Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Bills’ Category

Day 3 – Brandie

I was doing some grocery shopping today and Brandie had approached me while I was going down the aisle to help her pick out some BBQ sauce.  I shared my insight on the ones I liked and she was appreciative of that.

Even though Brandie had approached me first I figured, while I’m here speaking with her on BBQ sauce I might as well carry the conversation further and tell her about my project.  I gave her $10 and she was so more than grateful.

Brandie is a single mother of 2 boys ages 1 and 3.  She anticipated the $10 would probably go toward bills or perhaps toward the groceries she was accumulating in the cart.

-Melinda from Xenia, OH

Read Full Post »

photo: Reed

At about 9:00 pm on Day 209 I saw Garrett playing his maraca and tambourine on the Southeast corner of Connecticut Avenue and Q Street in Northwest.  I have some items that you guys have sent for him and I crossed the street to talk with him and see if he would be there a while so that I could go home and get the items and come back to deliver them to him.  Just about the time I reached Garrett a man in a wheel chair rolled up and stuffed some folded dollar bills into Garrett’s can and went back to where he had been sitting before.  As I chatted with Garrett I couldn’t help but notice that the other gentleman was missing both legs and was holding a box with the words, “Donate, help needed, disabled” written on it. I was completely distracted.

I walked over to him and introduced myself.  He didn’t tell me his name right away, but I later discovered that it was Clyde.  “I hate to admit it but often times I tell people that my name is Mike, but it’s really Clyde.” 

Garrett said he had to go and I continued to talk to Clyde for more than two hours.  During that time at least a half-dozen people stopped and gave Clyde some money.  One person even gave him an apple.  Another, a clergy member from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, stopped and chatted with us for a while.  He had spoken with Clyde before.  As he left he dropped a five-dollar bill inside Clyde’s box.

Clyde is wearing a faded blue and white hat with Sandals Jamaica written on it and large black sunglasses.  His left leg looks to be amputated above the knee and is fitted with a prosthetic leg accompanied by a shoe.  His right leg appears to be amputated near his pelvic bone.  He has on a checkered pair of pajama-like pants that cover most of his prosthetic and then rest limp on his right side.  At some point during the evening I gathered the courage to ask Clyde what happened to his legs.  “I lost them in accident.  I got a metal plate in my arm as well,” he says pointing to his right arm. 

I asked if I could photograph him but he preferred not to.  I even asked if I could just photograph his box, but he wasn’t comfortable with that either.  I respect that.  You will just have to do with some photos of the area where we passed the hours talking that evening.

Clyde, who tells me that his friends call him “Camel” because of a Ray Steven’s song about a camel named Clyde, is in his late 50s.  He doesn’t live in DC but travels here by bus every month for about a week.  While he is here he sometimes goes down to Capitol Hill to voice his opinion on topics as well as spends a good amount time in the Dupont Circle area.  He sits and greets people kindly as they walk by, “Don’t forget the homeless.”  When the sun sets and the bar-goers start to thin out he wheels himself a short distance away on Q Street and sleeps upright in his chair.  “I’m used to it, it doesn’t bother me,” Clyde assures me.  “It’s safer than trying to stay in a shelter.”

I found Clyde sitting in his wheel chair at this spot (photo: Reed)

It would be impossible to give our two-hour conversation justice in a few paragraphs here.  But I will try to leave you with an accurate summary about what I know about this private man.  He is kind and gentle.  He doesn’t drink or smoke.  He is well-read and knowledgeable about many topics and patiently shares his knowledge with others (or at least me!)  He believes in God.  He helps others when he can, which is evidenced by him donating some of his own money to Garrett.  He served in the US Coast Guard and has traveled all over the world.  He is very critical of our government.  He rivals my father as a conspiracy theorist.  He only watches Fox News and wishes we had more honest journalists “like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.” 

Clyde has a home, but his social security doesn’t make ends meet.  Each month he falls about $250 short so he takes a bus to DC and spends about a week here in order to collect enough money to pay the bills.  “I got so many bills I’ve been thinking about changing my name to Bill!” he says…it falls a little flat but I managed a smile.  He later told me that he would put the $10 I gave him toward paying some of those bills.

