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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In 1989, Karin Walser was leaving her job on the Hill when she stopped at a gas station. Several young children offered to pump her gas in exchange for change. Moved by their stories, she organized a trip to the zoo to help them experience the city in a new way. She soon founded Horton’s Kids to address the needs of children living in poverty around the city. The organization’s volunteers provide a wide range of services for participating children, including regular tutoring in reading and math and activities such as swimming lessons in local pools. In 2011, Horton’s Kids was awarded the Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management due to its long service educating and empowering the youth in Ward 8 with academic and social programs.
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.
Miriam's Kitchen’s nourishing meals are the organization’s cornerstone service, welcoming 250–350 men and women each weekday with nutritious breakfasts and dinners. Menus feature whole grains, fresh meats, and local and organic fruits and vegetables. An average morning may open with scrambled eggs with salmon, roasted home fries, warm biscuits, and fresh-fruit salad. Evening guests dine on well-balanced fare such as pasta in marinara sauce, sautéed broccoli, garden salad, and whole-wheat rolls. Local farmers' markets and grocery stores donate much of the food, helping to keep costs to an average of $1 or less per meal. In 2010, the kitchen provided more than 75,000 meals.
The Neighbors in Need Fund is a project of the Community Foundation that responds to economic hardship with donations of food, clothing, shelter, and aid with foreclosure prevention. The fund also reinforces community support networks, such as medical and mental care facilities. The Neighbors in Need Fund distributes food and funds across the region through more than 700 partner organizations and has provided aid to more than 100,000 people since its inception in 2008.
Located atop the organization's centers in the northwest and southeast corners of the city, the gardens will help bring fresh food to families in need and empower community members to work toward a future without hunger. At the recently expanded Northwest Center, the rooftop garden includes 30 raised beds and more than 3,500 square feet of growing space, making it one of the largest rooftop-agricultural sites in the region. The Southeast Center's garden will utilize a variety of different containers, such as planters, tires, and repurposed barbecue grills, to further enhance the organization's crop yield. These gardens will provide vegetables and herbs for Bread for the City's food pantries as well as for use in cooking workshops. In addition to feeding hungry local families, the gardens transform previously unused spaces into venues for health-related learning and dialogue.