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

So often times when we talk about volunteering our time we think about helping out at the local hospital or soup kitchen, but there are many informal ways you can volunteer to help your community or even friends and loved ones.  You might remember I did a little neighborhood snow shoveling back in February to help out those who weren’t able to remove the snow from their walkways. Well this week I put my photographic skills to use and captured images from a friend’s wedding reception.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

Married earlier this summer in a small private ceremony in the romantic city of Montreal, the reception here in D.C. surrounded them with nearly 150 friends and family.

I showed up about an hour early to the Bethesda, MD home where the reception was held in order to familiarize myself with the location and take some early photographs of the setting. Lighting was a little tricky because I didn’t want to be snapping flashes in people’s faces all evening. Thankfully in addition to my 18-105mm lens I also had my brother’s 50mm lens which is much faster and allows me to photograph in lower light.

The evening was beautiful and I hopefully made some good photographs. Now the hard part begins, going through all the photographs and editing them. As I am not a professional, I don’t have all the bells and whistles that they do, not to mention my raw product is not nearly as good as theirs, so I have to invest a good amount of time to make the photographs look worthy of being framed.  Wish me luck!

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Thanks to the couple of people who have reached out to me after my “wanted ad” yesterday.  It’s with pleasure that I introduce to you our Kindness Investor for the next seven days!  Her stories begin tomorrow!
Name: Maria D.
Age? 27
Where do you live? Takoma Park, MD, near Washington, D.C.
Where were you born? Guildford, England
What’s the highest level of education you have completed? Juris Doctor
Do you have a family? I’m a single gal, but am very close with my sister Julianna, parents John and Catherine, and have a superstar half-bro named Ron

How did you hear about the Year of Giving? I am temping where Reed works, so I heard about it while he was recruiting some other potential Kindness Investors

How long have you been unemployed? Hmm, well I guess officially since graduating law school in May 2010 and moving to D.C. to look for a job in Oct. 2010
What happened? The market for newly minted lawyers sucks. Straight up.  I graduated knowing I wanted to be a human rights/civil rights non-profit lobbyist but no leads. So I took a leap of faith and am still finding my way while temping at World Wildlife Fund.
Do you currently volunteer? Yes, I am starting to volunteer with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (they do DNA exoneration for MD, VA, and DC inmates) and N Street Village (a women’s shelter and center), as well as other random events when help is needed.
Who have been your biggest influences? My mom and dad, who instilled a sense of social justice in me from an early age, and anyone else who has spoken out to help others when those in need had no voice. Also my Nonna, who emigrated from Sicily and started a life out of literally nothing.  Hard work is very important to me, as is appreciating life.
What is your favorite food? Tomatoes.  But as a dish, I’d say Capellini Pomodoro (angel hair pasta w/ fresh basil, tomato, olive oil, and garlic tossed together). Now I’m hungry!
What is the most meaningful gift you have ever received? After the bar exam, I had the privilege of going to Europe for a month. I went to Paris for a week and made friends with the woman who set up breakfast and cleaned the hostel. We had a mid-morning dance party a few times, which was pretty awesome. On the last day, she took the earings she was wearing out of her ears and gave them to me.  I kept them on for the rest of the trip…Well, until my ears started to hurt. Ha..
Describe your ideal job: My ideal job is working as a researcher and lobbyist at a non-profit engaged in tax policy reform that benefits low and middle-income families.

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A few weeks ago I headed up to Greenbelt, Maryland to see a musical dinner theatre performance of The Sound of Music.  It was held at the MAD Theater which is actually a special interest club at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center devoted to the theatrical arts and supported by the Goddard Employees Welfare Association.  My friend Jill was playing the role of the Baroness Elsa Schraeder. 

So the directions had me going through rural Maryland and at one point making a left onto a dusty gravel road where I was greeted by a police officer.

Officer: Good evening.  Can I help you?

Me: Uh, I am looking for the MAD Theater, we’re going to see a musical.

Officer: A musical? 

Me: Yes, The Sound of Music.

Officer: Do you have a ticket or something?

Me: Yes sir…here you go (showing him the form I printed out).

Officer: Of course, just pull up about 100 feet and you can park anywhere you find parking.  Enjoy the show.

I guess it’s due to security but he didn’t act like he knew anything about the show until I actually produced the ticket and then he let us in where we found a hundred other cars.

Anyway, it’s a really neat place and I enjoyed the show.  The entire staff is volunteer and two of them were Gayle and Andrew.  I actually met Andrew first as he was waiting on our table.  “Oh I couldn’t accept your $10, I am volunteering,” he told me at first but then said, “but maybe my wife will do this!”  He promised to talk to her and then sure enough came back with her a little bit later.

