It Takes A Village…

It Takes A Village…

by intern Catlin Ouano
Photo credit: intern Isabella Gerard

“Can we just say that one more time: the fortieth anniversary?”  That’s how Michele Norris, co chair of the 40th Anniversary Gala for N Street Village, welcomed nearly six hundred guests at the Ritz-Carlton this past Wednesday night. More than $760,000 was raised. “And for those of us who are on the other side of forty, forty is fabulous and the best time of our lives,” she joked.


Michele Norris

N Street Village is a large nonprofit that empowers homeless and low-income women to “claim their highest quality of life” by offering a variety of services for help and rehabilitation as well as advocacy. N Street Village is recognized as an innovative leader on issues related to the prevention and elimination of homelessness among women.

It is certainly a credible and amazing organization to have garnered forty years of thriving success, recognition, and a hall full of people who could not stop talking about the phenomenal work that N Street Village does.


The night opened with an hour of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres during which board members, donors, guests and volunteers alike mixed and mingled. Hollywood on the Potomac noticed that they all had the same thing to say: N Street Village is unlike any organization of its kind.


Many guests were members of other nonprofits that were invited by N Street Village. Brooke Hunter, chief operating officer of the D.C-based nonprofit Public Knowledge, noted that “That invitation really caused me to look into N Street Village which I honestly was not familiar with before I was invited to the event. And the more I learned, the more it seems like they are doing really amazing work. I am happy to be here and be given the opportunity to support the cause.”


Among the many donors to N Street Village was CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, a not-for-profit, non-stock health services company that has been serving people for seventy-six years. Faye Fields, who has been a board member of CareFirst for seven years, was at the gala representing the company. “I’m familiar with N Street Village and I know the work they do in terms of vulnerable women and families and they do a great job.”

Fields even had a more personal connection to N Street Village, evidence of how far and wide the organization spans. She noted, “Actually, my church is very involved with supporting them and so I’ve known about N Street Village for a while.”


While guests chatted and greeted each other, N Street Village volunteers were walking around with buckets and clipboards, selling raffle tickets for prizes at the end of the night: a round-trip international airfare with United Airlines and a one week stay in a Buenos Aires apartment, a round-trip airfare with JetBlue and a four night stay with breakfast at the San Juan Marriott Resort in Puerto Rico

One of these volunteers was Heike Spichal, working her first volunteer project with N Street Village after having volunteered for another homeless shelter. When asked what makes N Street Village so unique and special she replied, “I think they do a good job trying to attract donors. Their donor base seems to be pretty strong compared to other places that I’ve volunteered for and it just seems like they put a lot of thought into that.”


Heike Spichal

Brooke Hunter also agreed with this earlier in the night, mentioning that, “It looks like they’re running a wonderful capital campaign to improve their budget. I always appreciate nonprofits that are able to really commit the resources and expand what they offer to the people they are trying to serve.”

Keith Harley, who is on the  Board of Directors, confirmed this directly.  He emphasized how “The board is the foundation – it keeps the heart, the blood, the meat, it keeps us going. We’re constantly networking and keep things going so we can keep that up and also meeting other people and other organizations so we can expand. We’re always looking to expand.”


Jean Simmons with her husband

And while funds are important, N Street Village never fails to forget its cause. Jean Simons, a volunteer of four years, described her efforts as a health and wellness instructor. “I get to see the women every week and I teach an exercise and health class. That shows that N Street Village is interested in the whole person. It’s an amazing cause.

When you think about wraparound services you think about, you know, learning how to get a job or how to do your budget or find an apartment. But they really are interested in the health and wellness of the women so they provide exercise classes and massages and they are very open to me coming in and bringing this program where I can help teach them about nutrition. They really treat the whole person: body, spirit, everything.”


Frank Chiaramonte, a D.C general contractor and a very humble guest, is involved with many different charities and singled out N Street Village as one of the best. “I try to get to the bottom of who really helps people and I’ve learned that N Street Village really is one of the premier help groups that really really put their actions into work. I don’t have daughters myself but if I did…society needs a place like N Street Village and I’m thankful to God for their presence. I try to help where I can.”


Guests proceeded into the hall at 7:30 and were finally quieted down when Michele Norris took the stage. “You know, it’s a good sign when you get people in a room and everyone’s having such a good time we have to quiet and shush everyone,” she said to much laughter and agreement from her audience. “Let’s begin!”

Norris began with a personal story. “I have seen the power and the importance of this mission up close a long time ago when I was a reporter for the Washington Post. I was doing a story that I will never forget on a woman who was living in a crack house. She got herself together and the N Street Village helped her. I will never forget it.”

Norris then emphasized the values and the success of N Street Village as an award winning non-profit. She then turned the microphone over to Schroeder Stribling, the Executive Director of N Street Village.


Schroeder Stribling

Stribling, a strong but soft spoken woman, began her speech by artfully illustrating not only the huge amount of women they serve each year but the variety of problems they bring with them when they walk through her doors.

“Over the past year, N Street Village has welcomed hundreds of women for the very first time. Her name was Marla. Her name was Sameetra. Her name was Betty. She was recovering from the death of a beloved spouse. The recent discovery that she is HIV positive. The scars of violence and abuse. She came to start her journey to recovery from addiction. She was desperate and looking for a lifeline.”

“For the past forty years, you have been that lifeline. You have created a village of compassion and justice, you met Marla and Sameetra and Betty at the front door, and you welcomed her with dignity and with respect.”


Senator Kelly Ayotte and Senator Kay Hagan were then presented with the Founder’s Award, which recognizes individuals whose professional and personal efforts have provided new opportunities for the most vulnerable in our society. They are both gracious and empowering figures that are examples to all women everywhere.

Evelyn Brenson, Marshalle Gaither and Ann Hill were then presented with the Erna and John Steinbruck Award, which recognizes women whose leadership, persietence, and determination reflect that of the co-founders of N Street Village: Erna and John Steinbruck.


“I have been involved with N Street Village for over 15 years, and have had the privilege to see the organization grow, evolve and expand while always remaining true to its most fundamental mission,” said Linda Daschle as she presented the award. “Whether it’s medical treatment, low-income housing, or some kind of rehabilitation or job training, N Street Village provides it all. It is an amazing place.”

Other VIPs in attendance included Senator Roy and Mrs. Abigail Blunt, Senator Michael and Mrs. Diana Enzi, Council member Jack Evans, Mayor Vincent Gray, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, Former Mayor Anthony Williams, and Laura Zeilinger, Executive Director of the US inter agency Council on homelessness

The room never lost enthusiasm even as the night went on. The atmosphere was positive, warm, genial, and simply a breath of fresh air.


Corey Ealons, Senior Vice-President of Vox Global and former Obama White House communications aide, expressed his admiration for such a wonderful cause.

“Any time you can take the time to help people, meet them where they are, and give them an opportunity to be lifted up, it’s a good occasion and it’s a good cause. And so that is why N Street Village is such a wonderful organization. This is an extraordinary event and I’m happy to be here.”

It would be difficult to disagree with him: everyone was happy to be there.