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: Luann Jacobs

LuannJacobsThis month, get to know N Street Village volunteer, Luann Jacobs. Luann has been coordinating volunteers for the Wellness Center’s Reiki/Biofeedback program since July 2013. The Reiki/Biofeedback program promotes relaxation, stress reduction, restores balance, eliminates blockages, supports the immune system, and fosters all around healing and well-being. She enjoys the relaxing pace of living in close proximity of Shenandoah National Park and spending time with her husband, their 3 dogs, and cat. Let’s get know Luann…

I became interested in integrative medicine because of a back injury that caused me pain for 15 years. I discovered Reiki in 1992 and it wasn’t long before I was free of pain and offering Reiki to my brain injured clients to help them shift emotionally away from frustration, anger, and depression into letting go and moving on. I was a founding staff member of the GW Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM) in 1998 when Dr. John Pan opened the doors and began this now 16+ year journey (and still going) to help medicine change the way it is practiced. Biofeedback became a natural part of the practice of Reiki in a medical setting so I could demonstrate in visual terms the effectiveness of touch in balancing the nervous system. Today, I combine the two practices and teach them both so others can learn to care for themselves. It was while working at CIM that I met Katharine Pan who talked about her volunteer work at N Street Village and the wonderful women there. She is the reason I am now able to offer the Reiki/Biofeedback program at N Street Village.

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area? Indiana born, I have lived and worked in many cities and in Southeast Asia. I have been in DC this last time since 1988, but also lived and worked here in the early 1970’s. Five years ago we moved from Arlington to Front Royal, a small town 70 miles west of Washington.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? I love Indian, Thai, and most Asian food. My current favorite restaurant is Haandi Indian Restaurant in Falls Church.

On a Saturday evening you will find me…at home in Front Royal with my husband making dinner and watching a movie. My husband is a vegetable gardener and a great cook. We eat quite well from what we grow.

What is the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)? I was late to seeing Gravity and it left me breathless. I had to stop several times to regroup!

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? Washington is such a beautiful city and there are so many famous landmarks. I love most of the parks around the city that offer greenery and space. I also enjoy the Smithsonian Mall, the art museums, our view of the Capital, the Reflecting Pool, Lincoln in his chair…it’s so hard to pick one!

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. Heart centered.

What makes N Street Village unique to you? The women! The passion for letting go of the pain from the past and being here now in this moment, which allows you to have that next moment.

Meet N Street Village’s Health Promotion Team

By Nettie Faratci – Nettie is a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and serves as the Program Associate in N Street Village’s Wellness Center. 

N Street Village’s Wellness Center offers programs and services that take a holistic approach to wellness, addressing the mind, body, and spirit. I sat down with Kate and Ugo, two members of N Street Village’s Health Promotion team, to learn more about what’s going on at the Wellness Center and their visions for the Center’s future.

Kate and Ugo

N Street Village Health Promotion team – Kate and Ugo.

Nettie: Tell us a little about yourself.  What brought you to N Street Village?
:  I’ve always been interested in maternal health and working with underserved populations.  Having lived in an underserved area in Nigeria, I learned that there are a number of external factors affecting one’s health. I wanted to learn more about these issues through focusing on women and children.  When I learned about the opportunity to work as a Health Promotion Specialist at N Street Village, I thought it would be a good fit and would allow me to focus on this particular population.
Kate: I am a recent nursing graduate with an interest in both public health and women’s health. I came across a service corps program that was offering a great nursing position at N Street Village, and it seemed like a great fit.

Nettie:  What is your role in the Wellness Center?  Are there any special projects you are working on?
I work as the Health Promotion Specialist in the Wellness Center. My main project is focused on  helping manage the burden clients face with diabetes.  One way I do this is by collaborating with partner organizations that have a vested interest in diabetes education and management through primary, secondary and tertiary intervention.  We link clients with specialists and also use the peer health partner model to empower clients to teach each other about their condition.
Kate: I work as the Health Promotion Nurse in the Wellness Center.  I work in a variety of ways to ensure that our clients’ health needs are being met. I conduct one-on-one meetings, help with problem-solving, help out in the medical clinic when needed, and lead a health education class. The special project I am currently working on is our reiki and biofeedback initiative. This initiatives focuses on providing clients with pain and stress management, while fostering personal wellness and equipping them with the tools to help others in the community.

Nettie:  When you think of N Street Village, what words come to mind?
  Innovation, empowerment, diversity, and community.
Kate:  I agree with all of those. I would add that N Street Village is holistic and caring.

Nettie: What is your favorite part about working at N Street Village and in the Wellness Center?
  I enjoy working one-on-one with our clients, helping troubleshoot when issues arise, and advocating for our clients.
Kate:  I really like walking through the halls and saying hello to all the women. It gives me a chance to check-in with them.

