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Posts Tagged ‘food’

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

One in three children in the United States are overweight or obese.

The CDC reports that since 1980 obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.  So what is being done to stop this? Well, some of the most influential stakeholders came together in Washington last month to actively discuss innovative ways to reverse the rising trend of childhood obesity – and guess who volunteered their time at this conference? You guessed it.

photo courtesy of cbs.com

As a chubby kid myself, I have more than just a casual interest in the subject. As a young adult I started to get interested in the food that I ate and how it affected my health. I even had the honor to work for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation a few years ago, one of six founding members of the Partnership for a Healthier America.

At this first of its kind summit I was charged with being a facilitator for a breakout discussion about how the private sector can help reduce current barriers that negatively affect young people’s ability to participate in before and after school activities. Cash-strapped schools generally don’t have the means to provide transportation for students to either arrive earlier or go home later if kids choose to participate in sports and extra curricular activities outside of school hours.

I participated in several preparatory meetings and phone calls, read numerous articles and opinions on the subject and took off work to volunteer at the two-day conference. As it turns out though this is either not really a problem or in fact it is such a conundrum that people truly don’t know where to begin. I say that because only one person out of the more than 700 attendees showed up to the session! “I don’t know much about these challenges and thought this could get me up to speed,” she told me as she sat alone in a sea of chairs that I had formed into a large circle. We decided not to hold the session given the turnout and our brave attendee joined another session.

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My empty breakout session

Besides my rather anticlimactic session, I enjoyed the two-day experience and was particularly energized by the collective expertise and brainpower they managed to bring together. On top of that, there were memorable moments by tantalizing speakers such as First Lady Michelle Obama and Newark, NJ Mayor Corey Booker not to mention an entertaining and educational dinner program which challenged James Beard Award-winning chefs Tom Colicchio, Maria Hines, Holly Smith and Ming Tsai to create dinner meals on a SNAP (food stamp) budget of $10!
To learn more about this event and other resources to help reduce childhood obesity, check out the Partnership for a Healthier America or the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

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

This is the Giant where I did my research

Ever feel like supermarket prices are going through the roof? Well, those who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progam (SNAP) – formally known as Food Stamps – really feel these increases. And how do we know that the amount that SNAP provides is sufficient to meet a family’s food needs?

D.C. Hunger Solutions, a nonprofit here in the nation’s capital that works to create a hunger-free community, set out to answer this very question. On a warmer than usual November evening I found myself at their offices across from the Hilton Hotel near Dupont Circle participating in an orientation on how to visit supermarkets and record pricing data that can be used to compute whether the benefit offered through SNAP is sufficient to cover reasonable costs of buying food for low income families. They also want to find out if foods, especially high nutrient dense products, are equally available across the city regardless of socio-economic factors of the neighborhoods. The two staff members did a great job going over the process and then we were assigned a grocery store where we would record the prices for about 150 items.

Since I have a car they assigned me to a Giant Foods Store on Eastern Avenue up in Hyattsville, MD. I had Friday afternoon free and decided to go up there after lunch to do the inventory which we were told would take about an hour. I was to find very specific items and record the lowest available price for that size. So for example, I needed to find “Chocolate Drink Mix” in a 21.8 ounce package. After finding the right size, and who knew that 21.8 ounces is a pretty standard size for chocolate drink mix, I compared the prices of each one and determined that Nesquick was the cheapest at $5.59. Usually there is a store brand that is cheaper, but not in this case. Anyway, multiply that process by 150 and I ended up running up and down the aisles for about two and a half hours.

Despite some funny looks from those who saw me “shopping” for hours with no groceries to show for it, it was a good experience that helped me develop a greater respect and understanding of food pricing. When I got home I had to fill out an online form so that D.C. Hunger solutions could properly evaluate the data that I collected with data they received from the dozens of other stores from around the Greater Washington area.

If you would like to learn more about D.C. Hunger Solutions or volunteer with them, please visit their website.

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-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 Sandridge of Washington, DC.

One in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese according to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.  Pressure is growing on strapped for cash school systems to provide healthier meals.  D.C. Public Schools has implemented a salad bar system this year and asked for volunteers to help teach students how to make a healthy salad that complies with USDA requirements for school meals.

I signed up to help out at Ballou Senior High School.  Named after former D.C. superintendent of schools Dr. Frank W. Ballou, the school is located southeast of the Anacostia River and has a student body of about 1,000, nearly all of them eligible for free and reduced lunch.  I parked my car in the almost empty lot next to the football field and walked up the hill toward the school passing several parked police cars.  A friendly smile greeted me as the front door opened and a uniformed security guard motioned toward an airport like security checkpoint.  After collecting my camera and the contents of my pockets from the other side of the x-ray machine, the same woman explained to me how to get to the cafeteria.

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Ballou's salad bar minutes before students flood the cafeteria. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

I made my way across the empty dimly lit cafeteria and poked my head in the kitchen.  A dozen school cafeteria employees, mostly women, were busy making last-minute preparations for the second day of the school year.  I was directed to Mr. Sparrow, a thirty-year veteran of the food service industry.  He explained the task at hand and I, along with another volunteer named Hale, got ready for the first wave of students.

“It aint going to be easy,” Mr. Sparrow told me.  “You’ve got to make sure they have a balanced meal that includes vegetables, a protein, a fruit and a grain.”  Sounds easy enough, right?

Although most students chose the standard school meal, probably about 60 or 70 lined up to make a salad.  Freshly prepared that morning, the salad bar looked delicious.  Although students could choose from fresh romaine, arugula and endive, most stuck with the standard romaine lettuce.  Zucchini sticks weren’t very popular either, despite my sales pitch to the young people. Turkey ham, eggs, bacon bits and ranch dressing were the hot items.

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This young man made the healthiest salad I saw all day - all on his own! (photo: Reed Sandridge)

“Sir,” called out Mr. Sparrow to an upperclassmen dressed in the standard blue shirt and beige pants, “I need you to take a piece of fruit with you.”  The student pushed back some saying that he wasn’t going to eat it.  In the end he reluctantly grabbed a shiny red delicious apple and went on his way.  This type of scenario played out about half the time.  Sometimes they were missing fruit, other times they had loaded up on just meat and almost nothing else.  Stern yet compassionate, Sparrow and his team work with the students to get it right.  I secretly wondered where they found the patience to do this every single day.

An altercation erupts in the cafeteria courtyard and the half-dozen police officers on hand in the cafeteria quickly defuse it.  The experienced kitchen staff is unphased; just another day.

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Mr. Sparrow (right) gives some coaching to the students on their salad preparation. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

Overall it was a good experience.  It had been a while since I had been in a school cafeteria.  Although I applaud Ballou and DC Public Schools for taking on this initiative, I believe they will need additional help to make this work properly.  Just keeping the salad bar looking presentable is a full-time job for one worker who was busy restocking and cleaning up spilled toppings.  They need someone for the foreseeable future helping students build a healthy lunch.  As students head back to school tomorrow, the volunteers won’t be there anymore and I am afraid Mr. Sparrow and his team will be stretched too thin.

Check out this video that DC Public Schools put together to help volunteers learn how to build salads that qualify under USDA guidelines as a school meal.  I thought it was pretty good!

Here is a link to some other photographs that I took.  I will have more uploaded later this week.

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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 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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This weekend we had a snapshot of the cold that awaits us this winter.  This morning it was near freezing when I went to the gym.

Today’s post took place during a really busy work wise.  Long days followed by work related events in the evening.  After an event at the Brazilian embassy, I headed across town to meet up with a friend of mine from Spain who I hadn’t seen for years.  Although it was late, this was our only chance to meet up so you push yourself a little and try to squeeze everything in.

Exhausted, I hailed a cab home to my apartment in Dupont.  The driver was a man named Tekele.  He was really nice and I enjoyed talking with him.  Originally from Ethiopia, he’s been driving a cab here in DC for 18 years.  Before that he worked almost nine years for PMI, a leading parking management firm.  “I like driving a taxi very much,” he told me.  “But you have to be really disciplined to do well at this,” since you work your own hours and set your own schedule for the most part. 

Having been in the business for such a long time, he has seen it all.  “Just other day a guy got in my cab and told me to go to Georgia Avenue,” he began to tell me.  “Then he fell asleep.  When we got there I tried to wake him up but he was really sleeping hard.”  Tekele finally got the man out of his cab.

There is a large Ethiopian community in DC.  Tekele says that many people like himself fled his homeland as a result of the civil war that began there in the 70s.  “I originally escaped to Italy,” he told me explaining that he spent six months there until Catholic Charities arranged for him to come to the United States.  He hasn’t traveled back to Ethiopia much.  “It’s so expensive especially with kids,” the father of three told me. 

Ethiopian platter at Etete

I shared with him that I had tried Ethiopian food many years ago and didn’t care for it.  This is odd too because I like almost all kinds of foods from other countries.  Especially spicy food, like Ethiopian food.  I guess I just had a bad experience because I recently went to a place called Etete at the corner of 9th and U Streets and tried it again and really enjoyed it.  The injera, a spongy flatbread made with a thin sourdough batter, took a little getting used to.  “Etete is a good place,” Tekele confirmed. 

