It's been two years since an unarmed man, 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar, was shot and killed by police in Fairfax County. Kojo sits down with Bijan's family to discuss their quest for answers.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, we check in with three local soup kitchens to look at who they’re serving and how their programs and clients have changed in recent years. From traditional, church-based operations to interfaith groups providing a range of services along with hot meals, we explore what it means to be hungry in our community and the resources available for those in need.
- Patty Stonesifer President, Martha's Table
- Father John Adams President, So Others Might Eat (SOME)
- Mary Canapary Director, Gaithersburg Community Soup Kitchen, also known as The Lord's Table
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. The moral is Thanksgiving. For many, that means a big feast with family and friends. For some, the day will include a couple of hours of volunteering at a soup kitchen. For others, it's one more day when their own resources aren't enough to put dinner on the table.
MR. KOJO NNAMDISoup kitchens around the region will be crowded tomorrow, but they're also busy year-round helping the way for those who are hungry, the homeless and the working poor alike. A number of local soup kitchens share common roots having started in churches or other religious locations. Some continue to simply feed hot meals to those in need, others have grown in size and scope, offering daycare, housing, clothing and free medical care to help stop the cycle of poverty that creates hunger in the first place.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIOn this Thanksgiving eve, Food Wednesday explores the changing nature of hunger in our region and the people and organizations that feed the hungry year round. Joining us in studio is Father John Adams. He is president of So Other Might Eat, also known as SOME, in Washington. Father John Adams, thank you for joining us.
FATHER JOHN ADAMSGood. I'm glad to be here.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Patty Stonesifer, president of Martha's Table in Washington. Patty, thanks you -- thank you for joining us.
MS. PATTY STONESIFERThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd joining us by phone is Mary Canapary, she's a volunteer coordinator for the Gaithesburg Community Soup Kitchen, also known as The Lord's Table. Mary Canapary, thank you for joining us.
MS. MARY CANAPARYNot at all.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for us, give us a call at 800-433-8850. Do you volunteer at a soup kitchen? Tell us about your experience. Do you sometimes eat at a soup kitchen? What are the circumstances that take you there -- take you there? 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Mary Canapary, I'll start with you. You are one of the founders of The Lord's Table soup kitchen in Gaithersburg. How did it get started in 1984? And who were your first clients?
CANAPARYWell, there were 20 homeless people living under the bridge over 355 -- pardon me -- in Gaithersburg. And they always came to St. Martin's Church because the pastor had a reputation of being a terribly kind man. And they came looking for food, clothing, medical help and jobs, everything. So it was decided that a more effective, more efficient and a more disciplined way to address their needs would be to have a soup kitchen.
CANAPARYSo they -- the parish council decided that that would be a good way to go. But they kind of didn't know how to -- where to go with the idea. And I had just moved from Connecticut after helping open -- helping open up Dorothy Day place in Danbury. And they asked me if I could help. And I said, yes, it would be a piece of cake, not knowing one thing what I was talking about. And that was 30 years.
NNAMDIThirty years later, you're still offering one hot meal a day. What does that meal include? And when is it served?
CANAPARYIt's at 3:30 every day except Sunday. And it's a four-course meal. And people can come back for seconds, thirds and just as much as they need to feel satisfied.
NNAMDIFather John, you've been at So Other Might Eat for 36 years. That's about how long I've been knowing about SOME. How did Father Horace McKenna start the soup kitchen in 1970 at a rectory on Capitol Hill?
ADAMSFather Horace started the -- out of passing sandwiches out the door of the rectory.
ADAMSThe back door -- well, the front door of the rectory. And that was at Gonzago and people were having to pray -- priests were having to step over a lot of bodies in the morning waiting for their breakfast. And so they encouraged Father McKenna to go down the street a bit. So that's where it really -- SOME got started in 1970. And, yeah, it's been...
NNAMDISome offers other services now, which we'll get to in a minute. But how many meals do you serve today? And where do you serve them?
ADAMSRight now, we do two meals every day, breakfast and lunch. Both good meals and with a lot of volunteers. But we also serve -- we have a day center for people with mental disabilities and that's another whole operation as far as serving meals. We have a lot of different programs now that are serving meals as well. But in the main dining room over the year -- last year, we served about 250,000 meals counting both meals every day of the year.
ADAMSIt depends upon the time of the month. It's about 1,000 people total each day. Sometimes that goes down a bit. Other times it goes up a bit depending upon the people may be getting there as a side check or the time of the year as far as the weather and everything else.
NNAMDIPatty Stonesifer, you took over as president of Martha's Table a year ago, but this group has been around for 35 years. How did it get started?