Nettie: What does “wellness” mean to you?
  Wellness means being complete. Being stable mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally.
Kate:  Wellness is a sort of a comprehensive peace of mind and body, where people feel that they are in a good place with their health, both mentally and physically. They also feel equipped to manage the health challenges that come their way.

Nettie: What do you hope for the future of health promotion at N Street Village?
I’m hope that we can continue to provide our services and foster an environment where people know that their health needs are being supported.
Ugo: I see a health promotion office where we are instrumental in advancing the mission of N Street Village. I hope that our work leads to more clients having an improved knowledge, attitude, and practice of health issues that they can use as tools as they transition out of N Street Village.

Nettie: If you could buy anything for the Wellness Center, what would it be?
  Hemoglobin AIC testing equipment to help the women we serve with diabetes management.
Kate:  I would buy an ice cream machine that lowers your risk for diabetes. One can dream!

nettie1About the Interviewer: As the Program Associate in N Street Village’s Wellness Center, Nettie coordinates programming and services in the Wellness Center, works with volunteers and community partners, and teaches a weekly nutrition class. Nettie is from Chicago, IL and graduated from Brandeis University with a BS in public health and biology. In her spare time, Nettie enjoys cooking, reading, and spending quality time with family and friends.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sarah Vogel

SarahThis month, get to know N Street Village volunteer Sarah Vogel. Sarah began volunteering with N Street Village in 2010. Since that time, Sarah has been a regular volunteer at N Street Village’s Luther Place Night Shelter, providing over 200 hours of service to our community serving meals and providing overnight supervision. She also organized a glaucoma screening in our Wellness Center. Let’s get to know Sarah…

Sarah has lived in Washington, DC for 11 years. In 2009, after reading an article in the Washington City Paper about N Street Village volunteer opportunities, she attended a volunteer orientation and started serving our community as a volunteer. When she’s not volunteering, Sarah can be found exploring the city with her husband and friends, practicing and teaching yoga, trying new restaurants, and preparing for an overnight walk this June to raise money for suicide prevention. 

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area? I grew up outside of Columbus, Ohio (Go Bucks!) and moved to Washington in 2001.

Where was the last place you traveled to? I just got back from a family trip to Puerto Rico. It was a great escape from the winter weather!

On a Saturday evening you will find me….watching a movie at E Street Cinema. It’s where my husband and I went on our first date.  We still go there often to see great films.

Who is one of your favorite musicians? Stevie Wonder

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? The statue of Mahatma Gandhi in front of the Indian Embassy. It’s a great reminder of the power of peace in one of the most powerful cities in the world.

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. Community of Strength

What has been one of your biggest surprises about N Street Village? How bittersweet it is to say goodbye to ladies as they move on from N Street Village’s Luther Place Night Shelter. While I’m always glad to hear that someone’s gotten a new job or moved into their own apartment, I do miss spending time with them.

Share one of your favorite N Street Village memories? Two years ago, a friend and I cooked and served dinner at Luther Place Night Shelter to celebrate my birthday. It was a great way to spend the evening and reminded me how much more I’ve gotten out of volunteering than I’ve ever given.


“I Ain’t Gonna Let Being Homeless Get Me Down”

With these words, Lolita Mitchell’s deep voice resonated throughout Luther Place Memorial Church on a recent Sunday. Lolita, a resident of N Street Village’s Recovery Housing program, was leading N Street Village’s Ambassadors of Praise choir and Luther Place Memorial Church’s chorus as they sang at the church’s annual homeless memorial service.

Ambassadors of Praise

The Ambassadors of Praise at rehearsal

Two years ago, singing in a church choir was the last place you would have expected to find Lolita. Her mother had just died, and she was at the self-described rock bottom of her addiction. Now as a resident of N Street Village and a member of the Ambassadors of Praise, Lolita finds she is better able to focus on her recovery and make the changes she needs to lead a healthier, happier life.

An Ambassadors of Praise practice is a joy-filled space. The choir director is Rev. Karen Brau, pastor of Luther Place Memorial Church and member of N Street Village’s Board of Directors. She begins each practice by asking everyone’s name and how they are doing. Any woman who comes to N Street Village can be a part of the choir so from week to week, members change and new voices are welcomed. In the opening prayer, Pastor Karen gives thanks for “gifts that sound way better when they are together.”

Pastor Karen finds that the Ambassadors bring added vibrancy to worship at Luther Place Memorial Church, and the community has warmly welcomed them. Pastor Karen notes, “They give people who hear them an opportunity to receive joy.” She is hoping to have them sing there at least once a month, but for now they have been performing at special events including the homeless memorial service, Christmas Eve service, Pastor Karen’s own wedding, and the Soul Feast block party.  In perhaps their biggest performance, this past spring they sang a cappella at the Kennedy Center as part of the National Conference on Ending Homelessness.