We got to my place and I explained my Year of Giving to him and asked him to accept my $10.  He agreed and I paid him the fare and tip plus the ten dollars. 

I got home and realized I totally forgot to ask him what he was going to do with the money!  It was late and I was really tired.  He had given me his cell number so I called him on Sunday October 31st and asked him.  He was happy to hear from me and explained that he had donated the money to his local Virginia police department.  Hopefully he gave it to the actual department and not the Fraternal Order of Police.  I’ve had a very bad experience with the telephone solicitors from that organization and no longer give to them.

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Volunteers enabled SOME to prepare almost 400,000 thousand meals last year. (Photo: Thom Wolf)

Volunteering is an integral part of society.  It helps ensure that essential public services are provided, builds social capital and fosters cohesive communities all while benefiting the volunteer as well by giving them opportunities to acquire new skills, have sense of purpose and integrate them into their community.  I encourage everyone to find some volunteer activity to do at least once a month.  It doesn’t need to be formal either.  It could be as simple as raking your elderly neighbors leaves, helping someone learn to read, or offering to provide a professional service or trade that you are skilled in at no cost.  Former President Clinton said in his book Giving, “Almost everyone – regardless of income, available time, age, and skills – can do something useful for others and, in the process, strengthen the fabric of our shared humanity.” How true he was.

On Day 277 I was volunteering at So Others Might Eat (SOME), an organization that has impressed me tremendously.  For 40 years they have been feeding and clothing DC’s homeless and poor, treating the ill in their medical, dental and mental health programs, training individuals for jobs and housing those in need. 

It was a Friday morning and I was volunteering in their dining room.  They serve breakfast and lunch to a couple hundred people in a short span of time so things need to be done quickly and efficiently. 

Michelle will celebrate eight years of sobriety on October 16th! (photo: Reed)

This is where today’s recipient comes in.  In addition to being the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, Michelle also is the Dining Room Manager.  In other words, while I am working in the dining room, she is my boss.  And let me tell you, she makes the place run.  She knows when not to take crap from someone but also knows when someone just needs a hug.  I even saw her take a minute to dance a little to the music that was playing and she’s got some moves!

Born in DC General Hospital, Michelle grew up in PG County.  She went to Largo High School and went on to study cosmetology.  But then things changed.  “I got into drugs and alcohol and let them override my education,” she explained.  “I was in and out of treatment, in and out of jail.  It was not a good situation.”  She became sober on October 16th, 2002 – same sobriety anniversary as Bob!  She worked a few jobs but really wanted to work at SOME.  “I applied and then was calling, calling, calling you know and I finally got the job!”

Michelle has three grown children and a grandchild.  She now lives on Capitol Hill, owns a vehicle and has a steady job that she enjoys.  “I am grateful for so many things.”

Michelle (right) with co-worker Brittany. (photo: Reed)

Michelle, who turns 48 in less than two weeks, says that it’s the little things that make her day.  “You know, sometimes people will come up to me and say ‘thank you, you helped me so much’ and that means a lot to me.”   She gets to know some of their guests very well.  “I’ve been to funeral services for some of them…in fact I’m going to one today.” 

She’s a people person.  “I think I’m funny,” she says with a smile.  She is and has a great smile, but she can be tough too.  “We don’t tolerate disrespect or disruptive behavior here.”  Just then a guest walks by and asks her a question.  She greeted them by saying, “Hello friend, what can I do for you?”  She calls everyone “friend.”  Michelle is one of those people that define the organization’s culture.  Weak organizations, especially service related organizations, lack people like Michelle.

SOME is located at 71 O Street in NW Washington DC. (photo: Reed)

The ten dollars I gave her would be spent on something small for herself.  “I’m going to be good to myself!”  She said she might get a sub from Subway.

If you are in the DC area and need a good place to volunteer, check out SOME.  Why not get a bunch of your friends or coworkers together and set up a day for you all to go and volunteer together.  More details on how you can help can be found here.

So Others Might Eat (SOME)
71 ‘O’ Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202.797.8806
www.some.org

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It was Friday night and I wandered out around my house to look for a recipient.  I don’t recall exactly what time it was, but if I had to guess I would say it was around 10:30pm.  

Molly was very suspicious of my intentions at first, but she gave me a chance. (photo: Reed)

I walked over to Dupont Circle.  I have probably given my $10 away at this location over 50 times.  I was trying to think how I could differentiate this experience from the other 50+ times.  I walked around but just didn’t see anyone that struck me.  I left the circle and started heading northwest on Massachusetts Avenue.  I spotted a PNC bank on my right where a young woman was withdrawing money from the ATM.

I thought to myself.  She obviously needs some money, she’s at the ATM, right?  Also, I thought it would somewhat of a challenge to approach someone using an ATM late at night.   

Keeping about 10 feet between us, I waited until Molly finished putting away her cash and called out to her.  I could tell that she felt a little threatened.  “I’m not interested,” she said as she started to walk away.  I asked her to just hear me out.  Still keeping my distance, I gave her my pitch and tried to win her confidence.  If I were in her shoes, I don’t know if I would have stopped to talk to a stranger who just saw me get money from an ATM machine late at night.  

Molly told me that she just got off work from nearby Sweet Green.  “I drive the Sweet Flow Mobile that goes around town,” she told me with a slight grin.  Although she has only been doing this for nine months, Sweet Green has been in business since about 2007.  I have eaten there.  Salads and yogurt are both pretty good.  

I asked her if I could ask her a few questions to which she responded, “Can I smoke a cigarette?”  It’s a free world I thought, so go ahead.  “I was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland,” she told me as she put the cigarette to her lips and lit it.  She is in college studying history with a special interest in Jewish studies and the holocaust.  

She told me about a backpacking trip she took across Europe and how she is planning to backpack through Asia next summer.  She even traveled to Morocco with her Quaker High School.   

She has an older brother who lives in London and her father is a highly regarded reporter for the Washington Post.  She shared a story about a time when her father was on the Jon Stewart show and she got to go with him to the studio.  I actually watched one of the clips online and found it pretty interesting.  

We walked around the building where we met and she showed me the Sweet Flow Mobile that she drives around.  Check out her special invitation for Barack Obama.   

I asked her what she was going to do with th $10.  “I’ll probably get a pack of cigarettes,” she told me.  I explained that she would be the sixth person to use the money for cigarettes.  My mother was a smoker for many years and died of heart disease at a fairly young age.  That on top of the fact that I think it is kind of a disgusting habit always makes me cringe a little internally when someone chooses to buy cigarettes with the money.  But that is her prerogative.  She shrugged her shoulders and said that one day she hopes to quit, but not right now.  Molly shared that her parents had actually offered her $500 to quit.  “I said no,” the 20-year-old told me, “Today, there is no amount of money that would make me quit.”  Wow, for anyone who thinks it’s easy to quit smoking, that statement should tell you something.  

Molly said that she would be happy to take the Sweet Green Mobile to the White House for President Obama. (photo: Reed)

Before leaving I asked her where people can find the Sweet Flow Mobile.  “We’re never at the same place two days in a row, but people can check out the schedule online to find us!”  I said goodbye and wished her luck getting President Obama to visit her.

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Harvey, 42, suffers from mental illness and has been homeless for about a year. (photo: Reed)

On any given night some 671,000 people in the United States, of which 5,320 are located in DC, are homeless according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  Harvey is one of them.

I saw him sitting on the ground next to the entrance to McDonald’s on M Street between 19th and 20th Streets in Northwest.  On his lap was a sign that read, “A man in need is a man without greed.  Please help.”  Next to him was a styrofoam container of food and a bag of personal items.

I met Harvey while he was eating lunch. (photo: Reed)

“I’ve been homeless here in DC for about a year now,” Harvey tells me as he eats some ribs that he purchased for his lunch.  Originally from Lancaster, PA, Harvey said he came down to DC with the hope of a job but his plans were shot after being robbed at Union Station upon arriving here.  “I lost everything I had – some $2,600 in cash.” 

He says that he feels lucky in the sense that people often help him.  “I usually get about $30 a day out here.”  Harvey says that gets support from people from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and races with one exception: Asians.  “I don’t know why but Orientals never help me out.”  He goes on to tell me that people who appear to be lower glass give more often than those who appear to be middle and upper class.

As we talked two people stopped to help Harvey out.  One was a young attractive professional who dropped some coins in his cup as she walked by.  The other was a British woman who stopped and asked if she could get him some food.  A few minutes later Jane returned from the McDonald’s with a bag that contained a Big-Mac, fries and a chocolate milkshake.  She even gave him the change from whatever amount she had used to pay for the food.  I asked her why she helped and she said that she felt very fortunate and that the least she could do is help someone else out.  “He’s down on his luck and I am able to help him out, that’s it.”

Harvey says that he has noticed that people’s response varies on the sign that he uses.  “One time I had a sign that said, ‘Please spare help for a worthless piece of shit.’  I made $60 that day.”  Although he was happy for the money he made that day, he stopped using the sign.  “I’m not a worthless piece of shit though; it’s hard to sit here behind that sign when you know that isn’t the truth.”

photo: Reed

He says that being on the streets has taught him survival skills.  “You have to take care of yourself, especially in the winter.  You learn how to use things like cardboard to help you stay warm.”  He also told me that he often has to shower in public fountains.  “I just bought some soap today, I try to stay clean.”