I asked them how long they had been married.  “How long have we been married or how long have we been happily married,” Andrew shot back at me causing Gayle to roll her eyes and laugh.  “28 years,” she said smiling.

Gayle is a travel agent and Andrew is a meteorologist.  “If you want to go on a trip,” Andrew began, “I can give you the forecast and she can book the trip!”  That’s a pretty good combination don’t you think?  I gave each of them $5 so that they could each chose what they wanted to do with the money.  Gayle said that she was going to donate her five bucks to the Prince George’s Little Theatre.  I looked at Andrew and he just handed his money over to Gayle making it a ten-dollar donation.

They were quite busy so I let them get back to work.  They were really nice and I am always happy to support community theatre!

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In addition to my work with World Wildlife Fund, I am the Executive Director of the Urban Philharmonic Society, a nonprofit orchestra that plays in diverse neighborhoods in the DC area.  The organization was started by Maestro Darrold Hunt back in 1970.  I actually met Maestro Hunt through the Year of Giving and gave him my $10 on Day 189.

Well he and I were heading up to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform a unique event focused on the complex Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.  It was half orchestral half theatrical.  Basically they played some of the highlights of Mahler but also had a small group of actors that tried to reenact an encounter that the composer had Dr. Sigmund Freud. 

It was an interesting performance.  The orchestra sounded very good, the acting portion was interested but I would have rather had more of the music.  Maestra Marin Alsop seemed a little off, but that was explained during a talk back session after the performance where she stated that she had been battling a severe cold all week. 

Margarita and Jack at Meyerhoff Hall

After the show, I ran into Margarita and Jack in the lobby area.  “We enjoyed the show very much,” they told me.  She said that she was more of a theatre-goer than a symphony-goer, but they thought they would check out this unique hybrid.  Jack on the other hand said he leaned more toward music.  “I played clarinet as a kid and had a drum set,” he told me. 

This performance seemed to have a special significance for Margarita.  “My father loved Mahler…and Freud for that matter,” she said. 

The couple seemed well-traveled and in fact I think they are currently in Colombia, where Margarita was born.  Jack grew up the son of a Foreign Service diplomat and lived in Brazil and Dominican Republic.  We got talking about different places we’d been and figured out that we were both in Brazil’s northeast city of Salvador at the exact same time in 2003 for Carnaval!  Small world.  I had been living in Brazil for just three months and decided to check out the celebration in Salvador.  Margarita and Jack were on their honeymoon!

“I think we’ll donate the money,” Margarita said looking for confirmation from Jack.  He nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders a little in agreement.  I tried to email them and see what exactly happened to it in the end, but I am almost positive they are in Colombia still and may not hear for them for a few days.  Stay tuned for an update!

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The knights parading into the arena. Our knight, the Yellow Knight, didn't do so well and was defeated early on. (photo: Reed)

The day after my father’s birthday we took him up to Medieval Times at Arundel Mills mall in Hanover, MD.  It’s a unique place that feels like an 11th century dinner theatre with some carny overtones.  It’s cool to see a dozen horses or so galloping around inside of a mall.  Oh, and it’s a money-making machine!  From the time you arrive until you leave there are opportunities to buy things!

Ashanti has been working at Medieval Times for a couple of months. (photo: Reed)

Once seated in the dimly lit arena, we were greeted by Ashanti who explained that he would be taking care of us that evening.  I decided that he would be a good recipient of my $10.

I asked him what his official title was and he said he was a serf.  “What’s above a serf?” I asked him.  “Just about everything,” Ashanti told me disappearing to go and bring more food out.

He came back out with our entrees which were pretty hearty portions of chicken and ribs.  I asked him how he planned on using the $10.  The 19-year-old said he would probably put it toward the purchase of some video games.  “My favorite game used to be World of Warcraft…now I don’t know.  I guess I don’t really have one,” Ashanti told me.

Ashanti at work. (photo: Reed)

At one point in the show I noticed that Ashanti was down in the middle of the arena with the knights!  Actually if you could blow up that photo of the arena you would see him at the very back of the parade.  But his job isn’t all fun.  He told me, “Someone threw up on me once.”  There was a silence and we both just kind of looked at each other.  

All in all it was a fun “knight!”

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

67 years ago today my mother was born in the small coal mining town of Richlands, Virginia.  She died 3 years and 307 days ago.  An extremely generous woman herself, she was a tremendous inspiration for the Year of Giving.  This entire journey is dedicated to her, but I want to take a special moment today to remember her and the joy that she added to so many peoples’ lives.  I love you Mom!