For now, they gather every Wednesday in the Wellness Center to sing and give praise for the good things happening in their lives. Pastor Karen believes that music has a healing power, especially for women in recovery. For all the singers, the choir gives them an opportunity to be a part of something larger than themselves.

The choir also stretches their abilities. Many of the women have never performed before and often consider their individual voices to be weak. Lolita is one of those women. She insists that she doesn’t have a very good voice but notes that “when I sing for the Lord, the songs come out beautifully.”

Despite her reservations, in many ways the Ambassadors is a natural fit for her. She was raised in the church, and her mother was a longtime pastor’s aide. She stopped attending church and “went down the wrong road.” Now, thanks to N Street Village she is traveling down a healthier and happier road.

By Shane Yost, Manager of Individual Giving – story originally published in the N Street Village’s Village Voice newsletter.

Staff Spotlight – Ilana Krakowski

This month, we would like to introduce you to N Street Village staff member Ilana Krakowski.  Ilana is working as a Program Assistant in the Wellness Center as part of her Avodah Volunteer Corps service year.  Ilana is from New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Comparative Religion. Ilana recently shared with us more about herself and her experience at N Street Village.

NSV: What inspired you to work in the Wellness Center at N Street Village?
IK: I was inspired by how N Street Village tends to the full needs of individuals who experience the tragedy of homelessness, treating them in the exact way I would want to be treated. So many of us regularly participate in classes where we tend to our artistic, emotional, spiritual, physical and mental health needs that we can come to take such recreation for granted. Before working with the Wellness Center, I never saw these as basic rights that everyone should have to experience.  The Wellness Center showed me that part of empowering individuals in their recovery, education, and economic goals is assisting them with building confidence, self-esteem, and healthy ways to deal with stress. I knew that my interest in alleviating poverty with my experience in studying religion, dancing, gardening, and teaching would be a perfect fit.

NSV:  What do you do on a daily basis at N Street Village?
My main responsibility is overseeing our Wellness Center activity schedule. Each day we provide 4-5 classes and 1-2 health services for our clients. I am in contact with every volunteer and staff member who leads these activities and make sure we are on time, that each client’s need is taken care of, and that our day runs smoothly. I also facilitate sign-ups for our medical clinic, conduct health screenings for prospective residents, provide OTC services, and teach several of my own classes including dance, gardening, and spiritual literacy. My favorite part, however, is collaborating with the Wellness Center client receptionists and supporting them in their professional development goals.

NSV: Describe working at N Street Village in 3 words or less.
Empowering, fun, and a privilege.

NSV: What is the greatest thing about N Street Village culture?
I love that N Street Village maintains itself as a safe place exclusively for women.  Having gone to a women’s college, I see a similar culture of creativity, care, collaboration, energy, and empowerment that I felt on campus. I am also inspired by how staff supports each other, works outside their specific areas of focus, and understands that nothing gets done as well without a team of people dedicated to a shared goal of moving women from homelessness to independence.

NSV: What story about a woman we have served has stuck with you most?
The personal journeys of our receptionists have stuck with me the most.  Finding themselves homeless for vastly different reasons, each woman came to the Village looking for help and a fresh start. After participating for a while, they gained enough exposure to the Wellness Center and interest in helping other women learn the ropes that they requested to volunteer. Each receptionist plays a vital role in helping run the Wellness Center, whether it is teaching their own classes, working with our volunteers, setting up for different programs, or providing information for new clients. I see that despite everything they need to work through, they have confidence, a real sense of purpose and personal fulfillment, and knowledge that they are extremely helpful members of the NSV community. I am impressed every day with their courage and leadership!

NSV: What was your greatest accomplishment of the past year?
IK: My greatest accomplishment has been running several Wellness Center activities. In my first month on the job my supervisor asked me to teach a dance class. I was extremely nervous about this but have now been doing it for almost a year and love dancing with our women every week. I then increased my teaching involvement and started up the garden club again and helped teach spiritual literacy, which I now lead.  Facilitating such classes and dialogues with our clients has been one of the most rewarding and impactful experiences of my year at N Street Village.  I am a better listener, speaker, and teacher for it.

NSV: Where are you originally from? What do you miss most about your hometown?
I am originally from Brooklyn, New York. Besides my family, friends, Broadway theater, and the general energy of New York City, I miss the ability to eat a delicious slice of pizza or a freshly baked bagel no matter what time of day it is or what city block I find myself on.


