The Ministry – In 1986 St. Mark’s, along with 11 other Episcopal Churches in the DC metro area, established the Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington (SMGW) to help individuals with seemingly insurmountable challenges transform their lives through a program combining compassion and rigorous coaching.

The cornerstone of the Ministry’s approach is its “Next Step Program” in which caseworkers help participants set realistic goals in employment, housing, health, and education and define manageable next steps to achieve them. 60% program participants are returning citizens, homeless, and/or have chronic health problems.

Participants are provided with coaching, skills training, help with resumes, job searches, referrals, and other assistance. As long as participants are making progress on their steps, the Ministry provides them with food, toiletries, clothing, transit cards, and access to computers.

The Next Step program involves intensive one-to-one interaction between participants, staff, and volunteers. The Ministry pledges to work with each person for as long as it takes to bring about the transformation they want to see in their lives.

Growth in the Partnership — Initially the Ministry worked out of an office in the basement of St. Stephen and the Incarnation in Columbia Heights and space provided by St. Philip the Evangelist in Anacostia. By the early 90’s, the Ministry had grown to a partnership of over 20 Episcopal Churches and now consists of 47 Episcopal Churches in the metro area, plus the Diocese of Washington, the National Cathedral, and three Episcopal schools: Bishop Walker, St. Andrews, and Washington Episcopal School. One Baptist, one Catholic, and two Lutheran churches have also joined including the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on East Capitol.

Growth in Programs — In 2016, SMGW became the local affiliate of STRIVE, a national workforce development program with a 53% job placement rate and an 84% retention rate. A key component of STRIVE is a three-week training program that places participants in a simulated work environment. This training takes place at the Skyland Workforce Center in Southeast Washington. Graduates of STRIVE also have the option of continuing with more focused occupational skills training in such fields as construction, healthcare, and hospitality, leading to industry-recognized credentials.

In 2022, Reformation Lutheran’s Southeast Ministry merged with Samaritan Ministry. Established by Reformation in 1990, Southeast Ministry offers basic education and pre-GED classes to adults with limited skills in literacy and math.


Sam Tanner flanked by Byte Back trainer Andew Quilpa (left) and STRIVE trainer Antoine Johnson (right)

In 2023, the Ministry’s STRIVE program joined forces with Byte Back, an organization formed in 1997 to provide IT training to people in underserved communities. They offered an eight-week course combining “hard” IT skills with “soft” employee skills, such as negotiation, teamwork, and conflict resolution. The pilot course proved so successful that it will be offered. The Ministry has six offices in the metro area with a planned seventh and serves over 1,000 individuals each year.

Inspiring Examples of Transformation

Charles Hopkins – After being incarcerated for 47 years, during which he took steps to change his outlook and get educated, Charles turned to Samaritan Ministry for support in taking the “next steps” to become a successful returning citizen. See his presentation at the Ministry’s Next Step Breakfast event.

Antoinette Green – After surviving several abusive relationships, Antoinette found herself with a young son, a high school degree, and a job as a cashier at a local museum. When she lost her job, she first felt hopeless but then discovered the Ministry’s STRIVE employment readiness program. Antoinette shares how a three-week course and the support of SMGW staff gave her confidence to keep going, secure a new job, and create a better life for herself and her son. See her presentation at the Ministry’s Next Step Breakfast.

Tyrone King – Despite graduating from the Duke Ellington School and starting college, Tyrone succumbed to the crack epidemic and was incarcerated at age 21. Upon his release 28 years later, he learned about SMGW from other returning citizens and turned to it for help. Read his story here and see his presentation at the Ministry’s Next Step Breakfast event, which took place at the National Press Club.

Sam Tanner – After experiencing homelessness, Sam was determined to make a better life for himself and his young daughter. Learn how the Ministry’s Next Step program and an innovative collaboration between its STRIVE training and Byte Back helped him accomplish that. Read his story here and about the dual training in IT and employee skills here.

Karen Neal – Inspired by testimonials from program participants at a Next Step Breakfast event, Karen volunteered to work at the Ministry’s Southeast office, where she was trained as a Caseworker Associate. She her presentation at the Next Step Breakfast telecast where she spoke of the impact that working with staff and participants had on her.

Support from St. Mark’s Our church supports the Ministry with an annual contribution and numerous members of St. Mark’s have served on the Ministry’s Board of Directors, represented our church on its Partner Council, and/or volunteered on-site as coordinators, resume writers, and tutors. Additionally, many parishioners have also supported the Ministry with financial contributions and donations of food, toiletries, clothing, and gift cards.

Volunteer Opportunities — Individuals who are able to devote a few hours during weekdays to assist Samaritan Ministry can find current opportunities listed on the web site. For more information, contact Sy Jones, Volunteer Manager:

To Learn More – Speak with St. Mark’s current Representatives on the Ministry’s Partner Council, Mary Neznek and Peter Hawley. Look for updates in the Sunday Announcements and on the bulletin board in Baxter Hall. Explore the Ministry’s web site, sign-up for In Step, its bi-monthly newsletter, and consider attending the Next Step Breakfast in March or the annual gala and auction each fall.