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Archive for July, 2011

Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

50.2 million Americans live in food insecure households, 33 million adults and 17.2 million children.  Feeding America goes on to report that 7.8 percent of seniors living alone were also food insecure. Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas all report more than 17% of their households facing food insecurity. Washington, DC checks in at 12.9%.  Least affected by this challenge is North Dakota that reports only 6.7 percent of households living with food insecurity.

I’ve been fortunate my entire life not to have to worry about where my next meal would come from, but as you can see above, many people in this rich country are not so fortunate.

One of the most impressive models for helping feed those in need is DC Central Kitchen.  Although I had been aware of this organization for several years, it wasn’t until July 27th of last year when I gave $10 to their founder, Robert Egger, that I started to realize how amazing this organization really is.  Check out what Robert did with the $10!  It will blow you away.

Two weeks ago history was made – at least for DC Central Kitchen.  At the DC Convention Center the largest specialty food and beverage show in North America was wrapping up.  Thousands of exhibitors filled the exhibition hall with their mouth-watering offerings.  From Theo Chocolate’s organic, Fair Trade-certified Madagascar sourced chocolate to melt in our mouth Spanish Serrano ham from Fermin, if you like food, welcome to heaven!  When the last attendees get ushered out and booths begin to tear down their displays, there would still be hundreds of thousands of pounds of perfectly good food and beverage products on the show floor.  For a variety of reasons, it’s often difficult for these companies to ship the food back to their warehouse so they simply leave it behind.

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Volunteers pour onto the show floor ready to work! (photo: Reed Sandridge)

That’s where DC Central Kitchen stepped in and seized and opportunity by working out an arrangement where they would pick up unwanted food and turn it into meals for the thousands of households in the DC area who depend on them for nourishment.

They assembled a small benevolent army of about 150 people made up of employees of the kitchen and volunteers like myself.  Our mission was to comb the aisles collecting food that the exhibitors had designated for donation.

It’s a bit of a race against the clock.  Perishable foods must be removed within two hours and then we only had about another six hours to collect the rest of the food and transport it across the titanic show floor while dodging forklifts and workers removing miles of carpet from beneath our feet.  Then we had to load all the food onto pallets and wrap them in cellophane so that they could be loaded onto waiting trucks.  To give you an idea of the chaos, keep in mind that the show floor is 700,000 square feet and has a wingspan that covers six city blocks!  So making a run from one side to the other was no easy task.

One funny moment was when I was looking for some large boxes and heard a gentleman with a distinct Spanish accent saying, “Look at that – I turned a hexagon box into a rectangular one!”

“I know this guy,” I thought.

He handed me a box and then I realized I did know him – well not personally, but it was famed chef and restaurateur José Andrés!  I’ve dined in his restaurants, watched him on TV and even prepared tapas from his cookbook but I had no idea of his newest talent of transforming unusable boxes into perfect containers for our collection.  There was no time to be “star-struck” though and I grabbed the boxes and headed off to collect more food.

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Volunteers packaged 150,000 pounds of donated food!

When the last pallet was wrapped we had collected over 150,000 pounds of food – the largest single food donation that Robert’s organization has ever received!  DC Central Kitchen shared the historic donation with DC Food Bank and other community organizations that help provide meals to area residents in need.

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Some of the 150 volunteers who made it happen. (photo: dccentralkitchen.org)

Although this was an amazing day for DC Central Kitchen, this was not a typical day and the organization needs your support.  They are much more than a kitchen too – they provide training and jobs for the communities unemployed and homeless.  Click here to find out how you can volunteer or support them financially.

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Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

According to the American Humane Society’s webpage, 56% of dogs that enter into shelters are killed.  This fact disturbs me so much that I almost didn’t put it in the blog, but I think it’s important that we know the truth.  Fortunately there are organizations out there trying to make sure these dogs get adopted and do not end up like the more than 2 million dogs that are euthanized every year.  One such organization is Lucky Dog Animal Rescue here in Washington, DC.

