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Little Lights Urban Ministries

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Boys & Girls Clubs, Children & Youth, Protestant, Religion, Youth Centers & Clubs, Youth Development - Religious Leadership

Mission: Little Lights Urban Ministries empowers underserved youth and families in Washington, DC with the love of Christ. We seek to develop their God-given potential spiritually, socially, and intellectually through academics, life skills, the arts, and discipleship.

Results: • Executive Director Steve Park received Center for Nonprofit Advancement's EXCEL Award for excellence in nonprofit leadership in 2010. • One of 68 organizations selected for inclusion in the 2007-2008 Catalogue for Philanthrophy. • One of fiteen organizations selected for the “Boys of Color” grant, awarded by DC Youth Investment Trust, in recognition of the work we have done with young men. • 400+ volunteers supported Little Lights in 2009. • Our Teen Internship Program expanded to include 12 community teenagers who help elementary and middle school students in Homework Club, receive job training and mentoring, and give back to their community. • In 2009, 100% of our students mastered math objectives identified in their learning plans, and 59% improved in reading. • We strive to achieve a one-to-one ratio of tutors to students in our academic programs.

Target demographics: Potomac Gardens, a public housing complex in Southeast Washington, DC

Geographic areas served: Washington, DC

Programs: Reading/Math Heroes meets twice per week. Students are matched one-to-one or two-to-one with a trained volunteer to improve reading and math skills using curricula that contain tutor-friendly lessons. Homework Club is an academic enrichment program that meets 4 times per week. Students receive help on homework, research and complete projects, work on computers, and engage in arts and crafts and recreation time. Boys and Girls Leadership Groups meet once per week during the school year and focus on building character and leadership skills for ages 9 and up. Groups study the Bible, work on academics, participate in recreational activities, and help out through community service. The Youth Mentoring programs matches youth one-on-one with adult mentors. Mentors meet at least one time per month with youth. Youth Night provides Bible study and worship for teens ages 12-15. Teens worship together, hear a message, have small group discussions, and play games. The Gospel Choir is a music program for approximately 12-15 children. The singing and dancing choir meets once a week for rehearsal and performs at numerous functions throughout the city.

Community Stories

18 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

LLUM is a great place to grow and to serve with some very committed folks. LLUM's constant innovation with children's programs and engagement with the local community are hallmarks of a truly committed group of folks. Having volunteered, donated and now serving on the board, I can think of no more committed organization to invest in SE DC!

Donor

Rating: 5

As a donor, I am continually amazed how much Little Lights accomplishes with limited resources. I know that LL uses its funds effectively with a laser-like focus on its mission, that is to help the children. The dedication of staff and volunteers is just phenomenal. I am always humbled by their work.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had a great experience volunteering at Little LIghts this past year. I tutored one student in math one day a week and really enjoyed my time as a volunteer. That staff are very professional and dedicated to their cause and the students are wonderful to work with.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have served with Little Lights as a reading tutor for two semesters. I work with a seven year old boy in second grade.

From my perspective, Little Lights is a phenomenal organization. Little Lights provides structure and teaches discipline, time management, and study habits to children who might otherwise get overlooked.

It is very clear that the staff at Little Lights cares very deeply for their charges and personally invests in each child.

Thomas T.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Lots of fun! Kids love to see tutors show up and the organization truly makes a difference in these kids' lives . If you're looking for something to do for about an hour during the week that makes a huge impact on a underserved child's life, this is it.

Nancy H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering at Little Lights for two years. The staff sincerely care for the children; their tears are heard. As a volunteer I am welcomed and made to feel comfortable and needed. LL's training was very helpful in preparing me to serve the best I could. Because of a strong support system I am never alone in working with the children; help and suggestions are always available. We are given wonderful tools to use in Reading Heroes; just the best materials to make the experience meaningful to the children. The structure of this learning environment and the caring atmosphere provide an opportunity for the children to feel safe and loved; the essentials for effective learning to take place.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A very supporting, caring environment, for both the kids and the staff/volunteers. I could really see their love for the kids show itself in concrete actions, day after day. They always put in the energy and the time, even when they had put in the energy yesterday, and the day before, and for years.

