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Posts Tagged ‘nonprofits’

I was attending a training seminar at the Hilton Hotel near the King Street Metro in Alexandria.  I had some roof leaks the night before during a heavy downpour and I ended up getting no sleep.  I arrived right at the time it was starting.  Hmmm…do I sit at the front and hope that helps motivate me to stay awake, or do I try to hide in the back, I thought.  I chose the front, although that ended up being a poor choice because I ended up surrendering at points to the inner need to sleep.  

I felt terrible…I was really interested in the subject matter but I just could not fight the narcoleptic impulses that pulled my eyelids downward.

Tiffany sent me this photo of herself.

The person sitting next to me at the conference was Tiffany.  She works as the Director of Philanthropy at a VA based nonprofit.  Originally from the DC area, Tiffany moved to Alabama for three years but returned recently.  “My parents and two brothers live here, so it’s nice to be back in the area,” she told me.

We chatted at the breaks.  She even offered to nudge me if I slipped into a slumber.  At the end of the day I asked her to take my $10.  She did and the fun began.  We talked about a lot of things; however, the thing that I could not get past was her unique obsession with hedgehogs.  Yep, hedgehogs.  Now, I think people often interchange hedgehogs and porcupines, but I’m going to assume that her infatuation is in fact with the hedgehog (Erinaceinae).

She has a hedgehog collection which started on a missionary trip she took with her father to Romania.  “This guy had 200 figurines and he gave me one,” Tiffany recounted.  She’s got them from about 20 countries although she was quick to point out that, “There not on display!”

It gets better though.  She later bought a live hedgehog in North Carolina and named him Darcy after the Lost character.  Well, this gets fuzzy (no pun intended) here but she transported Darcy to Virginia which may or may not have been legal.  I did a little research and found that there are about a half-dozen states that do not allow hedgehogs, however, I didn’t find anything related to Virginia or North Carolina that prohibits them.  THEN she decides she has to sell little Darcy and sold him on craigslist!  Well, before you go commenting that you can’t sell animals on craigslist, there is a little loophole.  She actually didn’t sell Darcy, she sold the cage and accessories and gave Darcy away to a veterinarian student.  I hope they didn’t use Darcy for lab work.  Tiffany had thought of this as well.  “There was one stipulation, no dissecting,” she told me.  

Hedgehogs apparently make good pets.  “You don’t have to walk them,” she said.  “And he was really cute and stayed up while I studied, they’re nocturnal, and he would run on his little wheel.”  The drawback she told me was that her clothes started to smell like hedgehogs.  She smelled fine when I met her though!

Tiffany has crossed paths with hedgehogs in other periods of her life.  Her sorority “little” had one too!

In all fairness, let me tell you that Tiffany is totally normal and even told me that she doesn’t know why she thought of the hedgehog when we were talking.  It definitely made for an interesting and educational chat though!

Oh, and remember that trip to Romania where the whole thing started, that was through Oakseed Ministries.  They help abandoned children and the poor throughout the world.  Tiffany donated her $10 to the organization.

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This weekend we had a snapshot of the cold that awaits us this winter.  This morning it was near freezing when I went to the gym.

Today’s post took place during a really busy work wise.  Long days followed by work related events in the evening.  After an event at the Brazilian embassy, I headed across town to meet up with a friend of mine from Spain who I hadn’t seen for years.  Although it was late, this was our only chance to meet up so you push yourself a little and try to squeeze everything in.

Exhausted, I hailed a cab home to my apartment in Dupont.  The driver was a man named Tekele.  He was really nice and I enjoyed talking with him.  Originally from Ethiopia, he’s been driving a cab here in DC for 18 years.  Before that he worked almost nine years for PMI, a leading parking management firm.  “I like driving a taxi very much,” he told me.  “But you have to be really disciplined to do well at this,” since you work your own hours and set your own schedule for the most part. 

Having been in the business for such a long time, he has seen it all.  “Just other day a guy got in my cab and told me to go to Georgia Avenue,” he began to tell me.  “Then he fell asleep.  When we got there I tried to wake him up but he was really sleeping hard.”  Tekele finally got the man out of his cab.

There is a large Ethiopian community in DC.  Tekele says that many people like himself fled his homeland as a result of the civil war that began there in the 70s.  “I originally escaped to Italy,” he told me explaining that he spent six months there until Catholic Charities arranged for him to come to the United States.  He hasn’t traveled back to Ethiopia much.  “It’s so expensive especially with kids,” the father of three told me. 

Ethiopian platter at Etete

I shared with him that I had tried Ethiopian food many years ago and didn’t care for it.  This is odd too because I like almost all kinds of foods from other countries.  Especially spicy food, like Ethiopian food.  I guess I just had a bad experience because I recently went to a place called Etete at the corner of 9th and U Streets and tried it again and really enjoyed it.  The injera, a spongy flatbread made with a thin sourdough batter, took a little getting used to.  “Etete is a good place,” Tekele confirmed. 

We got to my place and I explained my Year of Giving to him and asked him to accept my $10.  He agreed and I paid him the fare and tip plus the ten dollars. 

I got home and realized I totally forgot to ask him what he was going to do with the money!  It was late and I was really tired.  He had given me his cell number so I called him on Sunday October 31st and asked him.  He was happy to hear from me and explained that he had donated the money to his local Virginia police department.  Hopefully he gave it to the actual department and not the Fraternal Order of Police.  I’ve had a very bad experience with the telephone solicitors from that organization and no longer give to them.

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David is one of the most interesting and talented individuals I have met this year. (photo: Reed)

You know that I love the Street Sense organization.  Not only do I love what the paper and the organization stand for but I also have got to know many of their vendors and am honored today to call many of them my friends.

So when I heard about the Silent Auction benefit that Street Sense held to raise money for their organization, I made sure I was able to go.  It was a great event and they raised a record amount, but what I will remember most is meeting David.

He was asked to share some of his spoken word poetry at the event.  It was powerful.  David is so talented and brought the house down.  I knew he was my recipient of the day.  Here is one of the poem’s he shared with the attendees of the Silent Auction.

