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Posts Tagged ‘health’

-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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Day 1 – John

From the moment I found out I was going to be the first person to kick-off the second year of giving I was confident the first $10 I was going to give away would be to someone I met in the hospital as today my father was having a defibrillator put in.

I had a long day in the inpatient waiting room sitting beside my mother and was watching the people come in and out of the waiting room.  Not that there is a right or wrong person to approach for the $10 but I just didn’t see anyone else that day in the hospital that I felt was the one for the day.

The Milkhouse in Richmond, IN

Driving back to my parent’s house that evening I still had the $10.  I passed by the Milkhouse in Richmond, Indiana and decided whomever was working there would be my first person.  I pulled in and was greeted by a man named John.

John had always lived in Richmond and enjoyed his job however the cold weather months he didn’t find it quite as enjoyable.  John was blown away by the $10 and really didn’t know at the time what he may do with it.  He mentioned possibly getting a few snacks.  I didn’t have the chance to speak with John as long as I would have liked because he had customers to wait on but I enjoyed the little time we had.

- By Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Nora's holds the distinction of being the first certified organic restaurant in the US.

Sorry for the delay in posting this week.  I appreciate all of your emails checking to see if I was ok!  I have been swamped at work, so I got behind.

Day 306 was was my father’s 70th birthday.  We took him to a restaurant near my house called Nora’s which has the distinction of being the first certified organic restaurant in the United States.

After our delicious dinner my father went with me to search the neighborhood for a $10 recipient.  Just a few blocks away along Connecticut Avenue we spotted a man inching his way down the street.  We would later find out that his slow gait was due to broken ankles and broken knees.

I stopped him and asked if he would accept the $10.  From beneath his black hooded rain poncho he spoke softly saying that he would accept my gift.  I proceeded to ask him a few questions but he said he was not comfortable answering any personal questions and did not want any photographs taken of him.  He offered to give them money back and I explained that the money was his to keep.

He was an African-American man who I suspected was in his 60s.  despite his slow walk he appeared in good health.  He had a stark white beard that seemed to block the words from getting out.  “I also have a dislocated organ,” he told us pointing to the left side of his abdomen.  Neither of us asked him to explain further.

He clenched the $10 in his worn hands.  I could see the dirt that had settled underneath his long fingernails. 

My dad and me at Nora's celebrating his 70th birthday! (photo: Ryan Sandridge)

“You can call me John I guess,” he told me in a way that I knew that wasn’t his real name.  John said I looked familiar and I thought for a moment that I might have already given my $10 to him earlier in the year, but after I spoke with him for a few minutes I was sure that I had not met him before. 

I told him that it was Dad’s 70th birthday.  “He’s got good skin,” he said in response.  He also said something about my father’s eyes.  I think he said that they were still well aligned, but Dad thinks he said that they were “alive.”  In either case, he made some nice comments about my dad. 

John says that he tries to write every day.  “Well, when it’s warm I come right here and write on these benches but when it gets cold I find a place indoors.”  I asked what he liked to write about and he explained that he had a book about verbs and he practiced making sentences where he put the verbs together with various statements.

He was carrying two plastic bags that contained some personal items.  He showed us bottles of multi-vitamins and Ensure.  “I take 3 multi-vitamins a day; I usually try to take them six hours apart however yesterday I took all three at the same time.”  He went on to say that every other day he drank a small bottle of Ensure.  “When I have a little extra money I usually spend it on vitamins or maybe a book.”

Since the conversation had circled back to money I decided to ask him what he planned on using the $10 for.  “To survive,” he said.  “I’m just going to use it to survive.”

The 42 bus rolled up and he said he was getting on.  He gave us both a fist bump and started inching his way toward the bus.  It took him a few minutes, but sure enough he got on and the bus pulled away disappearing into the traffic at Dupont Circle.

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After a woman refused to be my recipient, I spotted a father and his son riding bikes together at Dupont Circle.  They seemed like perfect recipients. 

Jim and Addison next to the fountain at Dupont Circle. (photo: Reed)

 

I approached them and asked if they had a second.  “I probably won’t be able to help you though,” Jim said.  I get this often because most people think that I am going to ask them for money.  When I told him that I wanted to give him and his son, Addison, my ten spot of the day, his eye brows perked up. 

As it turns out, Jim is a former office manager / loan officer of a brokerage firm here in DC.  Unfortunately the banking crisis left him in the same boat that I was in earlier this year; out of a job.  “It’s been about a year and a half,” Jim says.  I told him that I was out of work for 285 days and I think he could tell that I understand some of what he is going through.  