9

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have visited this great organization several times and watched their staff work with the neighborhood children. Great vision, great people, great focus on the mission at hand! Darrell J. Pearson Associate Professor Eastern University, St. Davids, PA

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first came to Little Lights two years ago as a volunteer during my spring break with a team from my church in NC. While we were only there for a week, the warmth and dedication of the Little Lights staff/volunteers made me feel like a part of the team. We felt appreciated and needed. We could see clearly what drove Little Lights to do the work they did, and they unhesitatingly invited us to share their mission and vision for the community of Potomac Gardens and Washington, DC. I returned the following summer as a camp counselor for Camp Heaven. I had been floored by the love I had received from the Little Lights children I'd met during Spring Break, even though I had been a stranger. I was also curious to get to know more the staff of Little Lights, who had dedicated their lives to serving and loving the community and children of Potomac Gardens. I ended the summer knowing that God was using Little Lights to change DC for the better. The academic programs, the enrichment trips, the community meetings--they're all important, of course. But the one thing that defined Little Lights, and the one thing without which all these other programs could not exist was the genuine love and care for the community they served. Little Lights sees the children of Potomac Gardens not for who they are right now and what struggles they have been through, but Little Lights sees them as who they could be--as God had created them to be. Little Lights is a hopeful, persevering, and genuine place--a real light in the city of DC.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with Little Lights for the past 5 years in the homework club, reading and math tutoring. During those years, I have witnessed countless hours of dedication and hard work by volunteers and staff to provide a service many people tend to overlook. I've also seen the results of their hard work in the lives of the children Little Lights serves. The children grow up in a very difficult environment where it is easy to feel left out and forgotten. Many of them even have the mentality of "who cares?" Little Lights, from the beginning to the present, have been answering that question, not with words, but with action, love, and commitment. In instances where the children do not get the proper positive reinforcements at home, Little Lights fills in that void. I personally have come to love the kids and I have seen the changes over the years. Why do I think the program is successful and worthwhile? Kids show up to homework club with homework instead of attitudes. Kids are at Little Lights instead of running around in the streets. The kids that have been in the programs over the years don't just leave. They come back to visit and tell stories of their successes and some even come back to serve in the ministry themselves. Some kids have been able to go to college. More kids have been able to graduate high school. Parents have also gotten involved in serving. But to bring everything back to the harsh reality, these are very low numbers compared to the number of children in the inner city. Little Lights has made significant changes in the lives of SE DC children since the beginning but surely, they have a long road ahead. I can only hope and pray that this ministry continues and grows with each passing day.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Light Lights not only changes the lives of the children and youths, but also the lives of those who get involved. I can say this because my life has been completely changed because of Little Lights. I was a sophmore in high school when I first volunteered at Little Lights. It was then that I learned what it meant to be sacrificial, selfless for others, putting aside differences for a greater good. The lessons that I learned at Little Lights continue to affect me even now when I am working at my professional job. One of my fondest memories I have of Little Lights was during the bonfire at Camp Hope. I was holding onto a little girl as she slept. She looked so peaceful and unafraid. It was such a rewarding feeling to know that for one moment in her life, I was able to protect her from the horrors and hardships that come from the inner city. For that one moment in time, I was able to give this little girl a sense of comfort, peace, and protection. When I need to be reminded of what real living means, I go visit Little Lights and I am refreshed.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a pastor at a church located in Northern Virginia (Korean Central Presbyterian Church) and our congregation has been partnering with Little Lights for the last 5 years. We have helped in the areas of providing volunteers, donations, and the use of KCPC’s facilities. Throughout the past 5 years I have seen Little Lights Urban Ministry grow with and serve the community at the Potomac Gardens Housing Community in extraordinary ways. Our church has joined Little Lights in building relationships with their staff and youth in many different events and programs including tutoring programs (Math Heroes, Reading Heroes, Homework Club), mentoring programs (Boys Night, Girls Night, Youth Group, Camp Heaven), inner city camps to serve community (Urban Hands), etc. In each of these instances KCPC has seen the integral role Little Lights Urban Ministries has had in affecting Washington, D.C. and its surrounding communities in a positive manner. As an organization, Little Lights creates a unique combination of serving people who are in need within their community while also providing opportunities, education, and awareness for people in surrounding areas to get involved in helping to build a positive future for the community in SE Washington, D.C. Because of the positive experience we've had with Little Lights, the Korean Central Presbyterian Church is committed to our partnership with Little Lights Urban Ministry and will continue to partner with and support them in their service to the community for years to come. KCPC unreservedly encourages any other individuals or organizations that have the resources, desire, and ability to serve the youth in SE DC to consider partnering with and supporting Little Lights in their efforts to coordinate aid and development for at risk youth in the community.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am constantly amazed at the passion possessed by all those involved in Little Lights. It has been such a blessing to be able to work with everyone here. I see how much they do for the children and families of Potomac Gardens. There is so much love poured into this organization constantly.