After he was done I approached him while he was by himself having a bite to eat from the delicious food that was generously donated by Fresh Start, a venture created by Day 225’s Robert Egger and the DC Central Kitchen.  David was so excited that I wanted to give him my $10 of the day that he started telling people around him.  His enthusiasm was beautiful.

David shared that he was released from ADX Florence, a level-5 Supermax prison in Colorado about 18 months ago.  “I shot a few people and threw them out of a window,” David told me picking at some fresh grapes on his plate.  “I had to serve my sentence there because of the violent nature of the crimes,” he went on to explain.  It was an odd juxtaposition.  In front of me stood this kind smiling man with a deep warm laugh who was sharing this information that didn’t seem to jive with the gentle giant in front of me.  He seems to be on the right track now; focusing on the positive.

Going through old photos I realized I had seen David once before. Here is a picture I took of him at the David Pike Awards. That's David on the left with Sam Ford of ABC7/WJLA-TV (phot:Reed)

David was homeless before serving his sentence and is homeless again.  One good thing is that he just was able to rent a storage locker.  “That’s a problem when you don’t have anywhere to keep your stuff safe,” says David.  He explained that he needed to go buy a proper lock for it.  “It costs $11, so I’m going to put this $10 toward the purchase of that lock!”  I happily reached in my pocket and handed him one more dollar to fully cover the cost.  He gave me a $100 smile.

David told me a story that I haven’t forgot.  While in prison he befriended another inmate who was illiterate.  Since David was good with words, this other inmate would have David write letters to his lady friend.  David would read the letters that she would write and tell him what she said and then write back to her.  “I was getting pretty interested in her,” he told me.  Here he was vicariously falling for another guy’s girl all because some guy couldn’t read or write… that’s movie material!  And a message for the kids, stay in school so other guys don’t steal your women while you are incarcerated!

I want you to watch David perform two of his other poems.  They’re powerful and deal with heavy subjects. 

David could use your help.  He would like to find additional employment.  “I’ve been cooking for years,” he said, but he would like to find something where he has more community engagement.  I was very impressed with this man.  He is one of the most interesting and talented people that I have met this year.  Although he is not always at the same location, often times you can find him selling the Street Sense at 13th and Pennsylvania in northwest DC.  Go visit him and tell him I sent you!

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In addition to her stage and television work, Bonnie has produced two radio shows. (photo: Reed)

I recently learned about a local writing workshop.  I thought, heck, I should have seen something like this 303 days ago!  When I started this I had no idea how MUCH writing I would do.  I’ve also never really stopped to think about my writing style or how I can improve it.  Hopefully I have learned something along the way but certainly I could benefit from a more structured environment to develop my writing skills.

 

 

The leader of the workshop is an inspiring and energetic woman whose name is one letter different from yesterday’s recipient!  Bonnie is a former stage and television actress who studied at the performing arts school in New York City that the movie Fame was based on.  She went on to study at Howard and UCLA and helped found the Los Angeles Theatre Works and has taught workshops to all kinds of audiences, even prison inmates!

 

Now divorced, she lives in the DC and has two grown sons; one a cinematographer and the other a plastic surgeon.  

 

Bonnie asked for a few days to consider how she wanted to use the ten dollars.  In an email to me the next day she wrote, “I donated the $10 to the Seva Foundation.  One of their programs addresses preventable blindness.  Through a dynamic network of partners around the world, Seva helps communities develop their own high-quality, affordable eye care services.”  Pretty cool that she decided to use it to help others see…something that many of us take for granted.  On a side note, I have wanted to give my ten dollars to a blind or deaf person.  I don’t know why I am a little obsessed with this idea, but I am.  Haven’t been able to yet, but I still have some time!

 

Bonnie on the set of Good Times

I was so moved by Bonnie’s interest in the Year of Giving.  “I’m going to be up half the night trying to think of ways to help you and your project,” she told me.  Since then she has made some introductions for me in an effort to find a venue for my year-end celebration.  Still nothing confirmed yet, but hopefully soon I will have more details.

 

 

 

In the workshop she asked us to think of one word that described ourselves.  As I write this I wonder what one word Bonnie would use to describer herself.  I can think of a couple: creative, sincere, confident, inspiring, etc.

 

So I did some digging and found some old clips of Bonnie doing some television shows back in the 70s.  From kissing Redd Foxx on the cheek on Sanford and Son to playing J.J.’s cousin on Good Times, she did some exciting work!  Check out this clip of her on successful TV series Good Times.  She plays Naomi and first appears around 7 minutes and 30 seconds.  If you watch the entire episode (there are three parts) you get to see more of Bonnie and hear Jimmie Walker utter his famous phrase “Dyn-O-Mite” twice!

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Giving is the theme of this post!

Click on the link below and help Maggie reach her goal! (photo: Reed)

I found myself swallowed up in a sea of pink on Connecticut Avenue.  I ended up walking south forced by the inertia of the mass of walkers in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, a 60 mile trek that begins in Maryland and finishes with a spectacular view of the monuments of our nation’s capital.

I found myself next to Maggie, a 46-year-old mother of two who hails from Clarksville, TN.  “I’ve come up here the past three years to join my sister in the 3-Day,” Maggie tells me as she nears the 60 mile marker and the end of her journey.  “My grandmother and a couple of aunts battled breast cancer, but this year I am walking for my friend and coworker who had a double-mastectomy last week.”  She said that her friend was recovering well.

She didn’t hesitate a second and told me, “I’m going to donate the ten dollars to the Komen 3-Day.”  She could use the help too.  She is about $900 shy of the minimum pledge amount that walkers agree to which is $2,300.  She has a few more days to get donations…why don’t you donate $10 today toward Maggie’s goal!  Click here to donate.  I just donated another $10 online to her and it only took a couple of seconds.  And you’ll love her team name too: One TaTa at a Time.

