By actualize,

Are you looking for volunteer opportunities for the whole family, but don’t have time to become a regular volunteers? Normally, Carpenter’s Shelter volunteers have to be over the age of 18+, but a few times a year we make an exception, for Circle of Hope members and their families. The Circle of HOPE (Helping Others through Partnership and Engagement) was founded in 2010 by three Alexandria mothers who were deeply concerned about local homelessness. They hoped to make a long term difference but between raising a family, school, church and work, they were not be able to become weekly volunteers at Carpenter’s Shelter. Searching for a middle ground between weekly volunteering and anonymous yearly donations, these three women came together to form The Circle of HOPE.

Rather than just making a donation, Circle members have an unique opportunity to engage with the Shelter and other Circle families by participating in special Circle of HOPE projects. Circle of HOPE members are invited to participate in:

  • Easter Egg Stuffing
  • Cocktails and Canned Goods Garden Party
  • Back to School Supply Distribution
  • Thanksgiving Basket Assembly

Circle of Hope membership is established through a $250 annual contribution. If you are interested in learning more, please download our flyer.

Please direct your questions to or (709) 548-7500 x213

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Each year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development organizes a Point-in-Time Count (PIT) to access the current state of homelessness in the region. January 30th, volunteers and shelter workers will head out into the streets, conducting outreach to the chronically homeless street individuals. The goal will be to engage, provide information about services and gather needed data.

The PIT count also accounts for individuals who are homeless but sheltered in winter shelter programs or emergency shelters. The PIT count is an opportunity for the City to assess the needs of the homeless community. Last year, homelessness in Alexandria saw a 15% reduction, down to 2008 levels. If you are interested in volunteer or donating, more information is available here.

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Each year, Carpenter’s Shelter and David’s Place residents have the opportunity to participate in The Stafford Foundation’s Give Before You Get program. The Give Before You Get program gives the homeless, at-risk youth and others who are accustomed to receiving assistance, the opportunity to give back through brightening someone’s day with a visit and an unexpected Christmas gift. Longer-term, those who give will recognize this volunteer activity as an important step towards self-reliance and stability.This year, Carpenter’s residents brought unexpected Christmas gifts to a retirement home.

Carpenter’s Shelter was awarded the grand prize in the Stafford Foundation photo contest! Every year, our residents love participating in the Give Before You Get program and we are thrilled to continue our partnership with The Stafford Foundation.

Here is the winning photo:

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Happy New Year! 2012 was an incredible year of growth at Carpenter’s Shelter. We wanted to take a minute just to say thank you for being a part of it.

Last year we:

  • Provided services to over 1,000 men, women and children in need
  • Had more than 1,200 volunteers provide over 17,000 hours of service
  • Launched a new strategic plan and a new mission statement
  • Reduced homelessness in Alexandria by 15%
  • Redesigned
  • Welcomed 7 new staff members to the team
  • Executive Director Lissette Bishins was awarded Honorable Mention for the EXCEL Award
  • Sent 25 children to summer camp
  • We opened the Homeless Services Assessment Center (HSAC) for individuals
  • Gave 85 children backpacks and school supplies
  • Sheltered the chronically homeless from Hurricane Sandy for over 72 hours
  • Handed out 118 Thanksgiving baskets and turkeys to families in need
  • Provided 593 Christmas presents
  • Served 77,345 meals

Thank you for making 2012 such a success. The residents and staff of Carpenter’s Shelter can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store. Here’s to another year of providing a warm, safe place for everyone to call home.

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Now that the holiday season is coming to an end, it’s time to start sort through that pile of gifts. Every year there are presents you absolutely love and those that, well, you could live without. Undoubtedly, along the way, you’ve collected a pile of gift cards you never plan on using.

We’re here to take them off your hands. This year, consider re-gifting your gift card to Carpenter’s Shelter. Gift cards allow us to support our residents and their needs throughout the year. We use gift cards to purchase presents for the children on their birthday, they allow us to buy new mothers a car seat and bottles, they also allow us to purchase work boots for a resident with a new job. There are 101 uses for gift cards at Carpenter’s Shelter, especially gift cards to: Target, Walmart, major department stores and grocery stores.
If you have gift cards you would like to donate, you can either drop them off at the shelter or place them in the mail.

Atten: Kelly Andreae

930 N Henry Street

Alexandria, VA 22314

Thank you for your consideration and happy new year!

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Seasons greetings from the residents and staff of Carpenter’s Shelter! December certainly has been a busy month for us and we’d like to take the time to say THANK YOU for your overwhelming support this holidays season. We take a different approach to the holidays and to meal preparation at the shelter and because of this, there are a few things we are no longer accepting in 2012.

