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Online Book Club Builds Literacy for AHC Afterschool Students

Engaging students during the pandemic was a key challenge for AHC’s multi-pronged educational program, which supports youth living in affordable apartment communities from kindergarten through high school.

When the pandemic prevented in-person learning opportunities, AHC’s Resident Services staff pivoted to online programming to keep students connected. Helping early readers stay on track was a particular challenge since many had little experience working online and often irregular access to devices.

As the year evolved, volunteers played a valuable role in providing different kinds of literacy-building opportunities for students. One such initiative was a weekly book club created by Anna Niepold, a senior at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, MD. The book club met weekly over Zoom, serving kindergarten through second graders in AHC’s Afterschool Program at Virginia Gardens apartments in Arlington, VA.

Typical meetings included fun icebreaker games followed by either Anna’s team members or the students reading books out loud before reflecting on them through art, discussion, or other activities. The group read a variety of different books based on students’ feedback as well as on reading levels. Some of the favorite books include The Good Egg by Jory John and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dewalt.

“Anna was a great help to staff and students during an unprecedented time,” said Melissa Mulé, AHC Resident Services Manager. “Her willingness to assist virtually and arrive to sessions with a smiling face made a difference in the lives of our students. Reading aloud to the class was a great way to promote literacy and keep them engaged.”

Anna initiated the volunteer project as part of the Girl Scout Gold Award program. The Gold Award involves working on a project the girl cares about and requires 80 hours of commitment. Anna’s long-time love of reading and appreciation for the value of reading comprehension skills spurred the creation and format of the Book Club.

“Our team really enjoyed the experience of creating a fun learning environment,” said Anna. “The kids were all incredible, and as time went on, they really began to open up and display their amazing progress in their reading confidence and comprehension. I hope aspects of the program can continue throughout AHC’s Afterschool program, and hopefully we made a difference sharing the joy reading can bring.”

AHC is grateful for the many volunteers and community partners who help make our education programs possible. For more information on volunteering, please visit https://www.ahcinc.org/get-involved/volunteers/.

365 Days of COVID-19: AHC’s Resident Services Team Pivots to Meet the Challenge

(March 15, 2021 – Arlington, VA) A year ago, AHC Inc., like most organizations, had to shutter its in-person activities in response to the fast-moving pandemic. At the same time, as a nonprofit affordable housing organization, AHC had to quickly switch gears to respond to new and accelerating needs among the children, families and seniors living in the organization’s affordable apartment communities in Maryland and Virginia.

Thanks to a committed and determined Resident Services team, AHC was able to spring into action to help residents weather the challenges of the pandemic. “In the midst of everchanging protocols and chaos, our team was able to pivot to provide life-giving work this past year,” said Susan Davidson, AHC Resident Services Director. “These efforts brought  joy, relief, and much hope to families facing incredible adversities.”

In the last year, AHC’s Resident Services staff members connected with more than 3,000 residents. This included thousands of outreach and follow-up phone calls to more than 1,000 households struggling with rental delinquencies.  Through hours and hours of one-on-one work, AHC’s team helped access $2,963,374 in rental assistance funds for residents – an immeasurable relief for struggling families. AHC Inc. was also able to help 530 households with gift cards through the organization’s Emergency Relief Fund.

“We’ve always known our Resident Services team excels in connecting community services to those who need them most,” said Jennifer Endo, Community Relations Vice President. ” The pandemic has underscored the value of that role.”

Additional Resident Services’ support during the last year includes:

Fighting hunger

  • Increased food distribution sites from six to 26 communities to provide 2,000 households with much-needed food.
  • Delivered groceries to the doorstep of 20+ households in quarantine.
  • Involved 113 volunteers to help with food distributions.

Maintaining educational opportunities

  • Provided 5,000+ virtual sessions with students including Afterschool Programs, Summer Camp, Teen Tutoring, and College & Career Readiness Workshops.
  • Thanks to generous donor support, 960 AHC students across Maryland and Virginia received backpacks.
  • 31 high school seniors (Class of 2020) graduated and are enrolled in post-secondary education.  They received $1.2 million in scholarship awards. 31 additional seniors (Class of 2021) applied to 194 colleges and universities and to date have received 80 acceptances.
  • 65 residents participated in virtual financial literacy workshops in Arlington and Baltimore.
  • 260 volunteers provided support to elementary and teen students.