Harvey, who says he has five sisters and three brothers, isn’t in regular contact with most of his family.  “They don’t care about others.”  He also doesn’t seem to have any friends in DC.  “I don’t associate with too many people.”

He goes on to say that some of his challenges are a result of his mental illness.  “Most homeless suffer from sort of mental problem or physical problem.  I’m bipolar.”  Harvey says that he has often thought about committing suicide.  He doesn’t take any medication to help with his mental illness either.

He told me that he was going to use the ten dollars to get him some food over the next couple days and also buy a couple of beers for the evening.  “I don’t do any drugs or hard liquor.  The hard stuff makes me suicidal,” Harvey confessed. 

I shook his hand and wished him luck.  He mentioned some items that he needs and I have added them to the Lend a Hand page.

If you would like to help the homeless in Washington, DC, I encourage you to support your local Street Sense vendor or make a donation through their website.

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I am so excited for you to meet today’s recipient.  Her name is Charlotte.  She is 93, born and raised in New Orleans, LA.  I had the pleasure of meeting her as she and her sister enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon view of the harbor in Annapolis, MD.

People always ask me how I select the people that I give to.  I wish I had some really good answer, but it’s much more of a spur of the moment decision than any type of scientific process.  On this day I could have given my $10 to several other people.  I could have given it to a struggling Naval Academy plebe that I had seen that day carry boxes…

At the Naval Academy the plebes were tirelessly carrying boxes all over campus. Some looked near exhaustion. (photo: Reed)

Or these young kids that were patrolling the harbor…

It wasn't until the boat got closer that I realized that they were kids and we were not being attacked. (photo: Reed)

I even tried to give the $10 to Alex Haley…

Me trying to give my $10 to Alex Haley, award-winning author of Roots. (photo: Reed)

Or this guy playing guitar…

A busker playing some music steps from the pier. (photo: Reed)

But in the end I chose the right person…

I hope that I have half of Charlotte's energy, humor and joie de vivre when I am 93! (photo: Reed)

I saw Charlotte sitting on a bench with Jewell, the youngest of her five siblings.  I immediately knew that I wanted to give her my $10 for the day.  She looked so happy and relaxed sitting there watching the sail boats glide by.  You would have never known that she had gotten up early and flown 1,100 miles from New Orleans earlier that day.

I introduced myself and Jewell, who lives nearby, told me that she had heard about the Year of Giving.  The ladies invited me to sit down and we chatted for probably 45 minutes.  The proud mother of ten children, Charlotte shared her entire family with me.  There was the ordained priest, the Jesuit brother, the daughter that lives on a boat, Tommy who moved to Houston many years ago, Charlotte who they call “Suzie”, the son who lived in Pohnpei in the SE Asian Caroline Islands, her 6th, 7th and 8th children who were all boys, and the youngest two who were girls.  Although her first five children didn’t have children the other five combined to have 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.  

Jewell, Reed, Charlotte (photo: M. Legrain)

Charlotte graduated high school at 16 and went to Normal school to become a teacher and began teaching in the New Orleans public school system in the mid thirties at the age of 18.  But it was one summer that she was studying at Loyola that she met the man who ended up being her husband.  “My friend Charlie introduced me to him.  He lived over on Bank Street.”  She told me how things were different back then and they used to go out more in groups as friends rather than couples.  “I had decided that I was going to start dating someone else, but then my husband asked me out for every Saturday night for the next year!”  That’s a pretty good strategy.  Unfortunately he died in 1978 after 40 years of marriage.

The sun began to lower in the sky slightly and I could feel my neck starting to get burned.  Charlotte seemed comfortable though.  She came prepared with a beautiful scarf that not only protected her skin from the sun but also matched her earrings and necklace.  The hot sun might have had a slight influence on her decision to get some ice cream with the $10.

Travel seemed to be something that she really enjoyed.  “I’ve been to France, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, Thailand, Hong Kong – come to think of it I left a bathing suit in Hong Kong,” she said making us all laugh.  She also made several trips to the Pacific to visit her son who lived in the Caroline Islands.  He had gone there initially as part of a mission and ended up running an agriculture school. 

Mmmmm...Central Grocery's Muffuletta

No matter where she has traveled, she always ends up back in New Orleans.  “You can get just about the best food in the world in Nawlins,” according to Charlotte.  I have to admit, some of my favorite meals have been there.  From the turtle soup at Commander’s Palace to fried green tomatoes from Jacques-Imo’s Café to the world’s best muffuletta sandwich at Central Grocery, it’s a food lover’s paradise.  By the way, how do you spell muffuletta…I have seen it this way and also muffulatta and muffalata…but it doesn’t seem consistent.  Anyway, even the coffee at Café du Monde is pretty extraordinary – or maybe it’s the side order of beignets that makes the coffee so delicious!  “Maspero’s Café also makes a good muffuletta sandwich,” according to Charlotte.  I will have to add that place to my list.

About this time Charlotte looked at me and said, “You know the more I think about this I think I have heard about what you are doing on the news in New Orleans.”  There was a short pause and she thought for a second, “But I remember thinking when I heard about it, ‘that’s never gonna happen to me!’” 

We laughed a lot. From L-R, Charlotte, Jewell and Jewell's husband. (photo: Reed)

Jewell’s husband arrived and took a seat next to his wife.  “I made ten dollars while you were gone,” Charlotte quipped. 

I had so many other questions in my head for Charlotte.  She was such a wonderful woman, but they needed to get going.  She doesn’t use email so she game me her home address.  I plan to send her a letter with this blog posting printed out.  I told her that I was going to look her up the next time I was in New Orleans.  She smiled and said that that would be nice.  She’s avid bridge player and I’m looking forward to having her as my bridge partner. 

The three turned their backs to the sail boats and the glimmering water and Charlotte steadied herself behind her walker.  I watched them fade toward the center of picturesque Annapolis. 

What amazing people I meet!

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Five Guys cheeseburger and fries

 

Who doesn’t like a good burger?  Ok, maybe a vegetarian, but probably even they like a good veggie burger, right?  I live dangerously close to a Five Guys burger joint.  I have to exercise incredible restraint in order to not end up there too often.  Well, you might find yourself wanting a burger by the end of this post. 

Late in the evening of day 247, I spotted a guy crossing Connecticut Avenue carrying what looked like high chairs that restaurants have for small children.  I hurried across the street to catch up with the man who was now loading them into a vehicle.  It was close to midnight and I was interested in what someone does with restaurant high chairs in the middle of the night. 

Julio loads some high chairs that need fixed into his car. (photo: Reed)

 

I called out to the man and he turned to face me.  Julio is a manager for the Five Guys on Connecticut Avenue in the Dupont area.  He explains to me that he noticed that the high chairs needed to be repaired so he was taking them home to fix them. I wasn’t surprised that the 34-year-old was looking out for kids when I learned that he was the father of four daughters and one son.  The oldest is 16 and the youngest is ten months! 

Before joining the fast growing burger chain, Julio was doing work on floors in VA.  Before that he said he was living in Brooklyn, NY.  I asked some more questions about what he was doing in NY and he looked at me very squarely and told me that he spent 14 years in New York State prison.  I asked him what he was convicted of and he just said “violence.”  Now you might think that this would make me a little nervous, not at all.  He is the nicest guy.  “I’ve learned a lot about life,” he says.  “I got spiritual.”  He was released four years ago and moved his family away from his old barrio to the DC area to start over. 

Now here is the part I started to question.  How was his wife having these kids while he was serving his sentence…  He told me that he had kids that were 16, 11, 8, 2 and 10 months.  How was he having kids while he was in prison?  The answer: conjugal visits.  Yep!  I actually did a little research on this and according to Wikipedia conjugal visit privileges have been removed from all federal prisons and all but six state systems: California, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York and Washington.  I am not condoning criminal behavior, but if you are going to commit a crime I recommend one of those states.  I’m just saying. 

All that seems left of his past are some tattoos that decorate his arms.  “I was young,” he says referring to the fact that he was incarcerated at the age of 16.  He says that his focus now is on work and spending time with his wife and five children.  I asked him where he would like to be in 10 years and he said he hoped to own a couple of Five Guys franchises and possibly get into real estate.  He could use some help getting there though.  “I could use some financial planning advice,” he told me.  He wants to make sure that he manages his finances in such a way that he is able to realize his goals.  If any good financial planners out there are willing to do some pro-bono work, let me know and I can connect you with Julio.  Speaking of money…Julio said my $10 would get spent on gas.  He drives back and forth to Maryland every day for work. 

Julio has been with Five Guys for two years (photo: Reed)

 

So now the fun part.  Did you think I was going to end this without giving your stomach something to think about?  Well, I couldn’t resist asking Julio what his favorite burger was.  He said that was easy.  “Cheeseburger, all the sauces – ketchup, A-1, Bar-B-Q and hot sauce – pickles, onions and extra cheese.”  And with that he says you gotta order the Cajun fries.  Or maybe a little bit of both the Five Guys style and Cajun fries. 