We’d like to take a minute to explain our policy, to help you understand why we are no longer accepting many donations at this time. Every holiday season we ask our residents and community case managed clients to create a wishlist of item. We pair each resident with a donor who purchases all the presents and delivers them to the shelter. This way, all of our residents get the presents they want and we don’t create excess. The same goes for our kitchen. Each day, meal groups purchase, prepare and serve meals to our residents. For these reasons we can long accept the following items in 2012:

  • Cookies
  • Toys
  • Holiday Party Leftovers
  • CoatsHats & Gloves
  • Travel Sized Toiletries
  • Christmas Decorations
  • Gift bags

If you would like to support the shelter this year, here are a few items we can still accept:

Thank you for your understanding and continued support and Happy New Year from the residents and staff of Carpenter’s Shelter!

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Help Portrait is a movement of photographers who use their time, equipment and expertise to give back to hose who are less fortunate. For the third year in a row, Help Portrait has donated their time and talents to Carpenter’s Shelter, and we absolutely love working with them.

So many of us take for granted the opportunity to take family photos each year, sometimes we even see them as an inconvenience. But years from now, when you’re gathered together looking through albums of old photos, it’s the memories they invoke, not the photos, that matter most.

A large majority of our families have never had professional photos taken. Every year, Help Portraits gives our families the opportunity to feel like stars, producing the highest quality photos and memories that last a life time.

From all the residents and staff of Carpenter’s Shelter, we would like to thank the volunteers of Help Portrait Alexandria for their time and talents! We can’t wait until next year. Be sure to check out a small selection of the photos from this year on the facebook page: here
Here are the amazing stats from our session with Help Portrait:

  • 1,033 photographs taken
  • 88 individuals were photographed
  • 17 photographers
  • 13 volunteers

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HELP US REACH OUR TARGET! Last holiday season we collected over $2,000 worth of Target gift cards, allowing us to support our residents and community case managed participants all year round. This year we’re aiming a little bit higher. Help us reach our new TARGET of $5,000!

Consider purchasing a gift card today, or start a collection for the shelter.
If you order online, you can ship directly to our door! Attention: Target Campaign Carpenter’s Shelter, 930 N Henry St. Alexandria, VA 22314.

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The staff and residents of Carpenter’s Shelter would like to take a moment to say how thankful we are to have amazing supports like you. Because of your steadfast support, we are able to continue helping those in need become independent and stable in the community. Here are just a few of the ways you’ve recently contributed to our success:

  • Donated over 100 turkeys
  • Collected thousands of cans
  • Assembled 118 Thanksgiving baskets for families
  • Donated $2,750 worth of grocery store gift cards

We can’t thank you enough for giving. Whether you contribute to Carpenter’s Shelter by giving your time, money, or both, every bit of support makes a lasting impact on the lives of our residents. We’re looking ahead to another great year and we can’t wait to share it with you.

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Saturday November 17, we hosted the second annual Run for Shelter 5K/10K + Fun Run sponsored by MRIS. 850 runners braved the chilly November morning to participate in the only race in the region dedicated to ending homelessness. The race was a huge success! We raised over $30,000 for the shelter! The Staff, Residents and Volunteers of Carpenter’s Shelter would like to thank all the runners and everyone who helped make the second Run For Shelter a HUGE success!

We’d like to extend a special thanks to our sponsors: MRIS, lombardi, Centennial, R&B Heating, Whole Foods, Larabar, Thank Dog Bootcamp, 5 Hour Energy, Braddock Commercial Real Estate, The Yalcin Group, Red Star, The Motley Fool and Pacers.

Congrats to at the runners and especially the winners: Josef Tessema won the 5K race with a time of 14:29, Hirut Beyene was the first women to the finish 5K race with a time of 17:29. Dereje Tadesse won the 10K race with a time of 30:41, Woynishet Abebe was the first women to finish the 10K race with a time of 35:32.

Save the date: The 3rd annual Run for Shelter will be held November 23, 2013. We hope to see you there! For more information, please visit or tweet @Run4Shelter10k.

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November is a month when I often think about the things I am thankful for: my job, my home, and my supportive family and friends. Not everyone is so fortunate, and the other week my husband and I decided to do the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge to get a small taste of what it might be like if we weren’t so lucky. We had $60 for the week for the two of us. And through the course of this social experiment, I learned 7 important lessons.