In the winter he forgoes his monthly trip to Dupont Circle’s tree-lined diagonal streets, large19th century homes and row houses and endless embassies and takes a bus south every month to the warmer shores of South Beach, Miami where the colorful art deco buildings, palm trees and sandy beaches seem to wash away the winter blues.

Most of our conversation was somehow tied to politics and religion, two of the most delicate pieces of conversation I can think of.  He shared a lot of his views and educated me on many topics. 

It got to be close to 11:30 at night and I needed to head home.  Afterall, I was starting my new job the next day!  He said he would be back here next month.  Same time (about the 8th of the month he arrives in DC and stays to about the 15th), same place (the corner of Connecticut and Q Street.)  I look forward to stopping by and chatting with my new friend on his next visit.

Read Full Post »

After three days of helping my friend Tom remodel his bathroom, we are not near as far along as we would had hoped.  We did get the bathroom completely gutted.  The only things left were pipes, wires and 2x4s.  The hardest part was getting the 330 pound cast iron tub out.  We then got all the pipes moved, all the items purchased that we needed, and the new tub installed  and about half of the Hardiebacker cement board installed.  Needless to say there is a lot left and I am going to try to get back out there to help him.  The idea was to have it finished and surprise his wife when she returned on Tuesday from visiting her family in Pennsylvania.  Well, she was definitely surprised.   

I left his place around 7pm and started driving the 240 miles to Roanoke, VA to attend the funeral of a friend of the family.    

The Sub Station & Ricos Tacos (photo: Reed)

 

As I was driving south down interstate 81 I drove by Harrisonburg, VA.  My father and I had stopped in this town back in March and I met Robin on Day 96.  Well once again I felt the calling to stop in Harrisonburg, but this time I ended up off exit 243 and found the typical selection of fast food joints.  Then I spotted the Sub Station & Tacos Ricos.  I made a u-turn and drove back and pulled in the parking lot.  It was about 9pm when I sat down at the counter and Lourdes pushed a menu in front of me.   

Lourdes (photo: Reed)

 

The restaurant looks a little more like an American diner than a Mexican taqueria.  But don’t let that fool you, the food here is authentic Mexican cuisine.  The owners, husband and wife team Jose and Lourdes, work behind the counter.  They both take time to talk to their customers.   

I was in the mood for tacos and asked Lourdes which ones she recommended.  She guided me toward the carne asada tacos for $6.19, so that is what I ordered.  The soft corn tortillas were warmed right on the grill next to the steak filet that was being prepared for me.  I see that she pours a little bit of what looks to be oil on the tortillas, maybe that is a secret to the delicious taste of the tortillas. On top of the steak and tortilla Lourdes sprinkled a bit of fresh cilantro and onion on each taco.  She added a side of salsa and two lime wedges and set the plate in front of me.  This is the way I remember the tacos being served when I lived in Sinaloa, Mexico.  Just simple tacos with high quality fresh ingredients served with limes.  I squeezed the lime over the tacos and sprinkled a pinch of salt on them and started to eat.  They were delicious.   

Lourdes puts a little butter on the tortillas (photo: Reed)

 

While I was enjoying my tacos I found myself wondering what the story was behind the restaurant and my two hosts.  When Lourdes came back to ask me how my tacos were I took the opportunity to tell her about my project and before I knew it I had recipient number 203!  

Dad and I donated money to this donation box that was on the counter to help a family return the remains of a young man killed in an auto accident earlier that month. (photo: Reed)

 

Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Lourdes moved here 10 years ago.  About two years after she moved to Harrisonburg, she married José who hails from Veracruz I think.  Both had worked in a variety of fields, including the restaurant business.  Last year Lourdes was working at a restaurant and José was working in construction when they decided to launch their own restaurant which opened five months ago.  “It has always been Jose’s dream.”   I asked her how it was going and she said it was going ok.  It’s hard when you are just starting up.  “There’s a lot more stress when the restaurant is your own,” she tells me.  “After a slow night you sometimes find yourself thinking about how you are going to make up for the money that you didn’t earn that night.”   

