We Are Family was born in 2004 with $15,000 in donations given by the multi-platinum punk band Good Charlotte and its ally, Positive Force DC, to a small knot of senior leaders and their friends at an inner-city Catholic parish, St. Aloysius. This unique intersection of young and old, urban and suburban, black and white, faith-based and secular, came together to address a critical gap in senior services in North Capitol Street, a low-income area directly adjacent to the US Capitol. This area, also known as “Northwest One,” was facing threats from poverty, gangs, and violence as well as a simultaneous encroachment of upscale development. (In 2007, we added a second, similarly-challenged service area in the Columbia Heights/Park View neighborhood.)
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 (WAF) has expanded our work dramatically. We have gone from serving 50 seniors in 2004 to serving more than 500 seniors in 2010.
Last year, WAF delivered 5460 monthly grocery bags, provided more than 630 round-trip rides, conducted 394 outreach visits to seniors in their homes, and delivered 358 personalized birthday cards, 419 Thanksgiving baskets, and 304 holiday gifts. This was done with a staff of one full-time co-director, one part-time co-director, and a volunteer roster that now exceeds 1000, of which 100 are regular helpers.