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Posts Tagged ‘helping others’

My Year of Giving was a life-changing event. I could have never in a million years imagined before I gave away my first ten-dollar bill on Dec. 15, 2009 how the journey would change my life. One of the amazing 365 people I met during that year was Anthony. Our lives crossed paths on Day 67.

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Anthony & Me on our first day of our project. (Photo: Reed Sandridge)

In two weeks it will be three years since I started the project. A lot has changed. I am now employed, I can’t walk around my neighborhood without seeing somebody I gave $10 to and I have an entirely new perspective on giving. Life is pretty good.

Many of you have encouraged me to put this story into a book. I’ve started that – well, I am trying to do this at least. It’s harder than it sounds to dedicate time to writing – especially when you are often tired from your day job. But I am committed to finishing the book. But I thought I would enlist some help. That’s when I turned to my friend.

Anthony has been homeless for nearly 10 years in our nation’s capital. One of the first Street Sense vendors, vendor number 5 to be exact, Anthony doesn’t let the fact that he can not afford housing get him down. He works Monday through Friday at the corner of 19th and M selling the paper. But his dream is to have his own apartment and I have wanted to help him achieve that goal for some time.

Anthony offered to help me stay on track with my writing. You know, sometimes you just need someone to be accountable to. In return I am trying to help him get housing. If this sounds simple – keep in mind that I don’t know anything about helping someone get off the streets and Anthony hasn’t a clue about what it takes to get a book published. But that hasn’t stopped us.

We are working to achieve our goal by the end of 2013 – and with a lot of hard work, collaboration between Anthony and me, and possibly your help too – we just might make it! If you would like to follow our journey – drop by and say hello at AthonyAndMe.com.

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Happy Worldwide Day of Giving!!!

I spent the day at Nonprofit 2.0 unconference conference sharing ideas and strategies for nonprofits in a social networking world. On my way home I cut through Dupont Circle – one of my old haunts when I did my year-long commitment to giving ten dollars a day away in 2010.
I made a lap around the circle looking for my recipient and spotted Dave K. rooting through a garbage can. Although he never said it, I believe the 45-year-old former science teacher from New York is homeless right now. His faded pants and worn sneakers were putting in overtime. His missing teeth didn’t stop him from being really generous with his smile that was tucked away under a thick cotton-white beard.
“Nothing in particular…just looking,” he said when I asked him what he was looking for. I had seen him open up some food containers from the lunch-goers from nearby offices that pepper the grassy respite in Northwest DC. “I think I’ll get me some coffee from Starbucks,” he told me looking down at the $10 in his hand. “I’m gonna get a venti dark roast!”

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The sunlight shifted back and forth on his face as the leaves above waved in the wind. I asked him why he was no longer working and he placed his index finger over his pursed lips. “There are some things that I prefer not to talk about,” he said.
We chatted a bit more…from quantum physics to garbage. “I once found a hundred-dollar bill,” Dave said causing his eyebrows to come out from beneath the white Virgin Atlantic sunglasses he was sporting. “Yep, it was sitting right on top of a public garbage can in New York City.”
I could sense that he was satisfied with our talk and was ready to move on. I asked a guy walking by to snap our picture, invited him to small happy hour celebration for the Worldwide Day of Giving tonight at L’Enfant Cafe and Bar. He smiled again and we shook hands goodbye. He wandered over to another garbage can and leaned in to sift through the refuse.
It felt great to give away the $10. I still do it from time to time but I don’t write about it…so this was kind of special as I enjoy sharing the stories of the amazing people I meet.
Click here to check out other stories of people participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

Tomorrow is the 2nd annual Worldwide Day of Giving.

Be a part of this grass-roots effort to inspire giving and volunteerism around the world.  There are three simple ways to support this kindness movement.

1. VOLUNTEERING

You can volunteer with any organization.  For those of you who are busy and can’t take off work, consider micro-volunteering on www.sparked.com.  This is one of the coolest websites I have seen.  You can volunteer in the time it takes to eat lunch.  So grab a sandwich and knock out a volunteer project!

2. GIVE A STRANGER $10

So you’re old school?  You want to celebrate the Worldwide Day of Giving by paying forward like Reed did for 365 days.  It’s easy.  Find a complete stranger. Approach them and tell them that you are participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and would like to give them $10. The only rules are that you may not know the person and you may not receive anything in return for the $10 (aside from the rush of goodness you will feel).

Ideally you will take some time to speak with the recipient, find out what they will do with the $10 as well as a little bit about who they are. If you can take a picture or video, that would be even better – we would love to have you post that here or on the Year of Giving Facebook Page.

 

3. DONATE $10 TO THE YEAR OF GIVING

Your $10 will be used to help those listed on the Lend a Hand section of theYear of Giving website.  Donations accepted at http://www.yearofgiving.org.

I hope that you will share your experience on the Year of Giving Facebook Page

Then sit back and start to watch the phenomenon begin.  Stories trickling in from all around the world. Imagine the different reactions and stories that we will collectively have from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Raahe, Finland to Montevideo, Uruguay!

I encourage you to harness the power of social networking to help us get reach thousands of people.  We can do it!

Use #WDoG on Twitter.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC.

HandsOn Network is a very impressive organization.  As the volunteer-focused arm of Points of Light Institute, they claim to be the largest volunteer network in the nation comprised of more than 250 HandsOn Action Centers in 16 countries.  Where these guys really get traction is by digging into their more than 70,000 corporate, faith and nonprofit organizations that have stepped up to the plate to help create meaningful change in their communities.  The latest figure I saw was that last year they racked up some 30 million volunteer hours.  That represents over $600 million worth of services that nonprofits and government entities didn’t need to spend.  That’s pretty awesome.

logoI have a connection with HandsOn Network.  You see I’ve been volunteering for a while with their local Action Center here in DC: Greater DC Cares.  I recently participated in Servathon and on the MLK Service Day.  I’m also building a team for their 9/11 Day of Service.

HandsOn Network mobilizes people who want to do good.  That is the hard part.  All of us want to do good things, however, moving individuals to act is often the barrier.  We have so many other parts of our lives that are pulling at us.  But it can be done.

Log on to HandsOn Network today and find a local Action Center near you.  There’s more than 250 of them so there is a good chance there is one near you!  And for those of you in Oconomowoc, WI, yes, even you have one near you…just down the road in Waukesha!

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Me volunteering at MLK Service Day in January.

By the way, HandsOn Network and the Points of Light Institute (along with the Corporation for National and Community Service) are part of the driving force behind the National Conference on Volunteering and Service that will be held in New Orleans June 6-8.  If you are passionate about volunteering, find a way to make it to the Superbowl of Volunteering and give me a shout…I’d be happy to meet up.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Thanks for all of the nice comments I received about yesterday’s post about my mother.  Although she passed away more than four years ago now, Mothers Day continues to be a day where I honor her and remember what a wonderful person she was.

To shift gears a little today, we’re going to get dirty…well, get our hands dirty at least.

April 22nd was Earth Day, a day that has been dedicated to informing and energizing people around the world to take an active role in securing a healthy future for us and our planet.  The building where I work sent out an email that they were observing Earth Day by partnering with the Fairmont Hotel next door to help revitalize an elementary school across the street: Franics-Stevens Education Campus (FSEC).

FSEC is small public school that has about 225 pre-school through 8th graders.  Despite its rather privileged location on the eastern periphery of upscale Georgetown, the school reports that 69% of the students receive free or reduced lunch.

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Me spreading some mulch.

Its worn red brick façade looked a little dated as I arrived at just before 10am.  The misty rain was refreshing even if it was foreshadowing for the downpour that would come later.