Back home she works with the Wounded Warrior program at Fort Campbell. 

Maggie (right) poses for a photo with her sister who lives in the DC area. (photo: Reed)

She shared with me that she was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1991.  She and two other women worked along side 300 Sri Lankan men washing all the clothes for the soldiers stationed there.  “It was a scary experience,” she said.  “There was not a night that I didn’t cry myself to sleep,” as a result of the Scud attacks.  

We arrived at the rest station and she got some water and a little rest before making the final steps to the finish line.  We hugged and I congratulated her for her walk and commitment to help find a cure for breast cancer.  She is a giver.  She’s a mother, she serves our country and even finds time to pursue worthy causes like the Komen 3-Day.  Let Maggie serve as a role model for all of us.  

Can you say hero? (photo: Reed)

As I left I saw a man doing the walk with the help of a prosthetic leg.  Tell me that’s not inspiring!  Way to go!

On my way home I saw Tommy from Day 230.  He seemed to be doing ok but was suffering from depression.  He is on medication and is hopeful that he will improve.

By the way, this was 10-10-10 Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day.  I totally forgot to tell Maggie about this. I was so wrapped up in the mobs of marchers that it totally slipped my mind!  I do do this every day, so sometimes I kind of shift over to auto-pilot.  However, my I met my friend Tricia for lunch and afterwards she gave $10 to my neighbor Howard who walked by!

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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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Giant at the corner of Wisconsin and Newark. (photo: Reed)

I was in Cleveland Park here in DC at the Giant grocery store on Wisconsin Avenue.  I hadn’t given away my money yet and it was getting late.  I had had some wine earlier that day on a picnic and was honestly not looking forward to giving my $10 away.

At the entrance of the grocery store I found Ryan and Samantha.  Ryan is a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Virginia.  Samantha, 22, is also a graduate of UVA.  They were browsing the movie titles at the automatic video rental machine.

Ryan and Samantha are both runners. (photo: Reed)

Both of them ran track and field at UVA.  They ran a variety of distances: 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 meters.  I think it was Samantha who said she also ran steeple chase races which consist of five barriers, one of which is a water barrier.  

“Ryan is a really good runner,” Samantha said.  “He just ran a race yesterday…8,000 meters.”  For those of you who are metric challenged, that’s just shy of five miles.  “So how did you do?” I asked.  Ryan was quite humble in telling me that he actually won the race.  I guess Samantha was right, he’s pretty good.

The couple decided to donate their $10 to the UVA Athletics Foundation.  Coincidentally I am planning to visit UVA in the coming weeks with my cousin and his daughter…who I guess is my second cousin or cousin once removed or something like that.  Anyway, she is a high school senior in Denver and is visiting potential colleges.  When they come out to visit UVA I am going to join them and we have tickets to the football game that weekend, so indirectly that $10 might end up benefiting me while I am there.  Work with me folks…use your imagination.

Ryan and Samantha donated their $10 to the UVA Athletics Foundation. (photo: Reed)

Anyway, some friends of Samantha and Ryan were waiting for them so I wrapped things up.  I almost forgot to take a photo and ran out into the parking lot and snapped a quick photo of them.

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“I could die tomorrow, so what am I doing today to help the world" - Jessica (photo courtesy of Jessica)

I sat down next to Jessica at a Starbucks in Cleveland Park.  Originally from Memphis, TN, she lives with her husband in Virginia and works in development for a DC arts organization.  She herself was a dancer for many years.  “I started when I was four,” she said.  “I stopped when I was 25.  It was an amazing experience.  The arts can change people’s lives – put them in touch with a part of themselves they never even knew existed.”

I discovered that she and I have something in common.  We both participated in Rotary international exchange programs.  I went as a student to Mexico for one year when I was 16 and she went as a professional to South Africa for one month.  “It was life-changing,” she tells me.  She stayed with Rotary families throughout the area and got to see the way different people lived.  “Sometimes their impressions of Americans were startling,” she mentioned referencing the fact that often times people’s impressions are shaped by what is seen on TV or in movies.

I asked her what some of the lasting impressions in her mind were.  She recalled a few.  “I remember little kids running behind our van as we entered into the small villages.  We also passed a graveyard for AIDS victims.  One day we visited this school that had just got water.  I remember seeing a kid that couldn’t have been more than eight smoking a cigarette at school.”

Jessica says that she will donate the $10 to the Polaris Project, a Washington, DC based organization whose mission it is to stop human trafficking and modern day slavery.

I asked her how we could lend her a hand.  She said that she would like the opportunity to talk with someone who has experience in “dance therapy.”  It’s an area that she is interested in exploring given her dance background.  So if you or someone you know has experience in this area, give me shout.

I had a “first” happen in this encounter.  Instead of me taking a photograph of Jessica, she asked if she could email me one.  I said sure. 

Don’t forget this Sunday is 10/10/10.  Check out Howard Wu’s “Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day!”

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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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Volunteers enabled SOME to prepare almost 400,000 thousand meals last year. (Photo: Thom Wolf)

Volunteering is an integral part of society.  It helps ensure that essential public services are provided, builds social capital and fosters cohesive communities all while benefiting the volunteer as well by giving them opportunities to acquire new skills, have sense of purpose and integrate them into their community.  I encourage everyone to find some volunteer activity to do at least once a month.  It doesn’t need to be formal either.  It could be as simple as raking your elderly neighbors leaves, helping someone learn to read, or offering to provide a professional service or trade that you are skilled in at no cost.  Former President Clinton said in his book Giving, “Almost everyone – regardless of income, available time, age, and skills – can do something useful for others and, in the process, strengthen the fabric of our shared humanity.” How true he was.

On Day 277 I was volunteering at So Others Might Eat (SOME), an organization that has impressed me tremendously.  For 40 years they have been feeding and clothing DC’s homeless and poor, treating the ill in their medical, dental and mental health programs, training individuals for jobs and housing those in need. 

It was a Friday morning and I was volunteering in their dining room.  They serve breakfast and lunch to a couple hundred people in a short span of time so things need to be done quickly and efficiently. 