Building health

  • Distributed 1,200 masks to children and adults.
  • 140 residents received COVID testing onsite
  • 144 seniors received COVID vaccines in their community room.
  • 4 pop-up vaccination registrations were held at AHC’s apartment communities in Arlington
  • Helped 697 residents (primarily seniors) stay engaged through new resident communiations platform, Resident-Connect.

Connecting to community

  • AHC staff helped coordinate generous community support throughout the pandemic, including distributing 4,000 snack bags to students and families, 135 cozy blankets to students in Arlington’s education program, 600 new winter coats and 400 books to children in Virginia and Maryland, 500 activity bags for senior residents, 47 holiday trees, and 900 gift bags to students and senior residents over the holidays.

2019 – A Year of Building Homes and Community

2019 has been a busy year as AHC continues our mission of developing affordable homes and helping communities thrive. This year, AHC Inc. was recognized as one of the top 50 affordable housing developers in the country by Affordable Housing Finance magazine. As we approach our 45th anniversary, AHC provides more than 7,500 affordable apartments at 50+ properties in Virginia, Maryland and DC.

AHC’s Resident Services programs and community partnerships also continue to grow to better meet the needs of the children, families and seniors we serve. We currently reach more than 3,000 residents each year.

AHC’s 2019 accomplishments include:

Building and Preserving Homes

  • Topped off The Apex that will welcome 256 families in Arlington in 2020.
  • Broke ground on The Spire, 113 new homes in 2021, with our partner Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Alexandria.
  • Celebrated the renovation of two older garden-style apartment communities – Colonial Village West in Arlington and Lafayette Apartments in Fairfax.
  • Started the process to upgrade our oldest property in Baltimore, Greenspring Overlook, which provides homes for 189 families.
  • Continued to work with PN Hoffman, City Partners and Paramount on large-scale Waterfront Station in Southwest DC.
  • Partnered with Housing Authority of Baltimore City and The Michaels Organization to redevelop Poe Homes, a 1940s seven-acre project in Southwest Baltimore.
  • Expanded presence in Montgomery County with acquisition of 48-unit Brookside View. The approximately $6.1 million total development cost was financed completely with private funds.

Building Community

  • Hosted a Faith and Housing Round Table that included HUD Secretary Ben Carson, other nonprofit developers and the City of Alexandria.
  • Selected to participate in Amazon’s Employee Match Campaign, which allocates up to $5 million to 20 housing and homelessness nonprofits in DC and Seattle.
  • Created a safety initiative in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood, which includes community partners and volunteers living in AHC’s affordable apartment communities.
  • Returned $4.9 million to Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF). The AHIF loan fund is an invaluable tool for affordable housing development.
  • Offered our annual Women’s Empowerment Conference that inspired Baltimore residents to connect and overcome obstacles.

Housing + Education = Success

  • Initiated Career Fairs for middle and high school students with a wide range of professionals. Several students have already turned the opportunity into internships and job shadowing.
  • Celebrated 15 volunteers who have worked with our students for five years!
  • Honored three Community Builder volunteers who generously volunteered their time with AHC students and helped expand our programs’ reach.
  • Graduated 24 high school students who were all the first in their family to attend college. Together, the group earned more than $600,000 in scholarships and grants.
  • Persisted in college at above average rates. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 84% of AHC students stick with college and graduate. This compares to 56% of first-generation students and 74% of students with college-educated parents!
  • Helped stabilize 231 families through eviction prevention services.
  • Distributed 1,000 backpacks to youth living at AHC properties in Arlington.

Awards and Achievements

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Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,500 apartment units in 50+ properties in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 3,000 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.

