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Archive for October, 2011

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Lenora "Ann" Reed Sandridge 10/17/43-12/15/06

My mother, Lenora “Ann” Reed Sandridge, was born in the sleepy coal miner town of Richlands, Virginia 68 years ago today. She died nearly five years ago yet the pain and emptiness that I felt at the time of her death remains more or less unchanged today. I’ve heard some people say that “it gets easier.” I am not sure about that. I know she is not coming back, but sometimes I feel as if she has just been separated from us for a short while and somehow she will be waiting for me the next time I walk through the doors of my parents’ house in Pennsylvania where my father still lives.

If you knew my mother you will understand why today’s blog post is appropriately posted on her birthday.

Last week I reconnected with a friend I had met in Colombia last year. We met after work at the Whole Foods across fromGeorgeWashingtonUniversity’s campus where she is now pursuing post-graduate work. We drank coffee while catching up on each others lives; the conversation occasionally interrupted by passersby ducking inside to take refuge from the monsoon-like rain storm.

The rain stopped and we parted ways. As I headed up 22nd Street toward my neighborhood I saw a woman on the side of the road crouched down on the wet asphalt in front of her car trying to position a jack under the front left bumper. I asked if she needed help and she let out a sigh of relief, “Yes!”

I sat my bag in the wet grass, rolled up my dress shirt and moved the jack around to the side of the car and found a solid piece of the frame to position it under. A few short minutes later the tire was fully suspended off the ground and I grabbed the tire iron and muscled the stubborn lug nuts counter-clockwise. About then a couple of young guys, probably university students, stopped and offered to help too. We quickly got the spare on and sent her two blocks down the street to get some additional air in her temporary tire.

“Thank you so much, you don’t know how much this means to me,” she said reaching for her purse that sat on the empty driver’s seat. “Let me give you all something for your time.”

We all refused the money – I mean, we just did what every decent person should do. Volunteering my time to help her out was well worth the small inconvenience of arriving late, and covered with grease, to meet up with some work colleagues for a beer.

It was this kind of generosity and kindness that my mother embraced so strongly; probably the result of growing up in a town where you helped your neighbor, shared your harvest and brought dinner over to the grieving widower. These weren’t things that my mother ever sat me down and taught. She didn’t have to, they were part of her and she taught by example. Somehow I find comfort knowing that her lessons still live vividly inside me after all this time. I love you Mom!

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Before I share this blog entry with you, I want to wish my father a very happy birthday today – he turns 71! I love you dad!

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Bikes parked at the WABA Bike Valet

When I visit a city I try to see it by foot or bike. Not only is it an environmentally friendly form of transportation, it slows you down enough that you see the details that you often miss while zooming by in a car or tour bus. I also do this in my home city of Washington, D.C. where you can discover new elements of our nation’s capital every day if you take the time to absorb your surroundings.

Every two years the U.S. Department of Energy challenges collegiate teams from around the world to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. They call it the Solar Decathlon and hold it on the National Mall – which for those of you not familiar with D.C. is not a shopping mall but a large open green area that is home to many of our national monuments.

IMG_3987.jpgThe event featured a free bike valet – which is simply a secure place where you can drop your bicycle off while you visit the Solar Decathlon. This allows you not to worry about carrying a lock or removing items such as seats, wheels, bags, etc. that could be easily stolen. The whole process is really fast too. You just roll up and give them your bike and they give you a ticket to claim it later.

I spent the morning volunteering at the bike valet. Operated by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), hundreds of visitors took advantage of this free service. You might recall that I helped WABA out earlier this year at Bike D.C.  Volunteering was a blast and I also enjoyed checking out a few of the energy-efficient homes. I didn’t have a lot of free time away from the bike valet so I mostly appreciated the homes from the outside but did get the chance to tour the one built by the University of Tennessee which won 8th place – winners are judged on their abilities to effectively address affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. I later went online and checked the others out and really liked the home built by the New Zealand team.  It came in 3rd place! The overall winner was right from my backyard here: The University of Maryland.

Illustration of the home built by the team from New Zealand. (photo: http://www.solardecathlon.gov)

Click here to see my photos from the event.

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My year-long journey of volunteering brought me to the podium two weeks ago. As part of the Peace Corps 50th anniversary celebration, Meridian International Center hosted 50 men and women from 50 different countries at their historic mansion in Northwest D.C. for a panel discussion on volunteerism in the United States. I was honored to serve as the moderator for the discussion which featured experts from AmeriCorps NCCC, Youth Service America, Points of Light Institute, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and Experience Corps.

It was a terrific discussion. I especially enjoyed the part where we opened the floor up to the 50 attendees to hear some of their comments. All of the participants have influenced the Peace Corps programs and led volunteering efforts in their local communities – so there was at least a couple hundred years of collective volunteer experience represented in the room. After the conference, I was fortunate to be able to speak individually with several members of the delegation. Hearing their personal stories was very moving.

