$20 per pay period furnishes an entire home for a family of four and $10 per pay period supports one job seeker through our Workforce Development Program "Boot Camp."
A Wider Circle
A Wider Circle's mission is to end poverty through on-the-ground programs and services, as well as through the development of large-scale solutions to its root causes. Our holistic approach focuses on the creation of stable homes; workforce development programming to move families to economic self-sufficiency; neighborhood revitalization; and the creation of greater awareness and engagement by the community, as a whole.
It all began in 2001, when Dr. Mark Bergel, then a professor at American University, volunteered with his students to deliver emergency food supplies to local families. As he went from home to home, 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 people had little access to the information and resources so readily available to others in our community. They were, as he observed, far from ready to enter the workforce and living day-to-day without the support systems necessary to rise out of their current conditions. 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 non-profit office and founded A Wider Circle.
A Wider Circle has come a long way since 2001. Today, A Wider Circle operates out of a 35,000 square-foot center, has two satellite centers in low-income neighborhoods, and pursues its work through 60 staff members and more than 30,000 volunteers each year. It is their energy and commitment that now allows A Wider Circle to furnish the homes of more than 16,000 children and adults each year and deliver workforce development programs and services to more than 3,000 men and women.
Our Basic Needs Program is our oldest and largest. We provide items ranging from beds and dressers to home goods and personal care items to individuals and families transitioning out of homelessness, fleeing domestic abuse, or otherwise living without the essentials of life. Our Workforce Development Program has been in existence for nearly ten years and provides intensive and highly personalized support to adults seeking to enter or re-enter the workforce and advance in their careers. We offer job skills training, individualized job coaching, and high-quality, professional attire and accessories – all free of charge. Our programming also includes the revitalization of communities that are hardest hit by poverty. Our Neighborhood Partnerships Program brings together all sectors of the greater community, connecting residents with vital support services and walking alongside them as they uplift themselves and their families out of poverty.
In order to eradicate poverty, attention and effort must be given to systemic change. A Wider Circle has developed a national action plan that provides specific ways by which individuals and institutions can engage in building solutions. It provides concrete steps for individuals, families, and each sector of society (including business, philanthropic, government, nonprofit, civic, faith, and others) to utilize their innovation, compassion, and capacity.
A Wider Circle responds to more than 600 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. In 2019, alone, A Wider Circle furnished 4,500 homes, helped more than 3,000 individuals through its Workforce Development Program, and received donations of furniture and home goods from more than 35,000 families in the national capital region. Utilizing a grassroots approach, we continue to operate with an overhead of just 3.7%, meaning that 96.3% of all support goes directly to service.
A Wider Circle has been named "one of the bestʺ nonprofit organizations in the region on three different occasions by the Catalogue for Philanthropy. It has also been called the "very best of Washington" by The Washington Post and "the quintessential grassroots organization" by The Washington Examiner. Our founder and CEO, Dr. Mark 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.
While these accomplishments are significant, we know that the real work lies ahead. The child going to sleep each night on the floor of an empty apartment and the mother struggling to find employment inspire us to pursue this work with the urgency that the crisis demands.