Given that I work for a conservation organization and that Earth Day is tied so closely to our mission, I was very surprised, and frankly disappointed to be honest, that so few colleagues came out to volunteer.  I think there were a total of five individuals.  All they asked was for a minimum of 30 minutes of people’s time, which is nothing.  We could all make that time up by taking a shorter lunch that day.  Thankfully the Fairmont Hotel had several volunteers and the maintenance staff of my building sent at least five people.

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Volunteers from the Fairmont Hotel.

The outside of their campus was definitely looking a little tired.  We all pitched in digging up weeds, cleaning up debris, and laying new mulch.  My earth covered hands worked to get all the soil and mulch looking good perfect for the students.  It wasn’t a huge task – from start to finish it took about two hours.

The real rock stars were some folks from Inside Out Landscaping.  I only spoke with Jenna and Damion, but there were a few others there as well.

I understand that their company donated the materials and they came to help guide all of us amateurs in the right direction.

“It’s not a big deal,”

Damion said as we cleaned up, “We enjoy doing this and are happy to stop by a couple of times a year and make sure things are doing ok.”

It was a good thing we finished when we did because the rain started to pick up.  There is something nice about the smell of a freshly mulched garden and the rain makes it more intense.  I took one last look at our work and headed back to the office to get cleaned up and get back to work.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much. ~Helen Keller

DSC_0199.jpgThe above quote is particularly relevant to today’s post.  As you know every Monday I bring you a blog post of my weekly volunteer activities.  Today’s service project was one that I took part in along with more than 8,000 other volunteers throughout our nation’s capital.

For the past 18 years, Greater DC Cares has organized Servathon – two extraordinary days of service.  The first day corporations and their employees participate in region-wide projects that focus on schools, parks, and other community areas.  On the second day, individual volunteers join in.

I registered a Year of Giving team for the second day where we were tasked with working on several outdoor projects at the Maya Angelou Evans Campus here in DC – a charter school in Northeast.

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Volunteer team at Maya Angelou Evans Campus

As I drove up to the school on Saturday morning colorless skies grew heavy and rain began to fall upon my windshield.  I was hoping the rain would hold off until we finished our outdoor projects.  We were building a garden area; from constructing the wooden frame that would encompass the area to building benches and painting concrete slabs that would be used as a walkway.

I was in charge of building some of the benches which turned out not to be to be too difficult since all the wood came pre-cut.  Thankfully we could do this work indoors, but that wasn’t the case though for several other teams who spent hours in the rain.  Mud was everywhere.  The beautiful thing about working on these projects together is that despite the thick layer of wet earth that was slathered on our clothes and exposed skin, spirits were bright, friendships were forged and cooperation thrived.  Thanks to all of those who came out to support team Year of Giving!  Click here to see more photos from the day.

Check out the Greater DC Cares website for other volunteer opportunities such as Servathon.  Their next region-wide service day will be held on 9/11, but you can find hundreds of other volunteer opportunities throughout the year on their website.

DSC_0168.jpgDC Cares also holds an annual event called IMPACT Summit which focuses on volunteerism, service and philanthropy.  As part of the event, they present a series of awards to outstanding organizations and community leaders who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in volunteering.  If you know of any organization or individual who should be recognized, please click here to nominate them.

Enjoy your week…hopefully we will have a new kindness investor soon!

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Easter Egg Dying

Photo: Luz Bratcher

Happy Easter to those of you celebrating Easter today.

I thought I would mix it up today and share a different type of volunteer resource with you today.  Volunteer.gov is volunteer portal that connects US citizens with volunteer opportunities with various local, state and federal agencies.  The portal was launched in 2002 by then President George W. Bush.

To my knowledge this was the first time such a resource had been rolled out nationwide.

So how does it work?  You just go to www.volunteer.gov and search for volunteer opportunities in your area that meet your interest.  For example I choose DC and then typed in “Parks” for the keyword and it churned out 12 different volunteer opportunities in the area that involved parks.  There were several activities; from maintaining parks to being a docent to my favorite of them all: counting non-migratory Canada Geese.

Once you’ve found an activity that you like, you register and notifications are sent immediately to both you and the activity coordinator.

Some agencies have some specific requirements, but their Website notes two general requirements:

  • A sense of solidarity and service, plus commitment to share one’s knowledge, skills, time, and effort with others (the volunteering “ethos” or spirit).
  • A willingness to serve in a non-salaried, non-stipend volunteer position with no or little remuneration beyond incidental expenses (arranged on a case-by-case basis and subject to the availability of funds).

If you have volunteered through Volunteer.gov before, please consider sharing your experience here.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

This is my fourth day of focusing on the great resources that we have to volunteer opportunities.  Have you signed up for one of the organizations that I have showcased?  Are you going to?  I hope so.

Today’s organization is One Brick, an organization headquartered in San Francisco that brings volunteers together to support other local non-profits.  They try to create a friendly and social atmosphere around volunteering by inviting the volunteers to a social event after volunteering.  So you might work at a community kitchen for a few hours and then find yourself having a coffee or beer with the other volunteers.

Although I really like what these guys are doing, they have a much smaller footprint than the other organizations that I have highlighted so far.  They currently have operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Chicago, Washington DC., Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Seattle and Orlando.  This boutique volunteer shop reported more than 65,000 hours last year.  That’s impressive, but I can’t help but think back to my recent visit to the Junior League of Atlanta and how amazing that group is.  I recall that their membership provided over 90,000 hours of community service last year.  That’s amazing.

Some DC volunteers with One Brick help out Books to Prisoners

If you live in a One Brick city, sign up and check out the cool opportunities that they have to offer.  The website is very easy to use.  I’m actually in the process of signing up for my first volunteer gig with them.

Have you already volunteered through One Brick?  Why not leave a comment here and share your experience.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop reading this and go sign up!

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Blog post by Reed S., a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.

A year ago this week I met a charismatic young post-grad student from Georgetown University: Alex S.  His story is one of my favorites and one that I tell over and over because I love how he thought outside the box and was creative and thoughtful with how he used the $10.

Here it is…

Originally posted on April 12, 2010

So this morning I heard the NPR story by Liane Hansen…it was great!  If you missed it, check it out here.

So I was walking around my neighborhood one night looking for someone to give my $10 to.  People often ask me how I choose the recipients.  There really isn’t any scientific method, but more of an instinctive gut reaction that I have.  Something about the person makes them interesting to me.  Maybe they are dressed in an interesting way, maybe a pan-handler says something clever, or perhaps it’s just a nice bus driver.

Alex is sitting in a small park on a bench reading a book at about 9:00pm.  The dim light from a nearby street lamp is just enough for him to read his book: Negotiating Across Culture by Raymond Cohen.

Alex is dressed in a suit sans tie.  He looks comfortable and at ease with me approaching and sitting down next to him.  He is reading the textbook for his post-grad coursework at Georgetown.  In addition to his schoolwork, Alex also has a part-time job at a DC think tank.  As I explain to him my year-long commitment I learn that his birthday is December 15th (the day I started the Year of Giving).  Somehow I feel that I was meant to meet Alex.

When Alex isn’t studying, working at the think tank or taking in a night at local art galleries (that’s what he was doing this night) he gives his time.  He helps out at shelters and kitchens around DC.  He has volunteered several times atLoaves and Fishes, a ministry of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church that has been serving lunch to the hungry and homeless on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays since 1968.

Alex hopes to work in international development and policy in Africa.  This is no surprise given his vast international experience.  For a 24-year-old he has seen a lot of the world.  Check out the video where we talk a little about his experiences overseas.

The following is a letter that I received from Alex explaining how he used the $10.  Also, take note of the link to the study on kindness at the end…definitely worth a read.

Hey Reed,

I was really unexpected and nice meeting you the other night. I wanted to drop you a note to say that I really think your project is fantastic. I think it’s great that you have embraced the curiosity, generosity, and faith in other people that a lot of us aspire to. I too believe that there’s so many incredible and interesting people we encounter in our daily lives that we seldom take the time to stop and appreciate. I myself wish I did it more.

