September 2015 Volunteer Spotlight Amy Liss

amyThis month let’s get to know N Street Village volunteer Amy Liss. Since 2001, Amy has been teaching Ageless Grace—a Nia movement class at the night shelter.  Both clients and staff enjoy Amy’s energetic spirit and enthusiasm she brings to the community each month. Let’s get to know Amy…

I started volunteering at N Street Village in 2001, when I first became a Nia instructor. N Street Village was kind enough to take in a new teacher and give me a place to practice teaching people with different ability levels. I have since become certified in Ageless Grace and teach Ageless Grace at Luther Place. I love when new people come to my classes, reluctantly and skeptically, and they are shimmying and laughing within 5 minutes. 

I also volunteer for Washington Women Outdoors as a trip leader. I love being active, playful, and outdoors. I hike, backpack, bike, paddleboard, kayak, cave, and have done some rock climbing and tree climbing. For my day job, I have a Master’s in Library Science and work in the publishing industry.

It is my goal to share my love of movement with others and to help people heal through movement.

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area?

I was born and raised near New Haven, CT, and have been in the DC area (via New York City and Pennsylvania) since 1993.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant?

Hmm. I’m a vegetarian, so my restaurant choices are a bit suspect.

On a Saturday evening you will find me…

Recovering from a day of hiking, biking, paddleboarding, caving, or some other outdoor activity.

What is the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)?

I usually like more artsy movies, but I gotta say that did enjoy Jurassic World. Who can resist dinosaurs eating people?

Who is one of your favorite musicians? 

I love female folk artists like Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, and the Indigo Girls.

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? 

So hard to pick just one! I love the Jefferson Memorial. I am always inspired there.

Share one of your favorite N Street Village memories?

One time, while teaching the Ageless Grace tool “Breathe Out Loud,” I instructed everyone to yawn as socially unacceptably as possible, until your eyes water. Yvonne started yawning, but then we couldn’t get her to stop! She was tired, apparently.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village?

I love making people laugh and be silly. And I love being called Miss Amy.

What makes N Street Village unique to you?

I am inspired every time I walk in the door. The staff and volunteers are so loving and compassionate. N Street Village is truly a home.

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Staff Spotlight

Jinnesse anad EmilyThis month, we would like to introduce you to N Street Village staff member Jinnesse Taylor.  In August 2014, Jinnesse began her journey with community as a Washington AIDS Partnership AmeriCorps member in our Wellness Center. Recently, she has transitioned into a new position, Day Services Advocate, at our drop-in day programs.  Let’s get to know Jinnesse…

When I started in August 2014, I had no idea how much the women of N Street Village would take me in with open arms and illustrate the great need coupled with love in this community . N Street Village taught me the importance of listening to everyone’s stories – a skill vital for any medical professional. A skill I could not turn away from in just twelve months. This simple yet monumental fact is why I am so grateful for the opportunity to defer my matriculation into medical school for a year to continue being a part of the vibrant N Street Village community.

NSV: Where are you from originally from?

JT: I am originally from Florida, but hail from St. Louis, Missouri where I finished my undergraduate studies. I moved to D.C. last summer to pursue a year as a Washington AIDS Partnership AmeriCorps member at N Street Village before matriculating into medical school in the Fall of 2015.

NSV: What inspired you to work at N Street Village?

JT: When deciding where I wanted my AmeriCorps placement to be, the following line from N Street Village’s Statement of Culture and Community stood out to me: “We honor and respect each other for the diversity of our experiences and the insight we bring in our work.” I knew I wanted to learn as much as possible during my service year, but who knew I would be able to find a place that highly values every single person for what they can contribute and take away from the table. I wanted to become part of a family and I have definitely been able to do that here.

NSV: What do you do on a daily basis at N Street Village?

JT: As the HIV Health Promotion Specialist at N Street Village, my role was multifaceted. I facilitated health education classes on topics ranging from HIV to Diabetes and provided staff and client support on a myriad of issues revolving around women’s health. But most importantly, I was available to listen and support the women in all aspects of health and wellness. Recently, I have accepted a position as a Day Services Advocate in both the Wellness Center and Bethany Women’s Day Center. In this role, I will have the opportunity to work in two programs all the while providing support in volunteer service coordination within these two programs.

