DC Project Connect receives the 2022 NRNRC Community Advocate Award
DC Project Connect (DCPC), an NGO located in the United States, just outside of Washington, DC, received the 2022 National Reentry Network Community Advocate Award. Each year, the National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens (NRNRC) , under the leadership of Mr. Courtney Stewart, recognizes exemplary individuals and their organizations with its highest and most prestigious awards during a ceremony among peer organizations and dignitaries. Past recipients of this coveted award have demonstrated innovative ways to accomplish their mission despite seemingly unsurmountable challenges. DCPC has exemplified overcoming obstacles to service delivery throughout its 8-year existence, but most certainly during the initial stages of the pandemic. During a time of worldwide uncertainty, isolation, and extenuating circumstances of enforced separation, DCPC recognized that the pandemic would be one more added barrier to families affected by incarceration. Photo: Washington, D.C. NRNC Awards Ceremony (Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson [left], DCPC President | Mr. Courtney Stewart [right], CEO, NRNRC. “Sometimes an outside voice and social-emotional support might be just the thing that families need—a voice of reason and a focus on possibilities to help people hang on to hope,” stated award recipient, Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson, DCPC president and INCCIP vice-chair of the Board of Trustees. She further reflected, “It has been a challenging couple of years for all organizations to remain afloat and hard for families, especially those impacted by incarceration. Our constituent families and children have faced tough challenges in the Washington, DC area such as spiking violence, food insecurity, and multiple ongoing health crises. Their needs do not subside just because there are local and global issues, but rather, they are compounded. Children with incarcerated parents still need protective influences and intervention so that they can thrive and achieve their greatest potential, making our partnerships with organizations such as NRNRC essential to enable continuous service delivery.”
“Our goal was to assure that families and children did not feel deserted and even more isolated as the jails and prisons closed their doors to visitors because of COVID19. We wanted to be there for families who may have felt more abandoned, afraid, and isolated than ever,” said Dr. Geoffrey Johnson, DCPC’s executive director.
To achieve and strengthen outreach goals, DCPC worked collectively with partner organizations such as NRNRC and the DC Reentry Action Network (RAN), transforming shared beliefs and visions into actionable steps to broaden services to children and families with loved ones in prison or jail. DCPC first focused on constituent health and safety. As such, teams of volunteers worked in the four major quadrants (Wards) of the District of Columbia, distributing masks, sanitizer, information on prevention and testing into the often neglected, yet high-risk communities. Additionally, DCPC repurposed traditional in-person programming, transforming most services to virtual platforms. As a result, DCPC expanded outreach, extended their volunteer-base, and implemented programming that enabled families and children to engage in meaningful discussions and support. “We also distributed our children’s books to families, informing parents on ways to bond with their children, explain difficult topics such as incarceration and the pandemic, while encouraging ways that parents can enhance bonding with their children,” reflected, Dr. Hart-Johnson. DC Project Connect’s signature “Reading Circles”, using bibliotherapy-based children’s books and literature that are designed to encourage families to discover ways to manage emotions, maintain communication, and build relationships beyond foreseen barriers. These strategies help families to use their intrinsic strengths to discover ways to deal with possibly long stretches of not seeing one another in person.
“We proudly accept the Community Award and offer thanks to all the other organizations who demonstrated their ongoing commitment to families and children, showing empathy, dedication, and continued support. We celebrate the collective accomplishments of our colleagues and peers,” offered Dr. Hart-Johnson.