Tacos de carne asada (photo: Reed)

 

I think they will do very well.  I can only personally vouch for the carne asada tacos, but they were very good.  Lourdes also highly recommended the carne asada torta, which is a Mexican beef sandwich.  I encourage everyone who is traveling up or down interstate 81 to stop in and sample the food.  They are just off exit 243.  Tell them Reed sent you!  

Lourdes told me she was going to use the $10 to pay down some of her credit card debt.  Glad that I could help.  

My dad enjoying his tacos (photo: Reed)

 

The next day on the way home my father and I stopped in so that I could introduce him to my new favorite spot.  He ordered a plate of tacos and another fan was born! 

The Sub Station & Ricos Tacos
3257 South Main Street
 Harrisonburg, VA 22801

Read Full Post »

Day 176 – Garrett P.

If you frequent the corner of Connecticut Avenue and N Street or the Adams Morgan neighborhood you might have seen this man.

Photo: Reed

As I was walking north on Connecticut Avenue I heard Garrett before I saw him.  Wearing a wrinkled t-shirt and standing behind a 1970s or 1980s Ross bicycle is a thin man with short cropped hair and stubble.  The 65-year-old DC resident who makes his living singing, shaking his maraca, tapping his tambourine, and offering kind words to those on the streets of Washington smiles at me as I walk up to him. 

After years of drug use and several stints in correctional facilities, he says that he has straightened his life out and found God.  He says that he is passionate about Jesus and music.  And his roots in music go deep.  He was in a rock’n’roll band when he was younger.

Garrett moved to DC in 1969 from Poughkeepsie, NY after ending his first marriage to a preacher’s daughter.  He seems to have his life together now.  He says the worst thing he does now is smoke cigarettes.  That may stop soon too as his doctor has advised him to stop smoking as a result of recent complaints of shortness of breath.

Garrett’s toothless smile is contagious.  Hidden behind his dark sunglasses is a man who warmly greats those walking by him.  “I love people,” he says.  He offers a smile to everyone.

Garrett's bicycle (photo: Reed)

Garrett plans to use the $10 to pay some bills, however he says that he regularly helps others out.  “If I see someone down, I stop and talk to them.”  He goes on to say, “I’m blessed.  I don’t ask for much.”  When pressed he did offer some items that he says he could use that you can find listed on the Lend a Hand page.

Take a minute and listen to Garrett’s rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s version of Woke Up This Morning With Jesus On My Mind.  He also shared some of his views on life and what he plans to do with the $10.  Enjoy!

Read Full Post »

Good morning!  There is nothing I like more than waking up early on a Monday morning and getting a head start on things I need to get done!  A lot of people complain about Monday’s… I love’em!

So I’m considering putting together somewhat of an advisory board for my Year of Giving.  I believe that there are some interesting ways that the project can develop and hope to get some critical perspectives on it.  If anyone knows someone wickedly smart or creative who they think would be an asset to this thought process, please shoot me an email.

Last week I was meeting with Abby Strunk, the executive director at Street Sense.  As you know, I have enjoyed getting to know their vendors.  As it turns out, she was following the Year of Giving journey and reached out to me a few weeks back.  So we decided to meet up for coffee.  She has been with the paper for six months and seems to be driving the organization in the right direction.  I really believe in this organization and offered to help them out if there was anything I could do.  Coincidentally, as we were chatting, she pointed out a Street Sense vendor who was selling the paper just on the other side of the frosted glass of the Caribou Coffee shop we were at.  After our meeting, I walked over and gave my $10 to Tommy.