STONESIFERWell, in some ways, there's a great connection here in that Dr. Veronica Maz had been involved in the early works with Father McKenna, learning from the work at SOME and then establishing House of Ruth. And in 1979, she filed to create a new nonprofit on 14th Street, where she saw that the crime and challenges in the neighborhood meant that there was a real need for someone to concentrate on the needs of the children and those who needed both nutrition and care in order to thrive in the context that was 14th Street at that time.
NNAMDIMy, how 14th Street has changed...
STONESIFERThat is the truth.
NNAMDI...since then. I do remember those days when Martha's Table was first formed. Martha's Table also runs McKenna's Wagon, a mobile meal delivery program. Where do your vans? Who do they serve?
STONESIFERWell, in the early 1980s, Father McKenna passed away. At the same time, there was a recession in this country. And Veronica Maz managed to convince someone to give a good -- old good humor truck and she began that evening distributing meals out the back of that van to folks that she could see in the parks and on the streets needed that additional support.
STONESIFERSo, 365 nights a year, three McKenna's Wagons head out to the corner of 2nd and K -- 2nd and H where I was last night to the McPherson Square to the Golden Triangle near the World Bank. And we serve several hundred people almost entirely through foods that were prepared by volunteers with a bit of Martha's Table staff assistant with vans that are driven by volunteers, with food that is distributed.
STONESIFERAnd so, we have hot meal. Last night, it was turkey and stuffing as well as mac and cheese and others, but also oranges and sandwiches that are made across the city by children, by seniors, by groups that come together to ensure that not only a hot meal but the sandwiches for eating later are provided for those in greatest need.
NNAMDIPatty Stonesifer is president of Martha's Table in Washington. She joins us in studio along with Father John Adams. He is president of So Others Might Eat, also known as SOME. And Mary Canapary joins us by phone. She's volunteer coordinator with the Gaithersburg Community Soup Kitchen, also known as The Lords Table. It's a Food Wednesday conversation about feeding the hungry on the day before Thanksgiving.
NNAMDIYou're -- we are inviting you to join that conversation by calling 800-433-8850. What do you think are the best strategies for feeding people who otherwise would go hungry? You can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Patty, your move to Martha's Table last year was something of a surprise. You were the highest ranking woman at Microsoft and helped Bill and Melinda Gates start their foundation.
NNAMDIYou became its CEO. President Obama appointed you to chair the White House Council for Community Solutions. Why did you decide that running Martha's Table would be your next move?
STONESIFERWell, in many ways, I'm back where I began. My family, growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where -- there were nine of us. My father worked hard to ensure there was enough food for us to eat. But part of our family service was ensuring that our neighbors also had enough to eat. And so, when I came to this stage of life where I had the opportunity to make a decision about what next, I'd been working with Martha's Table.
STONESIFERI've been donating to Martha's Table like so many people for a very long time. And I saw they needed a president and it was a way to use the skills that I built, but also feed my heart and my interest in helping at a community level. I need to say that in 1996, I first walked in the doors of Martha's Table with Bill Gates to deliver computers for the older youth program there as part of their efforts to ensure that the young people became leaders and learners and earners.
STONESIFERAnd technology was a way to do that. And I was so impressed with what I saw that it became on my radar and I continue to see McKenna's Wagon and the work being done across the city when I visited here. And I -- I'm thrilled today to be part of the leadership team. We've got a great group of people, both volunteers and those on staff, that make it work every day.
NNAMDIWell, your corporate background may interest people because they'll say, well, this is unusual. But as you pointed out, your family background has been involved in this for a long time because of your parents. And it's my understanding that, until recently, your mother was still volunteering.
STONESIFERMy mother is 91 and just recently gave up the job of being on the phone for St. Vincent De Paul, making sure that people could be -- people in need could be matched to the goods and services they need. It was -- I didn't know the word volunteering when I was a child, it was just what we did, right? The taking care certainly of your siblings and your family. But then the automatic extension of that to your church and your community was a natural.
STONESIFERAnd I was -- I learned a lot from watching my parents involve all of us in that work and did the same with my own children and I see that across this city with the 10,000 volunteers that work at Martha's Table today. It's baked in to our responsibility to the city to consider everyone our neighbors. And what would you do if your neighbor was in need? And Martha's Table is just a way of connecting to that.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is JP in Herndon, VA. JP, you're on the air, go ahead please.
JPGood afternoon, everybody. And thank you, Kojo. Love your show. Thanks for taking my call.
JPJust wanted to chime in and add some thoughts to it. This is one thing I'm taken aback about is that this is such a very generous nation. And I love volunteering, particularly in the soup kitchens. I was with a company for about almost five years and religiously, on a monthly basis, we committed to the Christ Church in Alexandria, where we would go and buy from Costco. And it's amazing how many people you can feed on not big of a budget.
