- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 7, 2005

The sound of children laughing echoed throughout the grounds of D.C. Village in Southwest yesterday as homeless families staying at the city’s emergency shelter gathered for a day of fun and festivities in honor of Mother’s Day.

More than 67 families with a 150 children were treated to live entertainment by the Northeast Performing Arts Group, local artist Damita Queen, the youth choir from the New Beginnings Ministries in Northeast and rapper James McCain, aka “King James,” while waiting for hot dogs, hamburgers and slabs of succulent salmon hot off the grill.

While children amused themselves with the trampoline Moon Bounce, basketball and face painting, their parents talked with representatives from the Kidney Foundation and the city’s Department of Health and the Department of Employment Services about summer jobs for their children.

A member of the city’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department also was on hand to teach children about fire safety.

Yesterday’s event was sponsored by the Coalition for the Homeless and the city’s Department of Human Services.

Robin Ham, 41 and the mother of seven children, six of whom stay with her at D.C. Village, said she is waiting for housing.

She and her children lived in a van in Maryland for two years before she returned home to the District. She has lived at D.C. Village since December and said many of the families she met upon arriving now have a home of their own.

“I’m just waiting for my turn,” she said, smiling.

Ms. Ham and 60 other mothers received white roses, cards and a certificate from the Department of Human Services with the words, “Leaving No Mother Behind” and signed by Yvonne Gilchrist, the agency’s director.

Rufus Mayfield, chief of the department’s community services division, credited Ms. Gilchrist with making a difference in the District and coining the department’s motto: “Uplifting Lives.”

He said the Homeless Initiative has been one of her top priorities and that she had worked hard to provide the right services to help people become stable and self-sufficient.

“Since we had an audience here at D.C. Village, we wanted to take advantage of that and bring services directly to them,” Mr. Mayfield said. “This is our first Mother’s Day program and, hopefully, we can make this an annual event.”

What makes an event like the one yesterday important, Mr. Mayfield said, is that it helps boost the self-esteem of those suffering from temporary setbacks.

“Any gesture of kindness is greatly appreciated,” he said. “As you can see, these parents are caring and conscientious. It keeps their hopes up knowing better days are ahead.”

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