In the Community
I consider myself part of a new trend in the District of Columbia. I am a young professional living in the heart of the town, ushering in an urban revitalization of the federal city. While it has been amazing to see street car tracks laid down, new bars and restaurants opening their doors and even a craft beer revolution taking place inside the city’s boarders, it is impossible to look past the crowds of homeless individuals crowding the Starburst Plaza near H St. or the Martin Luther King Library on G St.
Yesterday, I had the chance to help those in need while volunteering through United Builds at DC Central Kitchen on 2nd St. NW.
A motley crew of D.C. United staff members including the Assistant Equipment Manager, Box Office Manager, and Director of Information Technology toiled in the massive kitchen preparing meals that would feed over 2,000 individuals.
How can 2,000 meals be prepared in less than three hours? Well, it certainly wasn’t easy.
I personally cut over 500 pieces of bread that would be used to make sandwiches to distribute through DC Central Kitchen’s various outlets. When the bread was all prepared we moved our efforts to pressing turkey patties. For over an hour I kept my hands wrist-deep in ground turkey, pressing over 400 patties on my own! After we finished our responsibilities, the group from D.C. United had prepared the elements for over 2,000 meals which would be distributed within a 24 hour period. While the work was tiring, it was rewarding to leave the facility knowing thousands in need would have a warm meal to eat because of our efforts.
DC Central Kitchen prepares over 10,000 meals per day and is open 365 days a year as “hunger takes no off days.” The facility relies on a base of volunteers to cut bread, chop vegetables, pound turkey patties and everything else that goes with feeding the masses. I highly recommend the experience to those looking to effectively donate their time. For more information visit http://www.dccentralkitchen.org/.
A fresh baked turkey that tantalizes your palette. Thick slices of cranberry sauce straight from the can. And yams so sweet that part of you feels guilty for gobbling them up. All of these delights are just a few of my favorite things about Thanksgivings. And this holiday season, I had the privilege of serving these joys to the thousands who gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for the Safeway Feast of Sharing.
Held annually since 1999, this event seeks to provide Thanksgiving dinners to a needy community comprised of nearly 5,000 elderly, homeless, and underprivileged individuals. The cause is generously supported by organizations such as The Safeway Corporation, The Salvation Army and other community partners. In addition to the banquet, health services and a clothing distribution were provided to all who were in need.
Upon arriving at the convention center on this frigid fifth day of giving, my coworkers and I were welcomed by the bustling ambiance of volunteers. It was heartwarming to see people from all across the community. It was especially encouraging to see the Woodrow Wilson and H.D. Woodson Senior High School football teams working sided by side. For on Thanksgiving, these two teams will clash in the district’s infamous Turkey Bowl. Other notable guests included Mayor Gray, DC Councilmembers Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and the cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins. But perhaps the best surprise of all was seeing the vivacious kids of Ketcham Elementary, a proud participant of United Soccer Club and United Reads program.
While serving at the event, volunteers were assigned specific shifts that ranged from greeting guests, seating the elderly, preparing meals, delivering orders and cleaning off the tables. But no matter the role and responsibility, everyone had the pleasure of fellowship. Smiles were shared throughout the room as spirited personalities swooned at the table and volunteers worked hand-in-hand.
In the end, the Feast of Sharing yielded more than just a bountiful meal; it imparted an uplifting sense of hope, faith and hospitality. For if we put aside our differences and come together under one roof, there’s a great feast that is waiting to be shared.
It is easy to forget how much we have to be thankful for. We all can get in the habit of taking things for granted, like the food on our tables or our good health. Thanksgiving is a great reminder for us all to take a step back and appreciate what we have and to help those around us in our community who may not be as lucky. Our neighbors down the road at Food & Friends were able to provide some of the D.C. United staff with insight on how one small act can change a person’s day.
Food & Friends is a home-delivered meal service, which was founded in 1988. It was originally a service for people with HIV/AIDS and has since transitioned to also serve those living with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. These people are provided with ready-to-eat meals and television-style dinners.
