Feature

It's no surprise that Washington, D.C., restaurants, hotels and gift shops got a boost from the influx of psychologists and graduate students who attended convention. But this year, several D.C. community agencies profited from the deluge as well. That's because many APA members and students who came to APA's 2000 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., Aug. 4­8, carved time into their busy schedules to play with children at a pediatric HIV/AIDS center and prepare and serve food at local soup kitchens as part of the Congressional Fellows Volunteer Project.

Through the project, organized by the 1999­2000 APA Congressional Fellows--Natacha Blain, JD, PhD, Kathy HoganBruen, PhD, Nina Rossomondo, PhD, and James Werth, PhD--APA members and graduate students volunteered at the D.C. Central Food Kitchen, a facility that provides job training for homeless people, the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Care Clinic, which provides services and care for children and teen-agers with HIV and AIDS and their siblings, and So Others Might Eat, a soup kitchen.

The fellows were prompted to coordinate the volunteer work after seeing the importance of volunteering to the D.C. community during their Congressional Fellowships.

"We wanted to give psychologists and graduate students an opportunity to work to make a difference, if only for an hour or two, and help people in the host city of convention," said Werth, the project's head.

The fellows arranged for volunteers to work two-hour shifts from Wednesday, Aug. 2, through Monday, Aug. 7, at the three agencies. Bethany Teachman, a fourth-year graduate student in the clinical psychology program at Yale University, spent Friday morning slicing cucumbers, dicing tomatoes and chopping zucchini for salad at the D.C. Central Food Kitchen, which prepares more than 1,000 meals each day.

"It's a fantastic idea and it was a great experience," said Teachman. "I like giving back to the community we go to for convention and showing that psychologists are trying to make a contribution."

Jim Werth, PhD, who led the fellows's volunteer project, is collaborating with APA Divs. 17 (Counseling) and 43 (Family) to expand the project for APA's 2001 Annual Convention in San Francisco, Aug. 24­28.

"Our hope is that those who volunteer at the convention will have a positive experience that will inspire them to continue volunteering when they return home," Werth said.