My favorite comment of the day though came from Dave Premo of CNCS. We were talking about engaging young people and he said that they have found that email is no longer effective for that age segment. It’s seems that it still works well for Baby Boomers and Gen Xers but Millennials don’t read it. “You got to use social networking to get their attention,” he said. I laughed – another reminder that I’m getting older.

The full delegation with State Department Assistant Secretary Ann Stock and Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams.

The visit, which is part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, is very well done. They spend a week in Washington D.C. participating in meetings, cultural exchanges and volunteer projects and then they scatter out across the country to several cities to get an appreciation for regional differences. The program wraps up in Chicago this Saturday.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

David on Day 258 in 2010 (photo: Reed Sandridge)

I want to update you on David G. who was one of my $10 recipients last year. I met David on the corner of Connecticut and Q in D.C. while he was selling the Street Sense newspaper. Homeless in DC for ten years, David hails from Kenya.

When I asked David if he needed anything that I could include in the Lend a Hand program he thought for a minute and then said that he would like to find his cousin and find out more about his father. So with the power of the Internet, I posted their names on the Year of Giving and asked that if anyone knew them to contact me.

Six months later…it happened! By an almost impossible series of events I was on the phone with David’s cousin Ben who was now living in Poland. Check out the update here to find out the latest news in this beautiful story.

You will read in the update that we need to raise a little bit of money to help David…so please consider clicking on the DONATE button on the upper right area of this page and contribute $10 to help reunite David with his family back in Kenya!

These kind of experiences are what it is all about!

To read the original blog post when I met David click here.

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Brrr…it’s chilly this morning. Yesterday was the coldest October 2nd ever recorded here in Washington, DC.

I am trying to get caught up with my blog posts – I’m a little behind. Although the posts sometimes get delayed, the volunteering goes on.

This week’s volunteer experience came at the last minute…well, almost! Just before I left for my lunch break at work I decided to check my personal email. In my inbox I found an email from my friend Kevin who was directing a play at Rockville Little Theatre and he was asking if I would be able to play one of the roles that evening. It was Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge which I had seen the previous weekend, but I certainly didn’t know any of the parts that well.

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Me back stage with Dominique who played my wife in "A View from the Bridge."

As it turns out one of the actors had a last-minute emergency and wouldn’t be able to perform that evening. Although it was very minor part, I was still a bit nervous. That didn’t stop me though and I was on stage just eight short hours later. It’s kind of ironic that this worked out the way it did since I had wanted to audition for this show but couldn’t due to some schedule conflicts.

It was a lot of fun, although a bit awkward since I didn’t know most of the other cast members – I did actually knew a few of them from previous work. As an actor I always feel lucky if the cast forms a bond and becomes its own family. The easy interaction and lively game of Uno back stage let me know that this cast wasn’t lacking camaraderie.

After the show I joined the other actors and went out to the front of the house to say hello and thank the patrons. I was surprised to see a friend of mine, although not as much as she was surprised to see me. “I didn’t know that you were in this show!” she said almost reprimanding me. I gave her a big hug and told her the truth, “I didn’t know either until about eight hours ago.”

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

When you put people first and politics second, you can get things done.” -President Bill Clinton at CGI 2011

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks during the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative in New York on September 22, 2011. (Reuters Photo/Eduardo Munoz)

Even after having worked in his organization for 18 months, the hair on the back of my neck still stands up when I am in the presence of our 42nd president Bill Clinton. The 65-year-old statesman is one of our greatest political thinkers.

I can’t think of a better place to volunteer than at the Clinton Global Initiative, an action oriented meeting of some of the most influential people and organizations in the world. It’s hard to grasp unless you have been there, but I will try to give you an idea.

On my way to my first assignment there, I passed Bishop Desmond Tutu, who by the way has one of the most intoxicating laughs I have ever heard. He was leaving his session where he and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar talked with Charlie Rose about human rights, democratic governance and ethnic reconciliation. On the escalator up to the next floor I turned around to see Procter & Gamble’s CEO Bob McDonald standing behind me.

I arrived at the session I was assigned to volunteer at which was titled “Securing Global Nutrition.” Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times led a panel discussion which featured the head of USAID, the president of WWF International, the CEO of Britannia Industries and one of the leading agronomists in the world. They were gathered to discuss how to tackle the nutritional challenges we face, primarily in the developing world.

Later I headed to a session on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) where I was tasked with taking the official notes of the meeting. About 30 people were gathered – including two princesses from Jordan, the actress Fran Drescher and executives from the American Cancer Society and PepsiCo.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

Before it was all over I saw President Obama speak about service and the economy, watched Chelsea Clinton moderate a panel on leveraging technology to help women and girls in developing countries, saw actresses Heather Graham and Geena Davis and chatted with Michael Jordan’s mother – who’s a sweetheart by the way.  And just when I thought I had seen all that I was going to see, Ted Turner popped his head into the lobby bar of the Sheraton at the end of the day.

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