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Community Progress Maker, Mary's Center, Named Top Workplace in D.C

July 18, 2019
Maria S. Gomez, President and CEO, Mary's Center
Kristen Scheyder, Senior Program Officer

Mary's Center team, consisting of staff nominated as "shining stars" by their peers, attend the Washington Post Top Workplaces awards ceremony

Mary's Center was recently selected among other large private, public, nonprofit and government agencies in the DC Metro Area as a Top Workplace by the Washington Post. Founded in 1988, Mary's Center is a full-service healthcare facility focused on serving immigrants and other underserved populations, providing not just high-quality healthcare, but also access to a wide variety of social services. The work is hard, but employees say it's worth it. One employee noted, "I love my job because I go home with a happy heart knowing I work for an organization that helps our community daily."

Since being named a Top Workplace, Mary's Center has been reflecting on what the recognition means and how they were able to achieve the honor. The answer boils down to support, resources and leadership. While Mary's Center's mission emphasizes the importance of providing multi-faceted resources to participants, the leadership team has spent the last few years brainstorming ways the organization could amplify its impact not just for participants, but also for employees and the surrounding community.

One game-changing resource that enabled Mary's Center to be bold, take risks and think outside the box was winning the Community Progress Makers award from Citi Foundation, which included a $500,000 grant coupled with access to technical assistance and a network of other Community Progress Makers from around the country. With the grant, Mary's Center has expanded its impact, most notably improving the employee experience for its 75+ Medical Assistants (MAs).

Mary's Center began training MAs in 2012 as a way to create job opportunities for community members. Entry-level MAs earn a livable wage, and as they gain experience and additional training, they are able to advance to higher-paying and more specialized positions. But for a nonprofit organization with an extremely tight budget, providing robust career development support for MAs to advance within their careers was a dream that was simply not financially feasible. Receiving the Community Progress Makers grant was transformative. The capital infusion enabled Mary's Center to launch a new Career Pathways program, increasing the number and variety of workforce trainings offered and implementing a mentorship program. Although still relatively new, the program is already having big payoffs. After just one year: 37 MAs have participated, 17 entry-level MAs have advanced to more specialized, higher-paying positions, and turnover among MAs has decreased from 20% to 13%.

Nonprofits rarely have the opportunity to experiment or take measured risks to come up with game-changing solutions. Citi Foundation aims to change that with the Community Progress Makers Fund, and Mary's Center's success as a 2019 Washington Post Top Workplace is a perfect example of what can happen when a community organization is given the room and resources to innovate.

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