 

 

AHC Greater Baltimore Health & Wellness Program Wins Innovation Award

(November 2019 – Baltimore, MD) AHC Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing developer based in Arlington, VA, is proud to announce that its subsidiary AHC Greater Baltimore has won the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition’s 2019 Innovation Award for its Health & Wellness Program at MonteVerde Apartments.

MonteVerde Apartments provides 300+ apartments for senior citizens. The Resident Services team created a comprehensive on-site network to help elderly residents improve access to health care services and decrease social isolation.

Increasing accessibility and providing a variety of recreational and educational activities has significantly improved health outcomes and the overall quality of life for residents.

Positive outcomes include:

  • In a recent survey of 18 residents who regularly saw the nurse practitioner, 15 or 83% reported their health improved. This included a reduction in emergency room visits.
  • Through the regular cancer screenings, 4 residents in the past 5 years have received an early detection and diagnosis of cancer that enabled early, life-saving treatment.
  • The Medicare Insurance Navigator helped 32 residents better understand insurance options and select appropriate plans.
  • 122 residents have participated in the healthy food discussions and cooking classes.
  • 62 residents have participated in fitness classes designed specifically for seniors.
  • 132 residents participate in the Maryland Food Bank program.

Pictured above: Nichole Doye Battle (left), who serves on both the AHC Greater Baltimore Board of Directors and the MAHC Board, presented the Innovation Award to AHC Greater Baltimore’s Resident Services Assistant Director Tiffany Smith (center) and AHC Greater Baltimore Director Mary Claire Davis.

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Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,500 apartment units in 50+ properties in Virginia,  Maryland and Washington, DC. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 3,000 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education and social service programs and activities.

AHC Greater Baltimore opened in 2004 to address the need for more affordable housing in the Baltimore region. Since then, AHC Greater Baltimore has developed eight properties with more than 1,200 affordable apartments. AHC Greater Baltimore is a subsidiary of AHC Inc. 

 

Local Professionals Share Job and Education Experience with AHC Teens

AHC’s Fall Career Fair was loud, fast-paced and really interactive – the perfect recipe for a successful learning experience. More than 30 teens “speed networked” with professionals from a wide variety of fields – journalism, health and fitness, finance, accounting, government, education, engineering, FBI, fire department, and immigration law – and learned about their education experience and career path.

“We spoke to high school junior, senior and college students in the program about our own career paths, what skills are needed for certain careers and the how-tos of succeeding at a job. We received thoughtful questions and it was fun to hear the students’ plans for their future,” said Betsy Sharon of Chain Bridge Bank. After the Career Fair, two students reached out to Sharon about informational interviews.  She was able to set them up to talk with someone at the Bank about possible careers in investing and the stock market.

“The opportunity to meet and connect with different professionals is an invaluable experience for our students,”  said Milenka Coronel, Senior College and Career Readiness Manager. “Several of our teens have already set up informational interviews, job shadowing opportunities and internships after talking with some of the volunteers.”

Students, who ranged from 10th grade to college freshmen, also found it helpful to hear that career paths often evolve over time and it’s okay not to know exactly what they want to do right now.

Bernie Piper, who works with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, echoed the idea that career exploration is a journey. “What was most important to me was to convey that evolving career goals is a lifelong experience. This journey requires discovering your talents and passions, but at the same time, embracing a sober understanding of job markets.”

Huge shout out to our speakers for inspiring our students! Thank you to Austin Achenbach (Harkins Builders), Tim Bellaire (retired FBI), Natalie Brandmueller (EYP Architecture and Engineering), Orlando James (Orlando James Fitness LLC), Megan Mack (Vera Institute of Justice), Monique O’Grady (Arlington County School Board), Greg Pearson (Harkins Builders), Bernie Piper (Federal Housing Finance Agency), Catherine Sadaat (Aronson LLC), Betsy Sharon (Chain Bridge Bank), Terron Sims (Warrior Centric Healthcare Foundation), Tannia Talento (Arlington County School Board), Justin Tirelli (Arlington County Fire Department), and Debbie Truong (Washington Post).

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Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,500 apartment units in 50+ properties in Virginia,  Maryland and Washington, DC. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 3,000 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education and social service programs and activities.