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Emergency Relief Fund Established for Prominent Civic Activists Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff

In the wake of a major fire that totally destroyed the entire structure of the 1870s Columbia Heights home and everything within of these longtime civic activists whose website and widely consulted bi-weekly publication TheMail have contributed substantially to shining light on the workings of DC government and of its politicians, a committee of DC residents has come together to spearhead the fund.

Included among the fund organizers are the authors of the submission published here — Robert Malson, president of the DC Hospital Association (committee chair), and Marie Drissel, well-known community activist (committee treasurer. The other committee members include Jonetta Rose Barris, author and columnist, The Washington Examiner; Robert Vincent Branum, president emeritus, DC Federation of Citizens Associations; Ron Drake, attorney; Herbert Harris, Jr., DC Consumer Utility Board; Ann Loikow; Joslyn N. Williams, president, Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO; Nathan Saunders, president, Washington Teachers Union; Yolanda Woodlee, former reporter, The Washington Post.

By Robert Malson & Marie Drissel

There are people among us who are engaged in the hard and critical work of building community. They advocate public policy that empowers citizens. They tackle, directly, debilitating socio-economic conditions. They teach the disenfranchised and disillusioned how to battle government neglect and abuse. And, most important, they inspire us to cross real or imagined boundaries so that we may know, trust and appreciate each other as neighbors.

These individuals do not seek reward, award or remuneration. Creating a better quality of life for everyone—their neighbors– is their greatest satisfaction.

Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff are such people. They exemplify the best in civic leadership.

For the past 30 years, they have dedicated themselves — time, energy, talents and money — to improving communities throughout the District of Columbia. It doesn’t matter where you live, you or your neighbors surely have benefited from their tireless work.

“Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff are as essential to the District of Columbia as air,” The Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King said recently. “Government accountability and vigorous oversight of public service would virtually evaporate without them.”

Robert Brannum, president emeritus of the DC Federation of Civic Associations, noted that, “Through [Dorothy’s and Gary’s] selfless service, citizens of the District have been informed about what has been happening beyond the headlines and official government press releases.”

This time, Dorothy and Gary need our help.

Last month, a two-alarm fire engulfed their Columbia Heights home, totally destroying everything — computers, clothing, books, art, and precious memorabilia. Equally devastating, Gary and Dorothy lost files, records and photographs detailing 30 years of history and public policy debate in the District. Adding to this pain and injury, their insurance company has refused, thus far, to honor their claim.

In the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors, a group of us met to consider how we could aid Dorothy and Gary in this time of loss and grief. They have contributed so much — enriching our lives and our city. Given their dire situation, we decided to establish an emergency relief fund.

We know you agree with WUSA/Channel 9’s broadcast reporter and anchor Bruce Johnson who said he has always been “inspired” by Dorothy and Gary’s “love of our great city and hard work to keep it safe and working for all citizens.”

The proof of Dorothy and Gary’s dedication is in their record of achievement: When residents were concerned about the safety of the city’s drinking water, they made available a secret WASA database that detailed lead level readings for every home in the District. They advocated for community policing. They fought for more support for small businesses along neighborhood commercial corridors.

After trying unsuccessfully for several years to encourage elected officials to establish a government website, Dorothy and Gary founded Begun in 1995, it was the first citywide website to publish DC government information, providing copies of legislation and other documents.

In other words, Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff have been on the scene for nearly every important struggle and development in this city.

“How they have been able to keep at it without the bi-weekly pay checks that most of us count on makes them near saints in my book,” said Johnson.

Sometimes, even saints need help. It’s our turn to support Dorothy and Gary.

Please make a donation of whatever you can afford to this fund today and send to: Emergency Relief Fund for Brizill and Imhoff, c/o PNC Bank, 800 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006 – Attn: Maggie. All contributions of any amount will be gladly accepted and greatly appreciated. We recommend individuals consider a contribution of $100 and organizations donate $500 or more.

This money will help Dorothy and Gary purchase items critical to getting back on their feet and re-establishing their lives. Non-cash contributions also are being accepted. Should you wish to donate a pre-paid gift card, computer, camera, any furniture, household items or clothing, you may call (202) 234-6982 or send an email to [email protected].

We think you’ll agree with us, their recovery is as important to the District of Columbia as it is to them.