Michelle will celebrate eight years of sobriety on October 16th! (photo: Reed)

This is where today’s recipient comes in.  In addition to being the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, Michelle also is the Dining Room Manager.  In other words, while I am working in the dining room, she is my boss.  And let me tell you, she makes the place run.  She knows when not to take crap from someone but also knows when someone just needs a hug.  I even saw her take a minute to dance a little to the music that was playing and she’s got some moves!

Born in DC General Hospital, Michelle grew up in PG County.  She went to Largo High School and went on to study cosmetology.  But then things changed.  “I got into drugs and alcohol and let them override my education,” she explained.  “I was in and out of treatment, in and out of jail.  It was not a good situation.”  She became sober on October 16th, 2002 – same sobriety anniversary as Bob!  She worked a few jobs but really wanted to work at SOME.  “I applied and then was calling, calling, calling you know and I finally got the job!”

Michelle has three grown children and a grandchild.  She now lives on Capitol Hill, owns a vehicle and has a steady job that she enjoys.  “I am grateful for so many things.”

Michelle (right) with co-worker Brittany. (photo: Reed)

Michelle, who turns 48 in less than two weeks, says that it’s the little things that make her day.  “You know, sometimes people will come up to me and say ‘thank you, you helped me so much’ and that means a lot to me.”   She gets to know some of their guests very well.  “I’ve been to funeral services for some of them…in fact I’m going to one today.” 

She’s a people person.  “I think I’m funny,” she says with a smile.  She is and has a great smile, but she can be tough too.  “We don’t tolerate disrespect or disruptive behavior here.”  Just then a guest walks by and asks her a question.  She greeted them by saying, “Hello friend, what can I do for you?”  She calls everyone “friend.”  Michelle is one of those people that define the organization’s culture.  Weak organizations, especially service related organizations, lack people like Michelle.

SOME is located at 71 O Street in NW Washington DC. (photo: Reed)

The ten dollars I gave her would be spent on something small for herself.  “I’m going to be good to myself!”  She said she might get a sub from Subway.

If you are in the DC area and need a good place to volunteer, check out SOME.  Why not get a bunch of your friends or coworkers together and set up a day for you all to go and volunteer together.  More details on how you can help can be found here.

So Others Might Eat (SOME)
71 ‘O’ Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202.797.8806
www.some.org

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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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Wow…I am still thinking about Bob from Day 251, aren’t you.  I wish you could have been there with us for the entire conversation.  He was really amazing.  Today’s recipient is equally impressive.  Read on! 

These two guys opted to decline the $10. (photo: Reed)

Day 254 started with two refusals.  First two guys who were sitting on the grass in front of an office building at the corner of 19th and O Streets said “No” because they were deep discussion.  Then I wandered down 19th Street a little further where I found William, a US Post Office mail carrier.  He was sitting in his truck grabbing a bite to eat and said that he was too busy.

I kept on walking down to the corner of 19th and M Street.  I looke across the street to see if Anthony was there, but I didn’t see his smiling face.  It was around there that I ran into Christina carrying a clear container of salad from Mixt Greens and a Netflix movie envelope.  She seemed skeptical of my motives at first, but agreed to accept the $10.  We walked west down M Street as we talked.

Christina poses for a picture with her pricey salad. (photo: Reed)

I find out that she works at a nearby NGO and is on her lunch break.  “This salad cost more than $10,” she tells me as I hand her the $10.  I asked her what she got in her salad, I mean for that price I was hoping that she at least got some truffles or Beluga caviar or a TV.  I mean I once heard of a salad at the Hemel Hotel in London that had Almas golden caviar, Beluga caviar, kreel-caught langoustines, Cornish crab and lobster, plus Florette baby leaf salad tossed in some super expensive olive oil with grated truffle placed in a basket made from courgettes, red peppers and potato and decorated with gold leaf…all for the low price of US$982! 

She was carrying a DVD so maybe they gave her that.  Nope.  Just a salad.  “I think this might be my first and last salad from there,” she says.

I asked her what about her made her unique.  She paused and thought for a moment and said, “Well, I am a brain cancer survivor.”  I swallowed and tried to think of something to say.  She told me that they removed the tumor in July and that she was currently going to chemotherapy every two weeks.  “I feel good now,” she says with a smile.

“How did you find out,” I ask trying to imagine how many things most go through your head when you learn this.  She says that there wasn’t a lot of time to think about anything.  They operated almost immediately once they had found the malignant tumor.  We arrive at her office.  I continue to ask some more questions without realizing that I was now completely focused on her bout with cancer and there is a lot more about Christina and I only probably have a few minutes more before she needs to go up to her office.

Christina loves to travel – especially internationally.  She has a passport full of stamps to prove it too.  Croatia, Thailand and Italy as some of her favorite places.  “Did you go to San Gimignano in Italy,” I ask.  It’s one of my favorite places on the planet.  She had in fact visited the tiny hilltop village.  She fondly recalls some of her memories from her trip.  The small town where there was only one phone booth with a line of people wrapping around it outside.  “We also saw this woman who had this really nice flower garden.  She ended up inviting us in and made us try all these different types of homemade grappa.  One was made with oregano, another with thyme…”  As she is telling me about her trip I can’t help but slip into the memory of my own trip there and how much I enjoyed it.

photo: Reed

She also tells me that she loves movies, hence the DVD in her hand.  “Shoot,” she says looking down at the red and white Netflix envelope.  “We got talking and I totally forgot to drop this off at the post office.”  I had already taken a good chunk of her lunch break so I offered to go and drop it off.

We say goodbye and I start walking back toward the post office when I shout back, “What movie did you get?”  “It’s True Blood,” she says referring to the hit HBO series starring Anna Paquin. 

I got an email a few days later from Christina letting me know that she had donated the $10 to Mercy Corps for their Pakistan flood relief efforts. 

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Day 252 – Heather M.