So, I told you I’d write you to tell you how I’d spend my money.  Basically, 10 bucks isn’t going to change what I can afford, or what some deserving NGO in the area could do if I gave the money to them.  But, what the gesture of yours can do is change something I do, particularly stopping to appreciate the people we see in our daily lives but maybe don’t stop to acknowledge or appreciate. So, what I decided to do was spend that money on some cookie supplies, bake some cookies and give them to people we don’t too often acknowledge – the guys who hand out the WaPo Express, the people who work at the Metro stations and the cleaning people and receptionist in my building on K Street.

Oh and I also thought you’d be interested in this article I came across on the kindness multiplier. Reminds you that an act of kindness has consequences you don’t see!

Cheers and best of luck,

Alex (109)

Thanks Alex.  What a thoughtful and creative use of the $10.  I would love to know how the people reacted!  If you haven’t already done it yet and can record it, it would be great to post here!  It was great to meet you…thanks for making this giving experience so special.

Update 4/9/2011

Alex attended the Year-End Celebration in December.  And he didn’t show up empty handed either.  Would you believe that he showed up with cookies to share?  What a thoughtful guy!

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Blog post by Reed S., a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.

I’m looking for volunteers for four things.  Two of the items can be done anywhere in the world, so there’s something for everyone!

  1. On Saturday April 16th I am volunteering at DC Servathon, a city-wide volunteer movement.  I am leading a small team of people who will be working to make some improvements at the Maya Angelou Charter School.  We are in need of volunteers and donations.  If you are interested in volunteering making a financial contribution, click here.

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    Volunteers from MLK Service Day!

  2. On Saturday April 30th I am involved in another service day called Hands-On-DC!  We’ll be tackling a DC public school and need more volunteers.  Click here to sign up or make a financial contribution to provide college scholarships for underprivileged kids in DC.
  3. We need a new Kindness Investor on Year of Giving!  If you or someone you know is unemployed or underemployed and wants to spend seven amazing days investing in kindness let me know.  Click here for more details.
  4. The Worldwide Day of Giving is back!  That’s right, this coming June 15th is the second annual Worldwide Day of Giving.  Last year over a thousand people from around the world participated by giving $10 to stranger.  This year, you have an additional option for those who would prefer to volunteer.  Both options are a lot of fun.  Details can be found here or on the Facebook Page.  I need your help in spreading the word so that we can make this another amazing day!  Use your Facebook, twitter, whatever…just spread the love!

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It was a slow week on the blog.  We are without a Kindness Investor to share a daily story of giving from some part of the world.  If you or someone you know are out of work or underemployed and would like to become a Kindness Investor for seven days, shoot me a message!

My blog today is a special one.  I recently was honored to be invited to visit Atlanta to speak at the 95th anniversary event for the Junior League of Atlanta (JLA).

In case you are not familiar with the Junior League, it’s an organization made up of outstanding women who are committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.  They have a little less than 2,000 active members in the Greater Atlanta region who last year collectively volunteered more than 90,000 hours at 95 different organizations saving them more than $1.8 million in labor related expenses.  That is awesome!

My speech was in the evening and so I had some time to visit first hand some of the work that JLA’s members are involved with.  I was met by Audra Dial, JLA’s current president.  She accompanied me to three spectacular organizations where JLA works.  Audra, a partner at a top law firm, is a truly inspiring individual.  In addition to her professional and philanthropic work, she’s married and is the mother of a handsome 18-month-old boy!  People often ask me how I do all that I do, well, I want to know how the heck she does everything that she does!

Atlanta Union Mission.jpgThe first organization we visited was My Sister’s House a 264 bed facility that offers overnight shelter and residential discipleship programs for homeless women and women with children.  Part of the Atltanta Mission, My Sister’s House also provides counselors, referrals to job training programs, and help in finding housing, medical and legal resources. For mothers, the organization has a fully developed childcare facility staffed with a behavioral specialists and social workers.

Melissa, the manager of volunteer services, greeted us and showed us around.  I was very impressed with the facilities, especially the part that houses single women and women with children for up to a year.  They have simple yet comfortable apartments that they call home.  The housing and services are provided free of charge to the women and their children, however, each woman is required to contribute in some way.  Some do laundry, others clean the general facility rooms or help provide the more than 500 meals that are served daily.

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My Sister's House facility.

“How can people help,” I asked Melissa.  She told me that they need volunteers, especially men.  “The children, in particular the boys, need positive male role models.”  They also need people who are able to provide child-care for the guests, mainly on Sunday mornings and evenings during the week.  “We also need volunteers who can help with adult literacy, serve meals and tutor the women on computer skills.”

This appears to be a very well run organization that is full of love.  It was sad to leave, but we had a few other places to visit.

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Nearly New Shop storefront

Next it was the Nearly New Shop, a store that is run by JLA as a source of fundraising for the organization.  “We’re somewhere between a thrift store and a consignment shop,” Scott, the store manager, explained to me.  I walked through the neatly organized store and wandered over to the men’s clothing.  A charcoal Brooks Brothers suit caught my eye, but it wasn’t my size!  Everyone working here is extremely warm and caring.  Jackie, a JLA volunteer, warmed my heart with her smile and calming voice.  “We are always in need of donation items in good condition,” Scott mentioned as he showed me around the storage area.  “Especially furniture and men’s clothing,” Jackie added.

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Jackie, Reed and Audra at the Nearly New Shop.

My last stop was the Atlanta Speech School, one of the Southeast’s oldest therapeutic, educational centers for children and adults with hearing, speech, language or learning disabilities. Co-founded in 1938 by Katherine Hamm, the mother of a deaf son, and JLA, the school has the feel of a state-of-the-art learning center.  Comer Yates, the school’s executive director, manages to squeeze me in to chat for a few minutes.  He was full of awe-striking facts
about language and literacy that made me wish I had taken notes.  If you would like to support this vibrant learning facility please click here.

I ended up back at my hotel for a quick shower before heading over to the beautiful Ahavath Achim Synagogue where I delivered my speech.  The evening presented two “firsts” for me.  It marked the first time I have given a speech in a synagogue and the first time I have been the only man in a room with nearly 500 women!

I want to thank Audra, Sara, Deb and all the members of JLA.  I truly felt the southern hospitality!

If you want to learn more about JLA or support their terrific work, please click here.

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Before I share with you my amazing volunteer experience at Miriam’s Kitchen here in Washington, DC, I want to introduce you to a very important person at the Year of Giving.  His name is Kyle.

A photo of Kyle when I met him back in October of 2010.

Some of you might remember him from Day 311 last year when I gave him my $10 for the day after seeing him do a stand-up routine at a local open mic night.  He recently graduated from the University of New Hampshire and completed an internship here in Washington, DC at a talk news radio station.

The Year of Giving has grown and around the beginning of this year I realized I needed some help.  Kyle volunteered to be the Web Editor and help keep the daily blog posts coming.  In addition to volunteering with the Year of Giving, he’s currently looking for magazine or internet related journalism work in New Hampshire, Washington, DC or potentially other areas of the country.  Please reach out and let him know if you have any connections or ideas for him.  Although he has worked in news, I know that he is also very interested in music and film journalism.

DSC_0038.jpgSo back to today’s volunteer experience.  I was so impressed when I walked into Miriam’s Kitchen.  It was warm, not because of the ovens but because of the love.  I was almost immediately met by Ashley, the Development and Volunteer Manager.  She gave me, and the other 8-10 volunteers for the day, an overview of the 28-year-old organization.  “We like to bring people in through our healthy great tasting food,” she said going on to add that their guests usually stay and utilize the many other services available to their guests.  There was a station full of donated personal hygiene products, a security guard who also gives a hell of a sharp-looking haircut, case managers, legal assistance, access to healthcare, etc.  “A lot of our guests don’t have a physical address so we allow them to have mail sent here too,” she added.

