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Category: Featured Organizations

Weekly Round-Up of Featured Organizations: AA LEAD, Give an Hour, ManaTEENS, The Mission Continues

A weekly look at the accomplishments, rewards, partnerships, and news of some of the non-profits mentioned in The American Way to Change:

AA LEAD works to promote the well being of Asian American youth through education and community building.  Their staff provides after-school programs and one-on-one mentoring to provide a healthy and nurturing environment for young Asian Americans in the DC metro area.  Recently AA LEAD was honored by being one of 5 finalists for the Best Practice Award  at The Washington Post and The Center for Non-Profit Advancement‘s Annual Excellence in Nonprofit Management Award ceremony.  According to Rick Chen, Manager of Development, “Although we were not chosen to be the winner, it was the entire process that proved to be the most rewarding – being able to concretely identify and list the many best practices we are currently using, which has helped us become the successful organization we are today.”

Give an Hour‘s mission is to create a national network of volunteers that can respond to both emergencies and long-time problems that America faces.  Their current priority is to help the troops who are currently serving or have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as their families.  The non-profit is currently taking part in a a new coordinated approach to military care outlined by Michelle Obama in an address to the National Military Family Association’s summit.  Part of her plan calls for stronger civilian-military ties.  According to Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and President, Give an Hour is eager to heed this call to service.  “Our volunteer mental health professionals represent the civilian community.  By offering free counseling to members of the military and their loved ones and by working to educate communities on the psychological effects of war, we are recognizing the sacrifices our service men and women and their families are making.”

ManaTEENS promotes the youth voice and volunteerism in Manatee County, Florida.  They believe that all of Florida’s residents have the resources and the power to help address local needs.  They are working to make service a way of live, especially for the young.  Innovations in Civic Participation recently received a grant from The Corporation for National and Community ServiceLearn and Serve America Program.  ICP is going to work with three non-profits, one of which is ManaTEENS, to focus on environmental education and disaster preparedness.  Thanks to this partnership, teens in Florida will get the chance to help their community while learning more about how to care for and preserve the delicate environment of Manatee County.

The Mission Continues developed on the premise that many veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan still don’t feel like their work is done.  The returning wounded should be honored for their sacrifices, but we should also recognize that they still have a lot left to give.  According to one wounded veteran, “I lost my legs. That’s all. I did not lose my desire to serve, or my pride in being an American.”  Recently The Mission Continues has expanded into San Antonio, Texas where they opened a new office just last week.  According to their website, “With the nearby Brooke Army Medical Center caring for wounded warriors in transition, we have a great opportunity and responsibility to work with these veterans.”

Stay tuned next week…

Weekly Results Round-Up: Project Health, Grid Alternative, NYC Coalition Against Hunger, and SF Education Fund

A weekly look at the accomplishments and results of some of the organization mentioned in The American Way to Change

Public Health

For many low income families prescription drugs and antibiotics are not enough alleviate an illness or keep them healthy.  Founded in 1996 at the Boston Medical Center Pediatrics Department, Project Health works to fix this problem.  The non-profit allows doctors to “prescribe” food, fuel assistance, housing, and other resources to patients who need them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Over a five month period last year, Project Health’s help desks secured housing for 205 families, child-care and after-school programs for 154 clients, and access to food for 135 clients.  By providing staples like these, they help low-income families and individuals become and remain healthy.

Clean Energy

Grid Alternative works to help communities in need by supplying them with clean and renewable energy sources.  Since its start in 2001, the nonprofit has worked to provide solar electricity and energy efficiency to low-income families.  They identify specific needs and provide solutions that are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.  Since 2004, they have installed 487 solar electric systems for low-income families throughout California.  These systems have reduced each families electric bill by 75%, which means a total of over $9.9 million in energy generated over the systems’ estimated life spans.  The systems will also prevent about 39,975 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years.

Hunger Prevention

Hunger is a major problem throughout America, but it is particularly visible in major cities, such as New York City.  To combat this epidemic, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger works to meet the immediate food needs of low-income New Yorkers, and come up with innovative solutions to help them move past soup-kitchens to self-sufficiency.  The non-profit represents the more than 1,200 nonprofit soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City.  Recently, the group has helped 30 agencies increase their food stamps outreach, leading to a 104,167-person increase in Food Stamp Program participation in the last year.


