by Brittany Comegna, corps member serving on the CSX Civic Engagement Team
While picking a venue for Make a Difference Day (MADD) 2011, City Year DC’s CSX Civic Engagement team decided that it is important to us to do physical service at a historical site in DC. Because of this, the team has decided to hold our MADD at DC General Health Campus, home to one of the city’s largest homeless shelters. On this day, 160 Corps Members along with 150 volunteers will work together to help DC General prepare for the winter season, which is typically its busiest.
Prior to our work on October 22nd, we had to backtrack over two hundred years of DC history in order to gain an understanding of the importance of this site to the DC community. Before it became the DC General Shelter, the shelter was known as the Washington Infirmary. According to the US National Library of Medicine, in 1806, the Washington Infirmary became the first public hospital. The Infirmary moved to the building where the shelter now operates in 1846. It was renamed the Washington Asylum. In 1953, a decision was reached to change the name to DC General Hospital. The hospital ceased its operations in 2001, and the site became the DC General Health Campus. The campus focuses on public health services, providing assistance to those in need for detoxification and treatment for Sexually Transmitted Diseases, both of which, along with homelessness, are important social issues in DC.
The declining economy has caused a rising trend in overcrowding in homeless shelters. Thus, over the past few winters a growing number of people have sought refuge in homeless shelters—DC General being one of them. DC General has the capacity to house 135 families. In the 2010 winter season it was crowded with 190 families, as mentioned in a Washington Post article.
On MADD, a group of volunteers will create survival kits for the homeless, paint murals inside the building, and participate in construction projects. Our volunteers will be building four craft corners to support the creative growth of DC children. Currently, the Civic Engagement team is hard at work gathering donations from the community to fill these crafe corners and help fill survival kits. The goal of the day is to help prepare the shelter for the hypothermia season. The season begins on November first and lasts through early spring.
City Year Washington, DC values the DC community, and we are excited to partner with DC General to show our commitment to preserving the historical heritage of Washington
Follow MADD on Twitter (@mdday) & tweet about your service using hashtag #mdday11.