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Playtime Embraces Exciting New Changes

From left: Roderic Irby, Jamila Larson, and John Holmes

Pictured from left: Roderic Irby, Jamila Larson, and John Holmes

John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life.” Though change can be uncomfortable, it’s also exciting! Throughout our history, Playtime has evolved with the changing landscape of homelessness in our effort to meet the needs of families living in shelter across Washington, D.C. And this month is no exception.

We have two new staff members joining the Playtime team: Roderic Irby, as Managing Director, who started at the end of April, and Allan Rogers, as our first ever Advocacy Director, who starts next week.

Roderic comes to Playtime with 15 years of experience, most recently as the Deputy Director for the D.C. OSSE Youth Re-Engagement Center where he served for the past six years helping young people disconnected from school obtain their high-school diploma, GED, or enroll in job training. Allan joins us with seven years of education and advocacy experience, starting as a Teach for America instructor for 3rd-5th graders in rural Louisiana and most recently as a Public Policy Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education. I am truly excited to have them both on board.

I am also thrilled to announce our first-ever site partnership with a non-shelter, community-based center. Starting this summer, Playtime will provide day and evening programming at the Rita Bright Family and Youth Center, managed by Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in Ward 1. The center is next door to the city’s newest short-term family housing site, the Terrell. This new partnership will give Playtime the opportunity to reach not only children at that shelter, but also neighborhood children whose families are living below the poverty level.

Playtime is proud to partner with LAYC, to serve more children experiencing housing instability, learning loss, and social isolation. In addition to boosting academic achievement, LAYC shares Playtime’s goal of strengthening social-emotional skills through summer programming for 6- to 13-year-old children.

Rita Bright Site Director John Holmes has invited Playtime to provide daily programming for the center’s six-week summer camp, beginning June 28. This will be the first time in Playtime’s 18 years that we will be providing regular play programs during the day—this is especially critical after 15 months of pandemic shutdowns, where children have had little to no access to in-person programs.

As city guidelines are about to increase the number of children allowed in group settings, we are pleased to be expanding our preteen programming. Parents are looking for safe ways to keep their children playing and learning over the summer, which typically coincides with spikes in violent crime that make programming for young people in a fun and safe environment especially important.

“This is a great opportunity to collaborate with an organization that wants Playtime’s assistance in changing the lives of youth through play and socio-emotional activities,” said Roderic, who added that joining Playtime’s staff was a dream come true. “To be part of a team that shares my dream of being change agents in the community is an amazing feeling.”

Also this summer, we are pleased to partner with Tulane University School of Social Work to have the support of two social work interns who will co-facilitate therapeutic groups and provide social work support services to Playtime families.

I’m proud of Playtime’s ability to pivot and change to meet the needs of children and families experiencing homelessness, and I’m most grateful to so many of you for supporting this important work. I hope you stay with us on this ongoing journey.

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