This is the Little Lending Library in front of CHV HQ and community hub, depicted as a double miniture of the building.
Capitol Hill Village: One of the Hill’s Most Powerful Community Organizations
by Larry Janezich
Posted August 16, 2021
Capitol Hill Village (CHV) was started in 2007 to provide services that enable seniors to age in place – rides to the doctor, cleaning a garage, IT and computer help, and running errands (see link below). It is now one of the most – if not the most – powerful community organizations on Capitol Hill. Specifically, the group excels at negotiating community benefits from developers looking for local approval for their projects. For example, in recent years CHV won a $225,000 startup fund for an Adult Care Center from Felice Development and ownership of an E Street townhouse for CHV headquarters and community hub from Insight Development. In addition, CHV successfully pushed for affordable housing for seniors in the redevelopment of the Hill East Boys and Girls Club. (Here’s a link to CHV care services in addition to services of volunteers: https://bit.ly/3g4Pw0a )
The organization has 375 members and 312 volunteers (one third of whom are non-members). Volunteers provide a variety of care services such as those mentioned above for members who need assistance. Not all members of CHV are seniors but Executive Director Judy Berman says 95% are over 60. There are two categories of membership: social, which permits access to all programs (many already open to all – see link below) and regular, which also permits access to volunteer assistance and other care services. Berman says all ages are welcome and that younger people who join tend to do so as social members or volunteers. CHV is truly a Capitol Hill village, with boundaries – though, according to Berman, these boundaries are not rigid. She points to members who live north of H Street, NE. (Here’s a link to programs available to both members and nonmembers on the events calendar: https://bit.ly/3g65nLX )
Membership costs range from $12 a month to $80 a month. Berman says CHV has a deep commitment to serve lower income residents and to that end, membership for those individuals is discounted. About 10% of the members are lower income, and CHV holds an annual fundraiser for things they can’t afford, including medical services. Revenue from memberships makes up 25% of what is reported to be an annual $1.1 million budget, with the balance coming from grants, fundraising events, and government funding (federal dollars come from DDOT and city funding comes from the DC Department of Aging and Community Living).
The Board of CHV is currently comprised of 15 members, limited to two-three year terms. There is no upper limit on the number of Board members, and CVH is open to suggestions for new board members. The Board’s Governance Committee interviews candidates and makes formal nominations to the full board.
In reviewing the biographical notes for Board members, it is striking how many board members also participate in other community organizations. (Here’s a link to the webpage about the board: https://capitolhillvillage.org/about/board/) It’s not uncommon for community organizations to carry a perception of insularity with them, and Berman says the Board works hard to address that concern. Berman says she wants “to show that ‘clubby’ is not how we operate”. She believes that everyone deserves a village; “Some have church or family, but we all need people close by that will take care of us and check in on us”. What does it mean to be a member of CHV, she asks? “Membership gives you permission to say yes, you can reach out.”
One challenge facing CHV is developing a sustainable funding model. One way forward, Berman says, is to get CHV’s contribution to wellness and health recognized to justify insurance coverage from private health care, in the same way some insurance companies pay for gym memberships. Another challenge is maintaining a diverse and active membership and volunteer roster and CVH has outreach designed specifically to do that.
Asked how Covid has affected CHV, Berman said the biggest shift was putting the organization’s programming on-line. During the pandemic, CHV served as a distributor of accurate information on Covid news and vaccines, and developed a sector phone network to enable members to check in with each other on a regular basis. In addition, Covid has pushed CHV resources out further; DDOT funding permits CHV to provide Lyft transportation to get vaccine or medical services for anyone in DC, with two days’ notice.
Berman says COVID brought DC’s 15 or so “villages” together, strengthening relationships as they shared funds, programming, and advice. The national Village to Village Network (VtVN) offers guidance, mentorship, resources and opportunities to collaborate. VtVN serves as the national advocacy voice for Villages and the Village Movement. Here’s a link to the Capitol Hill Village website: https://capitolhillvillage.org/