The volunteer coordinator shared that we would be running delivery routes today and briefed our group on the rules and what to expect or do if certain issues came up. Six of the front office staff excitedly braved the cold and rainy temperatures, and broke off into two D.C. United vans to begin planning our routes.
My van delivered in Southeast and serviced different types of facilities. First on our list was an assisted living type of facility. Our van was immediately recognized by some of the elderly residents in the lobby. One excitedly asked if he could come and play for the team while the other joked that we better not bring him along if we wanted to be good!
Our next stops were at different apartment complexes and houses where we received the same warm reception from all the recipients, especially one lady who was very concerned that we were out in this weather and sweetly advised us to get “out of the cold and rainy mess!” Everyone kept us entertained and on our toes from all the jokesters and kindhearted people, to the Terminix guy answering the door for the sweet elderly man walking down to greet us in his terrycloth bathrobe (can’t blame a guy for being comfy!).
All of us were happy to partner with the wonderful organization of Food & Friends for our 4th Day of Giving. Being able to see each person who is affected with these life threatening illness receive their meals was a fulfilling experience. It is a nice reminder that we should strive to always help those in need and be thankful, not just around Thanksgiving, but everyday. Food & Friends is indeed “delivering hope, one meal at a time.”
Elementary school was a simpler time in life. For me, the most challenging part of elementary school was learning my spelling words. For some of the children at Amidon-Bowen Elementary school, the challenges they face are much more real.
Hunger is a serious problem in the District of Columbia, and organizations like Martha’s Table are out to change that. Martha’s Table is dedicated to helping those in need receive food and education to help alleviate hunger, especially child hunger.
When we arrived at Amidon-Bowen the staff from Martha’s Table already had volunteers hard at work opening boxes of yogurt, oatmeal, soup, pasta, cranberry sauce, and bagging fresh fruit, vegetables and frozen turkeys. We jumped right in and started organizing the food into stations based on food groups, which would later play into the education part of the distribution. We tried to make the food appear as it would at a grocery store, organized by product and variety, and in straight rows, so the recipients would feel that they had choices, and weren’t just receiving a hand out.
As the families began to file in we didn’t simply hand over bags of food. We engaged with the families by discussing their different options, asked the children questions about what food groups they already had in their bags, what their favorite meal was and joked about how nobody really likes cranberry sauce (or at least I don’t). You could see on their faces that they were grateful not only for the food, but for treating them as people.
The holidays are a time to appreciate what you have, but for those in need this time of year , they can be a reminder of what you don’t have. During the short two hours that we helped distribute food that will help families provide a full Thanksgiving meal, it was clear that we were making a difference in these people’s lives. Everyone may need help once in a while, and knowing that we were able to help dozens of families in Southwest Washington was a great way to spend our 3rd Day of Giving.
It's unbelievably easy to take what we have for granted. For instance: when I'm hungry, I eat. It is that simple. But, for so many others, that is not an option; it's not that simple. We can help, and today, during our First Day of Giving, we did.
Kicking off D.C. United's 10 Days of Giving, a few volunteers from our staff joined Thrive DC at St. Stephen's Church in Northwest to provide meals for homeless and disadvantaged men and women. Additionally, we donated the toiletries from our October United Drives collection and the extra D.C. United Season Ticket Holder blankets.
It was 8 a.m. on a Friday morning. I had pressed snooze twice this morning. Yet, I couldn't have felt more ready for the day. The vibes upon entering the church were contagiously positive and energizing.
After tying my apron and putting on my gloves, I was immediately put to work. Together, we made chicken noodle soup, cabbage stir-fry, salad, toast with butter and began preparing Monday's breakfast. As soon as all the food was set out in the dinning room, including the breakfast burritos donated by DC Central Kitchen, we began serving meals to those in need.
For three hours, we played a small role in feeding the hungry. The gratefulness on the men and women's faces as they worked their way down the line is what it is all about: people helping people. Washingtonians helpings Washingtonians. D.C. United being out in the community, helping to make it just slightly better than it was yesterday.
Yesterday, D.C. United staff, along with goalkeeper Joe Willis and defender James Riley volunteered at D.C. Central Kitchen (DDCK). Together with the kitchen staff, we made meals for thousands of people in need. DCCK Volunteer Coordinator, Casey Thomasson prepped the group and explained what DCCK does for the community.