I strapped on a blue or purple apron (I’m color-blind, so who knows which one it was) and was sent to help out Chef Tom.  He had me preparing some home-made chicken and duck stock.  After that I helped wash some of the items used earlier that morning and get them put away.  After the kitchen was in good shape it was time to go out and work the front side of the house.

The inviting dining room had about 25 tables, all with fresh flowers on them, some of them even had cards and games on them.  The walls were covered with art work from the guests.  “It’s a fun environment,” Ashley said as smiling staff members and volunteers started to greet guests making their way in out of the cold.  I was assigned to the personal hygiene station and got to interact with several of the guests who needed essential items such as multi vitamins, deodorant, toothpaste, shaving supplies, condoms, etc.  Everything of course is free for the guests; however, they are limited to receiving a reasonable amount of the items.

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Just one of the delicious items being prepared at Miriam's Kitchen.

Ashley then asked if I would help refill juice cups to those who were seated eating their lunch.  This got me circulating a bit more and I was able to spot some familiar faces: Jim M., Lionel and Bill C. I spent some time speaking with each of them and will update you in the coming weeks on how these 2010 YOGIs are doing.

Lunch came to an end and the dining area transformed into an art center with several of the guests busy working on projects.  Bill was working on a new painting.  “I’m not sure what it is going to be yet,” he told me as he applied some broad strokes to the canvas.  He showed me several of his pieces which were going to be highlighted in an art show being held the following day at Miriam’s.

DSC_0022.jpgMy shift ended and I cleaned up and said my goodbyes.  I walked out into the brisk afternoon, the sun warming my face as I headed north along 24th Street.  I was impressed by how well the staff seemed to know the guests.  “Yesterday we had 212 guests for breakfast,” Ashley told me earlier, “and our case managers knew all but three of them by name.”  Everyone there seemed happy.  It was almost family-like.

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Reed finishing up in the kitchen.

This appears to be a really well run operation.  That being said, they rely on support from volunteers and donations.  If you live in the DC area you can check their list of volunteer needs.  In addition to your time they need lots of items for their guests such as: gloves, socks, long johns, sleeping bags, jackets, yarn, crazy glue, Crayola markers.  If you would like to donate any of these items, reach out to me and I can see that they get there.  If you would prefer, you can also make a financial contribution.

Thanks to Ashley and everyone at Miriam’s!  You guys are awesome.

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Leng's tuk-tuk

A “tuk-tuk” is a motorcycle taxi. Mr. Leng was my tuk-tuk driver while I was in Cambodia. And a fine driver he is indeed; and not too shabby at snooker either. I believe the average monthly income of a tuk-tuk driver is about $60.00 USD a month. Mr. Leng will use the money I gave him to feed his family.

I also helped out some monks that I met this week.  The monks are an integral part of a Buddhist community by providing many services such as giving blessings and participating at weddings and funerals. Since the monks do not work for an income, it is customary to give Alms to them. I gave Alms to a monk in the form of rice, tea, coffee and a few other essentials. Poor village boys are allowed to live at this particular monastery. They go to public schools and learn the ways of the monks. At an older age they can choose to either become a monk or go back into the secular world.

One of the monks I helped.

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.

The Sustainable Organization for Community Peasant Laborer Student Development and Orphans (SOCPLSDO),  a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organization, was established in 2006 by Mr Pong Sena.  The SOCPLSDO established the Chres Village School and Orphanage in the same year for the regional orphans, students, laborers and peasants from the villages in and around the district of Bakong of the Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

The aim of the SOCPLSDO is to alleviate the poverty and difficulties of the orphans and children of poor families in the Bakong district providing support of their basic needs such as food, clothing, education, accommodation, health services and school supplies.

More than 50% of the Cambodian population is less than 21 years old. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.

I went over my $10 today, but it was my pleasure to give my temporary English students the help they needed for each of them to buy school supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge, a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.

Reed shoveling a sidewalk on R Street in Washington, DC

People often tell me that they want to volunteer their time but don’t know where to start. Sheila, a working mom from Boston recently expressed her frustration with trying to volunteer.  “The local community center where I was hoping to volunteer only accepts applicants that are able to make a commitment of at least once a month for a year,” she wrote.  “I can’t guarantee that.”  She went on to say that other organizations were looking for individuals with specific skills or training which she didn’t have.

Sheila’s challenges are not unique.  I hear this same comment from individuals from all parts of the world on a regular basis.  The fact is that there are lots of ways that you can contribute to your community without volunteering with formal organizations.  Here are seven simple ways that you can make a difference in your community that cost little or nothing and don’t require you to jump through any administrative hoops!

  1. Pick up trash around your neighborhood or at a local park
  2. Rake the leaves/shovel snow/mow the lawn for an elderly neighbor
  3. Drive an elderly neighbor to the store or to their doctor’s appointment
  4. Take leftover food to poor/homeless members of your community
  5. Donate clothes in good condition that you no longer use to a local shelter or community outreach center
  6. Ask people to bring an item for donation to your next party or get-together
  7. Micro-volunteer online at an organization like sparked.com.

So two weeks ago I did exactly this.  We got a dose of really wet snow, maybe four or five inches.  A day after the snowfall I noticed a couple of sidewalks that still were not cleared.  The fluffy white blanket had now compressed down into a three-inch thick sheet of ice that was not only hard as hell to remove, but dangerous for those who relied on the sidewalks to get around town.  One spot was owned by an older couple.  Another was an abandoned home and I don’t know the situation of the third home, but their sidewalk hadn’t been touched.  So, I grabbed the shovel and set out to clear those areas.

Snow shoveling isn’t my thing.  Sure I can do it, but my back usually gets all out of whack for days after a long day of shoveling.  I know, “You gotta use your knees,” you’re thinking to yourself.  You are right…and I probably don’t use them enough.

As I was shoveling the long sidewalk in front of the abandoned home I spotted an elderly woman carefully navigating the icy terrain.  I should have offered her a hand but she gave me a terrible scowl as if to say, “You are late in getting this sidewalk shoveled young man!”  Geez.

That's Reed in the distance making his final pass on a sidewalk on 21st Street in DC.

I finished clearing the final patch of ice at the third house and headed home to put away my weary shovel and rest my now screaming lower back.  The next day I walked by one of the areas and saw people moving about on the now snow-free sidewalks that I had cared for.  I felt magnificent.  Ok, that’s not exactly true.  My back felt like an 18-wheeler had pulled into my bedroom in the middle of the night and parked on top of me.  But seriously, I was elated by the simple neighborly act that I had done.  It didn’t cost anything, well not then at least.  I just have to save up to have a microdiscectomy procedure to fix my herniated lumbar disc!

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY IN DC THIS WEEKEND!

Hey, are you in the DC area and want to give a few hours of your time this weekend for a good cause?  Why not join me in volunteering at the fourth annual Our City Film Festival.  All proceeds go to Yachad DC, a local non-profit working to bring communities together through service.  They mobilize skilled and unskilled volunteers to work side-by-side with those being served to repair homes and communities for low-income residents.  What a fun way to help out.  If you are interested in volunteering, email me or Kendra at kendra@yachad-dc.org.

 

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

"The Amazing Kim Perry" volunteering at Robert E. Lee High School.

Last year a good friend of mine, the amazing Kim Perry (I actually call her that too), invited me to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day doing some community service.  This past MLK Day marked the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday and I thought what better way to pay tribute to the great civil rights leader, and continue on a tradition that Kim instilled in me, than to spend my day off helping others.

The holiday was officially designated as a day of service by Congress in 1994.  So it’s actually supposed to be a “day on, not a day off.”  A day when people from all backgrounds come together to strengthen the fabric of communities we live in.