At one point, Jim laughed at something I said and he grabbed his right side of his abdomen.  “Don’t make me laugh, I’ve got a hernia.”  Without insurance he has put surgery on hold which is not a good thing.  Left untreated they can lead to severe complications.  Would some doctor in the DC help Jim out and operate on his hernia for free?  Come on DC doctors, step up!   

Jim and Addison toured the entire city by bike. (photo: Reed)

 

They said that they were probably going to use the $10 for some groceries, but I later found out Jim was at a convenience store when a woman attempted to purchase a candy bar with her credit card. She was informed that there was a minimum amount required in order to pay by credit card, so she just put the candy bar back.  Jim stopped her and offered to buy it for her, which she gratefully accepted.  He also told her about the Year of Giving and the ten dollars that he had received.  The rest of their ten dollars was spent on some groceries and a $1 lottery ticket which I assume didn’t win, or they would have told me. 

I asked both Jim and Addison if there was anything they needed or wanted for the Lend a Hand project.  Jim quickly said that he would love to land a new job (see the Lend a Hand section for details on what he is looking for).  “Oh, and someone to operate on my hernia,” Jim added.  Addison had three requests, “I’d like to meet President Obama, Ellen Degeneres, or Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.”   

I have an idea, what if one of Addison’s idols offered to sponsor his dad’s surgery?  Maybe we could kill two birds with one stone.  

Jim was thinking about Addison’s “wishes” and added, “You know what I would also love to do, is have dinner and drinks with Bill Maher, he’s hilarious.”  He started to laugh a little but his smile quickly gave way to a grimace of pain as he grabbed his abdomen again. 

Some other little bits of trivia… Jim has become a bit of an amateur genealogist and has traced his family back some 40+ generations.  Along the way he discovered that he has connections to President Bush, Frankish leader Charles Martel and Charlamagne, King of the Franks and Emperor of the Romans.  I know my dad would be excited about the Roman ancestry part – he is so into Roman history these days. 

Anyway, I let father and son continue on their bike ride.  After all, it was a gorgeous afternoon – just perfect for exploring the city on a bicycle.

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Wow…I am still thinking about Bob from Day 251, aren’t you.  I wish you could have been there with us for the entire conversation.  He was really amazing.  Today’s recipient is equally impressive.  Read on! 

These two guys opted to decline the $10. (photo: Reed)

Day 254 started with two refusals.  First two guys who were sitting on the grass in front of an office building at the corner of 19th and O Streets said “No” because they were deep discussion.  Then I wandered down 19th Street a little further where I found William, a US Post Office mail carrier.  He was sitting in his truck grabbing a bite to eat and said that he was too busy.

I kept on walking down to the corner of 19th and M Street.  I looke across the street to see if Anthony was there, but I didn’t see his smiling face.  It was around there that I ran into Christina carrying a clear container of salad from Mixt Greens and a Netflix movie envelope.  She seemed skeptical of my motives at first, but agreed to accept the $10.  We walked west down M Street as we talked.

Christina poses for a picture with her pricey salad. (photo: Reed)

I find out that she works at a nearby NGO and is on her lunch break.  “This salad cost more than $10,” she tells me as I hand her the $10.  I asked her what she got in her salad, I mean for that price I was hoping that she at least got some truffles or Beluga caviar or a TV.  I mean I once heard of a salad at the Hemel Hotel in London that had Almas golden caviar, Beluga caviar, kreel-caught langoustines, Cornish crab and lobster, plus Florette baby leaf salad tossed in some super expensive olive oil with grated truffle placed in a basket made from courgettes, red peppers and potato and decorated with gold leaf…all for the low price of US$982! 

She was carrying a DVD so maybe they gave her that.  Nope.  Just a salad.  “I think this might be my first and last salad from there,” she says.

I asked her what about her made her unique.  She paused and thought for a moment and said, “Well, I am a brain cancer survivor.”  I swallowed and tried to think of something to say.  She told me that they removed the tumor in July and that she was currently going to chemotherapy every two weeks.  “I feel good now,” she says with a smile.

“How did you find out,” I ask trying to imagine how many things most go through your head when you learn this.  She says that there wasn’t a lot of time to think about anything.  They operated almost immediately once they had found the malignant tumor.  We arrive at her office.  I continue to ask some more questions without realizing that I was now completely focused on her bout with cancer and there is a lot more about Christina and I only probably have a few minutes more before she needs to go up to her office.