JPTwo hundred, $250 can get you about nine or ten frozen lasagnas and corn and salad and different vegetables that we would chop up. And we would get a group of between three and five people head over there for about four hours on a monthly basis and feed between 60 and 75 people. There's different types of volunteering I do, but I really found that particular one very rewarding because of the families that would come in.
JPAnd a lot of times, repeat families, which was, you know, sad when you see, of course, the children. But very appreciative, they always are of it. And, like, somebody mentioned earlier, there really no limits to how much they can eat. We would pretty much be able to feed as many servings as they wanted. And they wanted seconds or thirds. But there are so many different programs that are out there. And it's just good to be part of it. It feels good. And -- and I just wanted to share those thoughts.
NNAMDIThank you very much for sharing those thoughts with us, JP. Anyone else who'd like to share your thoughts if you volunteer at a soup kitchen or, as we mentioned, if you sometimes eat a soup kitchen. 800-433-8850 is the number. Care to comment on what we just heard, Father John?
ADAMSI think that that's very true that many people that work in volunteer at a soup kitchen -- we call ours a dining room, though -- in our dining room feel good about what they're doing because, I think, they are giving back something. But also feel that they are making a difference in the community by helping people that are hungry.
ADAMSIt's a very basic right that people have, is to food in our country. And it's a shame that in our nation's capital we have so many people that are hungry or that many people -- over 110,000 people in our city that are below the poverty rate and struggle with food.
NNAMDIMary Canapary, you were doing this before you came here. What motivates you?
CANAPARYWell, I came from a country that was very, very poor. At the time, that it was particularly poor. And having personally experienced the incredible goodness and the generosity of other people, as Father Adams and this other wonderful lady says, it's almost something that's build into. You don't have a name for it. You don't know about the word volunteering. It's just part of your makeup.
CANAPARYSo when I came to this country and to the land of plenty where the streets are paved with gold, then I was so blessed, blessed by God and blessed by the people I met, to not ever to want, not to want, not to know want again. So I was personally attracted to doing something and working. Just to -- I knew…
NNAMDIWere you at all surprised -- if you don't mind me interrupting. Were you also -- were you a little surprised that despite the fact that the streets were paved with gold and it was a land of plenty that there was still hunger abroad in the land?
CANAPARYVery much. Very, very, very much surprised. That was something that I never thought of, that that -- I didn't think that could be. So -- but it wasn't awfully long until I found out that that was indeed so. But nonetheless, I mean, it is a pure -- the caller who talked about going to Costco and getting -- buying all those lasagnas. We, at the Lord's Table, that's exactly how we exist. And people like him are the people who support us. We do not receive any government funding whatsoever.
CANAPARYWe exist completely on donations from people like him, from the Capital Area Food Bank, Manor, Lockheed Martin just gave us 47 turkeys I think it was. And so while it's awful to see the poverty, it is wonderful, simply wonderful to see the generosity.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back we'll continue our conversation on feeding the hungry, whether you use the term dining room or whether you use the term soup kitchen, we're interested in hearing what you think about how this might be -- or what you think about this as a strategy for feeding people who would otherwise go hungry. What role do you think soup kitchens play in the array of social services for those in need? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Shoot us an email to email@example.com, a tweet, @kojoshow or go to our website, kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about feeding the hungry on the day before Thanksgiving. We're talking with Father John Adams. He is president of So Others Might Eat, also known as SOME in Washington. Patty Stonesifer is president of Martha's Table, in Washington. And Mary Canapary is volunteer coordinator for the Gaithersburg Community Soup Kitchen, also known as the Lord's Table.
NNAMDIThere is a common timeline for all three of your organizations. What was going on in Washington, D.C., and this region in the late '70s and early '80s that created so much need for soup kitchens? Pat? Or Father John, you could start first.
ADAMSWell, it was really the need that when people were beginning to step up and take more of a -- seeing people as human beings on the street that need something to eat, particularly the homeless and as well as other people. So I think people began responding and stepping out and doing what people could do.
ADAMSThe soup kitchens were in the Great Depression of course. And they sort of faded away. But I think there were always places -- not quite as big as maybe some of us are right now. But I also think it's within people's nature because people that want to volunteer, people that want to serve, do it out of very compassionate. And seeing people on the streets or seeing people hungry is not something -- especially in our country and certainly in our city of Washington, D.C. So I think that's what really began.