My mother and brother playing with my Uncle Jack's dog Spike in 1973. (photo courtesy of Ryan Sandridge)

Americans love dogs.  The Humane Society reports that there are more than 77 million dogs in the United States.  From other sources I found that this is more than twice the number of the second largest dog populated country, Brazil.  

I grew up around dogs.  We had a little mutt named 99 until I was about seven or eight.  My grandmother on my dad’s side was a Collie breeder and my mom’s sister Sue was an Akita breeder.  I even picked out a dog from the Humane Society when I was about nine.  I named him Paws.

Heather with Petunia and Bear Bear (photo: Reed)

Anyway, dogs have made their way into my blog on numerous occasions.  I quickly counted more than 25 posts involving man’s best friend.  Although I couldn’t find a figure for how many dogs we have in DC, I did read that the Humane Society reports that four out of every ten homes have at least one dog.  Today’s recipient has two dogs who you will meet.

I found Heather walking Petunia and Bear Bear along the park at 23rd and P Streets.  Petunia is a rather fierce looking dog that appears to have some pit bull in her.  Don’t let this little three and a half year old fool you though, she couldn’t hurt a fly.  “She just wants attention,” Heather tells me as Petunia licks me to death.  Bear Bear is quite large and I know that I have seen this dog in the neighborhood before.  It’s the kind of dog you don’t forget easily.  Now three, Heather has had Bear Bear since he was five months old. 

Heather poses with Bear Bear (left) and Petunia (right) (photo: Reed)

“They are both rescues,” Heather told me as she explains how she found Petunia wandering around in Charlotte, NC.  She rescued Bear Bear from a home where he was being neglected.  “I got the owner’s permission.” 

These two dogs are lucky that they have found a loving home.  According to the ASPCA, five out of ten dogs in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them.

The $10 I gave her will be donated to the Humane Society of Charlotte.  

Petunia is really affectionate despite her looks (photo: Reed)

Originally from Ohio, Heather recently moved to the DC area from Charlotte.  She is married and in addition to these two loveable guys, is the proud mother of two cats as well.  She teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) and is working on her doctoral thesis focusing on international policy and development in the Middle East.  “I just got back from a trip to Syria where I was doing some research.”

We were distracted from our conversation several times as Petunia insisted on being the center of attention.  Heather is using a plastic bag full of water that she drops on the ground to get Petunia’s attention when she gets excited.  While I think that Petunia needs some additional training on this, it seemed to be helping.  

I gave both dogs a little pat and headed home.

Note: If you would like to rescue a pet, visit your local Humane Society.
DC Humane Society
Washington Animal Rescue League

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On Day 241 I met up with the Russian Channel One team again.  They came to my apartment and filmed a little and then we headed over to Dupont Circle to find a recipient.  The first person I stopped was a young guy named Oliver.  He said “no” originally and then he said something that was very interesting.  After we spoke for a few minutes he made me an offer.  “I’ll take your ten-dollar bill if you take my twenty-dollar bill.”  I thought that was a really cool idea.  He was pushing my concept to the next level.  Unfortunately as you may know, I can not receive anything in return for my $10 so I couldn’t do that.  That was his condition on taking my money and unfortunately things didn’t work out, but I loved his creativity.  I didn’t get his information, but hopefully he will check this out and drop me a line!  I liked his style!

I then approached another person who said they were running late and didn’t have time.

Eric at Dupont Circle (photo: Reed)

They say that the third time is a charm.  Well, Eric helped make that statement come to fruition.  He looks to be a twenty-something who works for an IT company where you can dress how you want and the hours are flexible.  Well, I was pretty much right-on.  He works as a software developer for a non-profit that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.  Basically it seems like they try to improve transparency and help the public connect with the government.  And since it was close to 10am, I think I am right about the flexible hours too. 

Eric is originally from the Catskills of New York but has also lived in Boston and NYC before coming to DC.  “I really like it here,” he says.  That might be largely as a result of his job as it turns out.  Either he really likes it or hopes that his boss reads this because he told me, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been working where I am now.  There’s just 35 of us, it’s pretty cool.” 

Eric talking to Andrey from Russian Channel One (photo: Reed)

He keeps himself busy outside of the office as well.  “I like to do improv comedy and ride my unicycle.”  That’s right, Eric rides a unicycle.  He told me that one day when he was in Boston he saw a guy riding to work on a unicycle and he asked him if he could borrow it some time and the guy agreed.  Apparently it’s a small trusting community.  I mean, it would be easy to spot them if they don’t bring it back, right!  I assume he has his own now and didn’t keep the other guy’s unicycle and flee to Washington.  Hmmm…anyone missing a unicycle up in Boston?

Eric has “a few brothers” and is the proud father of a cat.  He also has a girlfriend – sorry ladies.  Speaking of which, he said that my $10 would help him take his girlfriend to dinner.

I finished and then the guys from Channel One had a chat with Eric for a while and we parted ways.  Cool guy.

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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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Were you aware that there are people enslaved in the US today? Unfortunately this is all too common occurrence in the agriculture business; eight cases in Florida alone in the past 12 years and many more that go undocumented.

Recently I was walking home from work when I passed a truck parked up on the grass in front of the Church of the Pilgrims in between 23rd Street and Florida Avenue in Northwest DC. On the side of the truck was written “Florida Modern Slavery Museum.” It’s hard to believe that this exists in the US in 2010! But it does. A new case was just filed last month. As I browse through the exhibit I read the stories of those who have been held against their will, chained, beaten, pistol whipped and even shot.

Julia (photo: Reed)

I got the opportunity to sit down and speak with Julia and Lucas; two members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Their organization is one of three groups that have come together to produce the museum and travel the country educating people about the horrifying status quo of farming conditions in Florida and many other parts of the country. The CIW is a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. Their organization has communal in nature and has no hierarchy or executive director for that matter. They are 4,000 people united to improve the working conditions of the farmers.

