Posts Tagged ‘community’

Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

DSC_0011-2.jpgWell I have fallen two days behind on posting this.  Sorry, but I have been digging out from all of your emails and comments about the Worldwide Day of Giving!  I’ll be doing an update soon on some of the great stories from June 15th.

But for now, I want to share one of the volunteer projects I did on the Worldwide Day of Giving.  I spent six hours volunteering at The IMPACT Summit.  Organized by HandsOn Greater DC Cares, this unique forum convenes leaders from the business, education, government and nonprofit sectors to leverage volunteerism, service and philanthropy to address critical issues facing our community.  I was asked to photograph the event and captured nearly 300 photos throughout the day.


HandsOn Greater DC Cares President & CEO Dr. Madye Henson (photo: Reed Sandridge)

I arrived at the Renaissance Hotel around 8am.  A friendly staff member for the event greeted me at the door and explained to me how to find the conference rooms designated for the event – there were several events taking place that day and it took a little searching to arrive at the right spot.

Alicia, my point of contact from HandsOn Greater DC Cares, gave me an overview of the day’s schedule and reviewed some of the key photographs they wanted.  I pulled my Nikon D90 out and connected the 85mm lens that my brother Ryan had let me use.  It’s a great lens by the way to capture quality images without flash.  I also used a few of the other lenses that I have – all but one of them were actually Ryan’s.

I enjoyed this project.  I wish I had been able to focus a little more on the content of sessions.  You obviously know about my strong commitment to volunteering and service, but I am also very much involved in exploring how companies engage their employees in service.  There are so many benefits for the companies, employees and the community, but I find that most corporations are not taking full advantage of the programs they have in place.


Dr. Henson (left) and Chairperson Matt Mitchell present Jamila Larson of the Homeless Children's Playtime Project with the Community Impact Award. (Photo: Reed Sandridge)

The day closed with several awards for exceptional dedication to service by both individuals and organizations.  You can see a list of the amazing nominees and winners here.  I packed up my gear and headed home.  Now the laborious part for dodgy photographers such as myself – editing.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Last year I gave my $10 to several people who were victims the gentrification that is taking place in DC.  Ca’ Vonn E. stands out the most.  I met her in the Shaw neighborhood at the controversial plot of land referred to as Parcel 42; land that the local residents say former Mayor Adrian Fenty agreed to make into affordable housing.   When that didn’t happen they took matters into their own hands and created a tent city on the land as a form of protest.  From bringing food and water to securing the URL for their website, I spent several weeks helping the residents of tent city.

Last Monday I got another opportunity to help ensure affordable housing options exist for lower-income families here in our nation’s capital.  Yachad (pronounced yah-hod) is a DC organization whose mission it is to repair and rebuild lower-income neighborhoods by engaging construction and real estate professionals and hundreds of volunteers to repair housing, renovate storefronts, and create safer community spaces.  

Yachad, whose name comes from the Hebrew word for together, has an initiative called We the People where they mobilize volunteers on federal holidays for service projects.  I decided to spend my Memorial Day with them.


Me handling some power tools...Look out!

I walked from the Fort Totten Metro Station over to the properties that we were going to be working on.  With the temperature clearly on its way to 90+ degrees, drops of sweat had already covered my forehead before I had even lifted a hammer.    

Kendra Rubinfeld was surrounded by a group of eager volunteers when I arrived.  She explained that the occupancy ratio of this apartment complex was falling and as a result has put the property in jeopardy of being lost to developers who would turn it into expensive townhouses.  “Our goal is to refurbish these units as quickly as possible so that they can be rented and start generating money so that doesn’t happen,” she explained to me.

I got to work on an upstairs unit that had been gutted and needed to be sanded and painted.  One of my least favorite tasks is working on ceilings – there’s just no good way it seems to do it without getting your back or neck messed up.  Luckily for me I got pulled onto another project as they needed some people to help install some locks on the doors.  I had just replaced the lock on my father’s front door a few weeks earlier and was emboldened to believe that I was an expert. 


A volunteer works on bringing the hardwood floor back to life.

I encourage you to check out the photographs I took.  Some of the units were in very poor condition, but we made great progress and soon these will be filled with happy tenants. 