Photo: Reed

He is vendor # 003.  That’s right…he is the third vendor hired.  Tommy’s been selling Street Sense for about six years.  He credit’s his friend Jose for encouraging him to sell the paper.  At first Tommy didn’t think he would be good at it, but he proved himself wrong.  Having a job turned out to be one of the key elements in Tommy’s sobriety.  After years of drug and alcohol abuse, the 54-year-old father turned his life around seven years ago by getting sober.  He is currently homeless, but stays in a local shelter and is an active voice in housing issues for the homeless.

I found a link on Street Sense’s website that had a small write-up on Tommy.  I have copied a Q&A section that was part of the write-up that I thought you might find interesting.

What is your favorite kind of music?

Jazz, Korean and Jamaican music

What is your favorite food?

Steak with mashed potatoes and gravy

What is your favorite movie?

I like Batman and Spiderman but also like horror movies.

How did you become homeless?

I got myself into trouble doing stuff I wasn’t supposed to.

Were you ever homeless before?

Yes, about 20 years ago.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Tommy sees himself getting his drug counselors license and giving back to the community that helped him. He would also like to find a permanent residence.

Tommy never graduated from high school so now he is working on getting his GED.  He hopes that once he gets his degree that he can go on to be certified as a drug counselor for recovering addicts.  I think this would be a fantastic role for him.

He plans to use the $10 to pay bills.  Selling the Street Sense is a big part of Tommy’s life, but he still lacks the funds to secure private housing.  As he said in the interview excerpt above, he would really like to have his own place.  I asked Tommy how we could help him and he gave me a list of several things that he needed.

Here’s a short video from my chat with him.  You’re gonna like him!

Tommy can be found weekdays at either 11th/G, 13/G, or 14th/G and on Thursdays, Saturday, and Sunday at 29th/M.
 

Update July 7, 2010: Here is a little video from my first delivery of items for Tommy.  Thanks to all who continue to help Tommy out.  Be sure to check the Lend a Hand section for updated items that he needs.

Update June 26, 2011: Congratulations to Tommy who celebrated 8 years sober on May 27th!

Update December 4, 2012: I learned today hat Tommy died on November 18th. He was 56. He was battling some health issues, but I didn’t realize it had gotten that dire. He was a good man that I admired. I will miss him. I hopefully will get some more details tomorrow.

Read Full Post »

Day 117 – Rob C.

Rob has to fold 40 napkins before leaving (Photo: Reed)On Saturday night I was eating at a downtown restaurant here in DC with some friends.  Our waiter was a 29-year-old guy named Rob.

I asked him if he had a few minutes that he could break away from his other tables.  He said he would come back in a little while and sure enough he did.  Rob took a seat at the table and I asked him what he does when he is not waiting tables and the answer I got shocked me quite a bit.

“I’m mostly just concentrating on being sober.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to take this.  Was it a joke, or was Rob serious.  I quickly deduced that he was indeed serious.  He shares with us that he got hooked on crystal meth for about nine months until one day he realized he hadn’t slept in days and was an absolute wreck.  “I wasn’t selling myself.  I wasn’t stealing, but I also knew that that was next…I was about to cross that line.” 

He went on to share something that he recently heard in rehabilitation, “The thing about addiction is that people continue these behaviors in spite of catastrophic consequences.”

Rob’s addiction perplexed him.  Neither of his parents were abusers of any kind of drug or alcohol, but he had a grandparent on each side with addiction issues.  Perhaps he has a genetic predisposition to it.

Rob agreed to talk to me on camera.  He talks about giving, the $10, about his struggle with substance abuse, and the future.

Rob later told me that he has not been sober for five months; rather he has been in treatment for five months and been sober for two months.  I told him that those details were less important in my mind as this is something he needs to work at day by day.  

I sometimes watch Intervention on A&E.  The one interventionist, Jeff VanVonderen, who has been sober for 25 year recently relapsed with his alcohol addiction.  So, it is a lifelong process and commitment.

I received the following note from Rob this week:

I have contemplated the fate of my $10.  Theoretically it will go towards debt, in particular the taxes I will file tomorrow.  But I’ve already spent $60 since I received it.  Did I use for cigarettes?  Paper towels and cookies from CVS? The Chinese food I ordered from O’Tasty? And every time I use my debit card, $1 is automatically transferred into my savings account.  Did any of those dollars come from the ten I got from you?  Then of course there’s June 15.  If I give away $10, might that be the very same $10 I got on day 117 of the Year of Giving?

