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Posts Tagged ‘charities’

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

Columbus Day weekend delivered quintessential fall weather here in our nation’s capital. Bright sunny days that gave way to stark autumn evenings. And if you walked down Pennsylvania Avenue– just a few short blocks from the White House – you would have smelled the aromas of gourmet food and heard the sounds of live music echoing off the governmental walls that line the street. That’s right; it’s the Taste of D.C. festival.

And after a bowl of Ben’s famous chili or a mouth-watering plate from SÂUÇÁ you might need something cold and refreshing to wash it all down with. Look no further than the Craft Beer & Wine Pavilion. Dozens of craft breweries and wineries were set up to give visitors a taste, literally, of some of the most refined libations around.

I actually worked a shift for Stoudt’s (you might remember them from Day 77 of my Year of Giving) and helped the small craft brewer introduce their brews to the palates of Washington. The beer pavilion is run by a handful of staff from the breweries themselves with the help of a small army of volunteers. Unfortunately that small army was really small and the tent would go through periods where it was severely understaffed. So I decided to go back the next day and help them out. After all a portion of the proceeds went to DC Central Kitchen, Bread for the City, Luke’s Wings, and the American Red Cross – all really good organizations.

So there I was for another shift, pouring beers and answering questions about the subtleties of the different malt beverages. “Either I’ve had too many or I think I taste something like those little banana flavored Runts candies,” a bearded thirty-something guy told me as he smelled and resampled Stoudt’s Heifer-in-Wheat, a Bavarian style Hefeweizen. Well, he very might be more sober than you think. No, the beer doesn’t have Runts candies, but you get some of that fruit flavor from the German yeast that is used. It’s also got a sweetness about it thanks to a generous amount of malt that goes into the brew. Although not my favorite of their 15 or so beers that they make, on a warm autumn day it’s perfection.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

One of the places that I find myself going back to time and again to search for volunteer opportunities is VolunteerMatch.  While the system is not perfect, it is probably the most comprehensive website with national coverage that you will find.  These guys are the match.com of the volunteer universe.  Yesterday I wrote about Sparked, the leader in virtual microvolunteering, VolunteerMatch is a much broader platform for discovering face to face and virtual volunteer opportunities of all kinds, including microvolunteering.

The history of this volunteer matching powerhouse goes back to the early nineties when a team of four were sitting around trying to figure out what to do with their MBA degrees.  They ended up pulling together a plan in 1994 to launch an online nonprofit that would promote community involvement.

Fast forward nearly twenty years and you have VolunteerMatch which last year welcomed 8.4 million visitors!  In a nutshell what they are doing is strengthening communities by making it easier for do-gooders to connect with organizations doing good in order to create greatness.

If you are passionate about volunteering and have not checked out their website, go there NOW and sign up.  You plug in your location and a few key words about your interests in volunteering and voilà!  You’ve got a list of opportunities to volunteer right in front of you.  Choose the one you want and they exchange your information with the organization and your set.

My experience is that I usually get contacted by the organization within 24-48 hours, but if not, you get their contact information as well and can reach out to them.

Although they do have the option to search for virtual volunteer opportunities, my feeling is that Sparked has established itself as best in class in that arena.

You can read about two of my recent volunteer outings that I found on VolunteerMatch: the MS Society and the Arthritis Foundation.

Stop reading this and go sign up!

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A Bread for the City volunteer plates food for the picnic guests (photo: Reed)

The Year of Giving has given me a renewed appreciation for so many organizations in the DC area that provide tremendous social good.  Several people who have been daily recipients of the Year of Giving have sung the praises of organizations such as:  American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Bread for the City, DC Cares, DC Central Kitchen, Food and Friends, Green Door, Martha’s Table, Miriam’s Kitchen, SOME, Street Sense, etc.  Today’s recipient possibly owe’s his wife’s life to a physician at one of these organizations.

Started in 1974, Bread for the City is a front line agency serving Washington’s poor.  The agency began as two organizations; Zacchaeus Free Clinic began in 1974 as a volunteer-run free medical clinic, and Bread for the City was created in 1976 by a coalition of downtown churches to feed and clothe the poor.  The two entities merged in 1995.  Today, we operate two Centers in the District of Columbia and provide direct services to low-income residents of Washington, DC.  All of our services are free.  Our mission is to provide comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services to low-income Washington, DC residents in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.  – Source: www.breadforthecity.org

I have been aware of Bread for the City for many years, however, haven’t had the chance to get to know their services first hand.  So I decided to attend their Parking Lot Picnic and got to meet several of the staff members there and even got a tour of the facility which is currently being expanded (Thanks Kristin!)  Some of their staff worked hard all afternoon to provide hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone.  I grabbed a burger and sat down at a table next to Mike.  I had no idea how he and his story would impact me.

Mike and Reed (photo: Marnette)

Mike has been volunteering at Bread for the City for the last three years, but his relationship with the organization goes back much further.  You see Mike was a bicycle messenger and used to do a lot of deliveries for an insurance claims center.  He would go to Bread for the City and pick up claims for their clients and then deliver them to the processing center.  He was there all the time.  “Of all the places that I had to go and make a pick-up, this is the only place that had all their forms ready and organized” he said.

