Community Palette

Champion Swimmer Diana Nyad Supports the Grassroot Project

October 22, 2015

Founder and President Tyler Spencer began the Grassroot Project, a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization, in 2009. Tyler is an amazing young man who had the idea for the organization after working for two summers in South Africa on sport-based HIV prevention programs in DeBeers/GrassrootSoccer diamond mining communities.

He realized how important such a program would be in D.C. which was seeing epidemic rates of HIV/AIDS. I was lucky to meet him as he was beginning the program and to see it grow. Spencer put off going to Harvard for a year to work on the program. He has since won a Rhodes scholarship and is finishing his doctoral degree at Oxford. But he has always kept his commitment to the Grassroot Project. Ryan Pettengill, who spent 19 years in the field of health promotion and sport management, is now doing a great job as Executive Director.

Diana Nyad (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Diana Nyad

The idea is to use sports to educate at-risk youth in the community about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. The curriculum focuses on creating a fun, friendly and safe environment in which youth learn healthy life styles. The programs allow kids to share their feelings and beliefs, increase knowledge, and develop healthy attitudes and behaviors pertaining to HIV/AIDS through the use of interactive games and activities. By using the vehicle of sports to influence social change, student athletes use the curriculum to combat the high rate of HIV/AIDS in D.C

The organization is designed and managed completely by NCAA Division I varsity athletes and volunteer athletes from Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University and University of Maryland. They work at more than 40 sites across the city, through partnerships with public and charter schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, MetroTeenAIDS, Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), and DC SCORES.

On Wednesday evening at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Georgetown champion long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad held a book party for her new book, ‘Find a Way’ to raise funds for the organization. She was brought to the organization by board member Stephen Whisnant, Founder and Managing Director of Stephen Whisnant Strategies.

Nyad first gained national attention in 1975 when at twenty-six she swam around Manhattan Island. A world champion distance swimmer Nyad gave up that career at age thirty. She thought her dream to swim from Cuba to Key West was over. Nyad is an inspirational speaker. She talked about her life and how after nearly 30 years of retirement from swimming at age sixty she resurrected that dream. She had spent years working in the media covering sporting events around the world including the Olympics. When her mother died at age eighty-two she thought if she possibly had only twenty-two years left to live she better fight to reach her dream. She succeeded in 2013 at the age of sixty-four on her fifth attempt.

Diana Nyad’s new book ‘Find a Way’ is available on Amazon and click Grassroot Project to learn more about this amazing organization. 

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Karl A. Racine, DC’s First Elected Attorney General, Making a Difference

September 29, 2015

Most people in the District have little interaction on a regular basis with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). In fact I would suggest if you asked ten people on the street who the Attorney General (AG) is eight wouldn’t know and they definitely won’t know what he does. Actually if you ask about the role of the OAG’s office you may even get different answers from the Mayor’s Office, the City Council and the AG’s office itself. They are still debating what some of the responsibilities of this new independently elected AG should be.

Despite this Karl Racine, the District’s first independently elected Attorney General, is beginning to make a name for his office as a protector of consumer’s interests. He is using his office to make consumers aware of their rights by holding meetings across the District such as the one he held at Benning/Dorothy L. Height Neighborhood Library on Monday evening on the topic of Illegal House Flipping, Construction Violations & Foreclosure Scams. At the meeting along with Racine were the Mayor’s DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The goal is to alert residents to issues directly impacting their lives and can impact the future of their families.

These meetings stem from a lawsuit the OAG filed earlier this year against a Virginia couple who, the suit alleges, have violated District law by selling improperly and unlawfully renovated homes. When filing the suit Racine said “This is a great example of collaboration between DCRA and OAG to protect our consumers in the District of Columbia.” At the same time he asked the D.C. Council to re-establish a Consumer Protection Fund for the District to expand our capacity to bring cases like this one as well as other consumer-protection actions for our residents.”

For consumers across the city there are a host of issues this lawsuit highlighted they have to be cognizant of when buying renovated homes or doing work on their own homes. They include all the issues the lawsuit covered including;  use of sub-standard materials; making renovations and repairs of sub-standard quality; failing to obtain the proper permits for work done; performing work on homes that includes features for which the homes are not properly zoned, rendering the features worthless; using non-licensed contractors to perform work; neglecting to have the properties properly inspected at the required times; and other violations of the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act and the District’s Construction Codes.