A shot of Jacy and friends through the window. (photo: Reed)

Two weeks ago I went to see Neil Simon’s California Suite at the Rockville Little Theatre.  I knew several people involved with the production so it was a lot of fun and they did a great job.  After the show my friend Pat who directed the first act invited me to join him and some other friends and cast members at Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge.  It was there that I gave my $10 to Jacy, a good friend of Pat and his wife Melanie.

Jacy donated his $10 to Silver Spring Stage. (photo: Reed)

Jacy, a married 34-year-old nonprofit attorney also has a passion for the arts.  He’s been involved with community theatre for the past seven years he tells me.  He mostly writes and directs shows but also can be seen on stage from time to time.  “I just finished my first gig as a producer,” he says.  “Not sure I’ll do that again though…it’s a lot of work and I didn’t enjoy it that much.”

He’s on the board at Silver Spring Stage and said that he planned on donating the $10 to the theatre company. 

Jacy is a huge Terps fan.  He graduated from the University of Maryland and admits that he is a die-hard fan.  When I told him about the Lend a Hand section he laughed and said, “Can you find someone who can fix the college games so that Maryland wins?”  He was joking but if I knew the right person I get the feeling he would be ok if I could make that happen!  Well, I don’t, so no luck Jacy.  I am going to see them play in a few weeks and although not as good as fixing the game I promise to cheer loudly…and it’s an away game so I will be taking some personal risk in doing so.

Jacy also follows pro football.  “I’m getting killed though in fantasy football!”  He looks down and shakes his head as he regrettably says “I drafted Larry Fitzgerald…he’s just not producing.”

This photo is a little out of focus but it's a good shot of Jacy. (photo: Reed)

Later he did come up with something for the Lend a Hand section.  He would like every single person reading the Year of Giving to go see a live theatre production this year.  I second that!

Oh, by the way, for those who have read all the blogs you might remember the Tower Oaks Lodge from Day 88 when I met Hans.  I asked for him but they said he had transferred to the Reston location.  I sent him an email earlier this week but haven’t heard back yet.  He was a good guy.

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Happy first day of August!  Lots of friends celebrating birthdays today: Kim, Maureen, Laura, Murilo, Steve and others I am sure.  Happy birthday!

My buddy Chris is the father of three kids.  When his wife needed to go out of town for the weekend I got the call.  “Hey man, would you like to go up to Long Beach Island, NJ to my mother-in-law’s beach house with me and the kids?”  I agreed, but then something came up and the beach house was not available that weekend so I got a second call.  “The beach house isn’t going to work out, but, listen, my wife is going to be out of town and I really could use your help with the kids.”  So, we spent the weekend in the sprawling paradise of West Friendship, MD.  We had a great time and I love his kids.  I learned that I pretty much suck at the Wii.  His five and seven-year-old destroyed me in almost every game, especially Super Mario Brothers.  The only thing I could beat those guys at was ice skating and bowling!  I know, I’m pretty pathetic.

Anyway, on Saturday we took them over to the pool.  I didn’t think I was going to get that many opportunities to engage with other humans out in the metropolis of West Friendship, so I decided to see who I found cooling off by the pool that day.

After playing with Nick and Dylan for a while in the main pool, I headed over to check on Chris who was watching Avery in the baby pool.  That’s where I found Linda.

Linda (photo: Reed)

Actually I walked up to her husband first.  He was feeding one of their boys when I asked if he would participate.  He skillfully pawned me off to his wife who was reading her kindle and listening to music as she sunbathed poolside.  I felt kind of bad.  Imagine being the mother of two and finally getting a few moments of absolute bliss where you were relaxed, reading your book, listening to some tunes…..ah, life is good.  And then some weird guy wants to talk to you….yep, that’s me.  It could have been worse though.  My buddy Chris could have talked to them!

Anyway, so Linda is a thoracic surgeon.  As the name implies, this is surgery related to the treatment of diseases affecting organs inside the thorax (the chest) such as the lungs, chest wall, and diaphragm.  She pursued this area of specialty after participating in a surgery rotation during medical school.  She really likes anatomy and the idea of fixing things.  It also seems like one of the more manageable fields of work in surgery as most of the procedures are scheduled allowing the physician to have a somewhat normal work-life balance.  Sometimes you hear crazy stories of doctors being summoned at all hours of the night on a regular basis.  Or ER doctors who don’t sleep for 36 hours.  Anyway, sometimes she gets woken up in the middle of the night too, but not as much as some others she tells me.