Well during the time that he was picking up forms at Bread for the City, his wife was struggling with a mysterious illness.  “No one could figure it out.  She couldn’t hold anything down” he said.  “No fluids, nothing!”  She got down to 98 pounds and was deathly ill.  “About once a week we would have to call an ambulance and she’d go in and they’d give her an IV and she’d be better for a while, but then when she would get home it’d start again.”  They stuck her so many times that they had to resort to her neck in order to find good veins.

Finally one day he was at Bread for the City and met Dr. Randi, the organization’s medical director.  Dr. Randi agreed to take a look at his wife’s situation and noticed she was on all kinds of medications.  Dr. Randi ordered her to stop taking all the medicine for a while so that she could start to understand what was going wrong and then carefully prescribe medicine to correct the issues that she discovers.  Well guess what happened?  After Marnette, Mike’s wife, went off all the medicine, she started getting better.  She was holding down food and putting on weight.  It wasn’t long before she was perfectly fine.  I met Marnette, who works in food service at Powell Elementary School, and she looked healthy and said she couldn’t feel better today.  They are both extremely thankful for Dr. Randi’s dedication and compassion.

Photo: Reed

Fast forward to the present.  He and his wife are happily married and healthy.  Mike no longer is a bike messenger.  “The bike messenger business has completely changed.”  According to Mike after 9/11, the anthrax scares and the increased exchange of electronic files, the number of bike messengers in DC plummeted.  Now he drives tour buses and limousines.  “Instead of taking envelopes from Point A to Point B, I take people!”

Mike said that he was going to use the $10 to buy groceries for him and his wife.

If you would like to volunteer or support Bread for the City, go to their website and click on “Get Involved.”

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Ben & Jerry's Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

I am still behind on posting my giving experiences.  Today’s post is from last Tuesday!  I’m going to try to start ‘posting two a day until I get caught up.

I was walking home from a meeting and noticed a large line outside of the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop south of Dupont Circle on 19th Street. 

As it turns out it is Customer Appreciation Day where they give everyone a free scoop of ice cream.  Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t stop there though, they also partner with cause related organizations to give them an opportunity to fund-raise.  

Here’s how it works.  Ben & Jerry’s allows the charitable organization to be present and ask for donations on free scoop day.  In addition, if a patron donates $2 or more, Ben & Jerry’s gives the donor a 10% off card valid for all purchases for a year.  Great idea!

I had to stop.  The organization asking for donations was Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund.  I donated $5 to the organization and then decided to try to give my $10 to person asking for donations.

Emily (Photo: Reed)

Originally from Arizona, Emily is a Research Assistant with the organization.  It was quite chilly that afternoon and Emily looked like it was taking a toll on her.  Her face was tight and body scrunched together as she tried to stay warm.  Her coat sleeves provided little relief for her exposed hands that held her sign.

Emily said that she was going to give the money to someone else.  “I am not exactly sure how, but it will go toward helping someone else out!” she cheerfully shared.  I asked if she gave regularly and her smile went awry and she said, “Well, my fiancée is better at that than I am.”

There were several interns helping Emily get donations.  They would tell the people in line that they were accepting donations for the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund as well as explain the added benefit that patrons would receive by donating more than $2.  At some point the interns had to leave and Emily was left by herself.  I noticed that the donations slowed down as people were just walking by Emily.  I had a few minutes to spare and offered  to walk up and down the line and tell those waiting about the opportunity to donate and receive the Ben & Jerry’s discount card.  I did this until 5:30 when a fresh set of volunteers were scheduled to arrive.  I had to get going and said goodbye to Emily. 

A few hours later I received the following email from Emily!

I was so excited to do something with my $10 but was not sure that “something” would be blatantly obvious. I was wrong. Not only did I have the opportunity to use my $10 for someone else’s well-being, but it happened a mere 2 hours after meeting you.

I was freezing cold after working outside trying to get donations for the organization I work for and just wanted to get home. Upon trying to enter the blue line platform [on the Metro], I discovered the blue line was having massive issues. It was going to be a very long wait to even board a train. I decided I would get a drink and wait it out. Perfectly logical, right? As soon as I stepped outside it began to pour rain. After running into the nearest bar and discovering there was not a single seat, I settled on a nearby Subway.

As I tried to rush in the doors from the rain I was approached by a seemingly homeless female. Now, my personal policy is to not give money to homeless individuals. This is not because I am heartless; rather, I prefer to make donations elsewhere to places I have a better idea of where my money will go. So when she started to ask me–I already had my mind made up–I said no. What I didn’t process until after I had said no, was that she didn’t ask for money–she asked for a sandwich. I promptly ordered 2 turkey meal deals. She was very thankful and is currently eating her sandwich across the room from me.

I wonder what her story is.

Thanks for the opportunity to make someone’s day. I’m still in subway typing this email out…I couldn’t wait to share my ten dollar story.

 Respectfully,

Emily (day 99!)

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