I invited lots of people to come out and serve with me.  Greater DC Cares organizes a massive effort in DC to help a plethora of organizations; from revitalizing schools to helping feed the poor and hungry.  On their website you can create a team and activate your own network to come together to work on a project.  I signed up a Year of Giving team, however, the web-portal that Greater DC Cares uses for registration locked a week in advance so many of those who wanted to join me were unable to which I think was a shame.

Anyway, the response I got from friends was interesting.  Many supported the idea of serving on MLK Day, a handful even came out and worked alongside me.  And of course there were a few who took the attitude of, “I have the day off…why would I waste a day off to go out and work?”

Fair question.  I guess because I believe that if you really want to celebrate the holiday, and after all isn’t that why we are released from our work commitments on these holidays, the best way to do that for MLK Day is to volunteer your time to help transform the dream that Dr. King had of a “beloved community” into a reality.

My team was part of a larger project that helped paint parts of Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA.  In all I think we had 40 volunteers there.  Although I thought the service day lacked a little overall leadership and guidance for the volunteers, we managed to complete the task.  The team I was assigned to gelled really well.  What we lacked in the way of instructions we compensated with initiative, enthusiasm and compassion – not to mention a heavy dose of FUN.

I really believe our team produced the best looking wall.  Now to be fair we had a bit of an advantage.  Several of the teams painted stripes down the hallways; we were assigned yellow, others had blue, red and green.  Yellow is the lightest of the colors and hides flaws very easily whereas those who were painting more contrasting colors, such as blue and red, had a challenging time concealing the brush strokes that escaped the painting area.

Volunteers at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA.

All in all it was good experience and I hope we created something that the high school students will appreciate – although I doubt that when I was a student I would have valued such an effort very much.  Back then I just didn’t appreciate the challenges that schools face financially and value the efforts that were made by others to make the learning environment a more attractive space.

Thanks to all of those who helped to keep Dr. King’s dream alive.  For those of you who haven’t ever spent the day serving, make a commitment to do this next year.

And for those of you in DC who can’t wait to get out and help your community keep checking my calendar for service events.  Also keep an eye out for Servathon in April – two extraordinary days of service organized by Greater DC Cares that bring together nearly 5,000 volunteers to help 70+ nonprofits!  I checked their website and they don’t have any information up as of today on the 2011 event, but hopefully they post it soon!

Did you volunteer on MLK Day?  If so, I’d love to hear about your experience!

Want to see more photos from this event?  Click here.

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I love my new job. I have been dreaming about this for years. Seriously. I’ve so often thought how wonderful it would be to head out the door with a hand full of cash-and just walk up to someone and say “Here, have some money. Please, take it.” And walk away.

Dreams do to come true.

Except in my reality (as I discovered today), the joy was not only in the giving, but in the fellowship of two unknown people thrown together by – what? Fate? A Spirit nudge? An angel? Coincidence?

As I began to run errands on my first day as a Kindness Investor, forecasters were threatening snow in Seattle so I paid close attention to whom I was drawn to; who was the intended recipient of my crisp ten-dollar bill? Several people caught my eye but none spoke to me, if you will.

She was on the right hand side of the street making her way toward a small bridge which crosses over freight trains and their many tracks. It can be a dicey, if not dangerous area for anyone making their way over this small viaduct. But there she was and now I had to figure out how to get her attention without scaring her; she was somehow calling me to be the recipient of my first Kindness Investor’s random act. And so it was.

I slowed down and let several cars pass me as I approached this quintessential Seattleite riding her bike. I gently beeped my horn and rolled down the window on the passenger side of my car.

“Excuse me; can I talk to you for a moment?” As if she had a choice; I felt like I had practically run her into the parking area which we both approached. I pulled up in front of her and popped out of my car. It was cold.  Frozen snow drops had begun to fly through the frigid air.

Once I was close enough to see her beautiful face, I understood why she was wearing a flowing, flowery, silky skirt over what I hoped were very warm leggings.  The skirt said so much to me: Kindness, an independent spirit, fun!

As I began explaining to her why I tracked her down, I described the project…etc., etc., etc., and asked if she would please accept ten dollars from me. I handed it to her. She smiled in delightful surprise.

As we talked, I learned that Nora is a student who is now studying to be a pre-school teacher. In the meantime, she also works in upholstery and ceramics. I knew it. Between the bike, scarves, and skirt, she had “eclectic” and “artistic” written all over her.

While Nora lives in Seattle’s Central District, her parents live in Ballard. Via bike, a hike, a bus, or car, this is not an easy journey. Seattle’s many hills and waterways create challenges for anyone trying to get from point A to B, much less point A to point K. But there she was-our Nora peddling the trails and streets and yes, train tracks of Seattle!

As I explained that Reed in Washington, DC had begun this most wonderful journey of Kindness Investing more than a year ago, I added that giving away money has been my own dream job for some time.  And there I was – with Nora – my first “client” on the first day of my new job.  Together we were shivering on the outside but both compassionate on the inside – kindness can warm up the mood of nearly any spirit. It can also be very contagious.

“I’ll have to start my own year of giving,” she stated, smiling as she again looked at the ten dollars.

When I asked what she thought she might do with the money, her first notion was to buy the book “Finding Your North Star” by Martha Beck. Nora had read it and felt a friend could benefit from the uplifting messages within the books’ pages.

“My friend has been struggling with darker feelings…maybe the book – and your story – can be a catalyst for her; it’s about being fearless and following your passions. I think this should cover the cost of the book.”

I wanted to spend more time with Nora-she was clearly kind and considerate.  And for some lucky Seattle toddlers, they would soon know a teacher and friend who would soon be encouraging them to nurture their own desires and creative passions. Besides, who in pre-school doesn’t like a pretty teacher?

When Nora asked what I did, I explained that I was unemployed, but when I connected with Reed and we discussed the yearofgiving.org project, I knew I had to participate.  It is my own North Star. My own passion. From where ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred dollars a day will come, I do not know. But this I do know: I think my new job is a great fit. I have faith that the money will appear so I can pass it on to the Nora’s of my world who in turn will use the blessing to help their friends and perhaps others in need. And when that friend is inspired, she too, will continue to invest in kindness.

This is addicting. And very, very fun.

Thank you, Reed.

Bless you, Nora.

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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Ernest decided to donate his $10 to charity.

Sadly day 14 is here which means this is my last day of participating in the Year of Giving.  I met Ernest today at our local hospital.  When I walked in Ernest was mopping the floor.  A never-ending job since we have snow on the ground again.

Ernest has worked in the housekeeping department at the hospital for two years.  His favorite part of his job is that it gives him the opportunity to meet many people and he likes helping those visiting the hospital.  Ernest said he was going to donate the money to a charity.  He wasn’t sure which charity yet, he was going to think of one as he finished mopping the floor.

I chose the hospital as my place for donation today as I feel very fortunate that I was recently offered a position with Hospice of Dayton.  I start working with them next week and am really looking forward to the opportunity to not only get into the health care field but also work in the area I’m most passionate about which is helping others.

I would like to thank Reed for the opportunity to touch the lives of people in my area for the last two weeks.  Meeting the 14 people I met during this journey was extremely rewarding to me, I can only imagine how rewarding the experience was for Reed having the opportunity to meet 365 different people.

If anyone reading this is unemployed I encourage you to send an email to Reed right now and participate in a week of giving.  I’m sure you will find the experience rewarding.  You will be amazed at the people you meet and the stories of their lives they are willing to share.  It’s such a rewarding experience.  I feel very fortunate being given the opportunity to not only kick off the second Year of Giving but also having the opportunity to participate for two weeks.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Some of you might recall that two of my recipients are celebrating a very special day today.  October 16th is the anniversary of Bob (Day 251) and Michelle’s (Day 277) sobriety.  Bob has been sober 24 years and Michelle eight.  I am so proud of them both and am thankful to have met them through my Year of Giving!

