The Cafritz Foundation Honors D.C. Government Workers

The GW Center for Excellence in Public Leadership cosponsors annual dinner that recognizes city government employees’ efforts.

Cafritz Awards
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser addresses attendees of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Awards gala. (Jason Dixson Photography)
July 06, 2017

By B.L. Wilson

Since 2000, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation has hosted an annual program in partnership with George Washington University’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership (CEPL) to highlight the contributions of District of Columbia government employees who work behind the scenes to improve the lives of city residents. 

Calvin Cafritz, the president and director of the foundation, said, “We hope to raise public awareness about these individuals and send a message to other government employees that their dedication and accomplishment is very valued.”

This year, the Cafritz Award was presented to five individuals at a special dinner at GW’s Marvin Ballroom:

Reena Chakraborty, chief of Strategic Planning and Analysis in the Department of Corrections, who found millions of dollars in budget savings by setting up a system for tracking inmates that reduced the population of 700 federal inmates and saved taxpayers $9 million dollars.

Theresa Donaldson DePass, retiring program director in the Department of Behavioral Health, who ensured that her agency responded promptly to the thousands of people with mental illnesses caught up in difficult situations and emphasized the cultural perspective of the individual.

Rahim Jenkins, administrative officer in the Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services, who is an advocate for youth and developer of an innovative program, the Covenant of Peace, that works to alleviate the root causes of violence and conflict among young people.

Laverne Plater, nurse consultant at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, who works with new and seasoned nurses to make sure that patients are properly assessed, medications administered and safety procedures followed in helping mental health patients make the transition from hospital to facilities in the community.

Paul Taylor, recreation specialist at the Department of Parks and Recreation, who returned from prison and not only changed his life but also turned a recreation center into a safe haven and a warm place on cold nights for the young people of his community in Southwest Washington.

Mr. Taylor said that he was able to give back to the community because of nearly every agency represented at the awards ceremony that he has dealt with as an inmate in the Department of Corrections, a patient treated for substance abuse at St. Elizabeth’s and a client supported by the Department of Rehabilitation Services. “I am a shining example of what can happen when you dream,” he said.

In addition, a  group effort of more than 10 employees of the Medicaid Enrollment Team of the D.C. Office on Aging and the Department of Health Care Finance was recognized for improving access to home-based care for the elderly and people with disabilities that allows them to remain in their homes.


President Steven Knapp told the crowd that the Cafritz Foundation has been a major contributor to GW programs including the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. (Jason Dixson Photography)

George Washington President Steven Knapp acknowledged the Cafritz Foundation as a major contributor to university programs including its support in the startup of the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership.

“Reflecting on that partnership,” he said, “was one of the things that inspired me to make partnerships with local institutions, between our university and the institutions of our great city one of the core focus areas of my presidency.”

Dr. Knapp was recognized by James Robinson, the director of CEPL, for his support of the mission of the Cafritz Foundation by “increasing significant public service and solidifying service to others as a hallmark of the university’s culture.” A major component of public service at GW is the Freshman Day of Service, which kicks off each academic year and led to students contributing 711, 841 hours of service in the past year.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) closed out the evening by thanking the 33,000 workers in city government and expressing gratitude to Dr. Knapp.

“As the daughter of two government workers, a mother who retired from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and a father from the D.C. Public Schools,” Ms. Bowser said, “ I know what it means to have a family that is focused on service to D.C. residents.”

The Cafritz Award carries with it $7,500 for each individual winner and $15,000 to be shared by the team winners. The Cafritz Foundation is the largest local philanthropic organization that focuses solely on the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, awarding more than $411 million to 9,170 projects.


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