  • I am thankful for time and planning. So my preparation for this challenge took a full week. First, I thought I was very clever for googling “cheap recipes” and making a pinterest board for recipes. I made up my shopping list, and realized, I have no idea what food costs. So I spent a few hours looking through circulars to get prices for my “perfect plan.” And it turns out my first shopping list was going to cost me over $100. So I had to go back to the drawing board, make some tough choices. I got rid of the “luxury items” I thought we could afford to help us make it through the week. After many more hours of googling and spreadsheets, I had come up with a $60 plan. Most families living on food stamps, do not have the luxury of time to plan a week’s worth of healthy affordable meals. But I am going to chalk it up as a learning curve.
  • I am thankful for technology. Like all people who live on food stamps, I headed out to Safeway with my iPad in hand, and my shopping list plan in a nice spreadsheet. Probably not the most realistic experience, but it kept me on track so I didn’t spend more than my allotted $60. The real experience I did have was the choices I had to make in the store when I realized I didn’t have enough money to get all the items on my list.
  • I am thankful for bacon. One of the sacrifices I made was to get turkey bacon at the store because regular bacon was not on sale. Turkey bacon is about ½ price of regular bacon. It tasted fine; it just tasted nothing like bacon. I was very happy when the week was over and we could go back to the real stuff.
  • I am thankful for problem solving. So a lot of my plan revolved around my Crockpot. However, it decided to go on the fritz this week and burn everything while on low. I ended up with potato soup that was more like soupy mashed potatoes, and pulled pork that ended up as burnt pork chunks. Sounds delicious right? When I came home and dinner (that was supposed to last 2 meals) was burnt, I had to do some problem solving. I salvaged what I could for dinner, and was able to concoct another meal out of my remaining ingredients. Normally, I would just go to the store and get some more food. But that was not an option. We survived, but we were a little hungrier than I would have hoped.
  • I am thankful for coffee. One of the “luxury items” we gave up was caffeine. We drink a lot of Diet Coke and coffee in our house. And we were limited to one 2 liter for the week. I decided to forgo all caffeine and leave all the Diet Coke for my husband, who was being a really good sport about the whole challenge.
  • I am thankful for my pantry. Here is the part where we cheated. Because of the unfortunate Crockpot incident, I had to change the menu a bit, and I needed an extra box of beef broth for a soup I made. I had to pull this from my existing pantry, which is against the rules. As a silver lining, we did actually have food left over from the challenge, so we still netted under $60 for the week.
  • I am thankful that I don’t have to do this every week. It was a lot of work. And definitely put our family out of our comfort zone. Our diet was very starch heavy this week, and by day 7 I was craving bacon, caffeine and fresh vegetables. Our eating and grocery shopping habits have been changed by this experience, but I am happy to not have to live every day under such constraints.

Overall, I give myself a score of 90%, I only cheated a little. I am extra thankful for my wonderful, easy- going husband, who came along for this learning experience. Food is expensive and something we all need to survive. And it makes me glad Carpenter’s Shelter has a food pantry to help supplement our formerly homeless families that are still living on the edge. I now have a much greater understanding of how important that extra food help is for a family. And I will be sure to give some extra canned goods for the Carpenter’s pantry to help those families out.

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November is the National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, which also includes National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (November 15-22.) These events acknowledge and raise awareness of the problems faced by youth, families and individuals at risk of and experiencing homelessness and food insecurity.

Children experiencing homelessness:

Are sick four times more often than other children. They have:

  • Four times as many respiratory infections.
  • Twice as many ear infections.
  • Five times more gastrointestinal problems.
  • Four times more likely to have asthma.
  • Go hungry at twice the rate of other children.
  • Have high rates of obesity due to nutritional deficiencies.
  • Have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children.*

Here at Carpenter’s Shelter, we believe no child deserves to be homeless.Please join us in raising awareness this month. Follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #NHAM

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For the past few days we’ve all been preparing our households for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. You’d be hard-pressed to find water bottles at any grocery store in the DMV area. While everyone has been out collecting storm supplies, our team at Carpenter’s Shelter has been pulling together an emergency plan for the homeless of Alexandria.

Every year starting on November 1st we open our winter shelter from 7pm-7am to those needing a warm place to sleep, away from the icy chill of winter. With Sandy predicted to rock the DC area with strong winds and heavy rainfall, our winter shelter staff made the decision to open four days early.

Sunday Oct 28, Winter Shelter opened its doors to all homeless individuals seeking shelter from the storm. We will remain open until tuesday afternoon, and possibly longer, depending on the severity of the storm.

Stay safe during hurricane sandy! Please consider donating your left over storm supplies to Carpenter’s Shelter after the storm has passed including: water bottles, canned food, batteries, umbrellas, ponchos and flashlights. We are not able to accept perishable foods.

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As a staff member at Carpenter’s we stare poverty in the face every day, but few of us actually know what it feels like to experience poverty first hand. Last week, one of the staff members brought up the SNAP challenge. In a world of too much, two of our senior staff members decided to step up and take the challenge.