A VW Beatle sits almost completely underwater as flood victims make their way through town by boat. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella, AFP)

Today I am going to tell you about a fascinating young woman.  But first let me give you a little background on the circumstances that I met Ximena.  In September parts of Mexico were devastated when torrential downpours caused disastrous flooding in the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz.  As you might know, I used to live in Mexico and have many friends there today.  Fortunately everyone I know is safe, however, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were affected by the relentless waters.  In September a group here in DC put together a fundraiser to collect money to send to needy families in Mexico.  My neighbor Paulina, who is Mexican, told me about the event and I stopped by to donate some money.

The fundraiser was held at Lupe Cantina, 1214 18th Street, NW (photo: Reed)

In addition to my donation to the fundraiser, I made another “donation” of $10 to Ximena.  She is a performing artist who was preparing to sing that evening at the event.  I found a moment when she was not busy and approached her and explained the Year of Giving concept

Ximena talking to a friend. (photo: Reed)

Ximena is 34 years old and hails from the Mexico City.  This talented young singer caught my attention when she shared with me part of her life where she spent four years living on a bus.  That’s right.  At the time she was living in Austin, Texas when she met up with a guy from DC who had driven a bus down to Texas.  The bus, called “Destino 2000”, would later turn into the home for several individuals.  The core group was about four people.  They loaded up and started driving south into Mexico.  But they didn’t stop there; they kept on going to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, etc.  “We worked everywhere,” she explained in Spanish, “to get enough money to get us to the next place.”

Ximena, originally from Mexico City, lived on a bus for four years. (photo: Reed)

Her experience on the bus taught her many things.  “When you live here you take many things for granted,” she told me.  Sometimes the most basic necessities presented challenges.  “Without drinking water you can not survive,” she added. 

There was one common thread that sustained the nomadic group during their journey: music.  “The music was always the vehicle that opened doors for us and sustained us,” Ximena said.

Last May she received her degree in music education.  She smiled and said, “It took me 14 years to do it, but I made it!”  Although she currently does not have a job she says that she is fortunate enough to pick up small projects here and there.  When I invited her to the year-end celebration in December, she said she would not be able to attend because she would be in Texas in the area that is made up of Juarez on the Mexican side and El Paso on the US side.  “I am organizing some Fandangos in response to the violence that that area has suffered.”  I thought that I met Ximena before the alleged murder of David Hartley by Mexican pirates, but after checking it was in fact the same day that I met Ximena.  As a side note, something seems strange about that case…I’m not sure we are getting the full story.

“When you live here you take many things for granted.” - Ximena (photo: Reed)

Anyway, being out of work you would think that Ximena would use the money to help pay for her rent or get some groceries but that was not the case.  “I’m going to send the money to my ‘papa’” she told me.  “He doesn’t work any more and I haven’t had very much to send him lately.”  I thought that was very touching.  Our parents do so much for us as children that it is nice to be able to help them when they are in need.

I unfortunately had another event that evening and had to leave before Ximena performed.  Hopefully I will get another chance.

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What are the chances that I choose a guy named Reed (or Read as today’s recipient spells his name) to receive my $10?  It appears to be 1/280!

Garrett making music at Conn. Ave and Q Street in NW DC. (photo: Reed)

It was a beautiful night and I took a walk over to Dupont Circle to see who I would find.  On the way over there I saw Garrett shaking his tambourine and singing gospels.  He seemed happy to see me and showed me his toothless smile.  I told him I had some more clothes for him that Meghan from Pennsylvania and Rachel from Florida had sent.  I asked if he was going to be there for a while, because if so, I would go back home and get the clothes and bring them to him.  Now you got to understand that Garrett’s track record for being where he says he is going to be is mediocre at best.  “Oh, I will definitely be here tonight until 10:00pm,” Garrett told me as I checked my watch.  This time he was good to his word and was still there when I got back around 8:00pm.

He seemed very happy to get all the items.  Combined Meghan and Rachedl sent him a pair of jeans, a hat, three shirts, two pants, a belt and a sweatshirt – everything was brand new!  Meghan and Rachel, you both rock!  I’m going to post a video of him receiving the items and singing a special song for Meghan and Rachel on the Year of Giving’s Facebook page later tonight.

Read was having a coffee and sending a message on his phone when I found him. (photo: Reed)

I left Garrett and walked over to Dupont Circle.  It was a beautiful evening and there were lots of people sitting around the picturesque fountain.  The soft sound of tumbling water blanketed the park.  I saw Read sitting on a bench thumbing away on his phone. 

When I asked if he would accept my $10, he replied, “Yeah, let me just finish sending this message and then we can talk.”  He finished and chatted for about 30 minutes or so.  “I don’t know what I will do with it,” Read said.  “I am lucky to be in a position to not have to worry too much about money.”

Read is no stranger to helping others out. (photo: Reed)

Read is a former AmeriCorps member who has been practicing giving for some time.  His AmeriCorps service took him to Jacksonville, FL where he worked on securing healthcare coverage for children who came from families who earned slightly above the cut-off to qualify for Medicare.   He also told me about some volunteer work he has done with half-way houses.

Originally from northeast Texas, Read completed his Master’s degree in Public Health at Boston University.  He has been here in DC for about 18 months.  “DC and Jacksonville have some things in common believe it or not,” Read related to me.  “Both have strong dichotomies when it comes to the rich and poor.”  Furthermore he astutely points out the transient nature of DC, “Nobody’s here long enough to pay attention to the local issues.”

Read is currently working with communities here in DC.  One project has to do with a local junior high school baseball team which is underfunded.  He plans to volunteer his time in order to help the team stay alive and hopefully grow.   “Maybe I’ll use this $10 toward helping them,” he said. 

Something Read pointed out about the $10 was interesting.  “I hardly ever use paper money,” he says explaining that he prefers to use credit and bank cards.  He posed an interesting question.  “I wonder how the responses of the people you meet would differ if you direct deposited  the money into their accounts instead of giving them cash.”  I have never thought about that but Read’s got a point.  People would probably use it differently.  He assured me that he would not put this $10 in his account, that it would get passed on.

Read's name is also a family name. It was his father's middle name and the maiden name of his great-great aunt. (photo: Reed)

Just a little side note about the pictures I took of Read.  While I was shooting the photos, a guy nearby overheard my disgust in not being able to get the correct lighting for the shot.  Sven, originally from Sweden, kindly came over and leant me a hand getting my aperture and shutter speed set better to accommodate the dwindling light.  Thanks Sven…that’s what it’s all about – helping one another!

By the way, I walked back by where Garrett was supposed to be until 10:00pm a good hour before that time and he was already gone.  :)

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Kathryn's car. (photo: Reed)

What are the chances that I come across two people with broken down vehicles two days in a row?  Well, apparently pretty high.

You will recall that yesterday I told you about Vincenzo and his “ghetto dealership” purchase that resulted in a $700 trip to the mechanic.  Well, today I want you to meet Kathryn.

I was a few blocks from home when I passed a car with the hood up and the door wide open parked on 20th Street in front of a small park.  As I walked by I scanned the surrounding area but didn’t see anyone who looked like they owned the car.  Perhaps someone was unloading something and just left the door ajar.  I decided to walk back and take a seat on a nearby bench and just observe the car for a few minutes.  As I got to the bench I noticed a woman sitting in the park who was occasionally looking over her shoulder toward the abandoned Audi. 

“Is that your car?” I asked

“Yes it is.  I can’t get it to start,” Kathryn told me.

Wearing a floral sleeveless blouse and white pants, Kathryn explains that she thinks her battery is dead.  “It just goes tick, tick, tick.”  I offered to go get my car, which was a few blocks away, and try to give her a jump.

 “Oh, that’s ok.  I’ve already called my husband as well as a mechanic, so one of them should be here soon.”

