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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.

Merry Christmas everyone! It seemed rather appropriate to make a post today – on a day that many of us associate with the spirit of giving. So now that your family room looks like a tornado went through it and destroyed an entire city built of wrapping paper, take a moment to enjoy a little update some holiday kindness investing.

At the end of December 2010 I stopped my year-long journey of giving away $10 a day. Well, sorta. I’ve found myself on many occasions giving a ten-spot away this year, I just chose not to write up the stories every day like I did last year. But this last week I did a little extra kindness investing.

I went out to meet up with a former colleague of mine, Jess, for lunch. I laugh because she say’s that I am one of two “famous” people she knows – the other is her brother who is an elementary school principal who is also a local legend singer/song-writer in Rochester, MN. Anyway, on my way over to meet her I decided to go run a few errands and I bumped into Kenneth B. from Day 30.

Normally I find him pacing back and forth hawking the Street Sense paper but this day he sat deep in a folding chair barking his familiar cadence, “Street Sense! … Street Sense!” I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t want to be late to my lunch meeting but I did want to stop and wish Kenneth a happy holiday and give him a few dollars. As I left, I placed a twenty in his hand – $10 from a Year of Giving supporter in Havertown, PA which I matched with a ten of my own.

I then hopped on the Metro and headed downtown. On the train I started thinking that maybe it would be fun to do a little extra giving and I decided that I would give $10 to each person I passed that day who was asking for money. How much money would that add up to? I mean there are days that I feel like I am surrounded by panhandlers in this town.

As I reached the top of the escalators at Metro Center I saw a man with a plastic cup extended toward those exiting the station. I reached into my wallet, found a ten-dollar bill and handed it to him. “Thank you very much!” he said quickly as he tucked it into his cup.

Photo: Reed

After lunch I headed over to Macy’s to look for a gift I still needed to get. I was sure that I would give $10 to the Salvation Army bell-ringer – but to my surprise there was no bell-ringer in sight. But I did pass plenty of other people and before the day had ended I had passed nine more. One of those was Tommy B. – a Street Sense vendor who ended up being my $10 recipient on Day 155. He was doing well and was planning to head down to South Carolina the next day to spend Christmas with his sister. Like Kenneth, I gave him $20. This time I paid forward a $10 donation I had received from Marcio from New Zealand matched with $10 of my own. He was thankful and gave me a warm hug when I said goodbye.

It was a bit nostalgic giving away ten-spots for the day. Somehow it felt right given the holiday season – but as I have said before, it’s not just the holidays that people need help. They need it even on sunny days in June. So as we approach a new year I hope you will take a moment to think about how you might be able to help others and make a plan, even if it is just in your head, about what you will do. Nobody else needs to know, but it will help you stick with it. Drop me a note if you need some help.

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

David on Day 258 in 2010 (photo: Reed Sandridge)

I want to update you on David G. who was one of my $10 recipients last year. I met David on the corner of Connecticut and Q in D.C. while he was selling the Street Sense newspaper. Homeless in DC for ten years, David hails from Kenya.

When I asked David if he needed anything that I could include in the Lend a Hand program he thought for a minute and then said that he would like to find his cousin and find out more about his father. So with the power of the Internet, I posted their names on the Year of Giving and asked that if anyone knew them to contact me.

Six months later…it happened! By an almost impossible series of events I was on the phone with David’s cousin Ben who was now living in Poland. Check out the update here to find out the latest news in this beautiful story.

You will read in the update that we need to raise a little bit of money to help David…so please consider clicking on the DONATE button on the upper right area of this page and contribute $10 to help reunite David with his family back in Kenya!

These kind of experiences are what it is all about!

To read the original blog post when I met David click here.

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Blog post by Reed S. from Washington, DC.

Last year I introduced you to Carlton, a 45-year-old homeless man who took up painting a few years ago and discovered an untapped talent.

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Carlton working on a new painting on Wednesday. (photo: Reed)

Yesterday I was walking around the west side of the traffic circle at Dupont Circle where I found Carlton in the exact same location I found him last summer.  Sweat beading down his forehead, he greeted me with an upbeat hello.  “Everything is cheap.  Really cheap,” he told me.  I reminded him who I was and he claimed to remember meeting me although I am not sure.

He reminded me why he chose this location to do his paintings.  “I used to panhandle right here and now I want all those people who knew me then to see what I am doing now!”

Having not seen him much lately I asked if he had started painting someplace else.  He explained that he had been down in Norfolk,VA helping with his mother who is struggling with diabetes.

Sitting on the concrete sidewalk, just feet away from some leftover puddles from a mid-afternoon shower, Carlton started to work on a clean canvas.  “I painted a parrot today!” he blurted out.  “I’ve never painted animals before.”  I prefer his landscapes.

Carlton, who battles HIV, stays healthy by walking and biking throughout the city.  “I’m staying over near Gallaudet University now and ride my bike all the way over here.”  That’s about 30 blocks and in this heat it’s easier said than done.

He seems to turn into Bob Ross and starts painting happy bushes and trees.  “I ran out of black paint,” he told me as he used a piece of sponge to smear a terracotta colored horizon.

Always working the crowd, Carlton is keenly aware of when the eyes of passersby focus on his work.  “I’m Carlton, the homeless artist,” he says in his raspy voice.  “They’re all very inexpensive.”  She’s silent and he goes back to putting in some trees on his newest work.  “Talk to me,” he says grinning and hoping she will make an offer on one of the half-dozen paintings that surround him.

I shove a few dollars in his cup and shake his slippery hand.  “Now you tell your wife (I’m not married by the way) that you didn’t fall in the mud, you tell her you shook Carlton the homeless painter’s hand!”

