By actualize,

Interning at Carpenter’s Shelter can be described in one word: rewarding. As the Communication and Design Intern, I have been with the shelter since June. I came to Carpenter’s just after graduating with my B.A in Communication from the University of Wyoming, and on a whim I decided to pack up and move to the DMV area in the hopes of better career opportunities.

I stumbled upon the Communications and Design Internship posting through Idealist and thought this position would be perfect for my transition to the professional world. On my first day at the shelter, I remember my expectations being blown away as I walked through the door. As someone who had not been exposed to a large amount of poverty, I envisioned the shelter as being something you would stereotypically see on TV; not the clean, welcoming, and professional environment I came upon.

Having had several internships in college, I expected to run errands, get coffee, and perform tasks that the staff didn’t have time to do. However, that was not the case. At Carpenter’s Shelter, interns are treated like staff members and given a variety of responsibilities, all of which not only help the shelter but also give them valuable experience and connections necessary to be successful in the professional world.

Since being at Carpenter’s Shelter I have had a plethora of experiences that not only helped me professionally, but also personally. I was given the opportunity to attend the Discovery Creating Change Conference, work on the development of Young Philanthropists, our newest giving circle, and develop an array of original content that I have since been able to add to my portfolio to present during interviews.

I have also grown a lot personally since being with the shelter. Working at a homeless shelter, you are exposed to some extreme stories of sadness, abuse, and poverty, all of which will make anyone take a step back and evaluate all that they have. I remember one client in particular telling me her story and sharing some very personal details about her struggles with homelessness. That moment awakened my desire to continue working in the non-profit sector and ignited my passion for helping others.

This is more than just an internship. It’s the opportunity to develop your skills, build your network of connections, and contribute to social change.

For more information, please click here. All interested applicants are encouraged to send a thoughtful cover letter and resume to Courtney Bishop.

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By actualize,

The holiday season is often the busiest time of the year at Carpenter’s Shelter. During the winter months, we serve Alexandria’s chronically homeless population with David’s Place and our Winter Shelter, we provide non-perishable items to our Community Case Managed Clients, and we are launching Young Philanthropists, our newest giving circle. As a 24 hour emergency shelter, we rely heavily on the generosity of community members, whether that be through donations or hours volunteered.

All the ways you can give:

Come to our special events:

    • Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town Alexandria – December 2nd, 2023
    • Del Ray Holiday Tree and Menorah Lighting – December 4th, 2023
    • (Bring Toiletries for Carpenter’s Shelter to the Del Ray Holiday Tree and Menorah Lighting!)
    • Community Open House – TBD
    • Barnes and Noble Gift Wrap – TBD

Alternative Giving

    • Give the gift of charity this holiday season and make a donation in a loved one’s name in lieu of a gift.

Help us in the kitchen

    • Volunteer to serve lunch or dinner to our clients
    • Donate non-perishable items to our pantry in the months of November and December
    • Bake a casserole for us to serve during lunch and dinner in the event the weather prevents meal volunteers from arriving
    • Donate frozen items such as meat or vegetables

Holiday Giving

    • Mention Carpenter’s Shelter’s mission during your holiday party to your family and friends
    • Donate gift bags and wrapping paper
    • Donate supplies to make gingerbread houses and holiday centerpieces

Social Media

    • Stay connected to us by following us on Twitter and Facebook, and joining our conversation on homelessness



  • Volunteer to gift wrap at Barnes and Noble
  • Commit to volunteering 50 hours 
  • Recruit your friends, family, and coworkers for a service day

For any and all volunteer or donation inquiries, please contact Demi Henry.

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By actualize,

On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

Giving Tuesday is a national day of giving in which everyone is encouraged to take the time to do something unselfish, to give back, and to make a difference. The idea for Giving Tuesday came from witnessing the growing consumerism from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and to remind everyone that the purpose of the holidays is not to receive, but to give. There are people all over the City of Alexandria with less than many of us, who struggle to keep a roof over their head or spend the day searching for a warm place to spend the night. Giving Tuesday makes sure that those individuals are not forgotten.

At Carpenter’s Shelter we’re no stranger to unselfish behavior. Check back to see a video of our volunteers showing us their best #unselfies, or selfless acts of kindness.

Everyone can make a difference. Consider donating early by clicking here.

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By actualize,

Warm scarves and seasonal sweaters are great gifts for your loved ones, but why not give them a gift that will make them feel warm from the inside out?

Purchasing a sustainable gift is a great way to tell someone “I Love You,” without having to brave the stores or worry about selecting the wrong size. By making a donation in someone’s name, you’re really giving two gifts in one: one to the person it helps, and one to the person it honors.