The fifty-something year old DC resident is married and has two step-daughters.  She explains that she often drives to the Dupont Circle Metro and leaves her car there and takes the subway to where she needs to go.  “I came back and it wouldn’t start.”

About this time the mechanic called Kathryn.  He was nearby but was having difficulty navigating some of the tricky streets near our location.  Since I knew the area quite well, I offered to talk to him.  She handed me the phone and I guided him through about a half-dozen streets until he arrived.

By that time her husband was also there. 

The mechanic quickly got Kathryn's car started. (photo: Reed)

The mechanic grabbed a large yellow portable battery charger and within seconds had it connected to Kathryn’s battery and she was able to start the car.

Kathryn was reluctant to take the $10, but in the end accepted it and told me that she would pass it on to someone else.  I hope that she checks the website and shares with us what she did with the ten spot.

UPDATE: 10/25/2010

I got the following email from Kathryn…

Hi Reed,
It is Kathryn and I met you on a very hot Sept. 17 at Dupont circle
when the battery of my car went dead.

I wanted to let you know that on Oct. 9 at Union Station I met and had a conversation with a homeless man named Fred.  He hangs out on Mass. Ave 1/2 block from Union Station.  I sat and spoke with him while I was waiting to pick up a friend.

He was so happy to have the $10.00 (Pay it Forward) and I told him to please buy some good food to eat.  We also talked about the possibility of him learning to cook so that he might help out in a restaurant.  It is a small world because when I dropped my friend at Union Station on Oct. 11 Fred was in the same spot.  He was having some lunch and that made me smile. He seemed in a good way.

Thanks again for stopping to help me when I was in need.  It felt so good to pass the money on to Fred.  Keep him in your prayers.  There are a lot like him out there.

Blessings.
Kathryn

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I often tell people that it’s much more meaningful to give of your time than your money.  So why am I giving away $10?  Good question.  I wanted to make a year-long altruistic commitment that I could quantify with relative ease.  A monetary amount lends itself very well to this.  Having said that, I probably give of my time almost every single day to help someone.  Whether it’s giving directions to a lost tourist, watching someone’s bag while they go to the bathroom or cooking something for a friend’s birthday, I do something for someone else just about every single day.   

Vincenzo and his new wheels. (photo: Reed)

 

 Well on Day 260 I was on my way to a meeting near 11th and G Streets in DC.  I was on foot and cutting through Chinatown when I saw Vincenzo stressing out in front of his blue station wagon at the corner of 7th and G.  

“Do you know anything about cars?” he asked me standing in front of the open hood of the car.  I made a quick call to tell the person I was meeting to inform them that I would be a few minutes late and then told him that I would try to help but that I didn’t know much about cars.  I thought he probably only needed some help pushing the car out of the way of other traffic.   

Another passerby, Joel, also topped to lend a hand.  

None of us really knew what was wrong with it.  The 22-year-old from Virginia Beach explained that it felt like the breaks were on and he couldn’t get the car to move forward.  I did what I always do when I’m in this situation and the hood is up.  I walked over and took a look at the engine.  I don’t know why I do that, I don’t know the first thing about cars.  I mean I know the difference between the alternator and the starter, but when things go wrong, I doubt I am going to be able to fix anything.  

Joel and I were a little more preoccupied with getting Vincenzo’s car out of the middle of the road so that he could take his time to figure out how he wanted to proceed.  I looked over at Vincenzo who now was pacing a little bit saying something about how he shouldn’t have bought this car.  “I bought this car yesterday from some ghetto dealer I found on Craigslist,” he told me.  Vincenzo paid $2,000 cash for the car.  “It’s got 152,000 miles on it.”  He beat me, my 2000 Volkswagen has 139,000 miles.  Speaking of my car, I have spent over $1,000 on it in the last week, but more on that later.    

Then I heard something about an interview.  I peaked my head around the hood and asked, “You’re on your way to an interview?”   

“Yeah, I’m supposed to be there in 20 minutes.”  

Oh man, this is really turning into a bad day for Vincenzo, who is now fully stressed and sweating pretty bad in the 90+ temps.  This is not how he envisioned this day going, I am sure.  

Finally I ask if I can try to start the car to feel what the car is doing.  He tosses me the keys and I get into the station wagon and turn the ignition.  I eased off the breaks and the car crept forward.  It seemed to be working fine to me.  Vincenzo looks at me somewhat puzzled and I frankly don’t know what I did, but we switched places and he gave it a try.  It worked!  We closed the hood and I gave him my cell number just in case it started having problems again and he was close by.   

Vincenzo managed to smile despite the day's misfortunes. (photo: Reed)

 

A few days later I got a voice mail from Vincenzo.  He was at a repair shop getting his car fixed.  Apparently his car died again that day on his way to the interview and he parked the car and hopped on the Metro to get to the interview.  “There was something wrong with the disc brakes and the left caliper that was making the breaks stick.”  It cost him $706 to get it fixed.  

As for the interview, he didn’t get the job.  “I kind of new that it was a long shot, but it would have been the perfect job.”  Vincenzo’s background is in personal training and he is looking for a job with large organizations to build program’s that help keep their employees in good health.  Many companies are hiring people like Vincenzo now because they can get cost savings from their insurance provider for offering these sort of services as well as get more efficient employees.  He told me that he has personally seen how people in better shape are more productive at work.  If anyone would like to contact Vincenzo for work opportunities, give me a shout.  

Anyway, it was a tough day for this guy.  I was kind of surprised that other people didn’t offer to stop.  It was just me and Joel helping him.  By the way, Joel works nearby at the Portrait Gallery and said that it was a simple decision to stop and try to help, “I stopped because he needed help, that’s it.  He seemed pretty genuine.”  Thanks for your help Joel!  We need more Joels!  

When we spoke he also told me that he donated the $10 to a charity focused on multiple sclerosis.  I also learned that he has started to train for some cycling races.  He recently kept up with some road racers for 11 miles on his mountain bike.  This is not easy when you consider they were riding road bikes and Vincenzo was on a mountain bike.  It’s a lot more work and he said he wasn’t even drafting off the other cyclists.     

So, I mentioned my car had cost me $1,000 this week.  I recently swapped cars with my father and had to get my new car registered and inspected here in DC.   It needed some work on the emissions which ran $500.  Then I had to get it registered and inspected which cost me a total of $364.  Look for the upcoming story about Chad who I gave $10 to while waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  And then, get this, my car was broken into last night!  So, chalk up another $200 in repairs not to mention over $500 in stolen items.  I am seriously thinking about ditching my car and using Zipcar.  Anyone done this and been happy?

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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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Located about 1,000 miles southeast of Florida, the Dominican Republic is home to about 10 million people, about twice the population of the Greater Washington, DC area.

Yudith sat on a wooden bench in a small park near the Dupont Metro.  This is the very same area where I met Alex on Day 109, John on Day 115 and the forthcoming story of Kathryn on Day 260.  Originally from the Dominican Republic’s capital city of Santo Domingo, the 34-year-old now lives in Maryland with her parents.  She was waiting for her mother and agreed to take my $10 which she says she will give to a friend.  “My situation is not the best, but at least I have a job, she doesn’t have a job.”

“Life here hasn’t turned out to be what I hoped for,” she tells me in Spanish.  “I came here looking for a better job, but in some respects life was better back home.”  Yudith, a single mom, left her three daughters with her aunt five years ago and moved to Boston in an effort to earn enough money to provide for her family.  She later moved to DC where she at least has the stability of having her parents near by.  “My plan is uncertain right now.  I sometimes think of going back to Boston.  Finding a job there was difficult before but here has even been worse,” she says adding that she currently works in a beauty salon.  “I make between $300 and $600 a week here whereas back home I would only make about 4,000 pesos a month,” which was equal to about $135 at the time.  She wires money home every 15 days to help support her children.  What makes things even more complicated is the fact that her visa expired years ago and she is now here illegally.

