If you suddenly came into a $100,000 gift, what you would do with it? Would you buy that expensive sports car or that luxury SUV you’ve been pining over? Would you use it to buy shares in Facebook or Alibaba or make an investment in a conservative mutual fund? Would you buy your first home, buy a second home or fix up the one you already have?
Residents of Ward 7 are wrestling with that very question. They are debating what they should do with a $100,000 windfall that has recently fallen into their laps.
The discussion began when a compact crowd gathered at the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation building on Kennedy and 16th streets in Northwest Washington for their monthly Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meeting in October.
Filled with mostly representatives of the City Year organization, a non-profit organization dedicated to curbing the drop-out rate in elementary, middle and high schools, residents learned they had received $100,000 through the community benefits program with Donatelli Developers, a privately owned corporation that has been building office buildings, apartment communities, shopping centers, industrial properties and residential subdivisions in metropolitan Washington.
In exchange for a favorable decision before city officials to build subsidized housing on a tract of land in the Brightwood neighborhood, Donatelli has given the community a “present.” In this case, the community asked for a lump sum of money and ended up with $100,000.
The City Year volunteers, dressed in red and khaki uniforms, took out their notepads anxious to take notes and scribble new ideas for the newfound money. Its members started the discussion.
One suggested improving the quality of books the students use and creating an after-school space for students to continue their learning.
Brande Otis, a college student and another member of City Year, told the group that the community must be frugal with its monetary award.
“We are not getting a lot of resources,” Otis said.
Jon Kemp, a resident, was optimistic about the education project.
“I think there are a lot of bright kids with a lot of great ideas and we just got to get out of their way and encourage them,” Kemp said.
He suggested joining with groups that will encourage kids to create their own businesses and employ themselves. He also threw out the notion of giving students a cash reward from the $100,000 for their ideas.
“Find people you can work with and establish relationships,” he said. “I don’t think college is the be all deal.”
ANC Commissioner Karen Settles suggested putting the money towards youth activities or even putting some of it in a reserve fund, challenging businesses to match dollars.
The left over money could then be used to continue working programs that don’t have constant funding.
“Because of the lack of consistency in the community, young people don’t want to be committed, because they feel like it isn’t going to last that long,” she said. “I’ve listened to it.”
Another constituent expressed concern about the current transportation for elementary grade students. Having grade school children taking public transportation with strangers is an uncomfortable thing for parents, she said. Others at the meeting agreed with her and said they would prefer another mode of transportation for grade school children.
Other proposals included spending the money to start career centers to encourage the idea of college to youngsters, sponsoring community cleanups and starting mentorship programs in the community.
More than a month after its initial discussions, the group still has not made a decision on what to do with the $100,000.
“I think we need more information in order for us to disburse it the way we should,” Settles said.