“We bring in 3,000 pounds of food every single day from different restaurants and hotels and organizations. We transform it into 5,000 meals all at once. Now, we don’t send these out individually… We want to try to create a more sustainable system of support for people in the community. That’s why we send these meals out to halfway houses, rehabilitation centers and after school programs. So, these programs can save money, while providing healthy meals to their clients.”
The passion for the program clear in his voice, Thomasson continued to explain that most of the cooks have come through DCCK’s internship program—a 14 week program for the previously disenfranchised to learn a valuable skill and get back on their feet. 100% of the last graduating class is now employed; the norm is around 90% which, if you’ll allow me to editorialize here, is unbelievably impressive.
While some volunteers cracked eggs to be used in lasagna, others prepared about 96 tins of turkey lasagna. Some DCU volunteers chopped jalapeños, while others prepared bacon and sandwiches for today’s breakfast.
On behalf of everyone at D.C. United, we want to thank DCCK for letting us spend the afternoon preparing meals for thousands and thank them for everything they do for the community.
On Thursday, July 11, members of D.C. United's first team and front office staff visited the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC. The United Builds event, which D.C. United has participated in for a number of years, was met with bright and cheery smiles from the patients at the hospital.
United veterans Dwayne De Rosario, Brandon McDonald, Chris Korb, and Andrew Dykstra entertained patients and families at the hospital. The group took part in games, arts & crafts, and various activities to provide a fun environment for patients & parents at the hospital.
Click here to find out more about D.C. United's community efforts.
Each season, MLS WORKS names Community MVPs from around the league who use soccer to help enhance their community. D.C. United's local MVP is Guy Perez of Richmond, Virginia.
Fans have the opportunity to vote to choose the Grand Prize winner. All votes must be submitted by July 12 at 5:00 p.m. ET and the winner is eligible for the below prize package:
One (1) Grand Prize winner will receive a $10,000 donation to their charity of choice and a trip to the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Game. Trip for winner and one (1) guest to include:
- Accommodations for two (2) nights Roundtrip coach airfare
- Two (2) tickets to the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Sporting Park on July 31
- Recognition during 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Game
- One (1) 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Gift Bag
The Nominator of the Grand Prize winner and one (1) guest will also receieve a trip to the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Game. Trip for the nominator and one (1) guest to include the same elements outlined above for Grand Prize winner*.
*Nominator prize package does not include $10,000 donation.
Guy Perez loves soccer. For most fans of the game, this would be enough. But, Guy has spent the last 20+ seasons coaching recreational players year round to love the game as well. Guy's coaching style is positive and he teaches his athletes to play the game, but, more importantly, to love the game. He embodies the true spirit of recreational soccer by adhering to equal playing time for all players as well as modeling and teaching positive sportsmanship and most importantly, having fun on the soccer field. One parent states that because of Coach Perez, "my daughter's love of soccer has been restored and she has never played with so much passion and effort”!
Guy is currently battling cancer and few know how gravely ill he truly is. He NEVER lets that stop him from being there for his players. He underwent major surgery recently and immediately upon his discharge headed out to the soccer field to coach his team. He has made a difference. He has truly inspired the close circle of people that know the seriousness of his illness and of his prognosis with his humble grace and unstoppable passion for soccer. The way he instills this in his players is by pure love and example. Guy's charity of choice is the Richmond Kickers which provides the opportunity for children with disabilities to play soccer.
On Saturday night, the Nicole Megaloudis Foundation held their annual scholarship presentation prior to the D.C. United vs. Toronto FC match. Congratulations to Manuel Hernandez and Luisa Martinez, this year's scholarship winners.
The Nicole Megaloudis Foundation strives to "Make it Happen" for students who display leadership qualities and are in need of financial support. The Foundation is named for, and was founded in honor of, Nicole Megaloudis, the stepdaughter of former D.C. United head coach Thomas Rongen who was killed in an auto accident in 2004. Click here to learn more about the Foundation.