by John Kelly, columnist
The Washington Post
January 8, 2015
I didn’t know what to expect when I announced I’d be focusing my annual holiday fundraising efforts on three new charities. Well, not new to our area, but new to me — and probably new to many of you.
And after nearly eight weeks of The Washington Post Helping Hand I guess I still don’t know what to expect. I set a goal of $200,000 with no idea whether such a thing was possible. Well, the deadline is Friday, and we are tantalizingly close. So far, Washington Post readers have donated a total of$169,866.80 to our three featured charities: Community of Hope,Homestretch and Sasha Bruce Youthwork. That leaves us with just $30,133.20 to go.
I think we can do it.
As we race toward the conclusion, I want to again explain what I’m up to. All of us at The Post have appreciated our long association with Children’s Hospital and Camp Moss Hollow — two charities that we partnered with for decades — but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that with so many groups doing good work in our area, it would be nice to share the wealth.
And so I invited nonprofits to apply. More than 150 did. We narrowed that down to 10. A committee composed of Post staffers then visited the finalists and picked the three winners. I will write about them for three years, then start the process again.
Each of these groups is very successful at redressing a shameful fact of life these days: As the U.S. economy has gone on its roller coaster ride over the past decade, more families are winding up homeless.
Our Helping Hand charities work with different groups — Sasha Bruce with homeless teens in the District, Community of Hope with homeless D.C. families, Homestretch with homeless families in Northern Virginia — but they have similar approaches: Get the family into a home and surround them with support.
That support can include helping a high school dropout earn her GED. It can include helping an unemployed dad find work. It can include helping a mom woefully unprepared for motherhood become a better parent. It can include offering debt counseling so a family can face the future on a firm financial footing. It can include placing a victim of domestic violence in a safe and secret apartment. It can include fighting to get a girl off to college.
One of the things I’ve learned firsthand over these past two months is something that I always sort of knew but didn’t really know, if you know what I mean: I am incredibly fortunate. When the cosmic roulette wheel of my birth was spun, it came to rest on a middle-class family. That simple advantage gave me an incredible head start. Not everyone is so fortunate.
A few readers wrote to criticize some of the people I’ve written about, wondering why, say, a struggling, single mom should be “rewarded” with charity support when her life is such a shambles.
To them I say: Think of the children. Kids don’t ask to be born to poor, single mothers or into families gripped by drug addiction or abuse. If we harden our hearts against these blameless children, we shouldn’t be surprised if they grow up with hearts hardened against us.
You can learn more about each of these groups — and make an online gift — by visiting www.posthelpinghand.com.
To donate by mail to Community of Hope, send a check payable to “Community of Hope” to: Community of Hope, Attn: Helping Hand, 4 Atlantic St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20032.
To contribute by mail to Homestretch, send a check payable to “Homestretch” to: Homestretch, 303 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church, Va. 22046, Attn: Nan Monday.
And to give by mail to Sasha Bruce Youthwork, send a check payable to “Sasha Bruce Youthwork” to: Sasha Bruce Youthwork, 741 Eighth St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. Attention: James Beck.
Thank you to everyone who’s donated so far. I will announce our grand total next week.