Yesterday was the first day of the SNAP Challenge for Executive Director Lissette and her family as well as Director of Development Kelly and her husband. What have they learned so far?
In her own words,Lissette shares an important lesson her family learned after their first day on the SNAP Challenge, it’s not fair!

Last week a staff member heard that The Women’s Foundation staff was participating in the Food Stamp Challenge. An exercise organized by D.C. Hunger Solutions, the challenge aims to educate the public and raise awareness of the benefits of food stamps and the challenges recipients face while eating on a very limited budget.

The concept caught on at Carpenter’s – this week we’re taking the challenge! It didn’t take but two minutes for me to commit my entire family to the exercise. I thought of the budgeting lessons my children would learn at the grocery store. The discussions at the dinner table and the bigger lesson we would all learn. Cooking healthy and diabetic friendly would add a twist to my test. Bring it on!

The reaction at home? Not exactly the same enthusiasm I brought to the project.

My husband had a lot of questions. Primarily, he was looking to find the loop holes in the challenge. “What about when there is a vendor sponsored lunch at work?” “What about if I have a lunch meeting?” “What about the food we purchased last week that’s going to go bad?”

My kids learned they would have to eat breakfast and lunch at school all week. If we were receiving SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the official name for food stamps), my children would qualify for free or reduced lunch at school.

“Oh no, that’s terrible! The food at school is gross!” My daughter added the colorful, “School food makes me have bad poops, yuk!”

I was not going to be swayed. I had committed us and we were all in it together. Here’s a peek into my food stamp world dialogue:.

Day 1 – Scene 1 – Conversations from the aisles of Giant

  • “Oh so, this is like a puzzle?” I like puzzles.”
  • “Seriously, we can only get Daddy’s granola bars? That’s not fair!”
  • “No snack food or dessert! That’s not fair!”
  • “Oh my God, Mom – We did it! We got all that food for $116! Can I keep the calculator?”

Day1 – Scene 2 – A Play by Play…It’s all about the food

Monday morning – I prepare my husband’s lunch, the kids are eating at school, I’m already running late… just coffee for breakfast and a very poorly thought out lunch – some lunch meat and crackers. By 11 a.m. I’m ready to chew my arm off.

In the car, driving away from the school – “We’re starving, what’s for dinner? Is there anything that we can snack on before dinner?”

While I’m cooking dinner – “Mom, we get it. We’re hungry. We have more than most. Do we really have to do this all week?”

An hour after dinner – “MOM!!! Daddy’s in the pantry! He’s cheating on the challenge!”
Just before bed – “What? We didn’t get plums? I always have a plum before bed? It’s a fruit! It’s healthy! This is so NOT Fair!”

Tuesday morning – “Mom? I had a banana before dinner last night… and if I have one now before school, there will only be three bananas left. That’s not going to be enough for all week, right?…. I guess I can have half and make it last longer.”

There you have it – 24 hours. It is ALL about the food and it is NOT FAIR.

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Every year over 1,000 volunteers step through our doors at Carpenter’s Shelter. They dedicate over 14,000 hours of their time and skills. We have volunteers at the front desk, volunteers who watch our children, volunteers who job mentor, volunteers in the kitchen…Carpenter’s is ALWAYS full of volunteers, we seriously couldn’t run the shelter without them.

Recently, a group of students from the BU Center of Digital Imaging Arts created this short video all about our wonderful volunteers. We hope you enjoy the video and if you don’t already volunteer at Carpenter’s Shelter but are interested in becoming a volunteer, hop on over to our volunteer page and fill out the application. We’d love to see you around the shelter!

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After months of collaboration between Carpenter’s Shelter, The City of Alexandria and the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness, the day is finally upon us. Tuesday, September 4, The Homeless Services Assessment Center officially opened and began serving clients.

What is HSAC? HSAC at Carpenter’s Shelter is the central assessment center for homeless and at-risk individuals seeking shelter. HSAC is part of a duel intake system within the City of Alexandria. Families seeking services are assessed by the City, individuals looking for shelter, are now assessed by HSAC Staff at Carpenter’s Shelter. Instead of calling emergency shelter directly each day, homeless individuals will only need to make one call to HSAC.

Once they complete the eligibility screening, HSAC staff will make recommendations for the appropriate course of action. If emergency shelter is needed, HSAC will refer the individual to the shelter which has bed space availability. If diversion services are more appropriate, HSAC will distribute the funds necessary to keep the individual in their current housing situation.

If you have questions about HSAC or are in need of services, please contact Deanna Villanueva at (703) 548-0452.

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