Allison Silberberg
Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia (2016-2018)

Grant Making:  Film Biz Happy Hour

The Mission

In 1996, Allison Silberberg launched a monthly, schmoozing event called The Film Biz Happy Hour.

Allison’s vision was clear. Make contacts, have fun and make a difference at the same time.

Through the years, all proceeds from the door, totaling over $50,000, went to a different local nonprofit each month. All of the selected nonprofits are listed below.

Allison established criteria for selecting the nonprofits, contacted the nonprofits, made the selections, and organized every aspect of the charitable events for over 80 local nonprofits, all of which were committed to helping children at risk and families in distress. Each month, with input from the selected nonprofit’s leadership, Allison earmarked the funds for a specific purpose in order to have high impact. Film Biz had a sense of mission.

Each nonprofit’s leadership, its staff, and often its donors and board members attended Film Biz. In addition, the event was packed full of writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, actors, editors, artists, voice talent, and producers from CNN, NBC, ABC, PBS, National Geographic and Discovery, as well as professionals from the Hill and the business community, plus those who worked in or were devoted to the nonprofit sector.

Media coverage included a Washington Post story in the Style section by Michael O’Sullivan (“Drinks, Canapes, Action!: The Film Biz Happy Hour, Mixing Business & Pleasure”) as well as other local media outlets, and 22 local film and video organizations endorsed Film Biz.

In the fall of 2004, Allison ended Film Biz. Some of the nonprofit leaders, whose stories she first heard at Film Biz, are profiled in her book, Visionaries In Our Midst: Ordinary People who are Changing our World.

Beyond raising funds for a noble cause, Film Biz raised awareness about unmet social needs right around the corner from the event’s location and throughout the nation’s capital region. Numerous attendees followed up with the nonprofits beyond the event. Attendees donated computers, fax machines, office furniture and more to the nonprofits. Some attendees became volunteers for the nonprofits, gave generously again and again, and some joined the boards of the nonprofits. Given that Film Biz was full of filmmakers, a number of filmmakers donated their services and created short videos for a number of the nonprofits.

Film Biz created community and bridges of understanding, plus shared a belief that change is possible.

Through Film Biz, Allison saluted those who serve the most vulnerable. Her well-known mantra at Film Biz was the following: Thank you for all you do to make our community better for all.

In recognition of her leadership role with Film Biz and for supporting the greater good, Allison won two community awards: the 2004 Reatig Rosebud Award for Outstanding Service to the Film & Video Community and the Culturatti Award in 2003.

The World Bank asked Allison to serve a three-year term on the World Bank’s Community Outreach Grants Committee, which gave grants to local nonprofits. Allison was honored to be one of three members of the committee who were from outside the bank. During her three-year term from 2005 to 2007, the committee gave over $1.3 million in grants to local nonprofits.

Kids R First founder/executive director Susan Ungerer (center) stands with two volunteers during a break from filling backpacks with school supplies for at-risk children. Kids R First received Film Biz funds, and Susan was profiled in Allison Silberberg’s “Visionaries In Our Midst.”

Maria Gomez, founder/CEO of Mary’s Center, gives a hug to a patient at the nonprofit’s clinic. Mary’s Center received funds from Film Biz, and Maria was profiled in Allison Silberberg’s “Visionaries In Our Midst.”

(Photographs by Allison Silberberg)

The Nonprofit List

Film Biz began as a free event in 1996. Once it had a following, Allison made it into a charitable event in 1997. Originally, the suggested minimum donation was $5. In 2002 or later, the suggested minimum rose to $8, which was the price of a movie ticket.

All proceeds from the door went to a local nonprofit each month.

Below is a list of the nonprofits and the total contributions given through Film Biz. Each total includes: donated cash, individual checks written at the event, and any matching donations.

  1. Grandma’s House

        (A program of Terrific, Inc.)

