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Capitol Hill Village: How We
Got Started

The impetus for Capitol Hill Village (CHV) came from Hill resident Geoff Lewis, who had read about a Boston-based organization, Beacon Hill Village, which helped people remain in their homes as they grew older – aging in place. In March 2006, Lewis convened a group of like-minded neighbors who eventually formed the first Village Board of Directors.

Using Beacon Hill Village as their model, the Board began meeting in May 2006, and quickly elected officers, created a mission statement, commissioned a logo, became incorporated, and defined committee responsibilities. It also collected necessary startup funds, constructed a database, and fashioned a business plan and budget. Beginning in August, Board members held small meetings in their homes, inviting friends and neighbors to learn about the general concept of “aging in place,” and soliciting ideas from attendees.

Virtually all attending the meetings said they wanted to stay in their own homes, and many saw themselves as volunteers for the organization. In time, relevant services were identified, among them: handyman and home-repair, transportation help, information on healthcare, tax and financial advice, “look-in” services, and “life-enrichment” activities providing social outlets. Besides the practical services, attendees urged that the Village idea also contribute to a greater sense of community.

By December 2006, CHV began a fundraising campaign with mailings to hundreds of potential contributors. A Board of Trustees was created to lend a significant community profile, and the Trustees adopted two ideas to raise funds: “founding donors” and “charter members.” These special options were offered to the community over several months, and, by April 2007, over $160,000 had been raised, allowing the organization to recruit an executive director. A search resulted in the selection of Gail Kohn, a highly qualified leader in aging services, who began work in May 2007.

In February 2007, CHV was offered the use of an apartment to serve as an office, and, in March, a major article about the Village in the Washington Post was crucial to its early visibility. The ongoing community meetings evolved from fact-finding into information sessions. The founders also agreed to subsidize, through grants and donations, Hill residents who could not afford the fees. They adopted from Beacon Hill the name of this subsidized program: "Membership Plus."

The summer also evidenced what became a signature element of CHV: its reliance on a large volunteer base. From the first, dozens of volunteers – many of them members – surfaced to do all sorts of tasks. Their number had reached over a hundred by the time of the group’s formal launch. Just prior to formal opening, the office ran two dry-runs to test operations and procedures.

The organization became fully operational on October 1, 2007, and celebrated its opening with a lively celebration for close to two hundred people on October 6, 2007. It already had almost fifty members signed up, ready "to live a full life in their own homes” with the help of Capitol Hill Village.

Contact us: 202-543-1778 | info@capitolhillvillage.org
Copyright 2012
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