One time she got a call around 3am and was asked to come in to take a look at a stab wound victim.  Although she really didn’t think that her expertise was necessary given the other medical staff that was on hand, she got out of bed and hurried in to the hospital to help the patient.  As it turns out the man had several punctures in his organs.  As they operated on him she discovered that he had a hole in his heart that ended up splitting open.  Had this have happened before they got him on the operating table he would have died for sure she told me. 

photo: Reed

I couldn’t suppress the urge to ask about a few other interesting cases that she has seen.  Dr. Linda shared with me the story of a young woman who came to see her a few months ago with some severe problems not being able to keep food down.  It turned out that the sphincter muscle between the esophagus and the stomach was too tight and she had to go in and cut it in such a way to release the tension.  She had been battling this problem for a long time.  In fact, when she was younger doctors thought she might be bulimic, but she was not.   

 Another case Dr. Linda told me about was an 89-year-old patient who went to their dentist for some dental work.  Apparently the dentist dropped the tiny drill bit he was using and the patient swallowed it.  The patient went home but started coughing all night long.  He called his dentist and the dentist felt so bad that he went with the patient to the hospital in the middle of the night and she removed the drill bit which was lodged in the lung. 

Dr. Linda told me that she and her husband, who happens to be a cardiologist, were going to have a rare date night that evening and were going to the movies.  “I think we’ll use the $10 and treat ourselves to a popcorn and a drink tonight,” she told me.  I’m not sure the $10 will cover that, movie theater food is one of the most overpriced items in our country. 

I thanked them for letting me invade their quiet afternoon by the pool and went back to the chaos that awaited me with Chris’ kids.

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Last Sunday I went to a party for my friend Dan who was celebrating surviving three years of law school.  There was some really good food there too.  Somebody made some shawarma that was fantastic. 

I met a guy there named Mike and decided to give him my $10 for the day.  

Mike E. (Photo: Reed)

 

Mike is married and lives in Burtonsville, MD with his family.  He got a degree in Engineering but decided that a career in engineering wasn’t what he wanted and went back to school at the University of Maryland at College Park to study kinesiology.  

Kinesiology, from the Greek words kinesis (movement) and kinein (to move) and ology (branch of study), is the branch of physiology that studies the mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement. 

Mike has been working at a physical therapy clinic in Rockville, MD for three years.  “I love the gym and I love sports,” he said.  “This was just a natural fit for me.”  Mike’s work is truly rewarding.  He shared with me a story about a woman who slipped and fell and pulled her hamstring as a result.  She didn’t take care of it and the problem got worse.  It got so bad that she couldn’t sit for a year.  Mike then got the opportunity to work with her and she started to improve and was finally able to sit again.  Mike added, “When you are able to help someone feel better, you feel good too!”  It’s not so different than my experience of daily giving. 

You know how when you meet a lawyer, you feel compelled to ask some legal questions.  If you meet an accountant, you’re certain to think of some obscure tax question that you have wanted to get resolved…well, I am no different I guess.  So I have been suffering from neck and back pain which results in numbness down my right arm and in my hand.  I shared this with Mike and he asked me some questions about the pain. 

This is where my back pain seems to stem from. And no, this is not me!

 

Before I knew it, I was lying down on the floor and Mike was working on my neck.  He got it a lot looser and improved my range of motion.  I still had pain and numbness, but there seemed to be some improvements just after 20 or 30 minutes.  Mike gave me some exercises to do at home to try to reduce my pain.  It was so incredibly nice of Mike to take time to try to help me feel better.  Thanks Mike! 

I also have an appointment with a physician later this month, but I am looking into trying to do some physical therapy as well.  Anyone who has ever had similar pain knows how much it starts to affect your life.  I can’t wait until I am pain-free. 

Mike decided to donate his $10 to Freeset, a fair trade business that offers meaningful employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. According to the group, there are more than 10,000 sex workers in Kolkata, formally called Calcutta.  These women were forced into prostitution by trafficking or poverty.  Freeset offers them a real choice.  When they choose to work at Freeset, they can start new lives, regain dignity in their communities, and begin a journey towards healing and wholeness.

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Today, March 15th, marks the three month mark in my year-long journey.  Many times the recipients are inspired to give the $10 to someone else or to a charity.  Other times someone watching what is going on or reading on my blog has been inspired to give $10 themselves.  I have been lucky in these first three months to witness so many inspiring moments.  Day 88 was one of those special days.