Carpenter’s Shelter will be able to put your Alternative gift toward ensuring our children and families continue to receive shelter, warm beds, healthy meals, supportive case management and life-changing educational workshops necessary to help them end their struggle with homelessness. Just think of how your loved ones will feel when they realize that your gift to them is a gift to the whole community. Every donation is tax deductible.

Your gift could provide:
  • $25 – Sheets for one of our 60 beds
  • $50 – Metro card for one week of job searching
  • $100 – 10 blankets for Winter Shelter
  • $500 – One month of milk for after school snacks
  • $1000 – 12 Life Skill classes for our next client

Click here to make a donation.

A certificate will be available for you to download and present to the recipient upon completion of your donation.

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Tomorrow morning, following our Run for Shelter race, our Circle of Hope members will be assembling baskets of generously donated food for our Community Case Managed (CCM) clients. Throughout the month of November, food donations have been pouring in from generous community members and businesses. We never want any of our clients to have to choose between paying their rent and putting food on the table. These items will ensure that our non-residential clients will be able to provide their families with a fantastic holiday meal and forgo the financial stress that this time of year often brings.

We want to thank everyone who donated items during our Thanksgiving Food Drive, as well as all of the Circle of Hope members who helped us make this Thanksgiving special for our clients.

If you are interested in learning more, or becoming a Circle of Hope member, please click here.

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By actualize,

The countdown is on, Run for Shelter is almost here! On November 22nd at 8am in front of the USPTO Madison building (600 Dulany St.) we will be hosting our 4th annual 5K/10K race to end homelessness. We appreciate the constant support of Carpenter’s Shelter and our mission to end homelessness in Alexandria, and want this to be a day to remember for everyone involved. We have a quick, easy, fast course which makes this a great race for runners of all skill levels. We also offer free parking, indoor bathrooms, and complementary bag check. Along with supporting an excellent cause, all runners will receive a great gift bag with items generously donated from Ben and Jerry’s, Peeps, Nando’s Peri-Peri, Applied Policy, Biofreeze, and Societea Bar.

We truly appreciate the support of everyone involved with Run for Shelter, and cannot wait to see everyone next week!

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By actualize,

A week ago today Carpenter’s Board member, Val Hawkins stood up at Volunteer Alexandria’s Evening in the Heart of Alexandria and accepted the Marion Vanlandingham Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes individuals in the community for their dedication and service to the City of Alexandria. The room was filled with people who were there to congratulate Val on his accomplishments. However, there were a few close friends who couldn’t be at the event who decided to surprise Val by taking him out to dinner the night before to celebrate. Over dinner the friends cooked up a deal that Val couldn’t refuse. The deal went as followed:

Val must accept his award wearing a plaid shirt (the kind a carpenter would wear). The shirt must be flannel with lots of red, some blue and no tie or neck piece. No jacket or anything else over the shirt may be worn for the duration of the event. A photo must be sent at the time of the award. If these conditions are met each person at the dinner party will donate $1000 to Carpenter’s Shelter.

As you might have guessed the conditions were met and thanks to Lee Fifer, Peter Lunt, Fred Sachs, David Speck and Nick Carosi Carpenter’s Shelter received a generous donation of $5,000 to help further our mission of ending homelessness.

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Once our clients have moved out of the shelter, they can participate in our Community Case Management (CCM) program which is a one year program that allows our clients to reduce their risk of falling back into homeless through the support of a case manager as well as educational classes and connection to services. One of the opportunities that we have onsite is the opportunity for our clients to “shop” our pantry. Last year we had 67 clients visit our pantry 200 times. We never want our clients to be forced to decide between paying their rent, and putting food on their table. This gives clients, who may be struggling financially, the ability to fill their cabinets with non-perishable goods such as canned vegetables, pasta, tuna fish and other necessary items.

The Carpenter’s Shelter accepts in-kind donations to help meet a variety of needs of our clients such as personal hygiene items like deodorant and toothpaste, over the counter medication, twin size sheets and non-perishable food donations. With Thanksgiving around the corner, we receive a majority of our food donations in the month of November and December. Because of the generosity of the community, the food we receive during this time can keep our pantry stocked throughout the year! Because of this, we will only be accepting donations for our food pantry in the months of November and December. There are some food items that we will accept year around, as we use those to provide breakfast to our residents five days a week or give our children snack when they return from school. The items we’ll be accepting year around are:
  • Coffee and Tea
  • 100% Fruit Juice Boxes
  • Cereal and Granola Bars

If you have any questions about these changes, please feel free to contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Liz Salter (

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Chloe is a bright, cheery teenager with a smile that lights up the room. She has dreams of being a nurse and talks about going to college next year. She wants give her and her family a chance at a better life. Chloe is one of many teenagers who come to Carpenter’s experiencing homelessness. Her mother brought her and her four sisters to Carpenter’s Shelter in June in the hopes of providing them with a more stable living environment, and the chance to get back on her feet.