Now as I explained on Day 238 to Paul, Five Guys is awesome (and they are even more awesome for investing in a good guy like Julio), but my favorite burger is from Ray’s Hellburger in Rosslyn, VA.  He said he hadn’t heard of Ray’s so some day I am going to take Julio over there with me and get him a burger.  Heck, maybe Paul will come with us too!

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Jon gets a fresh delicious pretzel for a customer (photo: Reed)

 

On Sunday I said goodbye to Sweetie and Manassas and headed back to DC. On the way home I stopped at the Tyson’s Corner Mall. I got to admit that I have almost no willpower when it comes to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. I succumbed to the cravings and walked over and got a pretzel. My favorite one is the jalapeno, but they didn’t have that at this one so I just got the original. Mmmm…it was devoured in about two minutes.  

As I was eating I thought that maybe I could give my $10 to the guy who sold me the pretzel.  I walked back over and introduced myself to Jon and explained what I was doing. He said he would accept my $10 and I chatted with him while he prepared the place for closing, after all the mall was closing in about 10 minutes.  

Jon (photo: Reed)

 

After four months working for the pretzel gods, Jon says that the original pretzel is the most common. “We also sell a lot of almond pretzels,” he says. I never knew they sold almond pretzels but he says that they are quite popular with Asian Americans. Which is interesting, because when I used to live in Brazil they had pretzel shops there too, but they never sold salted pretzels, mostly sweet pretzels. Brazilians like salty snacks; I’ve always thought that the original pretzel would be very popular there.   Maybe they would like the almond pretzel!  Anyway.  

Jon comes across as a professional, charismatic guy. I was a little surprised that he was working in retail at the mall. He shared with me that he had been convicted of felony drug charges in the past and it was hard to find work. “I was sentenced to 15 months in Arlington County jail,” he tells me although he later explains that the majority of the sentence he served in a rehabilitation center. “That’s in the past now.  I’m clean now. I was at a point in my life when I needed change,” Jon said.  

Now he is focused on other things. He realized he had to exchange his old lifestyle and friends for a new lifestyle that would allow him to live a productive life. When he is not working he says that he enjoys going to the gym, playing sports and rooting for the Redskins. He has also invested time and money into getting his A+ Certification for computer systems. He has done all the coursework he needs he just needs to take the final exam. He got interested in computers at an early age and has been building his own computers for the past four to five years.  

Jon attends to some customers (photo: Reed)

 

A family walked up and ordered three pretzels. “We have a special that if you buy two you get the third one free,” he told her. That made them so happy. 

I learned that three nights a week they give their leftover food to a shelter program. Very nice. I am not sure why they don’t do it every night but I suspect it might present some logistical challenges.  

“So what do you think you will use the $10 for?” I asked him. He didn’t waste any time to blurt out, “Bus fare!” He sometimes uses a scooter, but relies heavily on the bus system. “Right now my scooter is in the shop actually,” he said. “It was supposed be ready the other day but now it wont be ready until tomorrow at the earliest – that’s the kind of stuff that used to set me off when I was using, but now it doesn’t really bother me.”  

One of his colleagues showed up from the other location that Auntie Anne’s has in the mall. I told him that I would let him go and packed up my stuff and tried to figure out how I was going to get out of the mall because some of the exits were now closed.  Jon told me how to get out and thanked me and I wished him a good night. He smiled and said, “Thanks, I will. I’m actually meeting my mother for dinner!”

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Sometimes I get almost to the end of the day and still haven’t given away my $10.  The biggest challenge when this happens is that being dark outside creates another element to the task.  At least here in the city, people’s defense mechanisms are heightened at night.  We are much more leery of someone who approaches us at night, so sometimes I end up going to business establishments that are lit up where people have a greater sense of security, albeit perhaps a false one. 

Bar at Kramer's Afterwords Cafe (Photo: Reed)

A few minutes later a few guys came in and I honed in on my target: Pat.  

He was a white guy with a beard who looked to be in his twenties.  He had a Pabst Blue Ribbon hat on and a shirt that said something like “Grumpy’s.”  This should be interesting. 

It turns out that Pat is a chef at a nearby restaurant.  I love to cook and had my chance to ask him some burning questions I had, but I didn’t capitalize on the opportunity.  I did ask him however what his favorite item to prepare was.  “The pig.  It’s the greatest animal ever!  It’s 100% edible from snout to tail.”  I would have thought some other animals fit that description too, but maybe they are not as tasty as the pig. 

We started talking about some other things and the topic of the snowpocalypse came up.  He told me how he ended up being stuck downtown for a week.  His employer got him and some other staff a room for the week and he worked 14 hour days.  “We did our best day of business so far this year on the day of the snowball fight at Dupont Circle” Pat tells me.  “We sold over 200 bottles of wine in just two hours.”  They couldn’t open bottles fast enough at one point. 


I asked Pat to think of three words that fully described him.  “Genuine, crazy and asshole” he says as he looks to his pals to get confirmation.  “I tell it like it is and I help other people out.”  As for being crazy he says that anyone who works in the restaurant busy is crazy.  “You can’t work in this business and be sane.  This is the most hard-core cut-throat business there is.”  He adds that alcohol and drug abuse is more common in restaurant service business too which “makes it even crazier.”  

The big and small hand on the clock are creeping toward 12 when the Metro closes during the week and Pat is ever mindful of the time.  He and his buddies decide they have to leave in order to catch the last train.  They were heading to watch Showtime’s comedy-drama hit Weeds.  

“I’ll probably spend the $10 on alcohol or put it on my Metro card.”  He grabs his bag and downs the rest of his beer.  “It’ll probably get spent on alcohol” he says with a smile as he hurries out the door.

Would you believe the very next day I was driving along 22nd Street in DC and saw Pat and his PBR hat.  He didn’t see me because I couldn’t stop, but it was him.  Small world.

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I have hit the streets every single day for the past 225 days searching for someone to give my $10 to.  This journey started out during a difficult time for me.  For the first time since I was 12 (stop calling the Department of Labor, I was a paper boy!) I was out of a job.  Through the Year of Giving I meet so many other amazing people who are in similar situations and every day they look for work or someone who will give them a chance.  Today I met a person who does just that!

Robert (photo: Reed)

Robert Egger is the Founder and President of the DC Central Kitchen, the nation’s first “community kitchen”, where unemployed men and women learn marketable culinary skills while donated food is converted into wholesome meals.  Pretty cool, eh?

At 52, Robert’s life has taken an unlikely course for someone whose dream 30 years ago was to open the quintessential nightclub in the country.  Back then he worked in clubs and bars and even got to see the Ramones and Bruce Springsteen play in what is now the Darlington House in Dupont.  As we walk east along E Street, Robert explains how in 1989 he cooked up this idea to feed the poor after a volunteer experience.  20 million meals later, he and DC Central Kitchen have done a lot of good and given over 700 men and women full-time employment as well!

In one of our tangents, Robert explained how two men covered the entire country painting Mail Pouch signs on barns. One went and made the deals and the other followed painting he barns.

I had seen Robert once before.  He spoke at an event earlier this year and I was so impressed at how he sees the world.  He can take 5 random subject ingredients, toss them together and come up with a coherent message that is meaningful and memorable.  It’s no surprise that he spends a great deal of his time speaking to groups around the country about harnessing nonprofit power.

He was born in the little town of Milton, Florida (population about 10,000) nine months after his parents tied the knot.  “I was a wedding night baby!” he says with a wide grin that reaches outside of his goatee.  “1958 – me, Madonna, Prince and Kevin Bacon!”  Can you name three famous people who were born the same year you were?   I don’t think I can.

One thing you definitely notice about Robert is that he speaks fast.  Trying to walk and jot down notes was nearly impossible so I busted out the Flip camera.  Try to keep up…

As he arrives back at the DC Central Kitchen, a young woman named Becky walks by.  Robert snags her and beams as he tells me what a great job she has done leading their job placement program.  “We placed 20 out of 21 candidates in our last class” Becky says and then hustles back to work.

As she slips out of sight I shift back into my list of questions for Robert.  Before I could even get my next thought conjured up in my head another team member, Quinn, walks by.  Robert pulls him aside and says “I know exactly what I am going to do with this $10 and Quinn here is going to make it happen!”  Quinn’s face looked like most people’s face when I tell them I want to give them $10…a little confused.  But he goes with the flow and Robert explains how giving the $10 to Quinn will impact thousands of people in the DC area.  This is cool, check it out.

Not only is he the President of DC Central Kitchen, but he has parlayed his success as a social entrepreneur into two other related ventures, the Campus Kitchens Project and Fresh Start Catering.  On top of that he founded a political action group that represents the voice of social enterprise and non-profits called V3 and wrote a book (which I just bought!) called Begging for Change that is a plea for reform for the 800 billion dollar non-profit sector.

The guy is busy and keeps an insane calendar, but the chaos of his schedule puts him in front of people all across this country.  And when he is in cabs or waiting for a plane to depart he is updating his twitter and facebook status.  Hopefully you will get the chance to speak with Robert one day – it’s invigorating.  My suggestion if you see him, and you want to try to get him to sit still for a second, is to offer him big-ass margarita made with Herradura Tequila and freshly squeezed lime juice.  Drop me a line and let me know if it works!