Florida Modern Slavery Museum in front of the Capitol (photo courtesy of http://www.ciw-online.org)

Julia and Lucas are traveling accompanying the museum as it makes its nearly four-week tour up and down the East Coast. They explain to me that although the museum started this year, the CIW has been around since 1993. They share with me the “other side of agriculture…the dark side.” You might think that this is a situation that you are far removed from, however, Julia reminds us that we all are involved. “This is about the people who harvest the fruits and vegetables that you purchase in your local grocery store.” They explain to me that the grocery stores are a part of this too. They pay very low fees for the products that they get. So little that the result is that the farmers provide low wages and poor conditions to their workers. Some cases get so bad that the workers, who are often immigrants with little recourse, become held against their will in a modern enslavement of sorts.

Lucas (photo: Reed)

“Are there any grocery stores that have taken a strong position against working with any farms that are found to be offenders?” I asked. They told me that Whole Foods is the only chain so far that has stepped up and worked with their organization and committed to stop these deplorable conditions. So you might ask what it is that the CIW asks of these big grocery giants since so many of them are not working with CIW. They ask them to do three things that sound pretty reasonable:
• Pay an additional penny per pound for tomatoes purchased to directly increase the wages of tomato pickers;
• Implement an enforceable code of conduct to ensure safe and fair working conditions for farm workers, including zero tolerance for modern-day slavery;
• Ensure a voice for farm workers in monitoring improvements and reporting abuses.

Some restaurants have agreed to these principles: Yum Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, etc), McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway.

I didn’t get a chance to ask them why it is focused on tomato-pickers and not more general, it seems like we should be protecting all types of farm workers.
I have two videos to share with you on this topic. The first one is an extensive conversation with Julia about the current situation as well as a call to action of what we can do to help abolish these inhumane practices.

The second video is with Julia and Lucas and it is in Spanish. (Este video se explica la situacion actual del abuso de campesinos en el estado de Florida)

Julia and Lucas will use the $10 to put toward gas and food for the crew during their journey. If you would like to meet Julia, Lucas and their colleagues and visit the museum, you can check them out here:
Aug. 9 Boston, City Hall Plaza, Intersection of Congress St & North St 10 am to 8 pm
Aug. 10 Northampton, MA, In front of Pulaski Park on Main St., near Masonic St. and Smith College, 10 am – 8 pm
Aug. 14 Baltimore – Location TBD
Aug. 16 Charlotte, NC, Compass Group corporate offices, 2400 Yorkmont Road, 10am – 6pm

If you would like to learn more about CIW or make a donation, please click here.

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A Bread for the City volunteer plates food for the picnic guests (photo: Reed)

The Year of Giving has given me a renewed appreciation for so many organizations in the DC area that provide tremendous social good.  Several people who have been daily recipients of the Year of Giving have sung the praises of organizations such as:  American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Bread for the City, DC Cares, DC Central Kitchen, Food and Friends, Green Door, Martha’s Table, Miriam’s Kitchen, SOME, Street Sense, etc.  Today’s recipient possibly owe’s his wife’s life to a physician at one of these organizations.

Started in 1974, Bread for the City is a front line agency serving Washington’s poor.  The agency began as two organizations; Zacchaeus Free Clinic began in 1974 as a volunteer-run free medical clinic, and Bread for the City was created in 1976 by a coalition of downtown churches to feed and clothe the poor.  The two entities merged in 1995.  Today, we operate two Centers in the District of Columbia and provide direct services to low-income residents of Washington, DC.  All of our services are free.  Our mission is to provide comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services to low-income Washington, DC residents in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.  – Source: www.breadforthecity.org

I have been aware of Bread for the City for many years, however, haven’t had the chance to get to know their services first hand.  So I decided to attend their Parking Lot Picnic and got to meet several of the staff members there and even got a tour of the facility which is currently being expanded (Thanks Kristin!)  Some of their staff worked hard all afternoon to provide hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone.  I grabbed a burger and sat down at a table next to Mike.  I had no idea how he and his story would impact me.

Mike and Reed (photo: Marnette)

Mike has been volunteering at Bread for the City for the last three years, but his relationship with the organization goes back much further.  You see Mike was a bicycle messenger and used to do a lot of deliveries for an insurance claims center.  He would go to Bread for the City and pick up claims for their clients and then deliver them to the processing center.  He was there all the time.  “Of all the places that I had to go and make a pick-up, this is the only place that had all their forms ready and organized” he said.

Well during the time that he was picking up forms at Bread for the City, his wife was struggling with a mysterious illness.  “No one could figure it out.  She couldn’t hold anything down” he said.  “No fluids, nothing!”  She got down to 98 pounds and was deathly ill.  “About once a week we would have to call an ambulance and she’d go in and they’d give her an IV and she’d be better for a while, but then when she would get home it’d start again.”  They stuck her so many times that they had to resort to her neck in order to find good veins.

Finally one day he was at Bread for the City and met Dr. Randi, the organization’s medical director.  Dr. Randi agreed to take a look at his wife’s situation and noticed she was on all kinds of medications.  Dr. Randi ordered her to stop taking all the medicine for a while so that she could start to understand what was going wrong and then carefully prescribe medicine to correct the issues that she discovers.  Well guess what happened?  After Marnette, Mike’s wife, went off all the medicine, she started getting better.  She was holding down food and putting on weight.  It wasn’t long before she was perfectly fine.  I met Marnette, who works in food service at Powell Elementary School, and she looked healthy and said she couldn’t feel better today.  They are both extremely thankful for Dr. Randi’s dedication and compassion.

Photo: Reed

Fast forward to the present.  He and his wife are happily married and healthy.  Mike no longer is a bike messenger.  “The bike messenger business has completely changed.”  According to Mike after 9/11, the anthrax scares and the increased exchange of electronic files, the number of bike messengers in DC plummeted.  Now he drives tour buses and limousines.  “Instead of taking envelopes from Point A to Point B, I take people!”

Mike said that he was going to use the $10 to buy groceries for him and his wife.

If you would like to volunteer or support Bread for the City, go to their website and click on “Get Involved.”

