Mount Vernon Triangle
MVT’s Historic Church
Second Baptist Church just celebrated its 167th anniversary and shows no signs of slowing down. With deep roots in the MVT community, Second Baptist is finding ways to blossom with the neighborhood while staying grounded in its mission. The historic church building, with its creaky wood floors and brightly colored stained glass windows, had suffered the effects of neighboring construction, and the congregation had to relocate for several years. The recent anniversary celebration was like a homecoming, especially for members who’ve witnessed the many changes in MVT.
“Older members of the church have made a tremendous contribution,” said Rev. James E. Terrell, who’s helped lead the church for nearly 30 years. “It’s been a blessing to know them, hear them, and to have them as part of the church.”
The church has been committed to serving and educating the community since it was founded by freed men and women in 1848. “This was one of the first churches, after the abolition of slavery, to undertake the education of the former slaves,” Rev. Terrell explained. “The church was instrumental in that regard to make former slaves literate.”
In the 19th century the church held public lectures with such noted speakers as Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass. Rev. Terrell hopes to reinstitute this tradition of the lyceum and to find other ways to engage with the MVT community. He’s currently a board member of the MVT Community Improvement District (CID) and president of the Council of Churches of Greater Washington.
Second Baptist has helped the community by fostering the growth of other churches in the city, including its neighbor, Mount Carmel Baptist Church. “Ten churches [and the Baptist Seminary] have formally come out of this church,” Rev. Terrell shared. “We’re considered by the African-American community to be the mother Baptist church.”
Looking ahead to the holiday season, the church will have Christmas services as well as the traditional Watch Night service on New Year’s Eve, a practice that dates back to 1863 when freedmen and slaves gathered in churches to pray in the new year and to witness the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Visit Second Baptist Church at 816 Third St. NW or at www.secondbaptistchurchdc.org, or call 202-842-0233.
Creating New Futures for Homeless Women
New Endeavors by Women (NEW) has been helping homeless women and children since 1988. Through its continuing commitment to underserved women NEW has supported over 3,000 women and children in their pursuit to lead independent lives. What started with just one shelter for homeless women has expanded to seven different programs, including those for the chronically homeless,HIV-positive women, senior women, mothers reunifying with their children, and women with mental illness and substance dependency.
“Homelessness is different in general than in 1988,” said NEW’s executive director, Wanda Steptoe. “People come in now with a plethora of issues, including survivors of domestic violence, substance abuse, and those dealing with mental illness.” Steptoe explained that, unfortunately, one of NEW’s greatest challenges is that some of the mentally ill residents refuse help to manage their illnesses, which may inhibit their ability to gain or even maintain employment.
“Another difference is there is now generational homelessness,” Steptoe pointed out, explaining that some of the NEW residents lack a model of a stable home, which makes it more challenging for them to move beyond their current circumstances. To help residents develop the skills and self-determination to become independent, NEW provides a variety of services, including case management, life skills training, substance abuse counseling, financial and nutritional education, parenting skills development, and a youth education program for the children of those they serve.
NEW partners with other organizations that providemedical, mental health, andlegal services as well as employment readiness and GED classes. “We must reach the children to get them excited about education and show them there’s a different way of life available,” Steptoe explained. “We help students increase their math and English grades, in addition to teaching appropriate classroom behavior.”
MVT residents who are interested in supporting NEW can become GED tutors or donate children’s educational games and materials or books and Kindles. Looking ahead, NEW will hold its “Moving Out of Homelessness Annual Benefit” on Oct. 25, 2016,at the Marriott Marquis. Meanwhile, it may host a “Happy Hour Fundraiser” at a local restaurant.
“Although the challenges are great, our staff is committed to help those we serve to move beyond homelessness,” Steptoe shared. “That commitment has allowed us to make a positive difference in many lives.” Program participant Theresa Thompson said, “For the first time in my life, I feel I know what guardian angels are.”
Contact New Endeavors by Women at 611 N St. NW or at nebw.org,or call 202-682-5825.
A Great Place to Be
MVT residents already know what the rest of the city is finally figuring out: this neighborhood just keeps getting better. With so many new restaurants, fitness studios, businesses, and residential buildings, MVT residents may never have to leave the cozy confines of the Triangle.
To take the figurative pulse of the neighborhood, the MVT CID recently conducted its annual perception survey, and the results reflect the overall positive growth in and perception of the neighborhood. Of the 448 people who completed the survey, about half felt the sense of community was very strong. The vast majority want the MVT CID to focus on safety, neighborhood cleanliness, new businesses attraction, and the addition of more green and outdoor park space.
Over half of the respondents noted that homeless outreach should be a priority. With both Central Union Mission and New Endeavors by Women in the neighborhood, there are plenty of opportunities for MVT residents and businesses to help support the homeless population. In terms of community events, the top three activities of interest were seasonal festivals, outdoor concerts, and the farmers’ market. Several respondents suggested expanding the hours of the current farm stand, expanding the selection, and adding food vendors who sell lunch options.
MVT hopes to continue attracting new restaurants. Half of the respondents hoped a Mexican restaurant will soon be an option in the neighborhood. Top of the retail wish list were a clothing store, a salon, and a juice bar.
Considering that 64 percent of respondents have lived in MVT three years or less, maintaining a connection to the neighborhood’s past and fostering a sense of community are critical. No doubt the MVT CID will continue helping the neighborhood tackle these challenges.
Contact the MVT CID at 457 Massachusetts Ave. NW or at www.mvtcid.org, or call 202-216-0511. See the results of the survey at http://www.mvtcid.org/news/november-2015-triangle-times-survey-results-s....