. In 2007, I began to focus on ways that I could apply my skills locally. Currently, in my private practice as a craniosacral therapist, I support individuals while they find balance and peace when experiencing acute and chronic physical and emotional pain and distress. I live in Glen Echo, Maryland with my spouse, two unaccompanied refugee minor foster children, our dog and cat. My stepdaughter is grown, but returns for visits.

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area? I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia. I moved to Maryland for graduate school in 1997 and settled in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area in January 2006.
What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? It’s called Shangri-La. The restaurant is owned and run by Nepalis. Eating there offers me an opportunity to connect with a country I lived in during the early 2000s.

On a Saturday evening you will find me…Saturday evenings are often quiet; I enjoy spending them eating at a restaurant or watching a movie at home with my spouse.

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

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? The National Mall. You can find me throughout the year wandering around museums and the monuments. I spend a few hours there each year on my birthday. The National Gallery of Art, Sackler and Freer Galleries are my favorite museums. I enjoy visiting the Lincoln and FDR Memorials after dark.

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. Heart, Strength, Resilience

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village? Meeting the women who filter through the Wellness Center has been the best part about volunteering at N Street Village. They are the reason I return weekly to teach a class.

What has been one of your biggest surprises about N Street Village? The biggest surprise is that it has been five years since I first started teaching. There have been so many demands on my time that I never thought I would last this long. I have felt a lot of joy returning week after week to the Wellness Center.

Volunteer Spotlight: Helena Guerra

Volunteer Spotlight HelenaHelena Guerra has been volunteering at N Street Village since October 2013. She serves breakfast once a week at N Street Village’s Day Center. She enjoys ethnic cuisine, loves to travel, and is one of TripAdvsior’s top 10 reviewers in the world. Let’s get to know Helena…

I was born in Lisbon, Portugal, a sun-drenched old city, right across from New York—if you are willing to swim 3000 miles across the Atlantic. I hold a JD and a Masters in tax law. I first moved to Chicago, where my husband was doing a PhD. His job, after graduation, brought us to DC. When I arrived, I was shocked at the blatant inequality pervasive in Washington, D.C. I had a difficult upbringing, but I feel so fortunate to be here. I wanted to pay this happiness forward. I volunteer at N Street Village and as a paralegal at the Washington Legal Clinic. I also teach children about recycling at Oyster School.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? I am currently in love with a Vietnamese restaurant in Columbia Heights named Pho Viet. I love ethnic foods.

On a Saturday evening you will find me…cozied up in my home with my husband watching a movie.

What are you currently reading? Currently, I’m reading the new book of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, A Path Appears – Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunities. It’s about how individuals, namely volunteers or donors, can make a difference to reduce poverty and inequality.

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? My favorite landmark is the Lincoln Memorial at night. I enjoy walking through the Mall in the evening when it’s quieter.

Where is the last place you traveled to? I’m leaving for Northeast Asia today! I’m in love with Asian food and culture. Last year, I traveled in Southeast Asia and it was an amazing experience.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village? The ladies that I serve are very kind and they always have something nice to say. They inspire me every day and are true examples of resilience.

Share one of your favorite N Street Village memories? As a foreigner, I struggle with English pronunciation of certain words, apple was one such word. I would always ask the ladies if they wanted “aple”. After many tries, I now am proud to say APPLE with a smile. N Street Village women rock!

Volunteer Spotlight: Project Affinity

project AffinityThis month, get to know volunteer group, Project Affinity. Project Affinity donates and serves lunch at N Street Village’s day center on the first Sunday of each month. Project Affinity began volunteering with at the Village in June 2013. Project Affinity has become a very popular group because of the delicious food they make and share with our community. Let’s get know Project Affinity…

Project Affinity focuses its efforts on assisting those in the community that have been marginalized by society. Project Affinity, from its inception, strives to operate in five key areas: assisting people experiencing homelessness, empowering disenfranchised youth, ex-inmate re-entry program, visiting the sick and elderly, and, engaging and empowering people with disabilities. In keeping with the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, we started small, but stressed consistency. We initiated services in one of the key areas—assisting people experiencing homelessness. On June 15th 2012, we had our first meal service for the clients of Central Union Mission DC. Since then, we have grown our presence into 4 facilities, including N Street Village.

Where is Project Affinity from and how long have you been serving the community? The group comprises of compassionate volunteers throughout the DMV area. We have been serving the DC community for over 21 months.

On a Sunday morning you will find us…at N Street Village or at another community event that aligns with our mission.

Describe your favorite meal the group has prepared and served to the community? Our favorite meal that we prepared was succulent tandoori chicken, seasoned rice, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, and fresh vegetable salad with all the fixings.

Why did you start volunteering at N Street Village? After successfully establishing our presence at a men’s service provider, we wanted to expand our services to a women’s facility. Our research indicated N Street Village was on the front lines of providing vital services to women in need. This compelled us to start volunteering at N Street Village.

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. Renew, revive, and recalibrate

Share one of your favorite N Street Village memories? One of our fondest N Street Village memories is when volunteers gathered and eagerly listened to Bernadette’s accounts of N Street Village’s history, her personal struggles, and N Street Village’s involvement in her success. This incident was a testament to N Street Village’s valuable program and the opportunities it provides to its clients.

What has been one of your biggest surprises about N Street Village? It’s hard to isolate our surprises to only one. A few of our biggest N Street Village surprises were the high level of organization, the professionalism exuded by the staff, and the wide range of services N Street Village provided for its clients.

