Project Inspiration

Andrew Briggs | Walter Grio

The very definition of a non-profit is the opposite of many of the motives that drive most organizations. It is work for a cause, a right, a group, an enterprise to help and serve others: the sick, the hungry, the economically and culturally underserved or starved. People who work in non-profits hold up the mirror to those who don’t. The non-profit motive exists as an emblem of the spirit of charity, giving, helpfulness and empathy, creativity and caring.

As a photographer, Walter Grio believes in the spirit of the non-profit world. Whatever he shoots—be it a fashion show, a wedding, a portrait or a special events—he insists that he not be paid himself, but rather that his fee go toward a charity or non-profit organization.

He’s even made a name for what he does: it’s called “Shoot for Change,” and since 2007, he has raised over $85,000 by way of his philanthropic photo projects.

His latest project salutes a gallery of 15 Washington philanthropist and non-profit leaders, shining a little light and giving a little credit to the people who do a lot for a lot of people.

“In the course of some of the projects I’ve done, I’ve gotten to know a lot of these people and I really admire their spirits,” says Grio. “I thought it would be really fantastic to help celebrate what they do.”
Over several days of shooting, Grio, tried to bathe his subjects in the glamorous light of old Hollywood, at places like L2 Lounge in Georgetown and the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home in Chevy Chase.

The result is Project Inspiration, a special exhibition of Grio’s philanthropic people portraits, on display at the L2 Lounge on Nov. 16.

“I’ve been very lucky when it comes to my photography,” Grio says. “I was working and traveling in Europe when I was asked to shoot some people I had run into in Sweden, and they offered to pay me for the result. It opened up a world for me. In Washington, a lot of people have been helpful and responsive to the idea. This is giving back.”

The 15 groups and organizations represented in Project Inspiration occupy a wide range in the non-profit world of Washington: Red Cross; “Blessed Heaven,” which helps youths transitioning out of foster care; the non-profit Fashion Group International of Greater Washington; Washington Empowered Against Violence; Freedom in Creation; FAIR Girls; West Potomac Academy Fashion Design; The Kreeger Museum; Nova Salud; SOS Children’s Villages; Capital Breast Care Center; Global Partnerships; UN Foundation; the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home; and the Children’s Law Center.

Linda C. Mathes
CEO, American Red Cross of the National Capital Area

Mathes began her career with the Red Cross in Dallas, Texas in the early 1970s, and never looked back. But even while moving around the country with the world’s best-known humanitarian organization, Mathes has found time throughout the years to work and serve regularly within her community—a practice that hasn’t gone without notice. Since her CEO appointment in 1991, she has received a number of accolades for her efforts, including the DC Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year Award in 1998, and a Washingtonian of the Year award in 2008.

Among her associations in the region, Mathes has served on the board of directors of Leadership Greater Washington, as co-chair of the Nonprofit Emergency Preparedness Task Force of Greater Washington, and as a member of the regional Human Service Working Group.

These days, Mathes is a member of the Board of Directors of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and American Red Cross Retiree Association, the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, the Emergency Preparedness Council of MWCOG, and Tiffany Circle. Mathes sets the bar as a community organizer and activist and serves as an inspiring model for a new era of public service.

Elizabeth Gore
Vice President of Global Partnerships, United Nations Foundation

Elizabeth Gore bridges the gap between international policy and community activism, connecting people, ideas and resources to help solve global problems to hyperlocal degrees. “I love leading the campaigns of the UN Foundation because we offer anyone the opportunity to think globally and act locally,” says Gore. “I think everyone, no matter what their station in life, has the opportunity to give back and save lives, whether donating a ten dollar bed net to protect a child in Africa from malaria or signing a petition to prevent a girl from being married at 10 years old.”

Growing up on a cattle ranch in Texas, Gore was the first in her family to go to college, and became inspired to advocate for a cause when a friend became pregnant and was forced to drop out of school because of its lack of campus childcare and support. From fighting for the rights of her fellow female students, Gore moved on to volunteer in the Peace Corps, where she wrote, received and managed a USAID grant to better the food availability and economic situation for the Chaco in Bolivia.