N Street Village Artists Display Their Work at Fathom Creative Gallery

A client at N Street Village sat in a Wellness Center Open Studio art class not too long ago. She used paper and colored pencils to create what she soon decided to call Beauty of Life.  When I told this client that we would like to include her piece in our second annual Client Art Show, she looked me in disbelief, telling me that she isn’t an artist.  I told her that she should look at her amazing drawing again, for she most certainly IS an artist.  She stared at her work, and while she still held on to some of her original skepticism, a small smile on her face told me that she was beginning to change her mind.

This client later wrote in a statement to accompany her artwork, “When I was drawing this piece I was thinking about my life and the different challenges I have faced as well as overcome. The color scheme represents the different emotions I have had throughout my life. I made this drawing from my wish that people would not be so quick to judge others based on the outcomes of their situations. I wanted to tell a story about myself without the use of words.”  Sounds like a true artist to me.

Beauty of Life, along with thirty other works by N Street Village clients, will be displayed at the Fathom Creative Gallery in Logan Circle this week.  For our clients, having their artwork professionally displayed for the public to enjoy is a great achievement.  But in my opinion, their real accomplishment is the courage they displayed in putting their thoughts and feelings into physical form – including sketches, paintings, crochet, and poetry.

Watching N Street Village clients create work for the art show has shown me that with access to the right tools and a positive, encouraging environment, anyone can tap in to who she is and find her own way of expressing herself.  Organizing this art show also reinforced for me the power of teamwork.  Many volunteers and staff members came together to help make this show possible.  From donating art supplies, to guiding clients in writing their artist statements, to framing and curating our exhibit, team members gave much of their time, resources, and enthusiasm to our clients.

I invite you all to join us Thursday, April 26 for the public showing of N Street Village’s 2nd Annual Art Show! Click here to RSVP.

By Ilana Krakowski – Ilana is a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and serves as the Program Assistant in the Health and Wellness Center. Ilana organizes Wellness Center programing, coordinates volunteers, and manages the Wellness Center receptionist team. Ilana is from New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Comparative Religion.

Photo of the Week

A N Street Village resident participates in a Share our Strength Shopping Matters tour, which was led by N Street Village staff and volunteers. Participants learn practical skills that help them understand how to purchase fruits and vegetables economically and make healthier choices by reading food labels and ingredient lists.

Photo of the Week

Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington (POB), the largest local prevention of blindness agency in the United States, offered free glaucoma screenings to our community this week in our Wellness Center.

A Knitting and Crochet Movement at N Street Village

By Ilana Krakowski – Ilana is a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and serves as the Program Assistant in the Health and Wellness Center. Ilana organizes Wellness Center programing, coordinates volunteers, and manages the Wellness Center receptionist team. Ilana is from New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Comparative Religion.

DIY — Do It Yourself. It seems that as the world grows larger and more interconnected, people are seeking to empower themselves and their communities with a DIY attitude. DIY means the ability to create something original we’ve grown to assume can only be mass-produced in a factory and purchased at a store. DIY puts personal choices and money back into the hands of those who make their own products, and it also offers them inspiration, a sense of fulfillment, and increased self-esteem.  I’ve seen these results in the women who participate in knitting and crochet classes here at N Street Village.

Our first knitting class was introduced in 2006 by volunteer Jane Saari, who wanted to share her love of the craft.  Jane invited her friend Wendy Mayer to teach crochet skills during Jane’s knitting class.  Not long after tapping into her own talent, Barbara, one of N Street Village’s client volunteers, began to teach her own crochet class in the Wellness Center. This past January, Wendy and  Barbara started offering an advanced crochet class because so many women had mastered basic crochet skills and wanted to learn to read more challenging patterns.

Knitting and crocheting have become a part of daily life at N Street Village. Almost everywhere I go in the building I see women working on yarn projects – scarves, hats, blankets, and caftans.  I see ladies sporting knitted or crocheted garments that they have made or a friend has made for them. I see projects completed and new ones started right away. I see the distribution of new yarn skeins greeted with anticipation and excitement. Most important of all, I notice the growth of community and individuality among our clients.  While working on their projects, women chat, joke, develop friendships, and share information on different services available to them in the city.   Many women find their unique styles and voices in their yarn work.  Some shared their gifts outside our community by taking part in the Hyperbolic Coral Reef Project, while others started selling pieces at Luther Place Memorial Church’s art fairs and on Etsy. One client was able to quit smoking after she began crocheting, while others have completed something they’ve started for the first time, showing them that they have the ability to set a goal and achieve it. The Do-It-Yourself ethic inherent in our knit and crochet program really has and continues to change lives.

We are grateful for all of our donors and volunteers who continue to bring knitting and crocheting to N Street Village. Our community is always in need of yarn donations — now more than ever as many women are improving their skills and creating more elaborate pieces. Your donation of yarn will also offer newcomers the very experience that so many women have already benefited from. To make a donation of yarn, please contact Anne Steeves at