NSV: What do you wish other people knew about N Street Village?

JT: N Street Village is a community unlike anything I have been ever been apart of. It is like my family away from home. I wish people knew to never make assumptions about this wonderful facility before they come and appreciate this amazing space. It is a wonderful resource for women in the vast jungle of social services in the area.

NSV: As someone who works with N Street Village volunteers nearly every day, what impact do you see our volunteers having on our community?

JT: In the words of Helen Keller – “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Volunteers are to N Street Village like bees to a garden – without them we could not flourish year after year. They are central to the N Street Village garden and to say we are grateful is an understatement.

NSV: Describe N Street Village in 3 words:

JT: lovable, dynamic and joy

NSV: What is your favorite YouTube video and why?

JT: Whenever you need an adorably comical pick-me-up just pull this video right on up :)

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DC Unseen: Life Beyond the Capitol

Guest Blogger — Jinnesse Taylor, N Street Village AmeriCorp HIV Health Promotion Specialist

On June 17th, beautiful pictures taken by the women of N Street Village were displayed as part of the culminating event of a three-month project. As a member of the AIDS United’s AmeriCorps National team with the Washington AIDS Partnership, my team wanted to complete a creative long-term project that brought together various communities across the DC metropolitan area. Modeled after the Hope in Shadows initiative based in Vancouver (http://www.hopeinshadows.com), this project brought together multiple non-profits throughout DC to help individuals whose stories are too often ignored, or told for them, to use photography to share the beauty in their neighborhoods, relationships, and daily life. Through my team’s connection with communities who have experience in or histories with sex work, injection drug use, homelessness, chronic disease, trauma and isolation, we identified individuals who wanted to express themselves through photography.

My team provided disposable cameras to each participant as an outlet for expression.  About thirty women participated from N Street Village and their work was displayed at pop-up art galleries and HIV testing events at local DC parks. We had over 1,000 pictures submitted and three women from N Street Village were in the top ten finalists! In fact, the judge-selected Best Photo of the entire competition was taken by Karen, a N Street Village resident. These three winning photographs are shown below.

Best Photo

Best Photo

Best Landscape

Best Landscape

Honorable mentionHonorable Mention

It is our hope that this project as a whole provided the broader community in DC with new perspectives by sharing stories and moments that are often unseen, from folks that are often unheard. Not only was it a joy and privilege to work with the women of N Street Village in this capacity and to listen to the stories behind the pictures, but it is my team’s hope that this project will enrich this city by creating a common humanity across people from some of the most marginalized and stigmatized groups in Washington, D.C.

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July Volunteer Spotlight

Shivani Chatterjee

This month let’s get to know N Street Village volunteer Shivani Chatterjee. Shivani has been an active volunteer with us since April 2014. She is a versatile volunteer who spends her time serving the community as an overnight supervisor, residential assistant, breakfast server, Bingo caller at Miriam’s House, and teaches Bollywood dancing at the night shelter. Shivani has volunteered with various agencies in DC, but she didn’t feel like she was cultivating relationships or joining a community. Then, she found N Street Village, which was the answer to that missing piece. Now, she feels so good to be a part of such a great community of people. Let’s get know Shivani…

I work at the National Office of Communities in Schools (CIS), a nonprofit network that prevents students from dropping out of high school by surrounding them with a community of support. I believe that education is the best tool we have to address most problems of social inequality in this world. I find it very rewarding to be involved with N Street Village and the environment of love and empowerment that it fosters. I believe that you can learn something from everyone you meet, and I definitely learn a lot from the ladies at N Street Village. I love music and enjoy dancing, singing, playing piano, and experimenting on the drums. Staying active and healthy is important to me. For relaxation, I love to read or take a walk by the waterfront.

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area? I was born in Louisiana, and grew up in Texas. I have been in D.C. for about 2.5 years.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? Vinoteca.

On a Saturday evening you will find me…Dancing with my friends.

What is the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)? The Kite Runner on Netflix.

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? I really love the Lincoln Memorial.

Where is the last place you traveled to? Denver, Colorado to see my cousin.