Gore has since spent her life working on behalf of the underserved, currently bolstering support for UN programs to direct large-scale partnerships with global corporations and organizations. She manages partnerships with members of the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council and with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and in 2008 was named by People as one of the top 100 Extraordinary Women. “Thanks to the internet, globalization and increased international travel, ‘helping thy neighbor’ has a new meaning,” she says. “A teenage girl in Texas can now interact with and learn about a teenage girl in Ethiopia. They can help each other, learn from each other, and ultimately be global leaders together. My passion is to provide the opportunities through the United Nations to make these connections.”

Susannah Fox
Director of Development, Capital Breast Care Center

Inspired to help those in need, and motivated by the death of her father from cancer, Susannah Fox has made a career advocating for the medically underserved and for cancer research, raising nearly $10 million to date. “Although I am neither a scientist nor do I have a medical mindset or degree, I hold other talents that enable me to raise awareness for breast cancer and help others to avoid the pain I have experienced. I love to build relationships with people and hear their stories.”

Hearing stories of people’s extraordinary battles propels Fox and her work. “The single mother who was recently laid off and has no health insurance, the woman who works multiple jobs to provide for her family or the woman with insurance who is scared and keeps putting off her mammogram because her own mother had breast cancer… These stories fuel my efforts and passion to raise funds to improve the lives of the people of the community.”

Fox’s skill and passion for relationship building and developing innovative ways to secure philanthropic funding has worked wonders for individuals and families battling illness and is a perfect match for the Capital Breast Care Center (CBCC). For the past three and a half years, Fox has held her position of Director of Development at CBCC, a community initiative of the Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center.

L. Ward Orem
CEO, Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home

The life’s work of L. Ward Orem on behalf of senior health care and support was never even a question. “How is it that what I have done for over 35 years can be viewed as anything other than just giving back to those who have so generously given to me?” he says. “I see my dad through my mind’s eye, doing his duty as a soldier in WWII and working for years as a Baltimore City cop, always encouraging me to do my best and to work to make a difference in this world… How could anyone not be moved to recognize the value in a human life, a human spirit, and the beauty of the journey?”

Hired by the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home in 1978, Orem has expanded its scope of service with the addition of a 60-bed state-of-the-art nursing facility. Through the Home, Orem successfully assimilated the residents of several other not-for-profit senior facilities in DC, blending the charitable missions of similar service providers with that of the Home. Ward has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of both St. Margaret’s School in Tappahannock, VA and St. John’s Community Services in Washington, DC.

There is no greater legacy for Ward than the knowledge that the Home will continue to advance its mission of providing extraordinary health and life care services to the elderly poor of the District of Columbia long after he is gone, continuing to empower them to live their lives to the fullest.

Susan Morchower Hargreaves
Administrator, Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home

Susan Hargreaves is inspired by people. From her mother and father, to her husband and children, to the elderly residents at the the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home, her personal and professional vision includes hope for all seniors and for the continued success of the Home for generations to come.

It’s no surprise that Hargreaves has devoted herself to helping the elderly. “From an early age, I was inspired by my grandparents,” she says. “When I was with them, I felt loved, safe, and appreciated… They had incredible love and devotion for us and were generous with their wisdom and lessons to share.” It is Hargreaves’ life mission to give back the sense of love and security that she received from her grandparents.

Overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Home where she is charged with ensuring that low and modest income seniors from the District of Columbia receive the highest quality of health and life services available to them, Hargreaves has also served on the Board of the District of Columbia Health Care Association (DCHCA) in various capacities, and is the President Elect for 2013. Additionally, she served for six years on the Board of Sarah’s Circle, a charitable organization in Adams Morgan for independent seniors. She has been active on several task forces and committees which center around the needs of seniors in the community and the nation, including her current position as a National Administrator’s Board Reviewer and a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

Jenifer Gamble
Executive Director, Washington Empowered Against Violence

Dr. Jenifer Gamble found her calling at an early age. “When I was a sophomore in high school,” she says, “one of my teachers spoke to my class about her volunteerism as a hospital advocate for sexual assault victims. I remember thinking that being there through such a horrible process had to be one of the most important things you could ever do for someone.”