8

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have been following this non-profit for about a year and I can see that they are making a big difference in the community!

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Little Lights is a great place that helps everyone become a better person. Whether they are the staff, a volunteer, or the children that they serve, I think everyone comes away with a greater understanding of joy and patience. Children and staff or volunteers learn these things from each other as they work towards the same goals. It's great to see that what is expected of the children is expected of and modeled by the adults that work there.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Little Lights empowers inner city children to set goals and reach them, because each child is loved and accepted by members of a faith-based community. I was a summer camp counselor with Little Lights, and the experience was unforgettable. Each one of the girls I spent the summer with proved to me that relationships make the real difference in people's lives. They taught me how to love, how to be myself, and most importantly, how to forgive others as well as myself. Little Lights gave me the chance to discover myself through the eyes of children, and I will always be grateful to them for that.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Little Lights is amazing! The work that they bring to the kids and community around them. It's helped me to grow in different ways. I love the staff and working with the kids and I've just been amazed at how much staff/volunteers invest time and energy to help the kids at Potomac Gardens.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Little Lights Urban Ministries is a remarkable organization for both its size and age. As a relatively new organization (they celebrated their 10th year in 2005), they are impressive in both their scope of programs and passion for the kids who reside in Potomac Gardens and beyond. Their staff and volunteers are transparent in their love for the kids and the work that they do. Of course, loving these kids and investing so much time and emotion into the work and programs that Little Lights runs is not always easy, but each smile, hug, and token of love from the kids makes everything worth it. The programs at Little Lights range from academic to spiritual, and also include mentoring, field trips and special outings throughout the year. But Little Lights does much more than just provide programs. They are purposeful in creating a safe and loving environment where these at-risk youth can simply be kids; it’s a place where they can laugh, play, learn, discover, be curious and make mistakes. The kids are encouraged, challenged, and pushed to go beyond what society believes are their “boundaries”, with loving staff assisting every step of the way. I first became involved with Little Lights last year when I volunteered to be a summer counselor for their 7-week summer camp, Camp Heaven. My time in D.C. was one of challenges and growth; but beyond that, I learned and saw first hand the potential of what one life could amount to. I learned that I could really make a difference in this world simply by joining Little Lights in their commitment to love these kids. The summer taught me what it meant to live and love fully. I can say without a doubt that Little Lights has made an impact in many of Potomac Garden’s children’s’ lives, and in turn, they have impacted all of the staff, volunteers, and visitors’ lives as well. If a mark of an organization that truly engages the community is one that would be missed if they were to leave, than Little Lights would be one, as they would surely be missed.