I pulled together a small team of Year of Giving volunteers and headed over to the PetSmart on Route 50 near Seven Corners on a blistering hot Sunday morning.  Each volunteer was assigned a dog for the afternoon.  “We need somebody strong for the next dog,” the volunteer coordinator yelled out to the small army of volunteers who had assembled under the glaring sun.  Given that most of the volunteers were women, eyes seemed to focus on me and I stepped up to the challenge.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

They gave me two leashes (“You’re going to need them both,” they assured me) and a two-page bio about my dog.  “What kind of dog are they giving me,” I thought as they showed me how to wrap the leashes securely around my hands.  Out comes one of the cutest hounds I’ve ever seen.  Black with white and chestnut spots, Christine is a happy and energetic four-year-old.

Don’t let the big floppy ears fool you though!  She’s strong (hence the double leash!)  She immediately starts pulling me over to a tent where the other dogs are resting out of the sun.  Did I mention it was hot?  Christine and I had to take a couple of laps inside the PetSmart to cool off in the air-conditioning from time to time.

A big-hearted, fun-loving dog, Christine gets lots of attention.  She’s great with kids too.  My friend Jessica stopped by with her three young boys and Christine soaked up the attention.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is an all-volunteer, non-profit animal rescue organization dedicated to saving the lives of homeless animals and educating the community on responsible pet ownership. They do not have their own facility, instead dogs stay with temporary fosters (and occasionally boarding partners) while they wait to be adopted.

Lucky Dog holds weekly adoption events and is always looking for volunteers.  Visit their website to find out more information.

“What amazes me is their resilience,” Executive Director Mirah Horowitz said in a recent interview.  Many of these dogs have been abandoned and neglected, yet Horowitz says that they regain their ability to trust and love again.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

On the Sunday I volunteered about a dozen dogs were adopted.  Since their inception in May of 2009, Horowitz says they have rescued about 2,900 dogs and have found permanent families for about 2,800 of them.  You do the math, that leaves about 100 dogs which is what she says are currently waiting for adoption.  “We’ve got a 100% adoption rate,” she proudly shares.  That’s impressive!

Unfortunately Christine didn’t get adopted.  I checked the website today and she is still waiting for either a foster family or a permanent family.  If you or anyone you know is considering getting a dog, I encourage you to check with local organizations like Lucky Dog.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

By the way, if you would like to see additional photographs of Christine and many of the other dogs that were at the adoption event, check out my Flickr page.

Catch my weekly blog post on AARP’s blog every Wednesday.  Last week I wrote about giving during desperate times of need.

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Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

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Me with a fellow volunteer Jane who was part of LGW's Class of 2004. (photo: Tohry Petty/LGW)

Volunteer Days is an annual event organized by Leadership Greater Washington (LGW) that focuses on giving back to the community.  LGW is a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to identify and connect diverse local leaders in order to facilitate finding solutions to regional challenges.  I got introduced to them through a few of my friends and colleagues and decided to help them out on their service day.

I was reminded of the importance of effectively using volunteers during this outing.  I arrived at 9am as instructed and found two adults and a student waiting outside of Martha’s Table where we were to do some painting.  There was some miscommunication with a third-party that helped connect LGW with Martha’s Table and as it turned out there was nobody there.  After a few phone calls we realized that we would have to wait until 10am to start.  I didn’t care since I was planning on being there anyway.  I was kind of tired too so I slumped down on the sidewalk and waited in a semi-conscious state.

One of the other four volunteers was irritated that we had to wait and said he had better things to do and left.  I get that he wants to be useful, but we had all planned on being there anyway, so what difference does it make right?  I mean Martha’s Table is counting on us and it’s not their fault that we were there early.

This provides a good lesson to organizations that use volunteers.  Not everyone will share my view on this and many will feel like they have wasted their time and form a  negative impression of the nonprofit in need.

Everything worked out fine.  There was not enough of us to paint but Justin, volunteer coordinator extraordinaire, quickly came up with a project for us that involved freshening up the green areas in front of Martha’s Table.  Pulling roots out is hard work!  Who knew?  We replaced about a dozen plants with beautiful new ones.

I was really impressed with Martha’s Table and you should check them out!  “We provide folks with a chance to live their values,” said development and community manager Kimberly Lyons-Briley.  “Ultimately volunteers are some of our biggest advocates.”  Well, I can understand why – everyone there is so nice!