Volunteer Spotlight: Joanna Worsely

JoannaThis month, get to know N Street Village volunteer, Joanna Worsely. Joanna was inspired to volunteer with us by an N Street Village alumni. Joanna began volunteering in September 2013, and has since served over 200 hours. Most days you will find Joanna volunteering in our Finance Department, but you may also find Joanna serving meals in the day center and night shelter. Let’s get to know Joanna…

I was brought up in London, England.  After leaving school I traveled extensively through Asia, working in Hong Kong and Delhi where I developed a passion for India.  Then I spent several years producing music videos in Los Angeles before returning to the UK and marrying a British army officer who in turn has a passion for lengthy Antarctic expeditions!  For the past five years, I have annually taken groups to various parts of India and administered two charities in London.  My husband is now working at the British Embassy in DC and I am over the moon to have found N Street Village (through the wonderful concierge at my apartment building) where I spend all of my days while I’m in the US.

Who is one of your favorite musicians?  Amy Winehouse

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? Statue of Einstein

Where is the last place you traveled to? To London to visit my kids!

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. Life-changing for everyone.

Why did you start volunteering at N Street Village? I have always felt deeply about the homeless and love working with women–I found both!

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village? The staff is incredibly friendly and everyone seems to need my help with the filing!

Share one of your favorite N Street Village memories? Two of my favorite memories: when the ladies in the day center started to smile at me. It really made me feel that I had become familiar to them and was one of the team. And dancing with some of the ladies in the night shelter after dinner!

Volunteer Spotlight: Heather Henderson

HeatherThis month, get to know N Street Village volunteer, Heather Henderson. Heather began volunteering with N Street Village in September 2012. Since that time, Heather has been a regular volunteer in our Day Center preparing and serving weekend meals and a Miriam’s House Bingo caller. Let’s get to know Heather…

I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and attended college at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. I later attended the University of Oregon School of Law where I received my J.D. in 2007. Currently, I work as an attorney with the federal government in Falls Church, VA. While living in the Logan Circle neighborhood. I became involved with N Street Village because of my passion for working with organizations that provide services for women in need. In addition to N Street Village, I also volunteer with the Maryland State Bar Storybook Project, Byte Back and the DC Abortion Fund.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? Rice in Logan Circle

Where is the last place you travelled to?  Houston, TX

On a Saturday evening you will find me…in bed reading a book on my Kindle.

Who is one of your favorite musicians? Sade

What was the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)? The Descendants

Why did you start volunteering at N Street Village? I started volunteering at N Street Village because I wanted to work with an organization that assists women in need.  In addition, I liked the fact that N Street Village provides comprehensive services to women to help them get back on their feet.

Share one of your favorite N Street Village memories? One of my favorite N Street Village memories was the time I volunteered to work on the community garden. It was great to work outdoors (weeding and planting fruits and vegetables) and meeting so many of the other community members that enjoy volunteering at N Street Village.

What has been one of your biggest surprises about N Street Village? One of the biggest surprises about N Street Village is the number of women that they are able to serve and the number of different services they offer the women.

Volunteer Spotlight: Julia Conte

NStreetVillageVolunteerPictureThis month, get to know N Street Village volunteer Julia Conte. Julia began volunteering with N Street Village in September 2012 and has served over 300 volunteer hours in our community. She serves regularly as an overnight supervision volunteer at N Street Village’s Luther Place Night Shelter.  Let’s get to know Julia…

N Street Village was my best Craigslist find.  After I moved to DC, I was selling a microwave on Craigslist and looking for volunteer opportunities with an organization serving homeless individuals.  A development staff person contacted me about donating my microwave to N Street Village. Unfortunately, I had already sold it but I asked how I could volunteer and here I am!  I love to run, drink coffee, and explore different neighborhoods.  Recently, I have been gardening, taking dance classes, and getting out into nature. 

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area? I’m originally from a suburb of Chicago and have been in D.C. for almost a year.  I moved here from the city of Chicago and was in Iowa before then.  It’s my first time living outside of the Midwest which has been scary and exciting.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? Don Juan’s in Mount Pleasant.  I’ve never had a pupusa before I moved to D.C. and I love them!  The only way it could get any better is if they had a food truck too!

On a Saturday evening you will find me…having dinner and drinks with good friends, dancing, or relaxing at my house-having some good laughs and conversation with my housemates.

What is the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)? Sleepwalk with Me.  It’s funny, heartwarming and sad all at the same time.

What is your favorite D.C. landmark?  I haven’t had a chance to really get out to all areas of D.C.  As of now, I would say the National Mall because it’s used for so many different things.

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. Warmth. Care. Commitment.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village? The people I’ve met.  All of the staff, volunteers, and residents are so welcoming. I feel like I am inspired and can learn so much from everyone I meet.

What makes N Street Village unique to you? It strives to create a community for women to support one another rather than simply providing services.

Namaste

It’s Volunteer Appreciation Week!  Over the last year, our volunteers have served more than 12,000 hours. To honor its volunteers, N Street Village hosted a yoga class on Sunday with plans to host other appreciation events throughout the week.

Led by Lululemon’s Claudia Porcello, the session brought together both clients and volunteers for a morning of relaxation and light refreshments.  N Svolunteer yoga pic 2treet Village volunteer Joanna Calabrese helped facilitate the event and said, “I love to start my day with yoga.  It was even more special to spend Sunday’s class with other volunteers and the women of N Street Village as a way to say “thank you” for our commitment to this community.”

Development Assistant and event coordinator Ilana Cookler said, “It is evident how passionately our volunteers work.  Without our volunteers, we would not be able to offer as many opportunities and services  for the nearly 1,400 women who come through our doors each year.  It was pleasure to be a part of an activity during this week of volunteer appreciation that promotes the importance of community, self-care, and well-being.”

A huge thanks to Claudia for leading the class and all of the volunteers who dedicate themselves to our community every day of the year!