Francis on the Hill
Following Francis’s newest program, Francis on the Hill, is dedicated to supporting children and families in Washington, DC. with a special focus on the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Its projects help alleviate economic insecurity by providing fresh, wholesome groceries and new clothing for neighborhood residents and seek to enhance the beauty of public spaces in and around Meridian Hill Park.
Amplifying the beauty of the “living room” of a racially, ethnically, and economically diverse area of DC, helping transform it into a place where life can be enjoyed more fully.
Meridian Hill Park
Meridian Hill Park is one of Washington’s most significant public parks. It was constructed between 1912 and 1940 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994. In the early 1970s, as areas of Washington experienced economic decline, the park and its neighborhoods suffered.
In the early 1990s, a widely acclaimed partnership between the Friends of Meridian Hill Park organization (now Washington Parks and People) and the National Park Service helped restore the park.
The park remains a gathering place for poor and marginalized people inhabiting increasingly affluent surrounding neighborhoods. Many use it as their front yard, or even their living room.—families, the ill, the aged, the homeless. The park belongs to everyone.
Our goal is to uplift the park to help make it vivid and colorful and happy: a place where people can come anytime and be refreshed by immaculate pathways and bright, fresh bouquets wherever they look.
Francis on the Hill contributes to community efforts to enhance the natural and architectural beauty of this “living room” to make it cleaner and more attractive. Following Francis founder Dr. Carol Conner asked volunteers living in the area to help beautify the park, for the enjoyment of all.
In the fall of 2018 volunteers began removing trash from park pathways and surrounding streets every morning, year-round.
During the summer of 2019 and with the Park Service’s permission and encouragement, volunteers planted colorful flowers in the large, decorative concrete planters that stood empty for many years. Francis on the Hill also arranged for a local landscaping firm to install and maintain large hanging baskets of flowers on lampposts lining park pathways.
Enhancing The Upper Terrace
Hanging flower baskets now adorn the entire upper terrace of the park, lining the walkways along the entire “Mall”, May through October of 2020 and 2021.
Gifts from the Heart
DC families in Columbia Heights and nearby neighborhoods experience high levels of food insecurity. The Covid-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impacts African American and Latino communities, exacerbates the problem. The area has among the highest infection rates in the city. Job losses have been especially devastating for many Latino families in DC, as residents are often unable to qualify for government support programs.
When Covid-19 restrictions began in March 2020, Following Francis founder Dr. Carol Conner saw an opportunity to serve those whose lives have been especially personally touched by the pandemic. She asked volunteers to pursue donations of surplus perishable foods from restaurant suppliers in order to provide fresh, wholesome groceries quickly and reliably.
Francis on the Hill is currently spearheading two grocery distribution initiatives, one at Meridian Hill Park and the second in association with the DC Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (MOLA) at Cardozo High School and other locations. We also contribute supplies to grocery and meals programs run by the Columbia Heights Educational Campus.
Francis on the Hill asked retailers for donations of new, high-quality clothing for children and young adults from retailers. The clothing is displayed at outdoor venues on portable racks for parents and children to choose from.
Numerous companies responded generously to our requests for donations of high quality food and clothing. We are also working in association with the Capital Area Food Bank to distribute food boxes made available through the USDA Farmers to Families program.