L'Enfant Society members: Wendy Cumberland (Director of Special Projects and Events, Business Software Alliance); Michael Signorelli (Attorney, Venable, LLP); Jennifer Streaks, Esq., and David J. Vennett (National Manager, Government Affairs and Special Projects, Toyota)
Many significant events in our nation's history have occurred on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In 1963, Martin Luther King gave his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech there. And last year, thousands lined the Mall to witness President Barack Obama's swearing in ceremony. The Mall also is host to numerous charitable and cultural events, including the annual National Black Family Reunion, and the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure. Last June, I participated in the Komen walk, and I noticed something I hadn't seen before - the Mall looked worn and damaged. There were large patches of dirt where grass was supposed to be and flooding. DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton also has noticed, stating, "It does not deserve the name 'National Mall,' we ought to call it something else until it looks decent."
You'll be glad to know that there is a non profit organization working to address this. The Trust for the National Mall is the official non profit partner of the National Park Service working to restore and improve the National Mall while providing new educational and volunteer opportunities to connect visitors to the Mall's rich history. The Trust states that three major areas of concern are the sinking of the Jefferson Memorial seawall, compacted, dry and barren turf; and stagnant and foul bodies of water.
An accomplishment of the Trust is the founding of the L'Enfant Society, a group of Washington, DC area young professionals dedicated to raising awareness and funds for the restoration and preservation of the Mall. Many of its members hold positions of influence in the business, government and philanthropic sectors. On Thursday, January 14th, I attended the Society's reception at K Street Lounge in DC and spoke to member Jennifer Streaks (in photo above), an African American attorney, about why she became involved in this important effort.
Jennifer, who is originally from Charleston, South Carolina, made DC her home after attending Howard University Law School and Johns Hopkins University, receiving her MBA in Finance. A practicing attorney, she is involved with many charitable organizations, including the Washington Ballet, the Junior League of Washington and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. When asked why she became involved with the L'Enfant Society, she shared that this is a national issue that impacts all, not just one segment. She shared with me that there is 30 years of deferred maintenance, and we cannot look to the government alone for help. As the only African American member of the Society, Jennifer has tried to recruit friends, and ultimately would like to see more of us involved.
To date, the Society has raised $300,000. The L'Enfant Society has a major event coming up, the 'Ball on the Mall' that will take place on May 8, 2010 on the National Mall. Time Warner and HBO will serve as presenting sponsors and Toyota will serve as a platinum sponsor. Last year, over 600 people attended the inaugural sold-out signature ball. Visit the Trust for the National Mall website at www.nationalmall.org, and the L'Enfant Society HERE.