A grandmother wanted to give her grandchildren the life they deserved. This building has made it possible.
Courtesy of Capital One
True
Capital One

It was around Christmas 2018 and Jean Simpkins, 79, was looking out the window of her new three-bedroom apartment. Eleven floors above Washington, D.C., the grandmother of two gazed out at the lights of the city and became overwhelmed with gratitude. "The only thing I could say," Simpkins remembers, "was 'Thank you, Father.'"

Almost a year later, Simpkins still can't help but look at the apartment as a miracle — one she desperately needed. Fifteen years ago, when her grandson was born, she became his primary caregiver. Six years later, when her granddaughter was four, Simpkins was awarded full custody of her, too. She's spent the time since trying to give her grandchildren the life she knows they deserve, which has been difficult on a fixed income. On top of that, Simpkins worried that the neighborhood the family resided in wasn't the best influence on her kids. Something had to change.

Then she learned about Plaza West, a new development created by Mission First housing that would reserve 50 of its apartments specifically for families in which a grandparent or other older adult was raising children who were related to them. The waiting list, Simpkins says, was daunting. There are a great deal of grandfamilies in the D.C. area and she was sure it might be years before she got the call. But soon after applying, she was offered a choice between a two-bedroom and a three-bedroom apartment. She accepted the latter, sight unseen. She knew that each of her grandchildren needed space of their own.


Simpkins' apartment is spacious, and the twinkling lights she sees on the horizon every night are a bonus. But the real reward of living at Plaza West is the community that the grandfamilies — 49 grandmothers, three married couples, and one "very popular" single grandpa — have created for their children (and themselves). It's an intergenerational center, one where youth and seniors come together to learn from each other and give and receive wisdom.

At Plaza West, grandparents aren't just responsible for their own grandchildren. They become surrogate grandparents to every one of the kids living in the building. One grandmother, Simpkins says, takes all the children to basketball games. Other grandparents share the task of taking children to school and making sure they're back home safely.

Each month, grandparents gather together for "fireside chats," community meetings where they discuss their goals for the community as well as ask for support and air grievances in an encouraging environment. In the halls and common areas, grandparents hold all grandchildren accountable for their behavior — quickly addressing any symptoms of trouble and always imparting the importance of kindness and respect.

"We're all a family here," Simpkins says, both proud and grateful of the help she gives and receives from the people around her. "It really does take a village."

Grandfamilies, Simpkins adds, need to be a priority when it comes to housing — and Capital One agrees. That's why the bank, which has a long history of giving back to the community, worked so hard to help make Plaza West a reality for the grandparents, grand aunts, grand uncles, and children who need it.

"It's very difficult for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren on their own to find decent housing," says Ed Delany, a Capital Officer for the Mid-Atlantic region at Capital One who arranged the financing the bank provided. "There's a huge need, both nationally and in the District, for this type of housing." But that housing is rarely affordable. And when it is, Delany says, it's often sub-standard. Capital One wanted to ensure that grandfamilies in D.C. not only had a place to call home, but a place they'd be proud to live.

In order to achieve this, Capital One provided a $7.5 million construction loan and purchased more than $35 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits to help Mission First make miracles happen for Simpkins, her family, and the other residents of Plaza West. In addition, Capital One left a $200,000 social purpose grant in place. That money is helping provide on-site support for the residents.

Capital One is proud to continue partnering with faith-based developers like Mission First because they help provide housing for those who need it most. They also allow people who've lived their whole lives in suddenly-popular neighborhoods to avoid getting priced out. Developments like Plaza West, Delany says, have had a major impact on quality of life as well as future prospects for the residents of the neighborhoods they serve.

Nothing could be more true for Simpkins and her grandchildren. Though they weren't happy with the move at first — it meant they'd have to leave some old friends behind — now that they've had time to adjust, they're flourishing. Since moving to Plaza West, both grandchildren have made the honor roll. And with more and more activities being added for older kids, including visits by mentors and programs created by Howard University, it's becoming easier to keep them involved closer to home. The neighborhood, Simpkins adds, has only become more safe and beautiful with the addition of Plaza West.

The greatest reward for her family, however, is the social support that living with other grandfamilies provides. The similar experiences they share helps provide both connection and comfort. Parenting is one of the world's hardest jobs, even with a strong support system. It can often make guardians feel isolated and lonely. That goes double for families that would be considered "non-traditional." But at Plaza West, Simpkins says, no one feels alone.

To learn more about Capital One's Community efforts, go to https://www.capitalone.com/about/.

Pexels
True
Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.