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My Story: Maria Gomez
July 30, 2013

My Story: Maria Gomez

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Maria Gomez came to the US from Colombia as a teen with her mother for a better education. A few decades later, she's running one of the most successful nonprofits in DC.

maryscenter-first lady
Mary's Center provided $7.3M worth of free healthcare for the uninsured at its four locations in DC and Maryland in 2012 and is on pace to provide services to 50,000 people this year. The operating budget has grown from $250k to $39M in 25 years, and Maria recently won the Presidential Citizens Medal. With colleagues, she launched the 409-employee nonprofit, which provides healthcare, social services, family literacy, and job training, in 1988. The inspiration came after working as a nurse and seeing the plight of immigrants. She went to school thinking she would become a doctor but couldn't ask her widowed mother to pay for such an expensive education. Looking back she wonders if she would have even launched Mary's Center had she become a doctor.
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maryscenter-maria reading letter
The awards and money raised are great but what really motivates Maria is getting letters of thanks like one from a 21-year-old man who was born and grew up through Mary's Center services. The organization was originally founded to help Latin American women who immigrated for safety and economic reasons but were raped as they crossed the border and became pregnant. It started out offering maternity care and then added other medical services like mental health, dental care, home visits, senior wellness, and teen programs as the community's needs evolved.

maryscenter-maria gomez
One of the changes came with the gentrification of the Adams Morgan neighborhood where the main Mary's Center is located. One way they brought in funding was to offer healthcare to people who had insurance. For every insured patient, at least two uninsured people can receive care. Maria is now pushing to get the Affordable Care Act fully implemented to expand the insured population and advocates for immigration reform with the help of the National Council of La Raza. She does this while keeping true to the mission of getting Latinos educated, healthy, and moving up the economic ladder.

Turn Off The Lights!

Bisnow is going off the beaten path to find and profile associations we've never heard of. And there are many among the 1.8M that exist. This week we're featuring the International Dark-Sky Association, a 25-year-old organization in Tucson, Ariz., that advocates for restrictions on how much light should be allowed during nighttime. IDA also works with manufacturers to produce nighttime-friendly lights like the ones that only turn on with motion. Managing director Scott Kardel says too much light at night impacts wildlife and is a big waste of energy, so IDA has also stated its case to the Energy Department and the National Parks Service.

darkskyassoc-bob parks
The organization is run by DC-based Bob Parks, but it was started by David Crawford, a professional astronomer, and Tim Hunter, an amateur astronomer. The 6,000-member org has seen progress: big-box retailers are carrying more neighbor-friendly lighting than ever before. But the continuing challenge is that the amount of light and brightness of the night sky is growing faster than the population. Why? People are afraid of the dark, says Scott (who? us? what? no way! hah! wait, what was that noise?! Ah!), so convincing households and businesses to turn off their outside lights at night is difficult.

So while we all try to keep it dark, think about other associations out there that are a little under the radar. Send recommendations to Bisnow's Tania Anderson.

Summit's Latest Fete

The Next Web
Last week, our sister company Summit—led by Bisnow co-founder Elliott Bisnow and co-founded by Bisnow CEO Ryan Begelman—held its first event on top of Utah's Powder Mountain, which it purchased in April to build a community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought-leaders. Above is just a segment of the quarter-mile long table at which 1,100 people had dinner one night. Both Summit and Bisnow are attempting to disrupt what it means to convene people and build communities that haven't existed before—read this great article from NextWeb to learn more.

What do Dance and Family Services Have in Common?

nonprofit awards-BowenMcCauleyDance
The Center for Nonprofit Advancement crowned Bowen McCauley Dance and Northern Virginia Family Service with its 2013 Board Leadership Award. The winners get a $10K grant, exposure, and training and development for the board and CEO. Bowen McCauley Dance won in the under $2M budget category. Here is board member and marketing consultant Paul Di Vito, board member and Bean Kinney & Korman attorney Lauren Keenan, CohnReznick principal Anne Schrantz, BoardSource training director Andy Davis, board member Susan Schwelling, board member Kathleen Sheehan, executive director Ricki Marion, board member and Arlington Convention and Visitors Services director Emily Cassell, founding artistic director Lucy Bowen McCauley and Center for Nonprofit Advancement CEO Glen O'Gilvie.

nonprofit awards-NorthernVirginiaFamilyService
Northern Virginia Family Services won in the over $2M budget category. Andy, Anne, and Glen flank NVFS COO Cheri Villa, board past president and Inova Alexandria Hospital assistant HR VP Hugo Aguas, NVFS president and CEO Mary Agee, NVFS programs SVP Malinda Langford, and NVFS programs SVP Stephanie Berkowitz. Later, everyone walked down the futuristic hallway where this was taken and launched into space. 

Do you remember your first job? If so, tell Bisnow's Tania Anderson about it. Words and pictures welcome!

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