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. Safety, rejuvenation, family.

Share one of your favorite N Street Village memories?When one of the residents brought me a cupcake. I also loved when another resident made coffee for me after overnight shifts.

What has been one of your biggest surprises about N Street Village? The personalities of the ladies can be surprising and wonderful. As a volunteer, I realized that some ladies want to interact minimally, while others enjoy talking to you. So, I just come with an open smile and engage the ladies who reach out to me.

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Join N Street Village Impact Committee

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N Street Village’s Impact Committee is comprised of a select group of energetic, passionate and talented leaders who are dedicated to N Street Village’s mission, and are in a position to network and raise friends, funds and visibility for the women of N Street Village. Each member commits to helping N Street Village leverage resources to further its mission. The Committee collaborates to create year round opportunities of engagement, ranging from hosting fundraising events to volunteering at N Street Village.

The Committee supports the women of N Street Village by raising awareness of N Street Village and its commitment to making a difference in the lives of low income and homeless women in Washington, D.C. Members are particularly focused on engaging professionals in the early stages of their career and working with them to establish philanthropic roots in the city.

If you would like to participate in a networking charity happy hour, help plan a fundraiser with live music, or help to volunteer at some of N Street Village’s annual events, please consider joining the Impact Committee. The next event planned will be an evening of live music, networking, and fun at our annual Night Sessions in the Fall–it is guaranteed to be an evening of rocking out!

If you are interested in joining the Impact Committee, please contact Ilana Cookler at icookler@nstreetvillage.org.

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May Volunteer Spotlight

Becky ParisThis month let’s get know N Street Village volunteer Becky Paris. Becky teaches yoga class every Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. in our multipurpose room. Becky has been volunteering with us since February 2014. In her teaching, Becky’s love for life and laughter shines through. Her animated, playful personality lights up her classes while encouraging kindness, compassion and honesty. Let’s get know Becky….

Becky first came to yoga thinking she was going to a Pilates class, but left knowing she was changed forever. She quickly fell in love with the movement, breath work, and more importantly, the lasting effects the practice has on her life off of the mat. Becky received her 200 hour teaching certification through the Mimi Rieger Yoga Teacher Training in January 2014. She now acts as an assistant in Mimi Rieger’s Teacher Training Program. Becky is also trained in Mindful Yoga Therapy and Kids Yoga, and will be assisting in and taking a Yin Yoga teacher training with Yael Flusberg at the beginning of 2016.

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area? I am from Augusta, GA and have been in DC for about 4.5 years.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? This is a really hard one to answer. I work at one of the finest dining establishments in the city, Birch and Barley, and love everything they do. I have also thoroughly enjoyed myself every time I have been lucky enough to dine at Rose’s Luxury.

Who is one of your favorite musicians? James Brown. No, the Beatles. Wait! Krishna Das! Oh this is an impossible question. It depends 100% on my mood. I love all kinds of music.

Where is the last place you traveled to? I last went to Sault St. Marie, Michigan, my mother’s hometown.

What is favorite yoga pose? This changes pretty frequently, but right now it is Tree Pose.  I love finding moments of stillness and balance.

Share one of your favorite N Street Village memories? There was some confusion about where class was to be held one Thursday morning. We started in our usual space, but about 10-15 minutes into class we were told we had to move to another space down the hall because our room was actually about to be used for meetings. So we all packed up our mats and belongings and moved across the hall to a much smaller room. At the end of class, one of the regular students pointed out how proud she was that everybody was so mentally flexible in that situation and moved without complaining and continued class. She pointed out that that is what yoga is really about—learning to respond to those sorts of situations with flexibility and understanding. I had never felt so humbled or honored by the wisdom of my students.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village? The women are so fierce. They are honest, kind, and have a great sense of community.

What has been one of your biggest surprises about N Street Village? I had no idea what to expect coming into this space. But I have always felt so supported and appreciated by the class participants and N Street Village staff. I am so humbled to be a part of this amazing organization!

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Impact Committee Spring Happy Hour

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Join the N Street Village Impact Committee for their Spring Happy Hour at Vinoteca on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Click here for more information or to reserve tickets!

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