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Deborah (left) and Keely pose with two five-spots! (photo: Reed)

Sometimes I find myself in the middle of a conversation with someone and realize I should give my $10 to the person that I am speaking with.  This happened on Day 218.  My friend Patricia was on her way to Australia and had some friends coming to stay at her place while she was gone so we agreed to meet so that she could leave her key with me to give to them when they got into town.  Sounds slightly complicated, but really it was quite straightforward. 

Patricia showed up with Keely, Patricia’s sister, and Deborah.  The two ladies have been friends almost all their life.  They met around the age of 10 and they are about 40 now…so 30 years more or less.  They live in Long Island and were in DC visiting Patricia.  As I witnessed their banter back and forth I couldn’t help but find the entire conversation hysterical.  Having known each other for so long, they seem to know what the other will say and almost finish each other’s sentences on a regular basis. 

Keely is married and has three children and works as an elementary school librarian.  Deborah is single with no kids and works as an office manager at an accounting firm. 

We talked about all kinds of interesting facts.  For example the most popular book in the elementary school where Keely teaches is a book by American author Jeff Kinney called The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  I had never heard of this book, but then again what do I know about the reading habits of ten-year-olds?  She said that she only lets third graders and above borrow it due to its subject matter.  Keely didn’t buy my notion that the Dewey Decimal System will one day be replaced by something more contemporary.  I know it’s based on a simple principle, but I got to think that after 135 years somebody would have come up with an even better system!

Deborah, who Keely says is an extremely loyal friend, has a bit of a fear of heights.  She doesn’t like the escalators at the Metro and is not even fond of going up in her attic.  However, she had no problem jumping in a hot air balloon and going up thousands of feet in the Arizona sky.  She admits that logically she should have had more fear of the “glorified wicker basket.”  In fact she loved it.  I found it funny that they allowed alcohol on the hot air balloon ride so that they could do a champagne toast but didn’t allow anyone to board with flip-flops – for supposed safety reasons. 

The conversation turned to food and I learned that both Keely and Deborah are a little obsessed with two iconic food establishments: Cracker Barrel and Dairy Queen (I think they like to be called DQ now.)  Check them out here talking about both places:

I checked DQ.com and it seems that they are right; there are no DQ’s on Long Island.  The closest ones are in NJ.  I think Carvel dominated that region.  Well, free advice for the DQ folks: Open a store on Long Island!!!

The conversation turned a little more serious when we discussed what they would do with the $10.  Keely and Patricia’s uncle was recently diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s lymphoma so Keely and Deborah thought that maybe they would donate it to a charity that focuses on finding a cure for the disease.  I think he was to start chemotherapy last week so I hope that we have good news soon!  I told them to tell their uncle to be strong!

I later learned that the following day on the way to the airport they risked being late for their flight to make a quick pit-stop at a DQ.  Thankfully they got their ice cream and got back on the road and arrived at the airport just in time!

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I’m heading over to the Legg Mason Tennis Classic later today.  Should be a good day of tennis, both Andy Roddick and John Isner are playing tonight!  They play up at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park.  If you are not familiar with Rock Creek Park, it is a beautiful sanctuary of green space in Washington, DC that is twice the size of New York’s Central Park. 

On my way home from work I walk right by the lower part of the park.  One evening after work I noticed that there were only two people in the park near the entrance of the park at 23rd and O Streets.  One was a young man who was sitting by himself in the middle of the park.  The other was a man who was walking around in a slightly crazed manner.  I watched as the wandering man got closer and closer to the guy sitting by himself. 

By the time I got close to the guy sitting on the grass, the other man had wandered over to the edge of the woods.  I decided to approach the young man sitting by himself.

Raoul preferred not to be photographed, but he was sitting just over the hill to the right (photo: Reed)

I introduced myself and took a seat next to Raoul.  He’s a 32-year-old professional who works here in DC for a non-profit focused on energy sustainability.  “I came out here just to relax a little and catch up on some emails,” he told me as he lifted his right hand to reveal a cell phone.

There are some tennis courts and a swimming pool adjacent to where we were sitting and Raoul told me that he had actually just came from a swim over at the pool.  I have never been to the Francis Swimming Pool (2500 N. Street).  In fact I didn’t even know it was there until a few weeks ago.  Given how hot it has been this summer I am considering making a visit over there though.  It’s walking distance from my place and it’s free for DC residents!

Originally from Mumbai (Bombay), India, Raoul moved to the US about 15 years ago.  His parents are diplomats and they were posted here in DC.  He grew up speaking Hindi and five other local dialects in addition to English.  I asked him how somebody learns five dialects!  “You just sort of pick them up informally by talking with your friends” he shared.  Now he also speaks some Spanish, French and Italian.  It probably won’t come as any surprise to you that Raoul is well traveled and has visited 37 countries.

I love Indian food and never miss an opportunity to ask someone who I think might have a good tip about finding the ultimate in Indian cuisine.  “I like the Bombay Club” he said about the Farragut North locale.  I haven’t been there but will definitely check it out.  He says that he really misses some of the simple street foods from India. 

View of Connecticut Avenue crossing Rock Creek Park

Raoul says that he will give the $10 to somebody else or some organization.  “Maybe I’ll give it to Bread for the City” he says.  That’s odd…because I was planning to go to a Bread for the City event later that week.  It’s a great organization that I will talk about later this week.

Since Raoul is working for a sustainable energy organization I thought I would ask if he had any advice for people on how they could do their part on conserving energy.  He looked over at me and said “Turn the lights off and take the metro.”  Sounds so simple but most of us could do better about reducing the electricity we use and taking public transportation.

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Feijoada and side dishes

I lived in Brazil for three years and absolutely loved the food.  One of the most typical meals is feijoada, in fact it is considered the national dish and is eaten almost exclusively at lunch time on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  In the US we don’t really have this custom of eating a certain dish every week on the same day, but it seems to work.  Feijoada is a heavy stew consisting of black turtle beans, a variety of salted pork and beef products (such as ears, tails, tongue, feet, etc), bacon, pork ribs and a couple of types of smoked sausage.  I know it sounds a little crazy, but it’s delicious!

You toss all of these ingredients in large clay pot and let it simmer for hours until you get this beautiful rich purplish-brown juice which coats your tongue like a velvety glass of Petit Verdot.

So my friend Carmen, who is from Brazil, was celebrating her birthday by having some people over for feijoada.  While I was there I met a friend of hers named Elida who is from Carmen’s hometown of Campo Grande.  Elida spent two days preparing this feast and it was delicious!

She came to the US on July 5th to attend her nephew’s wedding in New York and then came down to DC to visit with Carmen and other friends.  She is planning to stay until August 13th.

Feijoada: Brazil's national dish

This is not her first time to the States though; in fact her husband was an American.  Elida did something that I thought was really great too, she signed up for a mini English course that she is taking for three weeks.

Although now retired, Elida worked for many years for Banco Itau.  That was my bank actually when I lived in Brazil.  Now she dedicates her time to her family.  She will soon be a grandmother!  She told me that she was asking her son, “When am I going to have some grandchildren?” and the next day he came to her and said, “You’re going to be a grandmother!”  The baby is due in April.

“I’m going to use the $10 to buy an outfit for the baby” she told me.

I tried to get some photos of her but she preferred not being photographed.

I asked her if there was anything she needed or wanted that somebody might be able to help her with.  She thought and said that she didn’t really need anything but that her dream was to spend a day in Paris.  “My husband promised me that we would go there, but we never did it.”  Who knows… maybe one day that dream will come true.

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This is a short entry.  I only had a few minutes with the recipient, it was dark, and I could barely read my writing when I got around to writing up the blog entry.

It was just after midnight and I was walking home and walked passed the back side of Bistro du Coin, a good French Bistro in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of DC.  The mussells are excellent!  My favorite are La Traditionelle Mouclade des Charentes - steamed mussels with a light cream sauce and curry.  (And I almost never order something with a cream sauce!)

Usually when I pass the back of this restaurant the sidewalk is wet from liquids leaking from their trash containers and I often see some pretty large rats dashing around looking for scraps from the tasty offerings served inside.  occasionally I also run across the random employee smoking a cigarette or making a quick call on their cell phone.

On this night I passed Anna who was quietly enjoying a cigarette. 

“I only smoke once in a blue moon,” she told me.

A panoramic view of Kazan Kremlin, Vernicle temple and Kazanka river right bank (photo: Wikipedia)

 

She told me she really needed to get back inside to attend to her customers, so I cut to the chase and asked her what she would do with the $10.  “I’m going to buy ice cream for my daughter,” she told me.  Right then another waitress, Flo, wandered outside and lit up.  Anna explained to Flo that she had just received $10 from me.  I explained that I was walking by and just thought I would give my $10 to Anna.  Flo exhaled a lung-full of smoke and said something along the lines that Anna never took a smoke break.  “I’m out here all the time and I don’t get $10.  She comes out here one time and…”

Anna said goodbye and excused herself as she slipped in the back door.  I awkwardly said goodbye to Flo as she stood smoking by herself on the damp sidewalk.