The San Francisco Education Fund focuses on improving the success rate of students in their public schools.  They take a multifaceted approach to the problem that makes use of teachers, volunteers, students, and strategic partnerships in order to make a difference.  The non-profit has been able to place more than 1,900 volunteers in San Francisco’s public schools, engage 757 students to serve 19,000 of their peers through the Peer Resources program, and award 19 grants to teachers to increase student outcomes in literacy and math and increase teacher retention, quality, and leadership.

Weekly Round-up of Featured Organization: Reach Out and Read, HIPPY USA, LIFT, and LISC

A weekly look at the recent accomplishments, partnerships, and successes of some of the organizations featured in The American Way to Change:

Reach Out and Read promotes early literacy and school readiness of young children in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by providing new books to children and discussing the importance of reading aloud with parents.  ROR teaches 3.9 million families annually about the importance of reading which leads to children with larger vocabularies who are more prepared to succeed in kindergarten.  The non-profit recently received nationwide attention when Earl Phalen was honored at the BET awards for his work with the organization.  Phalen was honored with the Shine a Light / Local Hero Award for his work on promoting education through ROR and Summer Advantage USA.  In his own words, “The best part of national recognition is that it gives us a chance to get more resources to serve every child in poverty and make sure all children enter school ready to learn.”

HIPPY USA helps teach parents how to get involved with the early education of their three, four, and five year old children so that they will be prepared for school and success.  They provide parents with a unique and tested curriculum, books and other materials to strengthen their child’s cognitive skills, early literacy skills, and social, emotional and physical development.  HIPPY USA is committed to making use of the most recent studies and advances in childhood education when forming a curriculum.  In keeping with this tradition, they have recently revamped the Age 4 curriculum.  The major changes will be less use of worksheets and more use of real life problems and exercises.  They also plan to update the illustrations and make the workbooks more environmentally friendly.  These advances help children better connect with the lessons and better prepare them to enter school.

LIFT works to combat poverty and provide opportunities for all people from all backgrounds across the nation.  Clients and volunteers work one-on-one to find jobs, secure safe housing, make ends meet through public benefits and tax credits, and obtain quality referrals for services like childcare and health care.  Their goal is to help all Americans achieve financial security and be able to pursue their goals.  LIFT is currently active in 5 major cities across the US.  Recently, the Philadelphia program reached a significant milestone of providing 2,000 clients with the tools needed to combat unemployment, poor housing, and financial instability.  This feat, which was accomplished in less than a year, highlights Philadelphia’s commitment to expand its volunteer base and promote increased community awareness.

LISC, or Local Initiatives Support Corporation, connects community organizers and local leaders with the resources necessary to revitalize neighborhoods and improve the general quality of life.  LISC gathers public and private resources and funnels them into local initiatives and priorities.  They aim to provide community development organizations with loans and grants, policy support on local, state, and national levels, as well as technical and management assistance.  Recently, the Corporation for National and Community Service awarded the group $2.2 million to support the 240 LISC AmeriCorps members who will help revitalize disadvantaged communities across the nation.  The award represents a 76% increase over the 2009 award and will help LISC make more improvements in more places.

Stay tuned next week…

Weekly Round-Up of Featured Organizations: YouthBuild, Big Brothers Big Sisters, American Youth Work, and Equal Justice Works

A weekly quick look at the recent accomplishments, partnerships, and initiatives of a few of the organizations featured in The American Way to Change…

YouthBuild helps youth volunteers aide in community development, specifically addressing issues in low-income neighborhoods.  The organization helps low-income young adults work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, learn job skills and serve their communities through building affordable homes, and transforming their own lives and roles in society.  Recently, Bank of America gave Youthbuild a grant of $500,000 to help them expand educational services to underserved youth.  The work of the youth in question will focus on building environmentally friendly housing in low-income areas.  With this partnership, Bank of America hopes that it is creating a path to success and career-readiness for at risk youths.

Big Brothers Big Sisters believes that every child, despite their background has the ability to succeed.  For over 100 year, the organization has made meaningful and fulfilling mentoring relationships with adults and children ages 6 to 18.  Last week, the Philadelphia branch of BBBS announced a partnership with the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The partnership is focusing on helping children of single, low-income and incarcerated parents succeed, and is especially beneficial because many BBBS agencies are facing waitlists that disproportionally represent African American Boys.  According to AME Director of Christian Education Reverend Daryl Ingram, ”We can become Big Brothers or recruit volunteers, and we can help Big Brothers Big Sisters raise funds to grow their quality programs and provide the kind of ongoing support that makes their mentoring matches successful.”

