Friday, September 17, 2010

DC Central Kitchen’s First Helping Program

The morning after visiting the DC Central Kitchen, we returned to volunteer with First Helping. Each day, DCCK vans carrying a hot breakfast go to 4 neighborhood sites where people need food.

Our van carried 2 tables, 2 insulated containers that held trays of hot food (today it was turkey and cheese sandwiches), packaged trays of donated muffins, 3 large beverage urns, and condiments for the coffee and tea. We were told that on some days the menu included hot oatmeal and fruit; sometimes there were clothes or toiletries to offer.

It takes lots of volunteers to make DCCK work (a total of 14,000 last year). Today, we served with 3 other volunteers – Elisabeth who volunteers 3 mornings a week at DCCK, Sarah, a recent law school graduate, and Dana, a new volunteer. Our team was led by Outreach Specialists Mike (kneeling on the right), who is on a 1-year Jesuit Volunteer Corps service project, and Kevin (on the left), who has been doing social service work for over 20 years (at DCCK about 6 months).

Our route included 3 stops in urban areas where crime, unemployment, drug use, and mental illness tend to be high. Two were near parks and one near a health clinic. At each site, when the van arrived people had been waiting nearby. The volunteers set up the tables on the sidewalk, unloaded all the food to be served, donned disposable plastic gloves, and wrapped each muffin singly. Then serving began – first two sandwiches, then a muffin, then a choice of coffee, tea, or water. We added the sugar (some people wanted as many as 6 heaping teaspoons of sugar), and folks added their own creamer if they wanted it.

At the first site we served about 33 people, at the second about 31 people, and at the third about 50 people. Some appeared to have medical, dental, substance abuse, or psychological issues. Most were respectful and helpful. All greatly appreciated the food and beverages.  When serving was over, volunteers packed up all the food left, washed the tables, and loaded them into the van.

While we volunteers served the food, the outreach specialists mingled and talked with those who came for food. First Helping is the first rung on the ladder of DCCK’s social programs. It is a “no barrier” program; anyone who comes can receive the food. Over time, the outreach specialists build relationships with the people who come for food, making them aware that when they’re ready, DCCK has various services to offer. They may help with things like getting IDs, housing vouchers, access to veterans programs, and other programs as the person is ready. Thus, again, it’s not about the food – food is the lure that provides an opportunity to help in deeper ways.

1 comment:

  1. Good cause but you must avoid politic. You should not take sides because non profit always choose the powerful voice. Then you will take 1 dollars and give 1000 shillings to the person who deserves your help
    I could have dated in speedingly one of these beautiful souls but instead of fighting for my pay day, you wanted me to be kids in a 15 min school a day
    In sum, thank you, for the networking,...

    Arthur Mboue