        $194  (September 1997)


  1. Whitman-Walker Health

        (Formerly called Whitman-Walker Clinic)

        $416  (October 1997)

  1. Martha’s Table

        $328  (November 1997)

  1. Children’s National Medical Center

        $340  (December 1997)

        In memory of Rebecca Lilly

  1. St. Ann’s Infant & Maternity Home

        $518  (January 1998)

  1. The C4 Foundation

        $538  (February 1998)

        In memory of Laurel S. Buck

  1. The Washington Free Clinic

        (This nonprofit is now closed.)

        $542  (March 1998)

  1. The Susan G. Komen Foundation’s National Race for the Cure

        $456  (April 1998)

       All funds remained local and went to the Greater Southeast Health Care

       System, which used the proceeds to provide free mammograms to African-

       American women in Southeast DC.

  1. The Fund for Alexandria’s Child

        (Formerly called The Special Children’s Fund of Alexandria, Virginia)

        $420  (May 1998)

  1. House of Ruth

        $416  (June 1998)

  1. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington

        $580  (July 1998)

  1. Montgomery County Multiple Sclerosis Center

        $375  (August 1998)

  1. Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund

        $ 454  (September 1998)

        (This nonprofit is now closed, but donations may still be made to The Hoop

        Dreams Alumni Legacy Fund through the D.C. College Access Program.)

  1. Burning Bush Fund to benefit the burn unit at Washington Hospital Center

        (Created by Lysa Selfon after being struck by lightening at RFK Stadium)

        $370  (October 1998)

  1. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

        $370  (November 1998)

        Funds earmarked for the Memorial’s educational programs in high schools.


        $255  (December 1998)

  1. Rebuilt School for Honduran children after Hurricane Mitch

        $480  (January 1999)

        Note:  In late 1998, Hurricane Mitch struck Central America, killing over

        11,000 people and leaving thousands more missing. It is considered the

        deadliest hurricane since the “Great Hurricane” of 1780. Honduras took

        much of the brunt of the storm. Devastation was so severe that it took time

        for the news reports to get out.

            Through a friend at Film Biz, Allison met Dean Love, a film producer who

        had just returned from a shoot in the Honduran village of Guanaja, which

        was decimated by the hurricane. Dean and his crew had missed the storm

        completely, but he was saddened about the fate of the villagers, many of

        whom they had gotten to know. Dean attested to the fact that many of

        Guanaja’s community leaders, teachers, parents and children perished

        because of Hurricane Mitch. Even the village’s school was destroyed, so the

        children who had survived, some now orphans, had little hope for a future

        without a school. Allison wondered what it would cost to rebuild the school,

        and Dean estimated that $500 would likely do it because of donated

        materials and cheap or donated labor. Film Biz raised $480 for the effort.

        Through a friend, Allison got the funds to Dean’s contacts in the village.

            For the surviving children of Guanaja, a village outside of Catacamas,

        Honduras, Film Biz’s funds were used for the sole purpose of rebuilding their

        school. Allison asked that there be a small plaque placed at the school as a

        tribute to honor the memory of the children who did not survive Hurricane


            With Film Biz funds, Guanaja’s new school opened in the spring of 2000.

  1. FIDOs for Freedom

        $325  (February 1999)

  1. March 1999 was cancelled due to a snowstorm.

  1. Send a Kid to Camp Campaign

        $625  (April 1999)

        In 1999, over 1,000 inner-city children participated in this nonprofit’s

        camp program every summer. Film Biz raised $375 at the door, and

        Colorlab’s owner, Russ Suniewick, donated $250, making the total

        contribution $625.

  1. This Way House

        (Program of The Campagna Center)

        $255  (May 1999)

  1. The Maryland Chapter of the Leukemia Society

        $520  (June 1999)

        In memory of Linda Schloss

  1. Camp JCC’s Inclusion Program

        (Program of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington)

        $266  (July 1999)



        (Program of the Fort Dupont Ice Arena)

        $315  (August 1999)

  1. Levine School of Music

        $315  (September 1999)

        Levine School of Music’s branch in Southeast Washington helps at-risk

        children. Film Biz earmarked funds for music books, supplies, and

        instrument repair for the children.