American Youth Works, a group based in Austin, Texas, works to improve the lives and futures of at risk youth through education, service, and green jobs training.  They run a public charter high school, a GED program, and green jobs training and service programs.  Last week, the organization hired a new CEO, Parc Smith.  Smith started with American YouthWorks in 1995 as a teacher and crew leader for the Environmental Corps and later became Director of Environmental Corps and part of the Senior Management Team.  In addition, he has 17 years of trail design and park construction experience.   According to the Board President, Margarine Beaman, “The Board announces a new era at AYW. With the energy, dedication and integrity of Parc Smith as our CEO, we can only move forward to continue changing the lives of young people.”

Equal Justice Works wants to develop a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice.  They provide programs that begin with new law school students and extend into later careers in law. They provide the nation’s foremost public interest law fellowship program and offer more postgraduate, full-time legal positions in public service than any other organization.  Recently, the organization announced that it has chosen 43 law students and recent grads to be a part of the 2010 Equal Justice Works Fellowships.  The recipients will spend 2 years providing legal services for underserved people and causes.  The Fellows design projects with the help of nonprofit organizations to provide legal services in low income communities for a range of issues including homelessness prevention, immigration, criminal defense and Native American rights.

Stay tuned next week…

Weekly Results Round-Up: Teaching, Exercise, Seniors, and College

A weekly series highlighting the results of the service and volunteer organizations covered in The American Way to Change.


Teach for America began when Princeton student, Wendy Kopp, questioned why college was so difficult for some students, and so simple for others.  She discovered that this educational inequity could be helped by sending talented graduates to low-income urban and rural schools to teach young students.  By 2009, there were 35,000 grads applying for 4,000 positions.  One study found that students of corps-members made significantly more progress in math during the year than would typically be expected of students, even those taught by certified veteran teachers.  In San Jose, California, the superintendent made first-year corpsmembers half of the faculty.  The school increased its score on the California Academic Index by 34 points, 28 points higher than the state average.

Encouraging Exercise

KaBOOM was started when Darell Hammond read a Washington Post story about two children who suffocated while playing in an abandoned car because they didn’t have anywhere else to play.  KaBOOM works to prevent trajedies such as this by organizing volunteers to build playgrounds, particularly in urban areas where children would otherwise have nowhere to go.  The organization has built over 1,600 play spaces and provided online tools, training, and technical assistance to help communities create hundreds of additional playgrounds on their own.  KaBOOM is well on its way towards achieving its goal of having a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

Senior Care

Senior Companions is a program of Senior Corps which works to pair adults 55 or older with a frail person who needs help preforming daily chores and activities in order to stay in their home.  Senior Companions can work up to 40 hours a week giving families or professional caregivers time off, running errands, or just being a friend to talk with.  Today, 16,000 senior Companions serve 58,000 frail adults.  Studies have shown that the program reduces depressive symptoms reported by clients and their families when compared to older adults on the waiting list for services.

College Preparation

Students in the low-income quartile who make A’s on standardized tests go to college at the same rate as higher-income students who make D’s on the the same tests.  College Summit works to increase the number of students who go on to college by providing students with the support necessary to apply for college and financial aid.  The program uses not only adult volunteers, but also “peer leaders” in the senior class to work with students in their own school.  The dramatic results show that schools who are part of the program increase college enrollment by an average of 16 percent over previous years.

Stay tuned for more next week…

Featured Organizations Weekly Round-Up

This is the first post in a weekly series on service and volunteerism in America by     celebrating the current campaigns, highlights, and news of the organizations featured in The American Way to Change.

AmeriCorps Alums is a national network of Americorps alumni that works to keep past volunteers connected so that they can can use their collective potential as leaders in their communities.  They are currently working on an initiative called We Serve.  Out of the 600,000 Americorps alumni, Americorps Alums has only been able to contact 1/5 of them.  In order to form a stronger and more in-depth network, they are launching We Serve so that more alumni will register and refer fellow alums.  Everyone who registers will be entered to win one of ten Target gift cards worth $100, and the 25 peple with the most referals will be entered to win the celebrity grand prize.  Hurry up and register, because the contest ends at 5pm EST on June 30th!