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DC Trader Joe's at 1101 25th Street, NW (photo: Reed)

Joe has been working for Trader Joe’s for six years.  He started in Michigan and was then transferred to Rockville before finally accepting a move to the downtown Washington, DC location.  “I do all the signage you see around here,” he explains.  I did a bit of a panoramic scan of the store and realized that every sign whether it be for apples or for frozen entres of chicken masala. 

A former NYC resident, Joe started out as a graphic designer.  When he moved to Michigan he realized that he could apply his background as a graphic designer to be an in-store artist for the privately held Californian grocer.  It was odd to call them Californian, because you feel like you are in your neighborhood store.  Maybe it’s the hand written signs or the goofy Hawaiian shirts.  By the way, I am all for fun shirts, but I think it might be time to change the shirts.  Or maybe it’s just how everyone seems happy there!  

When the 36-year-old artist isn’t working, he enjoys biking, painting, and sports.  He was following the World Cup when we met and was pulling for the Netherlands after his favorite team, Italy, was disqualified. 

Taken at a Trader Joe's in San Luis Obispo, CA. (photo Shawn Thorpe)

“I’ll probably give the $10 to a homeless person.  I see some regularly not too far from here,” he says.  “Or maybe I will give it to the guy who sells the homeless newspaper (Street Sense) in front of the store.”   I didn’t see anyone outside the day I was there. 

I wanted to take a photo of Joe or some of his art work but he preferred not to be photographed and advised me of their policy that forbids photographs to be taken inside the store.  I always try to respect people’s privacy. 

By the way, if you are wondering if Joe is the “Trader Joe.”  He’s not…that would be the founder Joe Coulombe who turns 80 this year.   Coincidentally he says that his wife worked for a company that had the same name as her first name….I don’t remember exactly, but it was like her name was Anne and she worked for Anne Klein.

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When you look at today’s blog entry you might think, “Reed made a mistake.  Lourdes was the name of the recipient from yesterday’s blog.”  Well, would you believe that the very next day I found another woman named Lourdes in Roanoke, VA. 

IHOP, Roanoke, VA (photo: Reed)

 

I was traveling to Roanoke to attend the funeral of a family friend.  My father and I stayed at the Quality Inn near the Tanglewood Mall in the southwest part of town.  I saw an IHOP (3926 Franklin Rd SW, Roanoke, VA 24014) around the corner from the motel and suggested that we go there for breakfast.  

Our waitress came over to our table and I saw the name Lourdes written on her name tag.  I told my dad that Lourdes was the name of the woman who I gave my $10 to the day before.  It was almost as if it was some kind of sign to choose her.  She came back with our breakfast and I asked her to take part in the Year of Giving.  She accepted. 

Lourdes (photo: Reed)

 

I asked the 34-year-old single mother of two where she was from originally.  “I was an army brat!” she said sporting a big smile.  Her father was in the US Army and they moved all around the world.  Her favorite place she says is Panama.  Her travel has slowed down though now and she says that she has lived in Roanoke for about 15 years. 

Lourdes was pretty busy and I was trying not to take up too much of her time.  She went to go check on her other customers and came back by a few minutes later.  She has worked at this IHOP for about a year.  “It’s a great place to work,” she says and comments how friendly her coworkers are.  

Lourdes told me that she was going to use the $10 to take her five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son to the pool later that day.  I bet the kids enjoyed that, it has been so hot. 

If you stop in for breakfast, I highly recommend the spinach, mushroom and tomato omelette (I got it without the Swiss cheese)  I was unsure what to get and Lourdes recommended that to me and I thought it was really good. 

We closed out our check and went back to the motel to check out and make our way over to the funeral service. 

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to the memory of Jean Ruth Hughes Bain, 1934-2010.

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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

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First of all thank you so much for all the kind notes, emails and comments about my new job here and on Facebook.  I am very excited about this opportunity!

Photo: Reed

Summer time is a great time to get outside and visit a farmer’s market.  I was walking downtown on Day 192 when I came across a small farmer’s market near Penn Quarter in DC.  Near the corner of 8th & H Streets was stand with a yellow tent with the name Endless Summer Harvest on it.  I decided to wander over and find out what exactly the folks at Endless Summer Harvest were all about.

Photo: Reed

  • The water stays in the system and can be reused- thus, lower water costs
  • It is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety- thus, lower nutrition costs
  • No nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of the controlled system
  • Stable and high yields
  • Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container’s mobility

Cassandra and Zack (photo: Reed)

The main disadvantage of hydroponic systems is that great caution must be taken to control the growth of salmonella due to the high humidity environment coupled with the presence of fertilizers.

 Anyway, I got to meet two great people who were working at the stand: Cassandra and Zack.  Day 192’s recipients met while studying biology at James Madison University.  Cassandra works full-time at the Alliance to Save Energy and helps Endless Summer Harvest out on Thursdays at the farmer’s market.  Zack, a 21-year-old JMU student, has worked at Endless Summer Harvest since high school. 

Photo: Reed

I asked the two of them what they were going to do with the $10 and they said that they were going to donate it to a group that works to stop mountaintop removal for coal mining purposes.  I am trying to find the exact organization and when I do I will post it here.  There are lots of negative environmental effects of this practice.  My new employer, the World Wildlife Fund, has this to say about it on their website:

In West Virginia and other Appalachian states – in one of the most biologically diverse temperate regions of the world – mountaintops are torn apart to gain access to low-sulfur coal lying underneath. The leftover rock and earth is dumped into nearby valleys and streams. These practices threaten songbirds and other wildlife dependent on large tracts of interior forest, and the mussels, fish, crayfish, and invertebrates found in the streams. Hundreds of miles of streams have been buried by the dumping of such wastes in the past, in an ecoregion that WWF has identified as being globally outstanding.

Photo: Reed

I enjoyed meeting Cassandra and Zack.  They opened the door to a new world to me, the vendor community at farmers markets.  They seem more like partners than competitors.  “The fruit people do really well,” Zack says with a little bit of envy, “but we all help one another out.”  While I was talking to them several other stands stopped by to see if they could use some left over product that they had.

7pm came around and they started to pack up.  I was impressed at how quickly they tore down and got everything packed up.  Cassandra wasn’t scared to get her hands dirty either.  She didn’t hesitate to pick up the huge coolers they use and load the van.

Photo: Reed

 Note: The Penn Quarter Farmers Market is administered by Freshfarm Markets and is located at the north end of 8th St. NW, between D and E Streets.  According to a representative of the organization, it is open every Thursday (except Thanksgiving) from April 1 – Dec. 23rd from 3pm – 7pm.

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Day 188 was Father’s Day.  My dad came down from Pennsylvania for the day.  My brother and his wife met us at Guapo’s in Shirlington, VA for lunch.  After getting our Mexican fill, we went over to watch City Island.  I had never heard of this movie, but it is quite good.  Then we went over to my brother and his wife’s house and played bridge.  I really enjoy playing bridge, however, I don’t know hardly anyone who plays and I am not that good.  It is probably the most dynamic card game that I know. 

For dinner we decided to take our father to Ray’s the Steaks (2300 Wilson Blvd.) in Arlington, VA. I had not been there before and was very impressed….well I shouldn’t be surprised, their sister restaurant, Ray’s Hell Burger (1725 Wilson Blvd, Arlingtong, VA), serves up the best burger I have ever sunk my teeth into.  I asked our server, a young lady who was working her last shift before taking a leave of absence from Ray’s, if there were any staff members who were fathers.  She went to check.

Daren (Photo: Reed)Meanwhile we enjoyed a delicious dinner.  They have a special that runs Sun-Tues that consists of a salad, two 5-oz filet mignons, two family style side orders and dessert for $24.99.  For the quality you get, it is a pretty good deal.  We didn’t have anything to drink, but their wines and beers seemed reasonably priced.

Our server returned with Daren.  He’s a proud father of two girls, 5 and 8 years old.  A product of growing up in both Ocala, FL and the Bronx, NY, he considers himself more of a Bronx guy.  “I’m definitely more Bronx when I’m angry,” he says laughing.

He’s been working at Ray’s for about a year and a half.  “It’s a great place to work.  Management is very respectful to the employees.”  He goes on to say that, “Michael, the owner, comes in almost every day.”  

I asked Daren what his favorite item from the menu was.  Check out this video for his answer as well as a little bit about one of Michael Landrum’s newest ventures, Ray’s Hell Burger II  (1713 Wilson Blvd, Alrington, VA).  Caution, you may be mouth-watering hungry after watching:

 

I learned that Ray’s has no website and does no marketing.  Anyone who has eaten there understands why.  The food is so good that you don’t need to do marketing.  Another interesting thing they do there is on Sundays they donate 10% of their sales to the Boys and Girls Clubs of NE Washington, DC and Arlington, VA.  “I’m going to donate your $10 to the Boys & Girls Club,” Daren shares with me with great excitement.

Although polite, Daren’s supervisor seemed a little bothered that I was potentially keeping Daren from his tables, so I wished him a happy Father’s Day and said goodbye.

