We are eager to announce Paula Norwood and Giving Together (GT) as our October #SBYSpotlight of the Month. GT is a “giving circle” in which members pool their time and resources to help their community.
We invite you along to read about Paula’s passion for understanding the needs of the community and the importance of taking initiative to give back.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am Paula Norwood, the Founding President of Giving Together (GT). I served as President of GT for eight years. GT is a small nonprofit “giving circle” in which members pool their time and resources to help our community. We founded GT in the fall of 2009 and currently have 80 members. Since 2010 we have been awarding grants to local organizations serving those most in need in the greater DC area. While we started with single year annual grants, now we also award multi-year grants as well as smaller grants targeting Black-led non-profits, which often fly under the radar of larger funders.
I am currently serving as Co-chair of GT’s Membership Committee and as the Grantee Liaison to Sasha Bruce (SB). Prior to my becoming liaison to SB, Pam Feinstein, Co-chair of our Community Service Committee, was SB’s Grantee Liaison.
How did you first hear about Sasha Bruce?
I had heard of Sasha Bruce’s great work in the field of runaway youth, but I found out more about the organization in 2014, when we invited SB to apply for a grant under our homelessness category. That fall, we awarded $20,000 to SB to pay part of the salary of an after-care specialist for homeless and at-risk youth.
Why is it important to give or volunteer with a nonprofit organization?
Working with local nonprofit organizations helps us understand the range and depth of needs in our community. Giving of oneself, be it monetarily or in time or service, allows us to reflect on our own opportunities and good fortune, then give back to our community. If each of us would take the initiative to give something back, it would directly impact the severity of need and make our community a better place to live.
Tell us about a meaningful experience you’ve had with Sasha Bruce
This past August we asked our grantees, including SB, if they were in need of school supplies for their clients. We reached out to our members to donate school supplies to meet our grantees’ requests. SB provided a link to their Amazon wish list. I noticed a request for four Chromebooks. Four of our members quickly responded by purchasing these laptops. We received the backstory for a couple of the young people who were immediately putting the Chromebooks to very good use. It was particularly rewarding to see the immediate impact our gifts were having for these young people.
What makes Washington, D.C., special to you?
I moved to Washington, DC, in 1984 and worked for the federal government for eight years. At that time I wasn’t familiar with the vast number of community nonprofits and funding organizations which existed in DC and its surrounding areas. Prior to moving to DC, I had worked in Cleveland at a community planning and research organization. My work through GT has taught me that while the needs are great in this area, we are fortunate to have so many community organizations working hard to meet the needs of our residents. Greater Washington Community Foundation which includes Montgomery County and Prince George’s County– provides a critical layer of funding and targeted support.
What are you most excited about with your volunteer work/giving?
Pam Feinstein, Co-Chair of GT’s Community Service Committee is most excited that in addition to funding our Grantees, we look for other ways to help them throughout the year both onsite and by collecting items. For example, at Sasha Bruce, in addition to purchasing school supplies, we’ve also provided cakes and cookies for birthday celebrations as well as a Thanksgiving Dinner last year for SB clients. We live in a very generous community where people want to help. GT’s community service team works to identify grantee needs and then we reach out to our members. They always come through – often going above and beyond.