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It seems like I am fighting an endless battle to get caught up on my blog posts.  I have some video to show of Anthony getting more items that I need to get edited and share with you and I also have some items for Garrett.  I saw him again today and agreed to meet him later to deliver the items but he wasn’t there when I returned.  I’ll keep trying.

Other day I checked my wallet and I had seven dollars in it so I went to the ATM and retrieved $100.  I then walked inside the bank and asked if I could get the twenty-dollar bills broken down into ten-dollar bills.  I shared with Catherine the idea of the Year of Giving and she got so excited.  “Ooh, I’d like somebody to give me $10!”

I left and headed home.  I went back to the bank with my notebook and camera about three hours later to see if Catherine was still there.  She was helping a customer and at first did not recognize me.  “She can help you at the next window,” she said as I waited while she attended to her customer.  I politely refused the help of the other teller explaining that I wanted to speak with Catherine.  When my turn came, she looked at me and recognized me.  She was so excited and ran around the other teller windows and came out on the left side to meet me.  Her energy was contagious. 

Catherine's smile is contagious. (photo: Reed)

I discovered that  27-year-old grew up in Ghana.  Her native language is Fanti, but she speaks perfect English in addition to speaking French and a Ga, another native language of Ghana.  Nine years ago she moved to Akron, Ohio to pursue a degree in Political Science.  Then in January she moved to DC to try to further her career; however it’s not been easy.  “I can’t find anything related to my career,” she told me.  She ended up accepting a job at the bank in order to pay her bills.  Her $1,000+ monthly rent is grossly more expensive than the $320 she paid for her place in Akron.   

Given her short time in DC and economic situation right now she says that she hasn’t gotten out much and has yet to meet a lot of new friends.  Thankfully she loves her coworkers at the bank.  “They’re great!” 

photo: Reed

She hopes to find a job in international development and possibly work with Africa.  At some point she says she hopes to return to Ghana.  “My dream is to run a HIV/AIDS awareness organization back in Ghana.”  I know that many readers of the Year of Giving are involved in that area of work and I hope they might be able to help Catherine.  Drop me a note and I will connect you with Catherine. 

As someone who works with money all day long, I was quite interested to know what she was going to do with the $10 I gave her.  “I’m going to put it toward gas,” she says.  It sounds like she could definitely use a little extra money too; she estimates that she has racked up more than $450 in parking and speeding tickets since moving here earlier this year.  Hmmm.  I might suggest the Metro as an alternative to get her to and from work!

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First of all thank you so much for all the kind notes, emails and comments about my new job here and on Facebook.  I am very excited about this opportunity!

Photo: Reed

Summer time is a great time to get outside and visit a farmer’s market.  I was walking downtown on Day 192 when I came across a small farmer’s market near Penn Quarter in DC.  Near the corner of 8th & H Streets was stand with a yellow tent with the name Endless Summer Harvest on it.  I decided to wander over and find out what exactly the folks at Endless Summer Harvest were all about.

Photo: Reed

  • The water stays in the system and can be reused- thus, lower water costs
  • It is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety- thus, lower nutrition costs
  • No nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of the controlled system
  • Stable and high yields
  • Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container’s mobility

Cassandra and Zack (photo: Reed)

The main disadvantage of hydroponic systems is that great caution must be taken to control the growth of salmonella due to the high humidity environment coupled with the presence of fertilizers.

 Anyway, I got to meet two great people who were working at the stand: Cassandra and Zack.  Day 192’s recipients met while studying biology at James Madison University.  Cassandra works full-time at the Alliance to Save Energy and helps Endless Summer Harvest out on Thursdays at the farmer’s market.  Zack, a 21-year-old JMU student, has worked at Endless Summer Harvest since high school. 

Photo: Reed

I asked the two of them what they were going to do with the $10 and they said that they were going to donate it to a group that works to stop mountaintop removal for coal mining purposes.  I am trying to find the exact organization and when I do I will post it here.  There are lots of negative environmental effects of this practice.  My new employer, the World Wildlife Fund, has this to say about it on their website:

In West Virginia and other Appalachian states – in one of the most biologically diverse temperate regions of the world – mountaintops are torn apart to gain access to low-sulfur coal lying underneath. The leftover rock and earth is dumped into nearby valleys and streams. These practices threaten songbirds and other wildlife dependent on large tracts of interior forest, and the mussels, fish, crayfish, and invertebrates found in the streams. Hundreds of miles of streams have been buried by the dumping of such wastes in the past, in an ecoregion that WWF has identified as being globally outstanding.

Photo: Reed

I enjoyed meeting Cassandra and Zack.  They opened the door to a new world to me, the vendor community at farmers markets.  They seem more like partners than competitors.  “The fruit people do really well,” Zack says with a little bit of envy, “but we all help one another out.”  While I was talking to them several other stands stopped by to see if they could use some left over product that they had.

7pm came around and they started to pack up.  I was impressed at how quickly they tore down and got everything packed up.  Cassandra wasn’t scared to get her hands dirty either.  She didn’t hesitate to pick up the huge coolers they use and load the van.

Photo: Reed

 Note: The Penn Quarter Farmers Market is administered by Freshfarm Markets and is located at the north end of 8th St. NW, between D and E Streets.  According to a representative of the organization, it is open every Thursday (except Thanksgiving) from April 1 – Dec. 23rd from 3pm – 7pm.

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SoHo, 22nd & P, in NW DC

I met Darrold at the SoHoTea & Coffee Café at the corner of 22nd and P in DC.

He was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on June 29, 1941.  The son of a construction worker and an electronics factory worker, he comes from a modest family with a strong affinity for the arts.  His mother and older brothers sang and his father played guitar.  Darrold was no exception.  He started performing with his family at an early age.  His dedication paid off too, getting him accepted to study music at the prestigious Juilliard School for Music in New York City.