I traveled up to Gaithersburg, MD to see my friend Jeff perform in the Rockville Little Theatre’s production of Over the River and Through the Woods.    The show is very well performed and the Gaithersburg Arts Barn is a great intimate space to see theatre.  The show ends this Sunday and I hear that there are still tickets left for some of the shows…so if you live in the area check it out!

Photo courtesy of http://www.clydes.com

After the show, some friends joined Jeff for a late meal at Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge in Rockville.  Tower Oaks Lodge has been a favorite spot after many theatre performances in Rockville.  It’s a very unique locale…it’s almost as if you leave the Washington metro area and walk into the Adirondacks when you walk through the front door. 

I still hadn’t given away my $10…so I went searching throughout the many rooms looking for a recipient.  I settled on Hans…a man in his late 30s / early 40s who was standing by himself behind the host station.  I figured he must work there and who better to give it to than someone working at almost midnight on a Friday evening.

It turns out Hans is the General Manager of the restaurant!  He has been with the Clyde’s Restaurant Group (they also own the Old Ebbitt Grill, 1789, and  F. Scott’s to name a few) for 20 years and worked at four of their properties. 

Han's poses with his $10 (Photo: Reed)

We get interrupted by some young guys wandering in the door in search of a banana split.  Hans take care of them and we pick up where we left off.

Hans tells me that he is going to give his $10 to the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, an organization that believes that children thrive with the active involvement of both parents.  Furthermore they feel that barring “issues of abuse, neglect or abandonment, social and government policy must be structured in such a way as to promote and maximize the opportunity of all parents to contribute to the social, emotional, intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual development of their children.”

I had a feeling that there was a story behind this, so I asked.  It turns out that Hans is a divorced father who has not seen his children in more than two years.  I didn’t dig into the details too much as I could see that this was a sensitive issue for him. 

Hans said he was really impressed with my commitment and told me to come see him if I needed a job.  He then gave me his business card and a $100 voucher to eat at the restaurant!  Oh my gosh.  I didn’t know what to say but to thank him.  That was really nice of him.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the gift certificate to Clyde’s.  I am going to invite 2 of my previous $10 recipients to join me (and hopefully Hans) for lunch one day.  Now the hard part, who do I invite…this is where I NEED YOUR HELP.  Please vote here on who you think most deserves to go with me to eat at Clyde’s.  I have already invited Hans.  The list below is of the top 20 recipients based on feedback that I have received, page loads, etc.  I have removed several names of those who are not local or did not give any contact information.  [UPDATE 4/3/2010:  Voting is now over]

I thanked Hans again and headed back to my table.  I was gone so long that they had already settled up the check.  My friend Jeff paid for mine.  I insisted that I give him money for it but he wouldn’t accept it.  Thanks Jeff.

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I got up early and went down to the Unemployment Service Center in NE Washington.  As you might recall, I have been struggling to get them to pay my benefits.  So far I have not received a dime.  I went on Monday, but apparently I got there too late.

So this morning, I made sure to get there early.  I arrived at 8:30 and was out of there by 10:15.  I met with Ms. Bonham.  She was friendly and took care of my situation and hopefully I will start receiving my unemployment benefits.  Thanks Ms. Bonham!

I thought it would be great to find someone at the Unemployment Office to give my $10 to.  There were some people right outside the office who I suspected had just left.  I approached a woman waiting for the bus.  Nadine, a 32 year-old living in Columbia, MD is originally from Cameroon.  She actually was not at the Unemployment Office, but was waiting for the bus to get to her job as a Home Health Aid.  You might recall that Davitia from Day 14 was also a HHA.

Nadine was all bundled up.  Her head was just barely peaking out of her hooded coat.  She has been in the US for five years and says she is happy here.  Even in the winter.  “I don’t like the heat,” Nadine said.  “I really like the cold.”  I found this ironic given that her homeland of Cameroon probably never gets below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, with the exception of the upper parts of Mount Cameroon.  Want a bit of trivia?  Cameroon’s name is derived from the Portuguese word for prawns or shrimp, Camarões.  Back in the 15th century, the Portuguese landed on the shores of the Wouri River where they found a large supply of prawns and crayfish and named it River of Prawns (Rio dos Camarões).

Anyway, I asked Nadine what she would do with the $10.  She said that she would put it toward her school savings.  Nadine needs to finish about six courses to get her Licensed Practical Nurse certification.  I hope she gets back to school this year and finishes her studies.  Jameela, from Day 7, is an LPN now trying to get her RN.  Maybe she can give you some tips or advice. 

By the way, I am going to start adding some video to the blog…stay tuned!

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