This article is part of Washingtonian‘s feature “Heroes of the Crisis.” From medical professionals to social-justice activists to culinary stars, here are some of the people who have helped get us through these most challenging of times. Read about the 15 people making a difference during the pandemic here.
Executive director, District Bridges
How she’s helping:
District Bridges runs Main Street groups in five neighborhoods: lower Georgia Avenue, Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant, U Street, Cleveland Park, and Logan Circle. The nonprofit supports 967 small businesses, many of which are located in some of DC’s hardest-hit areas. During the crisis, District Bridges has been helping retailers and restaurants access micro-grants and PPP loans and is providing technical training to business owners.
Whenever an establishment closes for good. Says Dornbush: “The first few weeks, we were all on the phone constantly, just listening to business owners crying and pouring out their hearts, laying off staff who are family.”
With a small staff and a fast-changing situation, the day-to-day pressures of helping freaked-out retailers can get intense. “You’re dealing with people who are in crisis and scared and overwhelmed.”
How she unwinds:
Spending time in the garden with her husband or drinking a glass of bourbon. “When you’re staying at home all the time, there’s never a stop and start to the day. It just feels like one continual day. So I’m creating space for life—creating space to just be still.”
Who’s inspiring her:
The business owners, many of whom are immigrants. “They’ve been so resilient. To move to a new country and start a business that is your dream—we do this work for that.”
This article appears in the October 2020 issue of Washingtonian.