Kawana Cohen-Hopkins has always been a helper. In high school she volunteered at the local nursing home to cheer up seniors on Saturday mornings. She carried that with her to college, where at Rutgers University, she took part in community service projects through a group called Minority Education at Cook College Alliance (M.E.C.C.A). Upon graduation, Kawana left her native New Jersey and moved north to Boston. There, she volunteered for the Heath Works Foundation, which focused on providing meals to homeless women in Boston.
Kawana moved to Washington, DC in 2003. She began volunteering for Prevention Works!, whose mission was to provide safe needle exchange and harm reduction education throughout Washington, DC. She volunteers with the National Council of Negro Women’s Mitchellville-Bowie Section, where she currently serves as the community outreach chair. Kawana also volunteers with Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (H.I.P.S), which provides harm reduction information to sex workers in Washington, DC. She was appointed to the Prince George’s County Solid Waste Advisory Commission, which provides advice on environmental issues within the county.
In 2008 Kawana and her husband noticed a disturbing trend in their neighborhood: there were a number of men living in tents among the trees and overpasses along Route 704 in Landover. The Hopkins family was compelled to do something, and the couple set out on Christmas day to hand out chili to the area men. Four years later, they continue to provide chili, toiletries, and underwear not just to homeless men in their neighborhood, but also to those living at Prince George’s House shelter and to men and women throughout Landover, Capital Heights, and Suitland.