She says that although things have been difficult here and she misses her daughters and many things about her life in Santo Domingo, there are many great things about the US as well.  “One thing that I really like about the United States is that there is less difference in how people treat others based on their economic status.  Back home there is a much bigger difference in how rich and poor people are treated.”  

Yudith’s mother arrived and I introduced myself to her.  She was friendly and smiled warmly at me.  I said goodbye and continued on my way.

I have lived many places.  In the US I have lived in California, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.  Outside of the US I have lived in Mexico, Spain and Brazil.  I have an idea for what it is like to live far from home; to adapt to new cultures and foreign languages.  One thing that I have always taken with me from the training that I received as a Rotary Youth Exchange student is that things are neither better nor worse in another country, they are just different.

I felt that Yudith understands this and is trying to make the best of it.  It must be really hard though.  She has a much more challenging situation than I had in any of my experiences in other countries.  I wish her lots luck.

By the way, I guess the Year of Giving was featured in a Chinese newspaper.  I have received so many nice emails and comments from readers in China.  Xie xie!  I think that is thank you in Mandarin.

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Abraham sits in the background near his flower stand (photo: Reed)

I wandered over to the benches near the Dupont Circle North entrance/exit…hoping to maybe find Johnnie, but he wasn’t there.  Near the benches I saw some guys selling flowers, I walked over and met Abraham and Moses.  Nice guys, but they both refused the $10.  

Larry shows his $10 at the north entrance of Dupont Circle's Metro stop (photo: Reed)

Then I spotted Larry back over on the bench where I had met Johnnie.  I walked over and handed him one of my cards and asked him to be recipient number 244.  After a little discussion he said, “I will accept the $10 but I will not keep it, I will find someone else to give it to who needs it more than I do.”   

Larry, a 55-year-old resident of DC, was enjoying a Starbucks coffee before catching the Metro home.  He has worked in housekeeping at a nearby hotel for the past 17 years.  “It’s a very good place to work,” he says.  But as you can imagine, as someone who goes into guests rooms, he has seen some crazy things over the years.  “I’ve seen grown men fist-fighting.  I have seen rooms completely destroyed.  I’ve probably seen it all.”  

One of twelve children, Larry has grown up in this city.  All twelve of the children and his parents still live here.  He is married and has a daughter.  

Larry was very committed to giving the $10 away.  He tried several times while I was there with him, but was not successful.  Some teenagers walked by and he tried to give it to them but they kept walking.  A father walked by with his child and Larry jumped up to try to give it to them, but they didn’t even stop to talk to Larry…they just kept walking.  Here he explains his rationale about his decision to pass the $10 along to someone else.  

Finally I thought Larry was going to find someone.  He found a student, Mike, who was sitting nearby on a bench.  Mike said that as a student he didn’t have much money himself but that he was sure there were people more deserving than him, so he politely refused.  Larry was struggling and becoming very anxious to give it to someone.  When we parted ways, he said, “Call me tomorrow and I will tell you what happened to the money because I guarantee you that I am going to find someone to give it to today, I ain’t going to keep it.”  

(photo: Reed)

The next day I called Larry and said that he found a guy and took him to Subway and bought him a sandwich.  “I still have $5 left though.”  I am going to give Larry a call this week and meet him for coffee and see if he did something with the other $5.  

By the way, I was able to deliver some clothes and other items to Garrett that Deb from Illinois sent.  You can see the video of him receiving the items here.

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I have been contacted by some interesting news organizations about my year-long commitment.  From local news here in Washington, DC to morning shows to CNN.  Even a handful of international news organizations have reached out for interviews.  Recently I was contacted by Russia Channel 1, the leading broadcasting network in Russia.  They asked if they could interview me and follow me around for a couple of days.  Today is the first of two days that they joined me finding my daily recipient.

Carolyn in front of Union Station in DC (photo: Reed)


We met at Union Station and talked for a little while and then set out looking for someone to give my $10 to.  The first person I asked said that they were in a hurry, but the second person I approached agreed to receive my ten bucks.  Carolyn is in DC visiting her daughter who lives here and is a DC school principal.  

Although originally from Little Rock, AR, she now lives in Los Angeles.  In addition to raising five children, this 75-year-old found time to lead a career as a police officer, a nurse and later a pastor. 

Giving is nothing foreign to Carolyn.  She shared with me that she went to Haiti on  missionary tour and fed 2,000 people per day.  “It was such a site to see,” she said describing countless children as old as six that didn’t have clothes.  Back stateside she helped at men’s shelter for many years.  Just then she takes out a piece of paper in her bag that has contact information for free legal services for those living below the poverty line.  “Right now I was planning on going over to this McDonald’s and see if there is anyone who might need this information,” she explains to me motioning toward Union Station.  I’ll probably use your $10 to get me something to drink there too.  Here is a video of her explaining how she shares the legal information.

Carolyn says that she tries to help at least one person every day.  She credits her faith with fueling her service to others.  “I grew up in a Christian home,” she told me.  “I know that Jesus Christ is my personal savior and he has always opened doors for me.”

I asked her if there was anything that anyone reading her story could do to help her.  She reluctantly told me about a hospital bill that has gotten out of hand.  “I still owe about $1,300,” she says.  She tries to make monthly payments of $100, but the interest keeps building up.  She said that she could use some help getting that paid off.  “If anyone would be so kind as to help I can give them the payment information and they can directly pay the hospital.”  So many of my readers are very generous themselves, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone offered to help this kind woman.

After I was done speaking with her, Andrey from Russia Channel 1 interviewed her some as well.  You can see that here:

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I said back on Day 218 that sometimes I just find myself in the moment and realize I am talking to the person who should receive my $10.  Day 227 was just such a day.

I had walked down to the corner of 19th and M Streets to see Anthony from Day 67.  It was his birthday and I had bought him a mini birthday cake.  He was in a great mood and lots of people were stopping by to wish him well.

Lisa feeling a little better (photo: Reed)

While we were chatting a woman crossed the street and as she stepped up onto the curb she lost her footing and went down.  I saw it.  Anthony heard it.  She went down hard launching the ice-tea that she had in her hand through the air.  I ran over to her to see if she was ok.  Despite being a little frazzled and embarrassed she seemed ok.  She was more upset about the ice-tea I think!  I helped her up and saw the blood starting to form around the skinless patch on her leg.  I walked with her over to the Au Bon Pain where there were some chairs outside and she sat down to catch her breath and check her leg.  Meanwhile I went in and asked the store manager for some bandages and alcohol.  Unfortunately they couldn’t find any bandages so I walked over to the 7-11 and bought a box of Band-Aids.  There weren’t any that were large enough to cover the entire scrape though.

As she cleaned herself up, I gave her my $10.  After all I had a somewhat captive audience, right!  Lisa is a 43-year-old member services representative for a credit union.  For the past nine years she has been handling the members’ accounts, loans and helping them get credit.

Although she now lives in Maryland, she grew up in DC.  I asked her what some of her more memorable moments in the nation’s capital were.  She didn’t hesitate at all before replying, “Getting to see the first black president.”  She paused for a second and slightly nodded her head, “I didn’t expect to see that in my lifetime.”  She shared that she wished that her mother and father would have been alive to see it.  You could feel the hope in her voice as she talked about her four children and the opportunities they will have.

photo: Reed

I asked her what she would do with the $10.  “I think I’m going to get me a nice lunch and a smoothie” she said.

Well, Lisa needed to get on her way.  She slowly stood up and eased some pressure on her leg.  “I’m ok” she said as she started to walk back to her office.

It felt nice to take time to help someone.  I’m sure the $10 will help make up for the ice-tea that she lost, but for me being able to help her and make sure that she was alright was worth more than anything I had in my wallet.

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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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