We Are Family was born in 2004 with a donation from multi-platinum punk band Good Charlotte and its ally, Positive Force DC, to senior leaders and their friends in the North Capitol neighborhood of Washington, DC. This unique intersection of young and old, black and white, faith-based and secular came together to address a critical gap in senior services in the North Capitol Street neighborhood. With support from the “Faith In Action” program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Northwest Settlement House, We Are Family expanded our work dramatically, and added a second service area, the Columbia Heights/Park View neighborhood, in 2007. We Are Family came out from under the wing of Northwest Settlement House in 2008 to become a stand-alone 501(c)(3).
We Are Family brings services, advocacy, and companionship directly into seniors’ homes in these communities. We are proud of our ability to recruit, train, and coordinate community volunteers, doing immense work on slender resources. We provide free rides to stores, medical appointments, and community events, deliver free monthly grocery bags, as well as annual Thanksgiving baskets, holiday gifts, and personalized birthday cards. We also help seniors with Social Security, Medicare, or other benefits, providing referrals to legal or other community resources, and assist with organizing efforts to prevent displacement due to gentrification.
More broadly, we draw diverse communities together through volunteer opportunities, oral history events and publications, and book discussion groups, aiming to build lasting friendships across boundaries like race, class, age, religion, and sexual orientation. Grounded in grassroots senior leadership, and driven by our diverse corps of volunteers, We Are Family is creating a network of caring eyes and ears that enables seniors to age in place, living independently in their own homes. We Are Family is not simply a social service agency; it is a bold experiment in building caring, just, and inclusive community.
This vision is backed up by results. With support from many community partners, We Are Family has expanded our work dramatically. We have gone from serving 50 seniors in 2004 to serving more than 600 seniors in 2014.
Last year, we delivered more than 6,840 monthly grocery bags, provided more than 480 round-trip rides, conducted 454 outreach visits to seniors in their homes, and delivered 445 personalized birthday cards, 587 Thanksgiving baskets, and 377 holiday gifts. This was done with a staff of one full-time co-director, a half-time co-director, and a volunteer roster that now exceeds 2,000, of which more than 150 are regular helpers.