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My father, Manny (blog follower), and Sammy (Day 113) at the WWDoG DC Get-Together (Photo: Ryan Sandridge)

Thanks to all of you who participated in the Worldwide Day of Giving!  It was amazing.  So many great stories from all over…pictures and even video from some people!  I received a lot of emails from people who said that they tried, but just couldn’t do it.  It was too far out of their comfort zone.  That’s ok.  You tried.  Keep trying. 

I also received lots of emails from people who want to continue doing this every 15th of the month…what a great idea.  Feel free to continue to post your stories here or on Facebook WHENEVER you pay it forward.  I will remind everyone on July 15th for those who want to give it another try!

A lot of you have asked how the DC Meet-Up went.  I was so happy to see so many former recipients, followers of the blog, people I only knew from their comments, and even people who had received $10 from someone on the Worldwide Day of Giving that then joined us at the happy hour.  All the local news stations were also there.  I will try to get links for all the media from that day, including the two earlier interviews I did that day on News Channel 8 and CNN.

I am excited to write about my recipients for today’s post.  As my trip was winding down in Manizales, I started to get sad as the trip was coming to an end.  The day before I left I was in the Guacas area where I was staying getting ready for a barbecue that Roberto Gonzalo was organizing.  About 10 minutes up (literarily up the mountain) there is a small store that has some billiard tables and a TV for neighborhood people to come together.  Roberto Gonzalo and I had stopped by there on a few occasions and bought items we needed or enjoyed a beer at the end of the day.  This night I thought I would go and get to know them and see what they would do with my $10.

I left the gated area of the plantation and started to ascend up the mountain.  I can’t convey to you how steep this hill is.  The store is only about 200-250 yards away, but it is a workout to get there.  Pinto the dog escaped and was at my side as I lift one leg in front of the other.  My heart starts to pound and sweat is rolling off my forehead.  I stop for about a minute to catch my breath.  The altitude adds another level of complexity at 7,000 feet.  Pinto knows the way and he runs on ahead of me as I crest the incline and see the store off to the left.. 

Adriana, Augusto, and Pamela

The store is owned by Adriana and Augusto who live upstairs with their seven-year-old daughter.  I had seen them a few times while I was on my trip.  Augusto was always out front working on something; cutting wood on the lathe, welding some metal, working on a car, etc.  Adriana tends to the store and their daughter. 

It is a holiday weekend and many people have traveled leaving the store void of the usually two or three locals chatting about the election or the upcoming World Cup.  I find Augusto leaning over a table that has a large metal door laying flat on top of it.  Clad with goggles he wields a welding torch with his right hand along one of the edges of the metal door.  He gives me a wave and I walk toward Adriana who is sitting outside at a table with her daughter. 

View from Augusto/Adriana's store (Photo: Reed)

By this time Augusto had retired the blow torch and had walked over to the table.  We made some small talk and then I told them about my project.    I sat down and shared with them the journey that has become my passion over the past six months.

Adriana, who is 28, tells me that the store has been there for as long as she can remember.  It has been in the family for years.  She manages the store and also makes homemade morcilla which she sells in the city.  Morcilla is a type of sausage that is made by cooking blood from pigs, cows, goats, etc then adding a filler such as rice until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled.  I was introduced to morcilla when I lived in Valladolid, Spain.  Although it is quite tasty, I usually try not to think about what goes into it.

Augusto is the Colombia version of MacGyver.  Every time I would see him he was fixing something.  He is an industrial mechanic by trade, but he is a skilled woodworker, metalworker, carpenter, plumber, auto mechanic, etc.  He even likes to do car detailing.  The 32-year-old builds more in a week than I have in my entire life.  I asked him what the door was for and he said that the local prison had contracted him to make 12 doors for them.  I would think they would contract those sort of things with large companies, but “MacGyver” has a good reputation and the work flows his way.

A former police officer, he made the career change after being sent to the tension stricken border area between neighboring Ecuador.  “It was too dangerous for me,” he states “and I like to work with my hands.”

Adriana said something to her daughter and she disappeared into the store.  Pamela had been sitting patiently at the table the entire time that we spoke.  She reappeared minutes later and walked over to me and placed a cold bottle of the local beer, Poker, on the table next to me.  That is just the kind of hospitality that people grow up with here.  She smiled and went back to her chair.

I wanted to find out more about how Adriana and Auguto met.  Adriana told me about how they had actually known each other almost all their lives.  In fact, they even dated when they were teenagers, but later separated.  They reconnected years later and married.

Augusto had several questions about the Year of Giving.  We talked about how it got started, my family, and some of the other people I have met along the way.  I explained that they could look up the blog online, but they didn’t have internet access.  There is another small store about 100 yards away that has a computer where you can pay to surf the web.  I mentioned that they could go and look it up there.  Maybe they will do that.

I offered them either dollars or pesos.  Augusto said he would prefer dollars.  “For now I think I’ll  keep it as a reminder of us meeting each other.”  I only had one ten dollar bill with me and it was really beat up.  I placed it in his hand and told him that I would stop by the next day on my way to the airport and give him one in a little better shape.  He nodded as if to say that was ok, but not necessary. 

We wrapped up our conversation.  I paid for the beer and bought a few more to take to the barbecue.  As I headed down the driveway and turned onto the dirt road to make the journey down the mountain, Pinto appeared out of nowhere.  I had completely forgotten that he had accompanied me on the journey.  It was now pitch dark out and the lack of street lighting makes the walk down the mountain slightly challenging, although I’ll take walking down the mountain in the dark over walking up the mountain any day.  Especially with Pinto by my side, he knows the way.

The next day as we left for the airport, I hopped out of the jeep to make good on my word about exchanging the ten dollar bill.  Augusto and his family were sitting at a table eating lunch.   “I have been thinking a lot about your project today” he said.  “It’s really amazing.”  We switched the $10 and said “until the next time.”

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Version en espanol va ser publicado al final de jueves.

On Friday Roberto and I decided to have a few beers at a local convenience store that has a TV, two billiard tables, and a few tables where locals can sit and relax.

After our second beer some neighborhood kids asked if we wanted to play some street soccer.  We agreed.

Not only am I terrible at soccer, I was completely out of breath running back and forth on the gravel road that was our “field.”  We are at about 7,000 feet which is about 6,990 feet higher than Washington, DC.  That on top of the 24 ounces of beer sloshing around my stomach had me completely incapacitated.  Thankfully Roberto played well and scored two or three goals for us while I rambled around wheezing.

The next morning was Saturday and Roberto took me down the mountain to show me his plantation.  He grows coffee, bananas, guavas, etc. and has pigs, chickens, turtles, dogs…you name it.   Here is a short video in English about life on the plantation.

Later that day he took me to his mother’s house where the entire family met for a long lunch filled with conversation about the following day’s presidential election.  Most people in the household were supporting Antanas Mockus, however he ended up coming in second place with less than half of the votes of Juan Manual Santos.  Nevertheless, there will be a run-off election between the two candidates on June 20th.

We spent a few hours relaxing at their house after completely gorging ourselves with homemade soup, rice, beans, chicken, fried plantains and crunchy coconut clusters for dessert.

That evening we stopped at a small food stand in front of a residential building in the Francia neighborhood where Rubiela stood stoking the charcoal fire.  There was only one thing on the menu: arepas.

Grilled arepas (photo: Reed)

Arepa is a flat bread made of corn that is very popular in Colombia, Venezuela, and even parts of Panama and Spain’s Canary Islands.  Picture a pancake-like bread…or maybe a really thick corn tortilla. 

Rubiela takes ground corn and mixes it with water, salt, and butter to make the dough.  She then takes the dough, cooks it on the grill, and serves it with a thick tomato and onion stew (guiso) or cheese or both.  Every day she makes at least 3 kilos of arepas which yields about 66 pieces of bread.

I found that there are several varieties of arepas and that they are consumed just about any time of day. 

Rubiela and her son Cristian (photo: Reed)

Rubiela, a single mom, has been firing up the grill in front of her home for seven years.  This is the way she provides for her and her 12-year-old son Victor Manuel.  “There was nothing else to do so I started selling arepas,” she tells me referencing the economic struggles in Manizales.  She says that it is even hard to find a job as a maid, much less an office related job with benefits.  Ideally she would like to work in an office environment where she could help with receiving guests, serving coffee, and other small tasks.  

Her laugh is contagious and fills the air with joy.  I try not to let it completely hide the fact that I know that she dreams for something different.  She is thankful though for her and her son’s health.  “There are good days and bad days, but we never go hungry,” she tells me.  

Roberto and I left to run some errands and agreed to come back later that evening.  When we returned hours later, the sun had set, her son had retired into their home, but Rubiela was still tending the fire and cooking arepas.  Her hearty laughter had subsided and she was noticeably tired.

We both got two arepas.  I got mine topped with the tomato and onion guiso.  Roberto got his with guiso and cheese.  Each arepa with guiso was $0.40.  If you wanted cheese on top, add another $0.60.  Pretty cheap.  They were delicious.  We ate, laughed, and talked politics…hard to avoid with the election the following day.  She was voting for Juan Manuel Santos, the candidate from the incumbent U Party.  