A first generation American, Chloe was born in Maryland and has lived in the DMV area most of her life. The effects of homelessness have caused her and her family to move more than ten times, all before her senior year of high school. She says the constant moving was a source of stress for her, and made it difficult for her to stay caught up in school and make friends. Many homeless teenagers are more susceptible to depression, the development of a learning disorder, and severe anxiety as opposed to that of their peers.

Being the oldest of five kids, the stress Chloe feels is insurmountable. Not only has she recently taken on a part-time job to further help provide for her family, but while her mother is at work she is also responsible for her four sisters. With her “big sister” mentality, Chloe says that she feels the pressure and obligation of being a good role model for her sisters and to set a good example. It’s hard to imagine the weight that is on Chloe’s shoulders. She pushes herself each day, not only to keep her family together, but to one day provide a life for her sisters that she was not afforded.

Chloe, who dreams of becoming a pediatric nurse, says she was inspired by her younger sisters and her passion for helping children. “After I graduate, I’m going to take some classes at Northern Virginia Community College, and then transfer to a university to finish my degree.” She says that her friends and family are her motivation, citing her Uncle as a role model. “He helps push me and makes me better,” says Chloe. With the help of her family’s case manager, Chloe is getting access to tutoring in order to help her keep up in school. She is also involved in a special nursing program which she says helps teach her terminology, basic procedures, and prepares her for nursing school.

“In five or ten years, I hope to be working at a hospital and own my own house,” says Chloe. She realizes that breaking the cycle of homelessness is not an easy feat but with the help of her family, friends, and her support system at Carpenter’s, Chloe can see the light at the end of tunnel.

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By actualize,

Like finishing a 10K, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging and present obstacles. It can be easy to hit the snooze button and not train in the morning – or to focus on the hardships and to simply give up on life. Carpenter’s Shelter is a place that doesn’t allow people to give up. It provides people a space to ask for help and learn important skills they can put to use over time. Here, people find that if you keep going and put one foot in front of the other, things will turn out for the best.

Mr. Farmer was a professional boxer before coming to Carpenter’s Shelter. He had a promising career, but left all of that behind when his mother became ill and was diagnosed with cancer. After her passing, Mr. Farmer found himself with nowhere to go. He explained that it was a challenge for him to overcome previous debt and find an affordable place to call home.

Mr. Farmer arrived at Carpenter’s as a walk-in client and lived at the shelter for the next four months. During that time he began saving money and learning to budget, taking Life Skill classes provided by the shelter, and learning to become more responsible.

Today, Mr. Farmer lives in DC and works as a residential counselor for mental health patients. He has also become a faithful participant in Carpenter’s annual Run for Shelter 10k/5k. This year, he will return on November 22nd for his third race. Last year, his time was 23 minutes, 55 seconds. This year, he hopes to finish in 20 minutes and plans to start running every day in preparation for the race.

As Mr. Farmer says, when it comes times for the race in November, I’ll be ready. Sign up today and Join Mr. Farmer on November 22nd to end the cycle of homelessness.

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By actualize,

Last night, more than 35 community members attended our Open House and got a unique chance to tour the facility, learn about our programs, meet several staff members and hear personal stories from shelter clients.We had a great turnout and a wide range of attendees, from current donors to prospective volunteers to new neighbors and their kids!

The night started with guests gathering in David’s Place, Carpenter’s day shelter for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. After watching a video about one of our former clients, guests were welcomed by Carpenter’s Executive Director, Lissette Bishins, who told guests a little bit about David’s Place and Carpenter’s Winter Shelter. Guests were then split into three groups and taken on tours of the facility, with staff members describing Carpenter’s history, programming and daily operations.

During the Open House, guests also got the chance to hear from two of our clients in person. The clients shared their struggles with homelessness, their experiences at Carpenter’s Shelter and their subsequent road to independence.

We would like to thank everyone who attended our Open House last night! If you were not able to make it, we encourage you to sign up for our next Open House on Monday, December 15th.It’s a great way to learn about the shelter, connect with other community members and witness first-hand how Carpenter’s is improving the quality of life for hundreds of homeless and formerly individuals in Northern Virginia.

Please be sure to contact us if you would like more information or want to RSVP for our next Open House.

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On Monday Carpenter’s Shelter began participating in ACTion Alexandria’s Fall into Giving, a three week long donation drive.

From now until October 31st, help Carpenter’s Shelter and our clients get a head of the holiday season by shopping our wish list. Simply visit our Fall into Giving Donation Page and start shopping! Donations may be made either online from Amazon, or by dropping items off at the shelter.