I asked Rob if he needed anything that I cold list on the Lend a Hand section.  He explained that he really wanted to get back into modern dance and would really like to take some classes.  Financially that will be a challenge so if anyone would like to help Rob, he would love to receive a gift card for a dance studio that is Metro accessible, like Joy of Motion, Dance Place, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, or even Maryland Youth Ballet.  Maybe one of these dance studios would consider donating some classes for Rob as well.

Rob’s manager came over and gave him that look like, “you need to get back to work.”  I hope I didn’t get him in trouble.  We left, but I have thought about our conversation a lot since then and am really pulling for Rob to beat this addiction.

Read Full Post »

I have been so impressed with how many people I know who have opened up their wallets and hearts to help those in Haiti.  Maybe it is because technology has made it easier for us to make contributions, maybe it is because many of us remember our own times of need and how much it means when someone offers to help.  Regardless of the reason, I am impressed.  I have also seen the generous side of many people after they have learned about the Year of Giving.  Thanks to all of you who have offered me support and encouragement.

Today I struck out three times before finding a willing recipient of my $10.  I first approached a city worker.  There is an area of DC called the Golden Triangle.  That district has workers dawned in bright yellow vests whose job it is to help people find where they are going and keep the area clean and safe.  I doubt they get paid very well and they offer a great service.  The first person I approached said he was not able to accept money while he was working.  So, I went on my way and saw a Latino man leaving a bank with a chef’s outfit on.  I approached him and he seemed very skeptical of my intentions.  He said he was working and could not talk to me.  I gave him my card and kept on walking.  Then I saw another Golden Triangle employee and thought I would see if I got the same answer as his colleague.  Sure enough, he toted the company line.

Three refusals…wow.  One more and I will have a new single day record.  I walked by a man sitting on a park bench next to a guitar case.  Bill was dressed all in black and sporting dark sunglasses.  He looked cool and relaxed as he enjoyed his coffee on this warmer than average Tuesday.  I sat down next to him and explained what I was doing.  He smiled easily and said he really liked my project. 

Bill playing a few songs at Dupont Circle

Bill has been playing guitar for 45 years.  He tells me that he has played and worked with all kinds of people in all kinds of places.  From street corners to now mega-star Alicia Keys.  Yep, Bill did some work for Alicia Keys when she was a young teenager.  He says he likes any kind of music, “from the 50’s to Smashing Pumpkins.”  He credits the Ink Spots, the Platters, and all of Motown as influencing factors.

In recent years, Bill has not been so fortunate.  Playing some gigs here and there and getting some extra cash on the street.  He entertains the public in front of the Starbucks at Dupont Circle and the North and South Dupont Metro entrances.  On a good day he says he brings in over $100.  On a bad day $15. 

If you want to check out some of Bill’s music, you can find him on MySpace.  The site is outdated and doesn’t look like it has been updated in a few years.  I asked Bill if he had family and he mentioned 7 brothers and sisters.  On the MySpace page you will also find what looks to be a blog post by Bill in 2007 asking for help finding his two children that he apparently has lost touch with.  Sad.  He is such a nice guy.

So I asked Bill what he was going to do with the money and he said it would go to food and utilities.  I get the feeling he is not paying rent right now and tries to give as much as possible to his roommate, a fellow musician. 

Bill pulled his guitar out and tuned it.  His fingertips tell the whole story; the hardened skin from years of sliding his fingers up and down the guitar.  He plays a couple tunes and even breaks into some vocals as well.  It would have been a beautifully serene moment had it not been for a certifiably crazy man screaming on the next bench over.

Before I left I asked Bill what his all-time favorite song was…Moonlight Serenade.  For those who live/work/play near Dupont Circle, keep an eye out for Bill and say hello.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 324 other followers