When she was a tutor to children from low-income families in Washington, DC, Kyle Zimmer was amazed by how excited students would get whenever given their own books. As she relayed in a 2011 New York Times story, this work inspired Zimmer to start First Book, an organization dedicated to making reading materials accessible to children in need.
Today, nearly 20 years after Zimmer's eureka moment, First Book works toward this goal through two channels: the First Book Marketplace, an online store with quality books—including Caldecott and Newbery award-winners—available at up to 90% below the retail price, and the First Book National Book Bank, a clearinghouse for publishers’ excess inventory. To date, the organization has distributed more than 100 million books and educational resources to 50,000 schools and programs throughout the United States and Canada—with more added each month.
The impact has been inspiring. An internal study found that 70% of children reported reading more at home after receiving books from First Book. In recognition of this and other accomplishments, the organization has received numerous awards and honors, including the 2005 Nonprofit Innovation Award and a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.
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During the summer Horton’s Kids Summer Camp helps provide students with a healthy, constructive environment, mitigating the "summer slide" in literacy that can occur during the long break and engaging kids with outings around the city. Throughout the six-week program, students focus on improving their literacy in half-day classes and exploring DC on daily field trips. Some excursions promote fitness, such as trips to the pool, and others focus on education, such as visits to museums. The summer camp also augments the class work and activities with healthy meals and snacks every day of the program.
As their motto goes, "It's all about the music." Eschewing props, costumes, and staging for a focus on the sounds of voices and instruments, the Washington Concert Opera seeks to thrill audiences with performances by some of the profession's leading lights. Their stripped-down approach allows the company to focus on rarely produced works, from little-known Rossinis to classic Puccini B-sides.
Alicia had a tent under the Francis Scott Key Bridge. She bathed in the river and ate canned food from a nearby church. But maintaining even this basic stability was difficult because of her struggle with alcoholism, respiratory infections, and schizophrenia, according to an article in The Atlantic. It was only when Pathways to Housing DC stepped in that Alicia found regular medical care and a safe place to live—no strings attached.
Following the belief that housing is a basic human right, Pathways to Housing DC addresses chronic homelessness among people with psychiatric disabilities or addictions by providing immediate access to housing without preconditions. Its staff help people attain a level of dignity that they could not find sleeping under a bridge or on a park bench. In addition to housing, the organization serves as a comprehensive resource for its clients by providing supportive treatment services—all at lower costs than most shelters or psychiatric hospitals. Services such as wellness groups, therapy, nutrition consultations, and vocational planning help clients move toward recovery and achieve personal goals. With these services in place, Pathway to Housing DC maintains an 85% housing retention rate, even among those who were not considered housing-ready by other programs.
Throughout its history, the United States has been an experiment in equality. With every century that has passed, the nation has become more inclusive, more accepting, and more tolerant?one step at a time. Now, the country is at the brink of a new state of openness as individuals and organizations work to secure equal rights for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The Human Rights Campaign is a leading force in this movement to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It has advocated for marriage equality and an end to discrimination against LGBT people, and it holds businesses accountable through its Corporate Equality Index, in which 304 businesses scored a 100% rating in 2014. Working to effect change on every level of society, HRC worked to help repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, and raised more than $20 million to?among other 2012 objectives?reelect President Barack Obama and win marriage equality in all three states where the issue was on the ballot. Every day, HRC's 1.5 million supporters aspire to achieve more victories like these through advocacy, investments, and education, making the US a safer and more equal place for all.
Potomac Riverkeeper, a chapter of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, works to keep the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers clear of pollution to protect marine life and ensure clean drinking water for more than five million people. To this end, it harnesses the help of more than 400 local volunteers. When these Riverwatchers see pollution, they report it to Potomac Riverkeeper via phone or email, enabling the organization to seek out the origin of the pollution and halt its spread. In addition to these reactive steps, Potomac Riverkeeper strives for a cleaner environment through the Clean Water Enforcement Program, which takes legal action against larger polluters, and the Green Farms, Clean Rivers Project, which works with farmers to prevent pesticides and animal waste from entering streams.