Since then, Gamble has worked to improve the lives of millions of people, fighting against gender-based violence and introducing legislation to improve our justice system.

Gamble has spent more than fourteen years in victim services, currently serving as the Executive Director of Washington Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE, formerly Women Empowered Against Violence) in Washington DC. WEAVE engages the metropolitan Washington DC community in the elimination of intimate partner abuse and gender-based violence through empowering, innovative and holistic services. WEAVE operates a 1.2 million dollar budget and provides long-term holistic legal and therapy services at no-cost to survivors, and engages the community through extensive training, outreach and education. Gamble has championed victim services around the United States, presenting at local, state and national conferences and forums throughout her career. “Bearing witness and accompanying a person through examinations, court appearances and counseling is a privileged and sacred position,” Gamble says. “It always seemed as though I would have a very impacting experience right about the time I was feeling disconnected.”

Elaine Mensah
Publicity Chair, Fashion Group International of Greater Washington, DC

The fashion industry and non-profit work is not a likely pair. In fact, to most people, they seem more like mutually exclusive entities. But not to Elaine Mensah. Her first experience bridging the two worlds came in 2007, when the non-profit organization Fashion Fights Poverty offered her the chance to raise awareness about ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly fashion.

For the next three years, Elaine served as Fashion Director & Vice-President of Production for Fashion Fights Poverty, in which she found great joy in showcasing emerging designers and stylists and mentoring students. Under her production, the organization was named Washington’s Top Fashion and Beauty Event by Biz Bash Magazine two years in a row. Elaine has also styled TV personalities including Jack Mackenroth of Project Runway Season 4 and The Bachelor’s Andrew Baldwin, as well as various campaigns for designer lookbooks, print editorials including Washington Life Magazine’s 2009 Holiday Issue, and in-store events for Macy’s Inc.

With The Fashion Group International of Greater Washington, she has maintained the group’s impeccable status as one of the most credible voices in all of fashion. “The organization’s reputation, record of success, and influence in the community is beyond inspiring,” she says. “FGI has allowed me to bring both of my worlds together. As an organization that is run by a board of volunteers and that raises money to support its members and the DC fashion community, I am constantly challenged to be innovative, creative, and philanthropic. In a city like Washington, DC, which is not necessarily viewed as a ‘fashion’ capital, [FGI] inspires me to push the boundaries of what’s possible and to understand, appreciate, and continue to develop my desire to give back.”

Andrew Briggs
President and Founder, Freedom in Creation

Andrew Briggs is an inspiration, plain and simple. Since college, he has devoted his life to social betterment and justice worldwide. Briggs graduated from Taylor University, having studied, served, and traveled to over twenty-five countries during his undergraduate years. From such exposure, his notion of social responsibility grew to encompass the global village.

Searching for a long-term cause to which to devote his efforts, Briggs learned about “Africa’s longest war” between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda, whose destruction encompasses the displacement of nearly two million people and the abduction of sixty-five thousand child soldiers (which continues to this day in Congo). Above all, the oppression endured by the children of Northern Uganda caused him to undertake research in Northern Uganda and join hands with its people, and in 2007 he founded Freedom In Creation (FIC).

Through FIC, Briggs works to empower war-affected or at-risk communities through increased access to the therapeutic qualities of art, international education and fresh drinking water. By providing therapeutic art classes for at-risk children and exhibiting their artwork internationally, FIC raises funds to provide participating communities with water and educational infrastructure. Having taken part in the process, the children are credited with bringing the water and infrastructure projects to their communities.

“Faith, an understanding of the reciprocal blessings of service and cross-cultural conversations, and the importance of the voice of the artist inspired me to start the organization,” he says. On top of running FIC, Briggs has served as an artist, lecturer, panelist, and scholar-in-residence at embassies, universities, galleries, and with humanitarian organizations.

Kate Marie Grinold
Director of Development, FAIR Girls

In the United States, the average age of entry into forced prostitution is 13. Today, nearly 300,00 children are at risk of being exploited for sex, having experienced homelessness, abuse and extreme poverty. Kate Marie Gold has made it her life’s work to put an end to this hellacious trend. “A 13-year-old should be in school, safe, cared for and happy,” she says. “She should not be on the streets, alone, forgotten and bought and sold for sex. At FAIR Girls we believe that every girl deserves an investment and that given the opportunity, girls will grow into strong, happy, healthy women… More than anything, we believe in girls.”

