Preparing to tell their stories: From left, former Samaritan participants and current Speakers’ Bureau members Antoinette Green, Tyrone King, Larry Gooch, Ben Morgan, and Yolanda Jeter
June 5, 2023 — With the District and DMV finally fully reopened, we’re especially excited to launch this year’s Empower our Neighbors in Need (ENN) campaign, the annual summer grass-roots push by Samaritan’s partner churches and schools to ignite engagement with homelessness and other critical challenges faced by the region’s most vulnerable residents. On tap are speakers, community walks, ice cream socials, and drives to collect needed transit passes and food and hygiene supplies, among other ideas.
In preparation to share their stories at many of the ENN events, five Samaritan alums met at the Samaritan NW DC office on June 3rd to share ideas, have fellowship, and hone their speaking techniques with John Yahner, Samaritan’s new speech coach and a former presidential speechwriter himself.
The next day, Church of the Epiphany, DC, kicked off the 2023 campaign with a “Samaritan Sunday” featuring Samaritan alum Charles Hopkins and Samaritan Executive Director David Wolf, and and St. Francis, Potomac, hosted David and Samaritan alum Benjamin Morgan the following week. Both Hopkins and Morgan credit the rewarding places they are in their lives now to Samaritan’s coaching and support when they needed it. Reformation Lutheran, Capitol Hill and St. Stephen and the Incarnation have also lined up a former Samaritan participant to speak along with David this summer; if your congregation is thinking about inviting them too, we encourage you to reach out soon to secure an engagement.
Meanwhile on June 17, St. Columba’s Episcopal Church shut down part of the 1.1 mile-stretch of Wisconsin Avenue that leads from the church to Washington National Cathedral for an ENN Community Walk. The walk wasn’t intentionally timed to fall on Juneteenth weekend, but it provided an excellent opportunity to celebrate freedom and reflect on the work that still needs to be done to bring about true racial equity. Dozens of St. Columba’s parishioners and others turned for the event, which began at St. Columba’s labyrinth with marchers creating signs to draw attention to the problems Samaritan seeks to alleviate and the services it provides. Samaritan participant Tyrone King gave a moving talk about the experience of seeing most of his family pass away while he completed 28 years in prison, and the critical caring and support that Samaritan was able to provide when he was released and needed help finding employment and a home. Then the group walked to the Cathedral, which was a co-sponsor of the walk, and enjoyed refreshments and a group prayer on the lush Cathedral grounds.
If your church or school is thinking about organizing a drive for in-kind gift items such as SmarTrip cards, grocery gift cards, pantry and “walking” food items, and essential hygiene products and other toiletries that Samaritan stocks for its participants, let this list guide what you collect.
Since getting involved is such a big part of what ENN is all about — and because volunteer help is so crucial to Samaritan’s work — be sure to consider having one or more of your community’s own active Samaritan volunteers speak about how transformative volunteering with Samaritan has been for them. You can help your community members connect with the right volunteer job at Samaritan by sharing Samaritan’s current list of volunteer opportunities at your events and through your regular communications channels.
Ultimately, empowering participants to change their lives requires a large financial investment, so we encourage partner organizations to facilitate donations at their ENN events. Samaritan can provide credit card terminals and event registration links that will save you the trouble of collecting and transferring contributions made at walks, talks, films, concerts, and other events. A forthcoming appeal letter in which David tells the moving story of Sam Tanner, a new Samaritan alum, is sure to provide a lot of inspiration, as is a $100,000 match being offered from now until ENN concludes at the end of September. Use this link to make donations directly to the campaign.
If you belong to a Samaritan partner church or school that has not yet decided how to become a part of the ENN campaign this summer, you can find more ideas here and a guide to ENN partner event planning here.
This article was updated on 6/20/2023.