The fall and winter months can be the most extreme, both in terms of the weather and our growing needs. The doors to Winter Shelter will soon be opening and we expect to be at capacity throughout the winter season. Items such as hand sanitizer, cough drops, and cold medicine are crucial to keeping our clients safe and healthy during the colder months.

Since we first opened our doors over 25 years ago, in-kind donations have saved the shelter hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. With the creation of our Amazon wishlist four years ago, the possibilities to give are endless. Anyone, anywhere is able to donate and make a difference in the lives of our clients.

Every donation is greatly appreciated. For more information, please contact Liz Salter.

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By actualize,

The crisp weather and changing leaves mean pumpkin picking season has arrived! Gather your friends and family for a trip to Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill’s annual pumpkin patch and support your favorite local charities while creating some great fall memories!

Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill has been hosting this fall fundraiser for 21 years, and Carpenter’s is excited to be recognized by one of our community partners. The pumpkins available in the patch are donated from the Navajo Nation Reservation in New Mexico, which distributes pumpkins grown on the reservation to over 1,200 churches throughout the United States.

100% of the proceeds go to benefit Carpenter’s and 20 other local charities. If you and your loved ones are looking for a great and creative way to give back, this is the perfect opportunity.

Put on your fall jackets and scarves, and head over to 3606 Seminary Road, the pumpkin patch opens on October 5th with sales running daily from 10am to 8pm through October 31st.

Get ready to embrace the fall season, carve some pumpkins, and give back to your community! For more information, please click here.

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This week we spoke with Housing Resource Coordinator, Melissa Robinson about her experiences at Carpenter’s Shelter.

How did your background prepare you for this job at the Shelter?
Coming from a background where I managed (2) 24/7 residential programs for homeless youth, I understood the importance of providing positive structured case management to clients. I have been fortunate to be trained in both direct service and program management best practices. The knowledge I gained allows me to have an open mind and forward thinking in an ever-changing environment.

What sets Carpenter’s Shelter apart from other organizations?
There is a large amount of community buy-in and participation. It says a lot about the purpose and integrity of an agency who has gained the trust of their neighbors.

What aspects of your job at Carpenter’s Shelter do you find most rewarding?
I am most rewarded when an individual or family can smile about the progress they have made from experiencing homelessness to independence. It is very rewarding to have been a part of someone’s journey to success.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does?
This place opens it’s doors to some of the neediest people in our community and gives them an opportunity to change their situation and lives.

Share one of your favorite Carpenter’s Shelter memories?
I really enjoyed the door decorating contest of 2012 and all the creative ideas that came from the staff. The gingerbread house in HSAC was my favorite!

What one phrase would you use to describe Carpenter’s Shelter?
Welcome to Carpenter’s, we are just a stop on your journey in life.

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By actualize,

As you can imagine, the stress of inconsistent housing can take a toll on our families. For many of them, finding the extra money to celebrate an occasion such as a birthday can be impossible. At Carpenter’s Shelter we try and provide a sense of normalcy for each of our clients and birthday celebrations are not any different.

Birthdays are a celebration of life and we want each child living at the shelter to feel special and know they are valued. Carpenter’s keeps a closet stocked with gifts that have been generously donated. Parents are able to select two gifts for their child’s birthday. Carpenter’s Shelter also works with real estate firm CBRE and their CBRE’s Birthday Cakes for Homeless Children program which provides each child with a custom birthday cake.

It may be hard for some of us to picture celebrating a child’s birthday without a party or presents. However, this is a time when our children don’t have to worry about their current living situation. They simply get to be like every other kid and celebrate being another year older.

Thankfully with the support of our donors and volunteers, we are able to acknowledge that each child living in the shelter is amazing in their own special way.

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Finding and maintaining employment can, at times, be a struggle for our clients. They often face an uphill battle due to an inconsistent employment history or lack of experience. At the shelter, we offer a variety of classes geared towards encouraging our clients to become self-sufficient.

Every Saturday, Carpenter’s offers job coaching classes to our clients. Clients are paired with a job coach that helps them work on their resume, fill out job applications, practice mock interviews, and much more. These classes are run entirely by volunteers, currently we have 7 job coaches who work one-on-one with our clients ever Saturday morning.

We pair our clients with a volunteer who not only will meet their needs, but are also a good match for their personalities. During the job coaching session, clients will work on their resumes and go over interview tips. Coaches will also help our clients look for positions that are a right fit for their background and experience.

Sessions like these are extremely helpful to many of our clients. Unfortunately, due to inconsistent housing, many of our clients have never held a steady job and need as much support as they can get when it comes to finding employment. Our volunteers dedicate their time and expertise to helping our clients. Their generosity is invaluable and a tremendous help.

If you would like to volunteer as a job coach, please contact Liz Salter.

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