After the suit was filed Racine’s officer released a simple list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for consumers dealing with home renovations or purchasing renovated homes. They are included in a more comprehensive pamphlet on consumer rights available from the AG’s Office. In addition to consumer issues the OAG provides legal advice to ANCs and can help with the wide range of victim’s services available to the residents of the District.

The mission of the office is to use the law to serve the people of the District of Columbia and as such Racine advises the Executive Branch and other District agencies, defends the city in court, and protects the city’s residents. He has said he will prioritize consumer protection, enforce affordable housing regulations, and find alternatives that can divert young people out of the juvenile justice system.  In all these areas he is making a good start.


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Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Celebrate Bicentennial at Foundry United Methodist Church

September 14, 2015

On Sunday, September 13, 2015, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton were the invited speakers at the service culminating the year-long
bicentennial celebration of Foundry Inited Methodist Church. It was a welcome home service for the Clintons who were regular worshippers at Foundry during the time Bill was in in the White House. President Clinton was there to hear them speak.

Foundry chapel was dedicated on September 10, 1815 at 14th and G Street, NW. The original church was a gift from Henry Foxhall, Mayor of Georgetown, who promised to build a church as a gift to God if his foundry wasn't burnt to the ground during the War of 1812.

Rev. Dawn Hand and Bill Clinton (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Rev. Dawn Hand and Bill Clinton

The congregation welcomed the Clintons warmly as family, giving them a number of ovations. Senior Pastor Ginger Gaines-Cirelli introduced both and spoke of Chelsea's time in the youth ministry and about al Hillary has done over the years to inspire her and others. Councilmembers Jack Evans and Anita Bonds, both members of Foundry, presented the church with a City Council proclamation celebrating their bicentennial. Evans kidded that his triplets were born when Bill and Hillary were in the White House and turned eighteen anc can vote For Hillary.

Before the Clintons spoke, the Foundry choir sang and the orchestra played. the talented members of both groups are a delight to hear. Meaghnan Mullins then read spripture from Romans 12.

Her flight delayed, Chelsea arrived just in time to speak. She is a highly educated, charming and polished young woman who spoke about what Foundry youth ministry meant to her growing up. She spoke about learning about diversity being involved in the community. She then kidded, "I raced to get here this morning and now will race home because my husband is Jewish and we will be celebrating  Rosh Hashanah with our family this evenine."

Hillary and Senior Pastor Ginger Gaines-Cirelli (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Hillary and Senior Pastor Ginger Gaines-Cirelli

Hillary spoke about her faith and being brought up Methodist and what it meant to her to be a part of the Foundry family. She said she was proud Foundry became a reconsiling ministry during the years she attended. She spoke about Romans 12 saying, "When we say 'love others like we love ourselves' to make that real we must first learn to love ourselves." She then kidded how the Pastor mentioned that to her and she said she will now make an effort to be nicer to the press.

Foundry is a true community institution. The have active missions in such areas as homelessness, prison reform and immigration. Foundry's mastors and members have made a positive difference in the District of Columbia since the church was founded 200 years ago.

Over the years, worshippers have included not only diverse community leaders but numerous Presidents including James Polk, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Rutherford Hayes, and William McKinley.

The current location on 16th and Church Street, NW was dedicated in February 1904. With the new building, the church coninued to attract luminaries and Presidents to worship with the congregation and speak there. They included William Jennings Bryan, Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt, who brought as his guest Winston churchill, and of course President Clinton and his family.

My first invlovement with Foundry came through a meeting with Dean Snyder, Foundry's immdeiate past senior pastor. I met him during the fight for marriage equality in the District of Columbia of which he was a leader. He always gave wise counsel and invited our organization, the Foundation for All D.C. Families, to hold its first organizing meeting at Foundry. Over the years, I have always been made to feel welcome at Foundry. It made no difference I wasn't a Methodist. They always have open arms for me and so many others in the community. I have many good friends, including Pul Hazen, who continue to be active leaders at Foundry.

We are fortunate to have Foundry in DC and know it will remain a beacon for good works as they begin their 300th year.






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