Rubiela said she was going to hold on to my money and put it toward the rent that is due on June 4th.

Here is a short video of my time with Rubiela, part of it is in English part in Spanish.

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Last Monday I spent the morning doing some phone calls and interviews.  I got outside a little to walk Ruben, the dog that I have been taking care of, but other than that I was pretty much inside.

That evening I had plans to have dinner with some former colleagues of mine from my last job.  We decided to meet up at my friend Patricia’s house in Arlington.  I took Ruben out for another walk before leaving, stopped by a wine shop and a new gelato shop to get some wine and gelato for the evening.  By the way, I got the gelato from Dolcezza in Dupont.  I sampled a bunch of the flavors, but settled on dulce de leche granizado and lime cilantro.  The lime cilantro was such a unique flavor, I had to get it.  The citrus flavors combined with zest of the cilantro created a deliciously refreshing dessert!

The evening was great.  I got to spend time with some old colleagues.  Laura and her husband brought their four-month-old boy Griffin too!  He is amazing!

Bar at the Afterwords Cafe (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, the night winded down and I dropped Kate off at her hotel in Chinatown.  It was 11:45 and I still had to give away my $10.  As I drove I kept my eyes open for somebody on the streets.  I passed a couple of large groups of people, but didn’t think that stopping them and explaining what I was doing would go very well at midnight, so I pulled over at Kramerbooks near my house.  Inside I found a young couple sitting at a table and offered the guy my $10.  He politely declined and I looked toward his friend.  She somewhat reluctantly agreed.

It turns out that she is the bartender there at Kramerbooks.  I didn’t realize that though because she was sitting at a table at the otherwise empty bar.  Get this, I realized I didn’t have a ten dollar bill.  For that matter, I didn’t even have $10!  I think I had $8.  Then I remembered that I had a bag of quarters in my backpack and grabbed them and counted out the rest of the money for her.  It was a little embarrassing, but Cynthia rolled with it and didn’t make me feel awkward at all.

Cynthia said she likes to travel.  Two of her favorite destinations are Dubrovnik, Croatia and Budapest, Hungary.  Camping and snowboarding are also high on her list of things to do.

About this time several people made their way into the bar and I let Cynthia go wait on them.  She returned shortly with a glass of water for me and asked if I had any other questions.  I could see that she was busy and I didn’t want to take up more of her time…so while she was preparing things I asked her what her favorite drink and food items were on the menu at Kramerbooks’ Afterwords Café.  Her favorite drink was a tie between the Brewmaster Reserve by Brooklyn Brewery and the Old Brown Dog by Smuttynose Brewery.  Her favorite dish is the Bison Burger.  Honestly, you almost can go wrong there, everything is good.

I wrapped things up and let Cynthia get back to work. 

Her $10 is going toward the purchase of a new dictionary for a homeless man who she knows.  Someone stole his bag which contained his dictionary.  I asked if there was anything that I could include in the Lend a Hand project and she mentioned that her car needs some work so she would love to get some help with that.  Heck, maybe a show like Overhaulin would come and help her out!

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Yesterday Rebecca Sheir of NPR did two great stories on the Year of Giving.   Check them out.  One of the stories is available online here …the other I can not get to load on here.

Also, check the Lend a Hand section….some people have stepped up and offered to help out some of the recipients with items they need.  Thanks Teri and Maureen!

Manny takes an order in the Sauca-mobile (Photo: Reed)

On nice days, I sometimes will walk all over the city looking for someone interesting to give my $10 to.  Tuesday was just such a day.  It was warm and sunny and I must have walked 3 or 4 miles.  I ended up giving my $10 to a guy in a lunch truck.

Manny was laid off from a Venture Capital firm right before the holidays…now he is helping out the Sauça lunch truck

According to their website, Sauca “combines food, travel, music, design, technology and fun into the most interesting new concept to hit the streets.”  The concept was inspired by “snack vendors in India, railroad station vendors in Europe and the mobile taquerias of South America.”  Manny knows a little something about international street food…he has travelled all over the world with the Armenian Folk Dance Group.  He likes the fish tacos…but says everything is good.  I can’t vouch for the food yet, as I had already eaten when I came across the truck.  I will seek them out on another day and try their food, however, I can tell you that a frequent customer stopped by and raved about the food and service.  She bought the Medi Vegi and said it is “amazing!”

The website is cool…they have a web came that shows what’s going on at the truck (this was not working when I checked the site out) and they have a great list of sauces you can get.  You can also check the website to find out where the truck is going to be.  Manny says they are planning add several more trucks this summer.  Seems like these lunch trucks are doing well…I should open up a little mobile taqueria!

Check out the video to find out what kind of job Manny is looking for, what he did with the $10 and also take a behind the scenes tour of the truck.

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I updated the Statistics Page yesterday…check that out if you are interested in where the money is going as well as where the people following the blog are from.

A few updates.  I heard back from Jenny from Day 13.  She landed a job doing regional Public Health work!  Congratulations Jenny!  She sounds really happy.  She is still waitressing a few nights a week to help pay off all the bills that stacked up due to her extended unemployment.

Roger selling Street Sense at Conn. and K St., NW in DC (Photo: R. Sandridge)

I also met up with Roger from Day 54.  He said that after we talked the first time he was inspired to try to reach out to his estranged wife.  You can hear directly from him on the Facebook page.  By the way, he still would like very much to have some counselling sessions as well as a used laptop.  If you know of anyone who can help, please let me know.

I ran into to Leonel from Day 56 as I was out one day.  I plan to set up a time to follow up with him in the coming weeks and will post that to the Facebook page.

Speaking of the Facebook page, we have about 200 fans now…growing slowly.  If you haven’t already become a fan, please do so.

So on Day 67 I had met some friends for lunch at Nooshi.  Good place for noodles and sushi.  By the way, Wagamama (the British-based ramen noodle restaurant) is coming to DC in May!  418 7th St. NW.  I was introduced to Wagamama when I was in Dublin.  Check them out!  Back to Anthony’s story. 

So as I left lunch I saw Anthony selling Street Sense on the corner of 19th and M in DC.  I love this guy.  He is one of the original Street Sense vendors…he started in 2005 and has badge number 005. 

We talked about DC Urban Plunge, an event every year where mostly college students come to DC and live on the streets to experience and understand homelessness.  Anthony really likes interacting with the young people when this event happens. You can read one person’s account of doing their own “plunge” in DC here

Anthony says he will use my money to get some food.  I asked him if he needed anything in specific and he said he would really like help getting into some type of apartment.  Also he would really appreciate a size 9 pair of sneakers…even lightly used would be ok.  I hope someone reading this will be able to help Anthony out.  You can find him at the corner of 19th and M most weekdays or you can email me and I have his contact information.

Check out the short video I took of Anthony:

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I ran several errands on Day 45.  I ended up near the World Bank then hiked over to Franklin Square, where I found Ryan Z. on Day 42.  On my way over, I passed a lunch stand on the corner of 15th and K Street.  There was a line 25 people deep.  I peered into the stand and I saw a lone man deftly making burritos for the hungry crowd.  This place must be good, I thought.  I continued on another block to my next appointment.  I finished my meeting around 2pm and then crossed Franklin Square to get some paperwork from a friend of my brother’s fiancée.  I picked up the paperwork and then started heading back home.

John hard at work at his burrito stand

It was probably 2:30 and I spotted the lunch stand and thought that I ought to check out the place.  The line no longer there, the “burrito man” was packing up.  I walked up to John and asked him if he would participate in the Year of Giving.  He was very busy and agreed on the condition that I am quick.  I gave him the $10 and got his name and asked a question or two about his burrito stand, Pedro and Vinny’s.  He has been doing this for about 10 years he tells me. 

Although in a hurry, he takes time to tell me about the all- vegan bean product, the fresh ingredients, and that he doesn’t use any lard in his preparation.  He proudly tells me that his Mango Habanero sauce is now commercially available.  Although I had already had lunch, my stomach is screaming at me for a burrito! 

I asked him what he was going to do with the $10 and instead of replying he darted out of from behind his stand and looked around.  He explained that he was looking for one of the homeless guys who tend to hang out near his stand so that he could give the money to them.  I liked his immediate reaction to help someone else out.  He went on to say that he gives away 3 or 4 meals a day to those in need.  That’s awesome!  Good for you John.

“How’s business?” I ask John.  He smiles and says that last year was his best year ever!  On an average day he sells about 150 burritos.  On a good day he sells over 200.  At an average of $5-6 per burrito, his customers appreciate a good product at a reasonable price during these challenging economic times.  You do the math, and it sounds like John is doing ok too.  In fact, his daughter Kristin is opening up her own stand this spring.    

I am interested to taste a burrito.  I will go back and get one some day.  I can almost guarantee you that the food is good though.  You don’t get a line like he had on a cold day if you don’t have something tasty!  

Pedro and Vinny's Menu

I know that John is in a hurry.  He gives me a business card and agrees to follow up with me via email if I have any other questions.  I will definitely update you when I go and get my burrito!  By the way, I was curious as to why he choose “Pedro and Vinny’s” for the name…I have followed up with John via email and will let you know when I write my review of his burrito.

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