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.
So 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.
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.
My 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.
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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