There are several ways that you can help Yachad.  For those of you in the DC area you can volunteer like I did on a federal holiday.  If you don’t live in the area but still want to help them in their mission, I encourage you to make a donation to help pay for contractors and supplies needed to refurbish more houses.  I’ve seen a lot of nonprofits and can tell you this is one worthy of your donation.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

When I was 15-years-old there was only one thing stood between me and the rank of Eagle Scout.  This high distinction in Scouting is marked by the completion of a Leadership Service Project where candidates must conceptualize a project that will benefit their community and then successfully manage a team of other Scouts in order to complete the task.  I chose to organize a region-wide food drive to collect non-perishable items and donate them to an organization that would ensure that they would reach individuals and families in need.

After reviewing potential benefactors to receive the collected food, I chose New Hope Ministries (NHM) – a Christian social service agency that provides assistance to community members in times of need and supports their efforts toward stability.  My project resulted in thousands of donated items.


In addition to food, NHM needs toiletry items and financial donations to finish their kitchen and add a chair lift to the 2nd floor.

Goose bumps wisped over my skin as I walked into their new facility 22 years later.  I was in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania helping my father recover from knee surgery and I took a few hours off to go and help NHM out.  I was scheduled to be folding letters and stuffing envelopes for an appreciation dinner the organization will hold in June for all the volunteers who have helped NHM achieve their goals throughout the year.

Every single person I had contact with there was delightful.  Kindness flowed freely from every staff member with whom I interacted – Joanne, Molly and Sue – as well as my two follow envelope-stuffers – Brenda and Silvia.  The work might sound boring, but the three of us had a lot of fun.

DSC_0024.jpgAfter two hours of folding and stuffing and successfully avoiding paper cuts, Sue Fornicola, the program manager, kindly offered the three of us a tour of their new facility.  It hardly resembles the building I had visited as a teenager.  I think the most impressive areas were the food pantry and the food warehouse.  It is a very professional operation.

Although it’s easy to be distracted by the well run food pantry, NHM is much more than just a pantry.  They also provide:

  • rent/mortgage assistance to prevent homelessness
  • prescription, medical, dental and eye care assistance
  • utility assistance to prevent termination of service
  • transportation assistance
  • counseling

I like this photo. It was hanging in the room where we were stuffing envelopes.

But what I discovered through my time at NHM is that their real gift to the individuals who walk through their doors is something far more valuable than bags of groceries or assistance paying rent.  They give people the love and support that they need to pull themselves up.  They give them hope.

Click here to donate to NHM

Click here to volunteer with NHM

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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!


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

Last year was an exhilarating daily adventure.  Every day I had a mission of finding someone new and sharing a small gift with them: ten dollars.

As you have already seen, the giving keeps on going this year.  Every week I will introduce you to a new Kindness Investor who will continue the ten dollar a day giving tradition for seven days.

“So you finished your year-long commitment and that’s it,” many of you have said to me.  Nope, not even close.

This year my personal commitments are focused around volunteering.  One thing that I learned while doing the Year of Giving is that what made every day so magical wasn’t the ten-dollar gift, but rather the time that I spent with each individual.  Time.  It is so valuable, yet we don’t treasure it as much as we should.  That’s why this year I couldn’t think of anything more valuable than to spend my time with others.

Each week I will volunteer in some capacity and share those experiences with you.  Why?  Because I hope to inspire you to volunteer as well.  I hope that you will speak to your employer about creating an Employee Volunteer Program, join your children in student learning service projects and become leaders for volunteerism in your own community.

Here is my first blog of my year-long commitment to volunteering!  I hope to blog about my volunteering every Monday!

Me going nuts with the sander

On a recent Saturday I spent the day helping Rockville Little Theatre build the set for their upcoming production of Translations, the acclaimed work of Irish playwright Brian Friel.  I showed up around 10:00am to the Theatre’s workshop that is tucked away behind some municipal buildings for the city of Rockville, MD.  “Quarters” as it is referred to is no foreign place to me as I spent many evenings rehearsing in this space when I performed in RLT’s productions of The Laramie Project and The Foreigner – I’ve done a little acting.

Pat Miller, the show’s producer, along with his wife Melanie were in charge.  Melanie was busy painting some of the backdrops when I arrived.  I went to work sanding and staining and spent most of the next six hours doing that.

