When GOODProjects, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Southwest D.C., decided to partner with singer Ari Lennox and Long Live GoGo for the GOOD Holiday Ball, the goal was to host the biggest toy drive Washington, D.C., has ever seen.
“We [originally] had a not audacious enough goal to provide 350 families with toys this holiday season, and we hit that goal on day one,” said Darius Baxter, president, CEO and co-founder of GOODProjects.
The nonprofit is a dream between friends — realized and founded in 2016.
Held at The Park at 14th in Northwest D.C. on Dec. 1, the GOOD Holiday Ball was a “party with a purpose.”
While tickets lasted, there was free admission with a toy. For $25 and a donated toy, guests were granted entry. There were also $40 tickets available if people didn’t have time to stop to get a donation before heading to the extravaganza.
The morning of the event, Baxter said there were already 400 registered guests excited to bring presents and celebrate holiday cheer. But he said the party was about more than toys.
“[It’s] to remind people that the work isn’t finished,” he said. “Imagine a world if even only 10% of those  people dedicated themselves on a weekly basis, biweekly basis, monthly basis, to come connect with a kid, to mentor, to come read with somebody, to go sit with somebody’s grandmother, to come pick up trash, there’s no telling what we’d be able to do in this city.”
Recently named Washingtonian Magazine’s “Top 20 Charities Where Your Donation Will Make an Impact,” GOODProjects seeks to help 500 families living in Southwest’s public housing community to realize what the organization calls “self-sufficiency,” by the year 2030. In order to achieve that, they do family success planning.
“All of the clients…receive one on one support that then helps them navigate through, what is called their ‘family success plan,’ which is, quite literally, a checklist that they develop with their coach to get to their version of the American Dream,” Baxter explained.
From their Daily Feeding Program to after-school programming, summer camps and housing and workforce development support, Baxter said GOODProjects is the “one-stop shop … for what it takes to lift the community out of poverty.”
The toy drive is yet another extension of GOODProjects’ mission to help make “doing good cool,” and Baxter is excited to be collaborating with DMV native Ari Lennox and Long Live GoGo to further that message.
When people reach out to collaborate with GOODProjects, Baxter said he emphasizes that volunteering “isn’t just a one-off.”
“It rubs people the wrong way, but for some people, it inspires them,” he said, before adding Ari Lennox has been volunteering with GOODProjects for quite some time. The GOODProjects CEO said the star lends more than just her name and money — she offers her time.
“She’s been in the community with us several times and … was sending me a picture of her on her own going shopping for toys. So she speaks to this all hands on deck approach to ensure that these families are really being gifted more than toys, but gifted hope this holiday season,” Baxter said.
In addition to getting more people to do good, partnering with Long Live GoGo also emphasizes the importance of working together in the District.
Baxter said Long Live GoGo founder Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson once told him, “‘We’re in a movement right now… and it takes guys like us linking up together to really show the rest of the city what it could look like for us to ultimately reach the goals for young people and families in the city.’”
Long Live GoGo brought the Moechella movement to life, with thousands attending gogo activations around the District and other parts of the United States. The organization also holds rallies, parties, panels, educational events, donation drives and more.
“Working with GOODProjects and Ari Lennox continues to allow us to find creative and unique ways to intertwine the culture with giving back,” said Johnson. “It was important for Long Live GoGo to work with the GOODProjects because they’ve been able to directly touch kids on a daily basis, and although we’ve mobilized the masses, we want to begin to directly educate and mentor kids on a daily basis in 2023.”
The CEO also said teaming up sends a message that local organizations don’t have to be competitive with one another.
“It’s a demonstration [that] we don’t need to be crabs in a barrel,” the GOODProjects president said.
Baxter said he hopes partygoers understand the larger message — help others.
“It takes all of us. Just bringing a toy for one night doesn’t solve all of the problems that this city has. A lot of people are suffering, a lot of people are hopeless, but we all have the opportunity in small ways and big ways to make a difference.”