You can see video of Carlton from my first visit by clicking here.

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Michelle - Day 277

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

On Day 227 of last year I introduced you to my 277th recipient, Michelle B.  With an infectious smile and a “let’s get it done” attitude, Michelle keeps the dining room at So Others Might Eat (SOME) in order.  The guests are warmed by her love and laughter but also know not to step out of line.  She’s in charge.  One of the things I most look forward to when I am going to volunteer at SOME is the opportunity to see and talk with Michelle – she’s awesome.

On a recent Tuesday morning after meeting up with Anthony from Day 67 for breakfast, I made my way over to Truxton Circle, a small triangular neighborhood that has lost its identity somewhat since the traffic circle for which it’s named was removed in the late 40s.  Somewhere between then and now it seems the area’s identity has also been lost, often being referred to incorrectly as Eckington or Shaw.  I frankly had never even heard the name Truxton Circle used very much until I started researching things for this post, but then again, I don’t frequent the neighborhood that often and neither do the majority of other middle/upper class Washingtonians.  In fact, the only reason that I go to Truxton Circle is to visit SOME and hopefully see my new friend Michelle.

SOME-2.jpgUnfortunately on this Tuesday Michelle wasn’t there, but that’s alright.  I got to speak with Dirk, the volunteer coordinator, who I have “known” via email but not in person until then.  After a career overseas working in foreign policy, Dirk came back to Washington looking to make a difference.

“I haven’t ‘worked’ a day since I’ve been here,” he remarks about his 15 months on the job.

Inside the dining room I get to work resetting tables for the 250 guests that filed through the doors that afternoon to get a sausage sandwich, beans, mixed vegetables and an apple.  It was not too hectic as we had a decent number of volunteers; even some young students from a high school in North Carolina were on hand to help.  Everything just sort of works.  The regular volunteers guide the new volunteers in a very proactive way.

“Want to help me wipe down these tables,” I overhear a veteran volunteer ask one of the students.

Back with Dirk, he explains that it would be impossible to provide the quality of services that they do without the help of volunteers.

“We need all types,” he says.  “Serving breakfast during the week is something that we can always use help with, but we have other needs too that you might not realize.  We need volunteers with skills in web design, landscaping and tutoring.”

When asked about the challenges associated with maintaining regular volunteers Dirk’s eyes widen. “If you feel the impact – a smile or a hug – then you show up the next day.”  I couldn’t agree with him more.

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I wanted to get my picture taken with Dirk.

Before leaving, I take several boxes of clothes that I collected at my birthday party back in January over to their clothing center.  Over one hundred items were given to me to be donated, many of which had sales tags still on them.

I left with my heart glowing; feeling that high that you get when you make somebody’s day.  SOME is doing terrific work not only with their dining facility, but also in the other services that they provide which they break down into three categories: emergency, rebuilding and stability.

Anthony told me that morning that “SOME is possibly the best” when it comes to providing comprehensive services to the homeless.   I totally agree and will continue to support them.

If you would like to volunteer with SOME, please visit their Volunteer Page.

If you would like to donate to SOME, click here.

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Blog post by Sibyl W, a Kindness Investor from Brentwood, Tenn.

I noticed Brian several months ago, standing on a corner selling newspapers; I even bought a paper from him once.  The paper, The Contributor, contains stories and poetry written by homeless or formerly homeless citizens.  I thought he would be a great recipient of the day’s $10.  I stopped and asked Brian what led him to sell the paper.

“I just started doing this in December.  I’d been doing ironwork, but the trade has been dwindling down and the guy I worked for was a small outfit so he was about ready to lose everything.  See that roof over there on that bank; I did that building about 20 years ago.  I’ve been an ironworker for 25 years and I hope I get called back.

“But that’s why I started selling this paper.  It got to where I’m behind, but I’m not going to lose what I’ve got.  But it’s hard; I get out 5-6 days a week, if weather permits.  I’ve got family to take care of.”

I asked Brian if he had a place to live.

“Yeah, I pay rent every week, if I don’t have it one week; I catch him (landlord) up the next week.  He’s really good like that. There’s good people out there and before I started doing this with The Contributor I also gave to everybody.  Even though I’m doing this, if I see other contributors, I give them a dollar or whatever I can spare.  We’re all in the same boat.  There’s like 400 of us.   I drive down here from Nashville because there’s so many people in downtown you can’t get a good spot.

“But doing this I have also received a lot.  One month a guy gave me $200 dollars and the next month he gave me $200 more.  I bought four brand new tires with it; I put it to good use.  He took me to lunch the other day, bought lunch, but I left the tip. I said look I know you want to do this, but I have to do something too. “

Brian waved to someone.  “There goes my mailman.  See, I got regulars out here. “While he’s sitting at the red light, the mailman hollers, “Hey there’s no telling what he’ll tell you.”  But then he laughs and says, “Just kidding, it’s all good.”  I wonder what other drivers were thinking, seeing us standing on a street corner laughing, waving, and having a good time.

Brian explained that, “There’s people like me standing out here trying to make a dollar.  Like when you leave here, I’ll walk up and down this sidewalk as much as I can.  You know if you sit at home you’re not going to make any money. And in reality, it keeps me up and keeps me healthy because once you start sitting idle you can hang it up.

“Basically I’m out here trying to make a living.  And I do love being a pioneer because you ain’t gotta answer to anybody; you just have to think about what the Lord’s got you doing.  I ain’t got anything but a desire to work and help people.”

I saw the truth in that. He made my day.

As for the ten dollars, Brian said, “I’ll either get me a meal or some cigarettes.”

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