Christina loves to travel – especially internationally.  She has a passport full of stamps to prove it too.  Croatia, Thailand and Italy as some of her favorite places.  “Did you go to San Gimignano in Italy,” I ask.  It’s one of my favorite places on the planet.  She had in fact visited the tiny hilltop village.  She fondly recalls some of her memories from her trip.  The small town where there was only one phone booth with a line of people wrapping around it outside.  “We also saw this woman who had this really nice flower garden.  She ended up inviting us in and made us try all these different types of homemade grappa.  One was made with oregano, another with thyme…”  As she is telling me about her trip I can’t help but slip into the memory of my own trip there and how much I enjoyed it.

photo: Reed

She also tells me that she loves movies, hence the DVD in her hand.  “Shoot,” she says looking down at the red and white Netflix envelope.  “We got talking and I totally forgot to drop this off at the post office.”  I had already taken a good chunk of her lunch break so I offered to go and drop it off.

We say goodbye and I start walking back toward the post office when I shout back, “What movie did you get?”  “It’s True Blood,” she says referring to the hit HBO series starring Anna Paquin. 

I got an email a few days later from Christina letting me know that she had donated the $10 to Mercy Corps for their Pakistan flood relief efforts. 

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

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

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

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

Mike and Reed (photo: Marnette)

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

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

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

Photo: Reed

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

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

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

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photo: Reed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lowe's Gainesville, VA (photo:Reed)

I spent the Fourth of July weekend at my friend Tom’s house out in Manassas, VA. Our goal was to gut his bathroom and put in a brand new one and surprise his wife when she returned from visiting her parents on Tuesday. Well, let’s just say that she was surprised alright when she got back. Yeah, we didn’t exactly finish the project, but we did manage to strip it all the way down to the 2×4 boards, water pipes and electrical wiring. Everything, and I mean everything else was ripped out of there. I was back out there this last weekend and we now have the new tub in, the cement board down, the ceiling and walls up and all the pipes and electrical work done.

photo: Reed

Well, while I was out there the first weekend we made many trips to Lowes and Home Depot. On one occasion I let Tom go hunt for some bronze coupling part we needed as part of moving all the pipes and I went hunting for a recipient. I found George scoping out some of the flowers and plants over in the gardening area.

When I looked at George I couldn’t help but see a resemblance between him and one hard working gentleman from the North Pole. As it turns out others have seen this similarity too and he has been a working Santa Claus for more than 40 years. He has some great stories too. Check some of them out here:

I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the Santa Claus industry. For example, where is the best place to work? I would have said the mall. But the most fun that George ever had was at a Chik-fil-A believe it or not. But you’re probably wondering what the heck George does for the other 11 months of the year.

Well after a short career in radio he went to work for the US Postal Service for 34 years until retiring recently after suffering a stress-induced coma that lasted one month! “I guess the work was causing more stress than I thought,” he said before jokingly saying, “At least I didn’t go postal!” After coming out of the coma George had to go to speech therapy. He even started volunteering at the clinic which resulted in them hiring him on a part-time basis working one day a week. After four years there this sadly came to an end last week when they let George go due to a cost cutting effort. I felt really bad for him as he seemed to enjoy it so much.

“I would really like to find a part time job around Manassas where I can work about one day a week.” If anyone knows of something, please let me know and I will connect you with George. He seemed very interested in trying to get back into radio and possibly working at a Christian radio station.

photo: Reed

In the spirit of giving George told me that he was going to donate the $10 to his church: Manassas Assembly of God. “I am going to donate it toward the missions.” I went on their website and they have extensive missionary work in all parts of the world.

Before I let him go (he had to go pick up his wife) I invited him to the year-end celebration for the Year of Giving that will take place on or about December 14th here in DC. “Could I come as Santa Claus?” he asked.

Absolutely!

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Nikki panhandles near Dupont Circle, DC (Photo: R. Sandridge)

Nikki has been homeless off an on for the past 20 years.  She is 55 and says she suffers from various health complications stemming from some aneurysms that she has had.  She sits on the cold concrete ground, rocking back and forth, and never looking at me in the eye.  The emotion in her face has been completely drained.  She maintains that cool steady expression during the entire time that we speak.

I asked her what she planned on doing with the $10 and she said that she would probably use $5 for food and the other $5 to put on her Metro SmarTrip card.

Nikki says that people can stop by and say hello to her.  She is in/around the Dupont Circle most weekdays.  Also, she could use some help from somebody who understands Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  She has been denied benefits and says that her case manager is not very helpful in getting the issue resolved.  So if anyone has some knowledge about this and is willing to share with Nikki, please let me know.

I taped a little video with Nikki which you can see here:

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