A volunteer from a nearby middle school works on a large wall for the set.

There were probably about ten of us total that helped out.  Three of which were local middle and high school students who were completing Student Service Learning credits.  Menen, an 11th grader from Rockville, told me that she had more than 170 community service hours.  “I’m hoping to get a college scholarship,” she said as she maneuvered the power sander over wooden bench she was working on.

RLT has a variety of volunteer needs listed on their website.  “We’re an all volunteer organization,” Pat told me, “so quite literally the productions could not be possible without volunteers.”  And it’s not just the actors, they also need donations and lots of behind the scenes support as well; from publicity to construction.  “Community theaters really need to tap into the community in order to be successful,” he went to say.

And don’t miss the upcoming production of Translations opening on January 28th and running through February 6th.  Followers of the Year of Giving might even recognize the show’s director: Jacy D’Aiutolo.

This is a very important play for many reasons according to Pat:

Translations is first and foremost a beautifully constructed play with amazing use of language and an amazing story. In addition to being a great piece of theater, it’s also a very significant play for a number of reasons. Translations was the first production staged by the Field Day Theater Company, which was cofounded by Playwright Brian Friel and actor Stephen Rea who American audiences would know best from The Crying Game and V is for Vendetta. Unlike most Irish theater of the 20th century, which grew out of the Abbey Theater in Dublin, Field Day was founded in Derry, which lies just across the border in Northern Ireland.

Pat stains a bench that will be used for the show.

When the play was written in 1981, it was a particularly tense time during “The Troubles” and bombings were common both in Ireland and Great Britain. Guildhall, the theatre where Translations debuted was itself bombed repeatedly. The play, which deals directly with the subjugation of Irish language and culture at the hands of the British military, had tremendous resonance during this difficult time.  It also marked Field Day as a company that was striving to reestablish a cultural “fifth province,” which could unite a divided Ireland through its literature, poetry and theater. The work, that began with the production of Translations, continues to this day.

I hope you will come out and see the show – I’m planning on going this Friday.  As Pat reminded me, “In the end the most important people for a theatre company is the audience.”  So even if you are not able to volunteer with your local theatre go see a show.  There’s nothing like live theatre!

As a bonus, check out this behind the scenes footage of the making of RLT’s production of Translations:

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Terrible news from Chile…another devastating earthquake shocks us this year.  Luckily the epicenter was not in as densely of a populated area like it was in Haiti.  Nonetheless, I have made myself available to travel to Chile if there is a relief organization that can use my services.  I speak Spanish and have been to Chile and would welcome the opportunity to help those in need.

Phillip sells a paper to a passerby (Photo: Reed S.)

On Day 75 I met Phillip, a colorful salesman for Street Sense.  I was driving north on Wisconsin Ave. in the Tenleytown neighborhood on my way to my father’s place in Pennsylvania when I saw a man on the right side of the road with a “Cat in the Hat” type hat.  Well, I had to pull over and meet this guy.

As it turns out Phillip is a Street Sense vendor and the hat is part of his “marketing.”  He is vendor number 202 and has been selling the paper for 2.5 years.  He told me that summer is the best time of year for selling the paper when he can often sell over his average of 30-40 papers a day.

Phillip is homeless and on two waiting lists for subsidized housing.  “You would not believe how many people are one or two paychecks away from being homeless,” says the former plumber whose problems started when he was hospitalized with stomach ulcers and bleeding.  He spent 17 days in the hospital and when he came out he found himself losing his home and his marriage in peril.  He got better, but unfortunately was not able to reconcile his marriage.  Financially he was in freefall and ended up on the streets.

Go see Phillip if you are in DC.  He radiates love and kindness.  He can be found in front of the CVS near the intersection of Wisconsin Ave. and Brandywine St.  Look for the hat!  Phillip needs clothes: Shirts (XL), Pants (38×34), Shoes/Boots (11), Gloves (Med/Large). 

Here is a great video clip of Phillip explaining how he stays indoors during the bitter cold months.  

There is another great video of Phillip on Facebook.  Click here to see it.

Update July 7, 2010: Here is some video of Phillip receiving some of your donations!

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