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                WhenCompassion
                Meets
                    Commitment
                                                                   Power Lunch program, which now serves 30 Title 1
                                                                   schools across the region that receive federal subsidies,
                                                                  just finished its 11th year, with more than 300 Hill peo-
                                                                   ple in its ranks.
                                                                      With such dense concentrations of talent, one might
                                                              4    expect these two volunteer sroups to be abuzz with
                                                              I
                                                                   professional networking;. But although some volunteer
                                                                   organizations, such as the Junior League, are known
                                                              b
                                                              5
                                                              o
                                                                   fbr blending professional socializing and community
                                                                   service, the tutors and mentors of Everybody Wins
                                                                   D.C. and Horton's Kids spend much of their volunteer
                                                                   time in one-on-one sessions with at-risk students, and
                                                                   they rarely focus on work-related networking. "You
                                                                   might be more likely to go to heaven," Walser says,
                                                                   "but I'm not so sure you're going to get a promotion."
                                                                      Nevertheless, the relationships fbrged among the
                                                                   groups' volunteers provide a valuable sense of accom-
                                                                   plishment and peer recognition that even a demand-
                                                                   ing job in government can't. And Horton's Kids and
                                                                   Everybody Wins D.C. have tuned their programs to the
                                                                   cadence of Capitol Hill, making it easier for staffers to
                                                                   forge those volunteer relationships on the fringes of
                                                                   the workday.
                                                                      "The whole idea was to make it very easy for busy
                                                                   people," says Mary Salander, who has been the execu-
By Peter Bell                                                      tive director of Everybody Wins D.C. since it began in
                       hen Erik Olson meets someone neq            1995. Using school coordinators, the group makes
                       he doesn't wait too long to make his        sure that the children are ready to begin working when
  i'        .          move. "I don't know how I make it           their mentors arrive, and it reschedules sessions if a
                                                                   mentor is too busy to c()me on a particular day. If the
       ,"          son, a legislative assistant to Rep.
                .,,.                                               school coordinators weren't around to handle logis-
                   Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat. A               tics, maintaining the 70 percent volunteer retention
stranger at a party might ask Olson about his plans for            rate would be harder, Salander says.
the weekend, and he'll talk about his Sunday field trip,              "It's just nine or 10 blocks, and it helps to get my
and maybe about his Tr.resdayevening plans as well. If             head out of this place fbr an hour and a half. A-ll we
the acquaintance sounds interested but hesitates, OI-              have to do is show up. They make it easy to plug in,"
son eases off. But his windup has already begun. Even-             says Brian Ahlberg, chief of staff to Sen. Tom Harkin,
tually, he'll send the question sailing right down the             D-Iowa. Together, Harkin and Ahlberg mentor Amii
middle: "It's just an hour and a half. You can't give an          Young, a student at Brent Elementary near the Capitol.
hour and a half?" For emphasis, he pats out each word                 While participants in Everybody Wins D.C. find time
on the table, and then leans back smiling. "That's my              for volunteering during lunch, Horton's Kids tutors do
pitch," he says,his demonstration finished.                        their thing after work. On Monday and Tuesday
   Olson is one of about 100 congressional stafl-erswho            evenings, chartered sphool buses drop students off at
volunteer with Horton's Kids, a tutoring group fbund-              the Longworth House Office Building to meet their tu-
ed 15 years ago by Karin Walser, who was press secre-              tors. On Wednesdays, the kids head for the Education
tary to the late Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Mass. Over the                Department. Sunday afternoons, the children and tu-
years, hundreds of Hill aides have responded to ap-                tors go on field trips together to local museums and
peals like Olson's, volunteering to tutor children from            parks. Because the congressional workweek begins in
the Wellington Park apartments in Southeast Washing-               earnest when members return from their districts on
ton. Hundreds more have mentored children during                  Tuesdays, Monday-evening tutoring is particularly pop-
lunch hour at Tyler and Brent elementary schools                   ular among Hill staffers.
through another program, "Everybody Winsl D.C." Its                   "Busing children to where the volunteers were-mo-



                                                                                            ]it:t:i.l-
                                                                                6/17 06 NATIoNAL
                                                                                   1                     .lottRNAL      43
                             bile tutoring-worked      really, really well," Walser says.        ington's Mount Pleasant neighborhood. "I think that's a
                             "In D.C., everybody is intense and working really                   great thing that volunteering brings to people."
