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A Wider Circle

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The mission of A Wider Circle is simple: to end poverty. We work in partnership with those we serve and with other agents of change to ensure that every child and adult has the opportunity to realize her or his potential and the support to rise out of poverty. A Wider Circle's efforts focus on the following three areas:  (1) Providing basic need items; (2) Developing and delivering comprehensive education and job preparedness programs; and (3) Creating connections for long-term support. These three components work in concert to create lasting change in the lives of those we serve.

It all began in 2001. Dr. Mark Bergel, then a professor at American University, volunteered with his students to deliver emergency food supplies to local families. He saw that people not only had no food, they had no beds, dressers, or other basic need items that so many of us take for granted. He also saw that many people had little access to the information and resources so readily available to others in our community. With no seed money but a strong conviction that we could do better for those living in poverty, he converted his living room into a nonprofit office and founded A Wider Circle.

Fourteen years later, the organization has now served more than 175,000 children and adults across the Washington, D.C. region. A Wider Circle has twice been named "one of the best" nonprofit organizations in the region by the Catalogue for Philanthropy and has been called "the quintessential grassroots organization" by the Washington Examiner. While many individual and organizational accolades have come to A Wider Circle, most recently, the organization received the 2015 Paul Sarbanes Excellence in Community Service Award. Our Executive Director, Dr. Bergel has been named a CNN Hero, Washingtonian of the Year, and one of People Magazine's All-Stars Among Us for his efforts to end poverty.     

A Wider Circle responds to more than 500 telephone calls each day, many of which are from those living in deep poverty. Nearly 100% of those we serve live below the federal poverty line.  In fact, the average income of those we serve is $12,000 for a family of four people, and this includes all forms of assistance. Approximately 60% of those who call A Wider Circle for basic needs assistance receive no income from employment, and most are severely underprepared to even begin a job search.

In 2015, A Wider Circle has responded to immediate crises and provided daily services in record numbers. For the year, we furnished more than 4,400 homes and provided workplace readiness support to more than 2,500 adults. Still, we know that people are not getting out of poverty as fast as others are being born into it. That is why we developed new initiatives this year to ensure that we are doing everything we can do to end poverty for one individual and one family after another. We launched our first Comprehensive Neighborhood Support Program in the Barry Farm neighborhood of southeast DC, where we have a center that is open six days a week, providing basic need items, workforce readiness training, wellness programming, and community building events for the residents. We also know that nothing helps people get out of poverty more than wraparound support, so we developed the new Wraparound Support Program. This program matches individuals and families in poverty with four or more support partners and, together, they set goals, discuss existing resources and how to access them, and take the walk alongside one another on the journey out of poverty.