As Director of Development at FAIR Girls, Grinold works to educate and empower girls against exploitation and human trafficking, and begin the process of recovery and self-determination of those who have suffered by providing them with tools, resources and love through therapeutic programs.

Grinold is a leader for change in Washington, DC. Named a 2011 Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum and one of Washington DC’s 250 most influential leaders under 40 three years in a row on Young & the Guest List (2009-2011)—among a list of other philanthropic and humanitarian honors—Grinold is one of the leading volunteers and activists in our community.

“Over the years, the resiliency and determination of young [girls] has continued to amaze me,” she says. “I have watched them go to college, find jobs and enter into healthy relationships. I have also seen the battles they face, swimming against a tide of violence, abuse and poverty. But their spunk and tenacity has shown me that while the road to recovery is long and difficult, there is no limit to what an empowered 13-year-old can achieve.”

Maggy François
Fashion Designs Director, West Potomac Academy Fashion Design

Maggy François believes in education through design. “The impact of educating through design is more than just creating clothing,” she says. “It is fashioning a way of life for young adults to express themselves and their ideas into tangible items. What they create in life can impact upon others, and as an individual they can influence a generation.”

With a career in event production that began over fifteen years ago and found her working with working closely with a community of top designers, François has been featured for her education and design work in The Washington Post, The Washington Examiner, BISNOW, and The Washington Times, to name a few. Teaching for fifteen years, she stands out among fellow educators for her design sensibilities and the ability to provide students with life-changing opportunities that prepare them for their futures, from internships to experience with professional designers, nonprofit organizations and business partnerships.

“Today’s youth are the future of the fashion and design industry,” François says. Being able to make young people feel like they are part of something that matters encourages me to push myself harder… [and] become a better and more visionary individual.”

Molly Huh
Head of Marketing and Public Relations, The Kreeger Museum

From an early age, Molly Huh’s passion for culture and art was deeply engrained. Fond memories of frequenting museums, historic sites and festivals with her grandparents made her realize the importance and wonder of cultural institutions in fostering a sense of interaction between parent and child, student and teacher, scholar and material, the public and their art.

Huh has been involved with non-profit museums, arts, and cultural organizations in Washington, DC for nearly a decade, with a focus on arts and education. At the Kreeger Museum, she has helps to plan a wide variety of enriching events for adults and children including Conversations at the Kreeger Museum, the first program of its kind, providing a forum for dialogue and connection for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

Along with her work at the Kreeger, Huh regularly serves as a juror for the American Assocation of Museum’s MUSE Awards, which recognizes innovation and excellence in the field of art, and is a weekly volunteer at Inova Fairfax Hospital’s Ronald McDonald House.

“The Kreeger Museum is an institution which holds in its trust, for this generation and those that follow, masterpieces of art available to all,” Huh says. “I am constantly humbled and inspired to be a steward of the arts and hope that institutions such as The Kreeger will be available for my children… as a setting for cultural appreciation and interaction.”

Ellin Kao
Program Director and Co-Founder, NovaSalud, Inc.

Ellin Kao has spent over a decade working in international public health in Africa and Latin America, providing technical assistance to developing country health systems in HIV/AIDS/STD prevention and women’s reproductive health. “I spent the first ten years of my career in Africa and Latin America working with marginalized communities on improving health outcomes,” she says. “As a witness to the devastation of disease, HIV/AIDS’ devastation is the most socially pervasive. It takes away the most productive members of society. Men and women between the ages of 18 to 49 carry the weight of this disease. These are the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who provide and care for the family and contribute to the economic productivity of society. Take away a large number of this group and what remains is the aged and young, most with very little financial means to support themselves.”

Kao first joined the fight against HIV/AIDS armed with only the belief that to work towards its awareness and prevention was a must. After spending time in Africa, however, she was shocked to come home to Washington, DC and find that its HIV infection rates were as high as in the developing countries that she had been serving.