                             hard-and,     otherwise, I think it would be hard for us                Absent a paycheck, something else sustains volun-
                             to get volunteers, especially of the caliber we have."              teers-the recognition of others. "We all want to be re-
                                The ease of the commitment has helped Amanda                     spected and admired," saysRob Dugger, the managing
                             Farris, a Republican staff member on the House Edu-                 director of Tudor Investment and a fbrmer chief econ-
                             cation and the Workforce Committee, mentor with                     omist to the Senate Banking Committee who has men-
                             Everybody Wins for the last seven years. But feeling                tored with Everybody Wins for three years. Dugger
                             useful to others is another big incentive. "I don't have            leads the Invest in Kids working group at the Commit-
                             the talent to teach a lot of literary skills, but I can show        tee for Economic Development, an organization of
                             them that it's fun to read," saysFarris, who spends her             business and education leaders dedicated to policy re-
                             work hours focusing on elementary school education                  s e a r c ha n d i m p l e m e n t a t i o n .
                             policy and assessingprograms under the No Child Left                    Aside from occasional mentions in the Congression-
                             Behind education act.                                               al Record, the recognition that volunteers with Every-
                                It's those small but important contributions that                body Wins D.C. and Horton's Kids receive is mostly in-
                             keep volunteers coming back. Three years ago, Chris                 formal and low-key. But it brings the volunteers closer
                             Grillo worried through his first tutoring session with              together. After evening tutoring sessions, the Horton's
                             Horton's Kids. \A/hen the student he was working with               Kids volunteers gather at Tortilla Coast, a Capitol Hill
                             had trouble staying awake, Grillo wondered if she had               bar, to mark the close of a long day and to share a few
                             eaten that day. "It was a toush start," he says.But with-           tutoring tips. The get-togethers are an informal way of
                             out such difficulties, Grillo, a former aide to Guam Del-           acknowledging a shared purpose and experience.
                                                                                                                                          Last month, Horton's Kids
                                                                                                                                     board member Bernie Robin-
                                                                                                                                     son, a lobbyist with the Liv-
                                                                                                                                     ingston Group, hosted an ap-
                                                                                                                                     preciation party for the men-
                                                                                                                                     tors. When        the volunteers
                                                                                                                                     arrived, they found thank-you
                                                                                                                                     cards from their students deck-
                                                                                                                                     ing the walls of Robinson's
                                                                                                                                     Caoitol Hill home.
                                                                                                                                          'iThei.
                                                                                                                                                  dedication and good-
                                                                                                                                     will is something that is fun to
                                                                                                                                     be a very small part of," Robin-
                                                                                                                                     son says. "Trying to make a dif-
                                                                                                                                     ference in some of these chil-
                                                                                                                                     dren's lives makes everything
                                                                                                                                     else I do worthwhile."
                                                                                                                                          Olson offers two reasons for
                                                                                                                                     his volunteering. "The base
                                                                                                                                     thing is obligation," he says.
                                                                                                                                     "But I wouldn't do it unless I
                                                                                                                                     was having a lot of fun." Those
                                                                                                                                     reasons were on display on a re-
                              egate Madeleine Bordallo who continued to tutor after               cent Sunday afternoon at Virginia Highlands Park in
                             joining a real estate services firm, wouldn't have quite            Arlington, Va. After spending the morning in the office
                              the same sense of accomplishment. For the last year                 answering constituent mail, Olson boarded buses with
                              and a half, he has tutored one of the program's most                two dozen other tutors and headed to the playground
                              promising students. He saysthe relationship is fulfilling           with a gaggle of chilflren from Wellington Park.
                              and has strengthened his connection to Horton's Kids.                  As a dozen kids overran the jungle gym, they chant-
                                 Siobhan Canty, the president of Greater DC Cares, a              ed Olson's name over and ovet reveling in the atten-
                              nonprofit coordinating group that places about 50 vol-              tion as again and again he came barreling over to give
                              unteers a week, says that distance from the workplace               chase. For the next hour and a half, he took no impor-
                              can actually make volunteer relationships more mean-                tant phone calls, attended no closed-door meetings,
                                                           'I                                     and met not a single political bigwig. But he was at the
                              ingful. Volunteers learn, "     have value to this commu-
                              nity. I don'tjust have value to my employer,' " saysCanty,          center of it all.                                                  +r
                              who began volunteering in 1990 at a food-distribution
                              center for the Salvadoran residents of Northwest Wash-             pbell@nati onalj our nal. com



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44        NATIONAL                   IOURNAL                6/17 06
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