  1. Emmaus Services for the Aging

        $663  (October 1999)

        Emmaus helps seniors who live below the poverty line in the District. Film

        Biz’s funds were earmarked for Emmaus’ annual holiday party for the

        seniors, a much-anticipated lunch and party where small gifts were given to

        the seniors. For most of the seniors, these would be the only gifts they would

        receive and only holiday celebration they would enjoy.

  1. Kennedy Krieger Institute

        $535  (November 1999)

        The Institute was chosen in honor of its 40th anniversary and what would

        have been John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s birthday. Film Biz earmarked the funds for

        the developmentally disabled and disadvantaged clients to take field trips to

        local museums and parks.

  1. Bread for the City

        $577  (December 1999)

        Funds were earmarked for holiday meals for the needy. For every $26 raised,

        Bread for the City was able to provide a holiday meal for a family in need.

  1. Calvary Women’s Shelter

        $630  (January 2000)

        Funds supported Calvary’s Life Skills Classes, an intensive 12-week class

        designed to help women relearn basic life skills, receive educational

        opportunities, learn communication skills and rebuild self-esteem.

  1. Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN)

        $470  (February 2000)

        Funds supported parenting workbooks and training materials for SCAN’s

        Court-Appointed Special Advocate Program in Northern Virginia.

  1. Martha’s Table

        $430  (March 2000)

        Funds were earmarked for their after-school programs for children at risk.

  1. Mary House

        $355  (April 2000)

        Funds went to Mary House’s summer camp program for the children in their

        ten shelters.

  1. Hand to Hand

        (Now part of Interfaith Works)

        $480  (May 2000)

        Funds were earmarked for Hand to Hand’s Eviction Prevention Program.

  1. Manna

        $570  (June 2000)

        Funds were earmarked for the Home Buyer Education Program for low-

        income families in the District.

  1. The Kingsbury Center

        $432  (July 2000)

        Funds were earmarked for identifying and tutoring economically-

        disadvantaged students who have learning disabilities.

  1. Autism Society of America (Baltimore-Chesapeake Chapter)

        $290  (August 2000)

        Funds were earmarked for a special day trip to the Baltimore Zoo for the

        autistic children and their families.

  1. S.O.M.E. (So Others May Eat)

        $400  (September 2000)

        Funds were earmarked for school supplies for children staying at the Thea

        Bowman House, a facility for homeless and/or abused women and their


  1. FLOC (For Love of Children)

        $ 1,670  (October 2000)

        This event was held in honor of Gil Schamess, who had a beautiful gift with

        words, joy of reading, and commitment to literacy. Film Biz raised $835,

        which was then matched by the Schamess family. The funds created The Gil

        Schamess Fund for Literacy at FLOC, which will support a reading/tutoring

        program for inner-city children. Gil Schamess (1965-2000)

  1. Mt. Carmel House

        $ 530  (November 2000)

  1. Latin American Youth Center

        $ 445  (December 2000)

  1. Suited for Change

        $ 530  (January 2001)

  1. Georgetown Senior Center

        $540  (February 2001)

  1. National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship

        $480  (March 2001)

  1. Mentors, Inc.

        $ 700  (April 2001)

  1. Miriam’s Kitchen

        $ 1,270  (May 2001)

        Film Biz raised $ 635, and an anonymous donor matched the total.