She has since turned her efforts toward our community, conducting HIV/AIDS research at Children’s National Medical Center and providing HIV counseling and prevention education in Northern Virginia for Whitman Walker Clinic. She is also a member of a regional planning committee tasked to develop a regional HIV/AIDS prevention plan for Northern Virginia. “Public and private funding for HIV work has dwindled and further exacerbated by a tight economy,” Kao says. “But we are still here and working, and we will, one day, win the fight.”

Diane Lebson
Director, Major Gifts, SOS Children’s Villages, USA

In January of 2010, Diane Lebson had not even heard of SOS Children’s Village. But with the determination to work for an international children’s rights organization, she was drawn in by the soul of SOS, embodied in the lives of the nearly 80,000 orphaned and abandoned children it raises in over 130 countries around the world.

Today, SOS Children’s Villages is refuge for children whose lives have been torn about by modern tragedies like the recent earthquake in Haiti, horrific floods in Pakistan and famine in Somalia. “The moment I became Director of Major Gifts for this noble organization,” says Lebson, “I committed to serving as the voice for these little people, telling every corporation, foundation, individual who would listen about the heroic things these children had to do to merely survive.”

Diane has an established track record of accomplishment in non-profit brand management and fundraising. Prior to joining SOS Children’s Villages in March 2010, she ran a similar program as an executive with the Washington, DC office of the United Way, where she oversaw a 122% increase in major donor contributions as part of a significant rebranding initiative.

While she recently left the country with her husband, who took a position working for the government in Australia, Lebson continues to work as a consultant and remains a strong advocate for the work SOS Children’s Villages does to raise orphaned and abandoned children worldwide.

Judith Sandalow
Executive Director, Children’s Law Center

Judith Sandalow joined Children’s Law Center as Executive Director in January 2000. Under Ms. Sandalow’s leadership, CLC has grown from a staff of three to a staff of 75 and over 300 pro bono attorneys from 70 area law firms, who represent over 1,000 at-risk children in the District each year. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1990 and returned to the District of Columbia as a Juvenile Justice Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center.

After starting a juvenile clinic at DC Law Students in Court, she developed a successful criminal defense practice specializing in representation of juveniles charged with serious crimes. Ms. Sandalow is a foster and adoptive parent and a member of the board of directors of the Foster and Adoptive Parents Advocacy Center. She was a 2007 winner of the Meyer Foundation Exponent Award, which recognizes strong and effective nonprofit leaders with a track record of accomplishment. Ms. Sandalow also received the 2009 Outstanding Service Award from Positive Nature for her work on behalf of DC’s most vulnerable children and families. She is a member of the Leadership Washington class of 2004. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

Danielle Jennings
Executive Director, Blessed Haven, Inc.

Danielle Jennings formed Blessed Haven to prevent foster children from suffering the same fate that she did.

Jennings is one of the approximately 495,000 adults that grew up as a foster child. At the age of 15, already suffering from a tumultuous childhood, she was moved into a teen shelter while the courts determined her future. She was put into a home with a permanent rotation of at least three other girls at a given time, where she was treated as a housekeeper and servant, and was made to sleep in the mildewed basement. “We were…only allowed on the main level to clean,” she says. “Failure to comply resulted in being beaten.”

Fortunately, Jennings was rescued by her godmother and finally found a loving, nurturing family that nursed her soul and heart back to health.

Now grown, she devotes her life to making sure orphans and foster children have loving homes to grow up in. “As a foster child you are a number…a case,” Jennings says. “Every person deserves to feel loved, supported and empowered, regardless of their history… That is what Blessed Haven does.”

Blessed Haven is a family, Jennings says, with an inexhaustible network of individuals in the community that love and support foster youth and alumni. As Executive Director, she actively mentors foster youth and young adults not only in the DC area, but nationwide through various partnerships across the country. Blessed Haven’s programs include physical, emotional, spiritual and financial wellness, and provide career and educational programs.

Jennings’ heart lies with the youth in these demographics, and she works tirelessly to show that “foster” truly does mean “family.” These otherwise forgotten youth have a family in Jennings.

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