Darrold (Photo: Reed)

In 1970 he founded the Urban Philharmonic, a nonprofit symphony orchestra that performs high quality music in diverse urban settings without all the formality often associated with symphonies.  Maestro Darrold moved the Urban Philharmonic to Baltimore and then to DC in 1978.  He and the Urban Philharmonic have been here ever since.  Darrold says he likes DC.  “I like that I can see the moon rise and set,” something he says he wasn’t able to do in NYC.  “I miss Manhattan though; the quantity and quality of the arts and performing arts.”

“The Washington community is just beginning to harness its own political power,” he states.  This sounded a bit strange to me because I usually think of Washingtonians as being politically savvy so I asked him to expand upon this.  “The institutions here are powerful, however, until recently the people themselves have not had any power.”  He talks about how former Mayor Marion Barry used his power to leverage the power of the people.  I can see that, but he also used his power to benefit himself tremendously.  Not to mention that he was a convicted on various counts of drug use and tax evasion.

The conversation naturally moved to music and Maestro Darrold told me how excited he was to conduct Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, Eroica.  “It’s an interesting piece,” he says as he paints me a mental picture of Beethoven running off to follow Napoleon to try to understand war, pain, death and dying.  “Beethoven succeeds in sharing his inner most feelings with the listener; this is what makes him so great!”

I asked him what great musicians influenced him when he was young to pursue a career in music.  He grinned widely and told me that Billy Holiday and his mother.  “She was soprano and had a beautiful voice,” he told me still smiling

I loved feeling the excitement in Darrold’s voice when he spoke about the Urban Philharmonic.  Due to a lack of donations, the Urban Philharmonic came critically close to fading away for good.  But Maestro Darrold dug deep and found the strength to push on.  He is fighting now to keep the organization alive.  At almost 70-years-old, he is committed to bringing back the Urban Philharmonic with an aggressive schedule of six concerts this next season.  To do that, it will depend on donations from people like you.  If you would like to learn more about the Urban Philharmonic or make a donation, please click here.

Darrold is going to use the $10 to help buy food this week.

Below is a brief video of part of my conversation with Darrold.  Hear first-hand what it feels like to conduct a symphony!

Note: I was so impressed with the potential of this organization that I have agreed to volunteer some of my time to help with strategic planning and overall management of the organization.

UPDATE: Nov. 14, 2013

I’m sad to share that I learned yesterday that Maestro Hunt passed away last Wednesday Nov. 6th at his home. I don’t have much more details at this time, except that there is a memorial service being held on Friday Nov. 15th at the Church of the Holy City (Emanual Swedenborgian Church) located at 1611 16th Street NW (16th & Corcoran). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. followed by service at 7pm.

Darrold exuded love and kindness. His enthusiasm and passion could hardly be contained within his body. It was impossible not to be moved by his ardent smile which he shared unselfishly. DC, and the world of music, has lost one of the greats.

Here is an article from the Examiner.

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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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Ben & Jerry's Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

I am still behind on posting my giving experiences.  Today’s post is from last Tuesday!  I’m going to try to start ‘posting two a day until I get caught up.

I was walking home from a meeting and noticed a large line outside of the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop south of Dupont Circle on 19th Street. 

As it turns out it is Customer Appreciation Day where they give everyone a free scoop of ice cream.  Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t stop there though, they also partner with cause related organizations to give them an opportunity to fund-raise.  

Here’s how it works.  Ben & Jerry’s allows the charitable organization to be present and ask for donations on free scoop day.  In addition, if a patron donates $2 or more, Ben & Jerry’s gives the donor a 10% off card valid for all purchases for a year.  Great idea!

I had to stop.  The organization asking for donations was Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund.  I donated $5 to the organization and then decided to try to give my $10 to person asking for donations.

Emily (Photo: Reed)

Originally from Arizona, Emily is a Research Assistant with the organization.  It was quite chilly that afternoon and Emily looked like it was taking a toll on her.  Her face was tight and body scrunched together as she tried to stay warm.  Her coat sleeves provided little relief for her exposed hands that held her sign.

Emily said that she was going to give the money to someone else.  “I am not exactly sure how, but it will go toward helping someone else out!” she cheerfully shared.  I asked if she gave regularly and her smile went awry and she said, “Well, my fiancée is better at that than I am.”

There were several interns helping Emily get donations.  They would tell the people in line that they were accepting donations for the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund as well as explain the added benefit that patrons would receive by donating more than $2.  At some point the interns had to leave and Emily was left by herself.  I noticed that the donations slowed down as people were just walking by Emily.  I had a few minutes to spare and offered  to walk up and down the line and tell those waiting about the opportunity to donate and receive the Ben & Jerry’s discount card.  I did this until 5:30 when a fresh set of volunteers were scheduled to arrive.  I had to get going and said goodbye to Emily. 

A few hours later I received the following email from Emily!

I was so excited to do something with my $10 but was not sure that “something” would be blatantly obvious. I was wrong. Not only did I have the opportunity to use my $10 for someone else’s well-being, but it happened a mere 2 hours after meeting you.

I was freezing cold after working outside trying to get donations for the organization I work for and just wanted to get home. Upon trying to enter the blue line platform [on the Metro], I discovered the blue line was having massive issues. It was going to be a very long wait to even board a train. I decided I would get a drink and wait it out. Perfectly logical, right? As soon as I stepped outside it began to pour rain. After running into the nearest bar and discovering there was not a single seat, I settled on a nearby Subway.

As I tried to rush in the doors from the rain I was approached by a seemingly homeless female. Now, my personal policy is to not give money to homeless individuals. This is not because I am heartless; rather, I prefer to make donations elsewhere to places I have a better idea of where my money will go. So when she started to ask me–I already had my mind made up–I said no. What I didn’t process until after I had said no, was that she didn’t ask for money–she asked for a sandwich. I promptly ordered 2 turkey meal deals. She was very thankful and is currently eating her sandwich across the room from me.

I wonder what her story is.

Thanks for the opportunity to make someone’s day. I’m still in subway typing this email out…I couldn’t wait to share my ten dollar story.

 Respectfully,

Emily (day 99!)

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