  1. ALIVE!

        $ 550  (June 2011)

        In memory of Casey Sheehan

  1. Children’s Health Project of Washington, D.C.

        (Part of Children’s Health Fund. Directed by Dr. Gloria Wilder-Brathwaite)

        $ 715  (July 2001)

  1. Academy of Hope

        $ 950  (August 2001)

  1. Survivors’ Fund of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region

        $ 625  (September & October 2001)

        Film Biz had been scheduled for September 11, 2001, but it was cancelled due

        to the tragedies of that day. At Film Biz’s October event, all funds went to the

        Survivors’ Fund and were earmarked for the children of those who perished

        at the Pentagon on 9/11.

  1. Capitol Hill Group Ministry

        $ 647  (November 2001)

  1. D.C. Central Kitchen

        $ 583  (December 2001)

        Funds paid for engraved smocks that DCCK graduates received upon

        completion of their culinary training.

  1. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

        $ 686  (January 2002)

  1. Circle of Hope Therapeutic Riding

        $ 844  (February 2002)

  1. Language, ETC (Language, Education, and Technology Center)

        $ 828  (March 2002)

  1. Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

        (Now called Learning Ally)

        $ 1,942  (April 2002)

        Film Biz raised $ 971, and one of their board members matched the


  1. Dance Institute of Washington

        $ 1,800  (May 2002)

        Film Biz raised $ 900; Fabian Barnes, the founder/artistic director of DIW,

        matched the donation.

  1. FIDOs for Freedom

        $ 1,291  (June 2002)

  1. Sasha Bruce Youthwork

        $ 506  (July 2002)

  1. Community Harvest

        (Now part of Food Routes)

        $ 658  (August 2002)

  1. Imagination Stage

        $ 995  (September 2002)

  1. Hadley’s Park

        (This is no longer a nonprofit, but in 2002, Film Biz supported the

        organization’s efforts to build playgrounds that were accessible to all

        children, including children with special needs or youngsters who use a

        wheelchair. The idea was to enable all children, whether they have special

        needs or not, to play alongside each other.)

        $ 866  (October 2002)

  1. CentroNia

        (Formerly known as Calvary Bilingual Multicultural Learning Center)

        $ 500  (November 2002)

  1. Metro TeenAIDS

        $ 801  (December 2002)

  1. The Fishing School

        $ 625  (January 2003)

  1. See Forever Foundation

        $ 641  (February 2003)

  1. Bright Beginnings

        $ 1,177  (March 2003)

  1. La Clinica del Pueblo

        $ 615  (April 2003)

  1. D.C. Action for Children

        $ 1,003  (May 2003)

  1. Urban Rangers Youth Corps

        $ 802  (June 2003)

  1. Horton’s Kids

        $ 576  (July 2003)

  1. Mary’s Center

        $ 804 (August 2003)

        Funds were earmarked for two new dopplers, and any leftover funds purchased

        Leo the Lion books to help children understand their asthma.

  1. The Arlington Community Temporary Shelter (TACTS)

        (Now called Doorways for Women and Families)

        $ 433  (September 2003)

  1. City Year

        $ 933  (October 2003)

        In honor of Steve LeHuray (1943-2003)

  1. Outdoor Creations

        $ 643  (November 2003)

  1. Kids R First

        $ 761  (December 2003)

  1. Casey Cares Foundation

        $ 431  (January 2004)

  1. The Reading Connection

        $ 668  (February 2004)

  1. Tahirih Justice Center

        $ 750  (March 2004)

  1. College Bound

        $ 457  (April 2004)

  1. Community Family Life Services

        $ 308  (May 2004)

  1. D.C. Creative Writing Workshop

        $ 391  (June 2004)

  1. The Family Place

        $ 480  (July 2004)

  1. Food & Friends

        $ 608  (August 2004)

  1. The Grandfathers Group Mentoring Program

        (Part of the Northern Virginia Urban League)

        $ 1,166  (September 2004)

Film Biz ended after this September event in the fall of 2004.

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A teacher embraces a child at Bright Beginnings, a nonprofit that received Film Biz funds and was profiled in “Visionaries In Our Midst.” (Photograph by Allison Silberberg)

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