DSC_0001-2.jpgNo more weeding for a while.  Check back next Monday to learn about my experience volunteering with Lucky Dog Rescue!  In the meantime, check out AARP’s blog this Wednesday.  I’ll be starting a new weekly column on their site – but don’t worry, I’ll still be here too!

If you want to help Miriam’s Kitchen but don’t live in DC, check out their Wish List on Amazon.com.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC.

Happy 4th of July! 

Just beyond the beltway of Washington, DC, Congressional Country Club was selected to host this year’s US Open.  The United States Golf Association, the organizers of the Father’s Day classic, provides concession stands around the course that are manned primarily by volunteers.  In turn, a percentage of the proceeds go toward those organizations that work the stands.

logoHands’sOn Greater DC Cares, the leading mobilizer of volunteers in the Greater DC area, asked for volunteers to help out and raise money for their organization.  I’ve volunteered at several of their service days and always been impressed with them so I was happy to help them out.

Now this may sound like a piece of cake, right?  How hard could selling a few cold beers and hotdogs to a bunch of golf enthusiasts be?  Well, you’re right it isn’t so hard, however it does require a lot of volunteers and a well-coordinated operation to serve the 230,000 attendees.

After parking nearly 40 minutes away and taking a special shuttle to Congressional, I got checked in, tied an apron on and found myself pulling cold drinks and hot food for the cashiers.  After about three hours of this I had to change jobs as my knee was failing me – I tore my meniscus two months ago playing softball.  Anyway, I closed out the rest of the day running the register.

All in all it was a good experience despite the scorching heat and lack of breaks throughout the eight-hour shift.  We were slammed for five to six hours solid.

I have no idea how much Greater DC Cares received – hopefully a healthy amount.

Rory McIlroy holds aloft the U.S. Open trophy after winning the championship at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, June 19, 2011. (Drew Angerer/The Washington Times)

Rory McIlroy holds aloft the U.S. Open trophy after winning the championship at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, June 19, 2011. (Drew Angerer/The Washington Times)

Volunteers receive a nice perk – they are free to watch the golf play before and after their shift.  I headed over to the 18th hole with fellow YoG volunteer and former Kindness Investor Maria D.  We watched the golfers wrap up the second to last day of golf at the final hole.  The last pair to putt and wave to the fans was South Korea’s Y.E. Yang and 22–year-old tournament winner Rory McIlroy who set a record with a 16-under finish.

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Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC.

Willie and I in October of 2010

A memorable moment for me last year during my 365 day journey was giving $10 to MSNBC morning host and author Willie Geist on Day 317.  He’s intelligent and witty.  His calm demeanor and intoxicating grin create a feeling like he’s a guy you’ve known all your life.

Now usually when I post an update, it’s because I have met up with the recipient and found out how they are doing.  Well, I have tried to follow up with Willie, but he’s a busy television personality and understandably doesn’t probably have time to reply, however, what I want to update you on today is an awkward moment that Willie suffered through this week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

TIME Magazine editor at large, Mark Halperin, has one of the weirdest moments on TV that I have seen in a while.  The exchange goes like this:

Joe Scarborough: Mark Halperin, What was the president’s strategy? We are coming up on a deadline and the president decided to please his base, push back against the Republicans. I guess the question is, we know a deal has to be done. Is this showmanship? A lot of times you go up there and both sides and they act tough so their base will be appeased, then they quietly work the deal behind the scenes.

Mark Halperin: Are we on the seven second delay?

Mika Brzezinski: Lordy.

Halperin: I wanted to characterize how the president behaved.

Scarborough: We have it. We can use it. Go for it. Let’s see what happens.

Brzezinski: We’re behind you, you fall down and we catch you.

Halperin: I thought he was a dick yesterday.

Scarborough: Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing? I can’t believe — I was joking. Don’t do that. Did we delay that?

Halperin: I said it. I hope it worked.

Scarborough: My mom is watching! We’ll know whether it worked or not.

All along Willie Geist is sitting very uncomfortably next to Halperin.  And it only gets worse.  They come back from commercial and Halperin apologizes while Willie looks on with a look of disappointment and awkwardness.  Check out the video below from the Daily Show where Jon Stewart takes this train wreck one step further and suggests that Willie should chaperon all broadcasted public apologies.

I felt bad for you Willie!  You’re the best!

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