A Big Birthday Gift for our 30 Years
By Helene Vissiere
“I would have never imagined how Friendship Place would flourish. It has changed the sense of the possible,” Jean Duff, one of the cofounders, said during the 2022 Hope Gala.
Flourish it did. And it continues today! For our 30th anniversary, Friendship Place got a marvelous gift thanks to the generosity of numerous donors: the event raised $2 million to support our HOPE campaign of ending homelessness in the DC metro area and rebuilding the lives of families, veterans, seniors and others.
It’s “a phenomenal number,” said Christopher Rutledge, Vice President, External Affairs.
The annual gala brought hundreds of friends, colleagues and members together for an evening of celebration at the French embassy on June 16th.
“Technically we are in France tonight,” joked Allison Seymour, the Emmy Award-winning WUSA9 news anchor who emceed the event. The gala took place in the embassy’s grand hall with a memorable buffet of decidedly French flair, full of wine, gougères and cheese.
It was a particularly joyful occasion after two years of the pandemic. “We have been proud to support Friendship Place for many years,” said John Dalton, a longtime donor.
“There are so many wonderful programs to help veterans and people who need to rebuild their lives. I am so impressed by what they are doing, it is an amazing organization”, gushed Margaret, his wife, who volunteered to cook breakfasts for the participants, before the pandemic.
“It’s my favorite charity, it helps so many local communities,” added Betsy Daniel, who with her husband, have been strong supporters for years.
The gala was the occasion to honor Virginia Ali, cofounder of the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl and a prominent pillar of the D.C. community, for her influential work on the board of For Love of Children, the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage, and many other institutions. She was presented with the Friendship Place Inspiring Life Award.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis R. McDonough, received the first annual Veteran Hero Award.
Nan Roman, former president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness and member of the Friendship Place board, was the recipient of the Inaugural Nan Roman Award for Exemplary Compassion and Service in the Fight Against Homelessness. Roman was cited for her tireless work to educate the public, mobilize Congress and find innovative solutions to address homelessness.
Finally, Raheem DeVaughn, a Grammy-nominated R&B artist who has created LoveLife, a foundation dedicated to improving lives, received the Cultural Ambassador Award.
Friendship Place began with the mobilization of a group of neighbors in upper Northwest Washington. Supported by several local congregations, the group opened a drop-in center in the Tenley Circle area, and five small congregation-based shelters. By 2011, we were serving the whole District and the surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia.
In 30 years, our organization has helped more than 30,000 people. And we are not finished.
“Friendship Place was launched by a vision and a dream, guided by a spirit of hope,” president and CEO Jean-Michel Giraud said at the gala.
The HOPE campaign aims to root out homelessness, increase job placement capacity, aid for veterans and youth, and support the LBGT community, he explained. “The vision is wide and ambitious, but I hope you will stand by us,” he told the crowd of supporters.
“I congratulate Jean-Michel Giraud and the team for their extraordinary work. I wanted to help and now I am on the Board. There is a nice collegiality with the staff and the volunteers”, Anne Morrison said.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2022 gala and made it so successful and hopeful.