Despite the hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic once again this year, our wonderful AARP DC team of staff and volunteers advanced AARP’s mission to help more people age 50+ choose how they live as they age. The achievements made by our AARP team in the District of Columbia are why I am proud to be the new AARP DC Volunteer State President.
Here are just a few highlights of our accomplishments in 2021:
We Advocated and Made an Impact
• AARP DC for programs that allow older District residents to maximize their independence, remain in their homes and help provide for their families. In June-July we created an Advocacy Hotline for residents to call District Council members and urge them to vote for a senior-friendly budget. More than 50 people called their Council members and demanded they support District seniors in the FY 2022 budget. We achieved budget wins including increased funding for Home and Community Based Services, home-delivered meals, and the Grandparent Caregiver Program.
• AARP DC mailed over 5,000 postcards to low-income District residents and NGOs serving them with information about STAY DC, a financial assistance program for renters in the District of Columbia to help cover housing and utility expenses (gas, water and electricity). To be eligible for STAY DC, residents had to show financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and meet income requirements. As of the end of October, over $165 million in STAY DC funds have been distributed to renters in need across the District.
• On Nov. 19, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better bill, which includes meaningful reforms that if signed into law will finally allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and penalize drug companies that increase their prices faster than inflation. This is a historic step toward helping seniors afford the prescription drugs they need, and AARP played an integral role in making it happen. Through our national “Fair Rx Prices Now” campaign, AARP activists, including many AARP DC members and volunteers, sent more than 300,000 emails and made over 9,000 calls to their representatives, urging them to lower the cost of prescription drug prices.
We Engaged with the Community
• AARP DC participated in Mayor Bowser’s 10th annual Lunch & Learn Senior Symposium in May. The event was virtual this year and AARP DC Director Louis Davis Jr. was a panelist along with the directors of the Department of Aging and Community Living, DC Health, and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Approximately 900 people participated on Zoom — our largest engagement in 2021! This popular annual event was also livestreamed on Facebook and DC’s public access TV station, reaching an even larger audience with information on AARP events, activities and resources and our efforts to keep people safe during the pandemic. Registered participants received hot meals delivered to their homes, made possible by AARP DC.
• AARP’s Community Challenge Grant program, now in its 5th year, funded four grantees in the District of Columbia that are implementing innovative projects to benefit residents of all ages and backgrounds. Grant recipients include DC Greens, the DC Office of Planning, the George Washington University Center for Aging and Vida Senior Centers. A team including AARP DC volunteers was instrumental in screening every Community Challenge Grant application.
• AARP DC sponsored a two-part virtual series with The Washington Informer, “Looking Ahead: The State of Black-Owned Businesses in the District of Columbia.” These Facebook Live panel discussions were moderated by Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer, and featured Annika Hobbs, owner of local business Nubian Hueman; Antwanye Ford, the president of the Greater Washington Black Chamber of Commerce; and Kimberly Marcus, AARP’s Director of Supplier Diversity. These live events garnered several hundred views and focused on available federal and local resources for Black business owners, the power of digital marketing, how to become an AARP-approved vendor, and more! Watch Part 1 and Part 2. These events were a follow-up to our successful September 2020 Facebook Live event, “COVID-19: The Impact on Black-owned Businesses in the District of Columbia.”
Our Lead Volunteers Were Prepared
• AARP DC Ward Liaisons assisted with email, letter writing and social media advocacy, and provided virtual testimony in support of our advocacy priorities to serve the 50+ community on the issues that matter most to them.
• Longtime AARP DC volunteer Herb Jones III and his brother Rodney collaborated with AARP DC to produce a video and article that appeared on AARP.org profiling their late father, Herb Jones Jr., a Tuskegee Airman and aviation pioneer. After his military service, Jones Jr. spent three decades training aviation cadets at the Columbia Air Center while working for the Civil Air Patrol. He eventually became a co-owner of the Columbia Air Center, the first Black-owned and operated airfield in Maryland. In 1972, Jones and four others purchased a 100-passenger aircraft and created the International Air Association, a Black-owned airline. The original Facebook post garnered nearly 3,000 engagements, over 2,000 Likes and was shared over 100 times. Jones Jr.’s achievements were also highlighted in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ blog, VAntage Point, in July. AARP DC thanks Herb and Rodney Jones for sharing their father’s inspiring story!
• To all of you who volunteered with AARP DC in 2021, THANK YOU! We are richer and our work on behalf of older adults in the District of Columbia has been more successful because of you. Your contributions are invaluable in helping AARP DC connect with and support older adults and their families in the District. To those who have not yet volunteered with AARP DC, we welcome you to join us! Complete a volunteer interest form.
In closing, in my tenure so far as State President I have seen a banner year of service to the 50+, and I know we can achieve even greater heights in 2022. I look forward to meeting and working alongside other volunteers in person when it’s safe to do so. May you and yours have a prosperous and happy new year!
Ronald E. Hampton
AARP DC State President