Washington, D.C. Project Organizes Elders in Community Activism

Faith in Action

Field of Work: Providing volunteer services for elderly and disabled people through interfaith programs.

Synopsis of the Work: Faith in Action, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, funded hundreds of projects across the country to support interfaith volunteer caregiving. We are Family, a Washington, D.C.-based project of Faith in Action, starting in 2005 worked to meet the most basic needs of seniors in one of the poorest, most troubled neighborhoods in the city by providing friendly visitors, supplying bags of food at the end of the month when money from Social Security checks runs out, and providing rides to grocery stores and doctor's appointments to homebound elderly.

The larger mission was to help elders in this community find their voice and advocate for their rights-whether it be to landlords who are refusing to make needed repairs or city government officials who did not follow through on promises to provide assistance in paying rent.

Story Told: The volunteers—including elders and a punk rock band "Good Charlotte"—accomplished the following:

  • Assisted 600 care recipients in such ways as delivering free monthly grocery bags, providing visits and telephone calls, organizing and sponsoring bus trips to the grocery store and a shopping mall and providing advice on choosing Medicare drug benefits.
  • Worked with landlords to avert or delay evictions for at least a dozen elders in their apartments. Faith in Action staff and volunteers helped seniors by advocating on their behalf, finding funds to pay overdue rent or getting them free legal assistance.
  • Organized seniors to attend city council hearings and testify in support of a local rent supplement project as well as participate in a city planning process to redevelop parts of the neighborhood that Faith in Action serves.