Public Allies works from the central principle that everybody leads.  They work to help new leaders strengthen communities, non-profits, and other areas of civic participation.  They belief that citizens from all backgrounds have the ability and the responsibility to step up and lead.  They recently launched a new Super Heroes fundraising campaign.  Following their belief that everyone has the power to be a Super Hero, they are asking for a donation of $18 to help spread their message.  To donate, visit Public Allies causes page on Facebook where you can also watch a short episode of Integrity Man’s adventures. works to advance national service, AmeriCorps, and social innovation as strategies to tackle our most pressing social challenges and strengthen our democracy.  This is accomplished through building a grassroots infrastructure to organize and mobilize a network for national service and through using social media for service.  Currently ServeNext is working on launching their Field Corps campaign.  They will select and train 10 Field Corps Community Organizers to lead grassroots efforts in their communities. The program aims to develop selected participants into well-trained and well-connected organizers that build and lead local networks of constituents.  These networks will raise the voice and visibility of great organizations in service, AmeriCorps, and social innovation fields so that more people serve and more leaders in all sectors understand their impact and value.  The application is due on June 15th, so apply soon!

Citizen Schools works to provide after-school education to middle school students.  Their programs compliment class-room education by engaging students in hand-on learning projects lead by adult volunteers.  They offer people the chance to apply for a National Teaching Fellowship, a two year leadership development experience that includes service as a leader at a Citizen School campus, professional development with a partner organization, and the opportunity for enrollment in a Master’s program in out-of-school learning.  On May 19th, 29 Citizen School Teaching Fellows earned their Master’s from Lesley University.  In the  commencement address, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised Citizen Schools, saying, “That work is close to my heart.”  He further said that Lesley’s partnership with Citizen School Teaching Fellows program was one of the top innovations in the University’s 100-year history.

Stay tuned next week for more news and updates.

Weekly Results Round-Up

The first in a weekly series to highlight results from organizations featured in The American Way to Change:

Early childhood education

In a traditional classroom setting, one teacher is put in front of 20-35 young students.  There is no way that each child can receive the one-on-one attention that is so important to early eduction.  However, with the help of 2,000 Experience Corps volunteers, 20,000 students from 170 schools are able to get increased student-teacher interaction.  These volunteers, aged 50+, work closely with individual students or small groups to help reinforce the lessons of the teacher with tremendous results.  A study of over 800 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students in urban schools showed that students who worked with Experience Corps volunteers made 60 percent greater gains in sounding out new words and reading comprehension than other students.  A similar study showed that 3rd graders who had been served by Experience Corps members scored significantly higher on a state reading test than children who were not served.

Restoration of Polluted Areas

The Anacostia River, on of the most polluted rivers in the country, winds through the poorest part of DC.  Due to sewage, pollution, and trash it’s residents are unable to swim or fish in the river.  The Earth Conservation Corps helps to engage youth, ages 17 to 24, from the crime and drug ridden local area to clean up the river.  The corps cleans the river of debris, reconstructs the shoreline, builds community hiking trails, and plants trees.  In the course of the last decade, they have reintroduced bald eagles to the Anacostia watershed, turned 3 city dumps into city parks, and transformed 2 abandoned buildings into environmental education centers.


Obesity and malnutrition are becoming a common problem in America, particularly within low-income families.  Operation Frontline volunteers teach adults, teens, and children how to maintain a healthy diet and cook healthy meals on a budget.  In 2007, Operation Frontline offered courses to over 5,000 low-income families with a spectacular impact.  Almost 80 percent of participants in the course eat more vegetables after taking the class, the average participant eats a wider and healthier variety of foods and snacks, and 90 percent say that their cooking skills improved.  83 percent of participants directly used the recipes that they learned in class to prepare nutritious meals for their families.

Energy Conservation

Many of us have seen Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, but few had the same reaction as Avery Harrison.  After watching the documentary and learning about the benefits of compact fluorescent lights, Avery decided to raise money to buy new light bulbs and “relight” New York City’s housing projects, thus forming RelightUS.  By 2009, 94 RelightUS teams had adopted 629 addresses, changed 112,476 light bulbs, eliminated 22,039,251 pounds of CO2 emissions, and saved $5,555,046 in energy costs.  RelightUS continues on it’s mission to conserve energy and protect the environment.

Stay tuned to see next weeks Results Round-Up!