Event on Arlington Safety-Net Nonprofits Draws Engaged Crowd

More than 100 community members went to Central Library on Monday, Feb. 1 to learn about the work of 14 Arlington “safety-net” nonprofits that provide the most basic necessities for a stable life: housing and shelter; health and mental health services; food; and emergency and employment assistance. Attendees heard about the findings of a new report: “Arlington’s Safety-Net Nonprofits: Advancing the Common Good.”

The report was produced by the Marymount University Nonprofit Resource Center in Partnership with the Arlington Community Foundation. Matthew Shank, Marymount University president, and Wanda Pierce, Arlington Community Foundation executive director, explained that the Center was created in late 2014 to educate the public on pressing community needs and to support Arlington’s nonprofits in meeting those needs.

Anne Vorder Bruegge, the Center director, presented highlights of the report, which examines the nonprofits’ social and economic contributions. A panel consisting of Arlington County DHS Director Anita Friedman, Doorways for Women and Families Executive Director Caroline Jones, Arlington Food Assistance Center Director Charles Meng and Arlington Thrive Volunteer Cynthia Dahlin emphasized that these nonprofits strive to be accessible and user-friendly to community members in their most vulnerable times.

Friedman described the striking increases in numbers of Arlington residents seeking assistance with food, housing, medical care and employment since the 2008 recession. According to the US Census Bureau, more than 17,000 Arlington residents are living at or below the Federal poverty level of $24,250 for a household of four. The 2015 median household income in Arlington was $106,400.

“These nonprofits are witnesses to those who face challenges and are key players in making Arlington a caring community that values and supports all of its residents,” explained Anne Vor der Bruegge, director of the Nonprofit Resource Center.

A central theme of the report is that Arlington’s safety-net nonprofits are cost-effective at providing high-quality, affordable services by leveraging donated goods and services and attracting corporate, philanthropic and public funds. In the past year, for example, Arlington Free Clinic provided ongoing medical care to more than 1,600 uninsured community members by coordinating the services of 500 volunteers and accessing several million dollars in donated medications.

The report highlights the degree to which the organizations multiply their impact through strategic collaboration with each other and in public-private partnerships with Arlington County. Each organization focuses on what it does best while ensuring that clients access additional services they need from other organizations. For example, Doorways for Women and Children partners with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to help victims of domestic violence find safe housing while working with the victims to build their self-sufficiency and heal from the trauma of abuse.

A social return on investment analysis reveals the value delivered and costs avoided by these nonprofits, and indicates that investments in them are responsible ones. And they contribute to Arlington’s economy: in fiscal year 2015, the 14 nonprofits generated $58 million in revenues, employed 444 individuals and paid $6.6 million in property taxes.

“This report demonstrates that the work of these organizations is critical to the stability of our community,” said Wanda Pierce. “The Foundation values their contributions and is honored to support their efforts through grantmaking and convening.”

The full report and descriptions of the 14 featured nonprofits are available online at http://bit.ly/1PpA5IG.

The Nonprofit Resource Center leverages the role of the Arlington Community Foundation as convener and catalyst and Marymount University’s commitment to service to strengthen Arlington nonprofits. The Center is a knowledge hub for Arlington nonprofits. The Arlington Community Foundation provides funding and other material support to the Center as a means of extending its investments in Arlington nonprofits. Marymount students and faculty provide valuable services while being exposed to issues that transcend the formal academic environment.