ADAMSAnd people -- some began rather small with handing out sandwiches, but we've grown since then. And that's been a -- and we call ours a dining room because we try to begin our mission, which is to restore hope and dignity and starting with the food program. So…
STONESIFERAnd I think that there is something to what happened in the '60s to awaken our sense of activism. Whether it was the beginning of the war on poverty with Lyndon Johnson or it was Martin Luther King Jr., one of his -- 50 years ago this month he received his Nobel Prize. And one of the lines from his speech is on our wall. And we look at it and work on it every day. And it just starts with, "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere should have three meals a day for their body, education and culture for their minds, and freedom and dignity for their spirits."
STONESIFERAnd that kind of idealism that meant we wanted to change our government, whether that was stopping wars or changing policies or creating a greater sense of equality, also became part of the way people chose to live their lives. And people that perhaps had been pursuing academia realized they needed to mix that with activism.
STONESIFERThey had been in the corporate arena and corporations began the serious discussion amongst themselves about what was their social responsibility. And we saw that manifest in some of these organizations in the '70s. Yes, the need was there, but so was the changing sense of common responsibility.
NNAMDIIn addition to which -- I came here in 1969, to Washington. And one could see that the need expanded because the homeless population expanded and then later on there was the deinstitutionalization of people who were mentally ill. And you saw in streets that you never saw homeless people or panhandlers before in Washington, you began to see them in greater numbers. But I'd like to go to Dan, in Brookland, in Washington, who wants to talk about that. Dan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANThank, Kojo. Yeah, I actually was involved in -- with a couple of homeless nonprofits in Denver in the early '90s. And one of the activities I did with large volunteer groups that would come in from around the country to do, you know, a week of service, was give them a homeless walking tour. So we would walk around downtown Denver. And I would point out the different organizations, volunteer organizations that were, you know, providing services to the homeless.
DANAnd I quickly realized that those organizations -- almost all of them, with the exception of Catholic charities -- almost of them had been founded in the early '80s. And, you know, started asking around and asking me people who had sort of kind of founded those organizations. And, you know, the boom in these organizations was connected to really the beginning of the destruction of the social safety net, which happened -- strangely enough -- around sort of the first cuts -- substantial cuts to affordable housing, which actually happened ironically under the Carter administration.
DANBut certainly sort of increased under the Reagan and Bush administrations. You know, there were more people who, you know, had access to less affordable housing, it was harder to sort of make a living, affordable wages, all these sort of issues started clustering around, sort of creating, you know, a lot of homeless and a lot of homeless families, you know. The really invisible…
NNAMDIAnd so that's when you got involved. Were you involved, inspired by the kind of activism that Patty Stonesifer talked about that came over, essentially, from the '60s and people wanted to be able to do something maybe different than demonstrating, but nevertheless something that they saw as being helpful?
DANYeah, I mean, you know, there were so many great organizations that were sort of -- that were involved with the communities, especially in Denver, you know, that were sort of networking. But what I really tried to sort of emphasize with these -- most of these were youth groups -- but that, you know, I think many of them grew up and they continue to grow up -- people continue to grow up in this country believing that the homeless population has been as large as it is now, you know, forever.
DANBut, you know, the truth is that there are more homeless now, by percentage, directly related to the policies that we as a society take. And it was always important for people to realize that when they talk about smaller government…
DAN…you know, those things are connected to sort of creating urban poverty. And…
DANYeah, so that was my…
NNAMDIDan, thank you very much for your call. We do have to move on. Mary Canapary, what changes have you seen over the years in the kinds of people who come to the Lord's Table? How do your clients reflect the changing demographic, the changing economy in this area?
CANAPARYWell, I think that perhaps this area is a little bit different than an inner-city area, excuse me, in that this was one time great -- there were great big farms here that had a lot of people working on them. And I think around that time in 1984, the farms were being sold off to developers. And the skills of the people who worked on the farms were not any longer -- they were not appropriate to what was happening in this area. It was becoming a very high-tech area. They didn't have the skills to be successful in that.
CANAPARYSo an awful lot of the older men, especially, or the middle-aged men, I should say at that time, kind of found themselves on the street. They also had developed -- or perhaps always were -- I don't know -- but alcohol entered their lives. And so in the city of Gaithersburg, at that time, there were so many homeless men that this wonderful place was created, the Wells Robertson House, to accommodate recovering -- people who had been in recovery -- transitional housing that is.
CANAPARYBut now -- well, most of those people have died. And now we -- also at that time we had a lot of families that seemed to be just temporarily down on their luck. And they were almost passing through. We had eight highchairs. And I remember thinking that I would have to buy some more. But now we have no highchairs because we have hardly any children. And that happened during the Clinton administration, when welfare reform happened.
NNAMDI1996. Here is Patty Stonesifer.
STONESIFERWell, building on what Mary said about the changing demographics, one of the things that the folks at Martha's Table realized is that we are at a point in our own economic supports for low-income families, including those families with those children in the highchairs, that hunger is unfortunately a regular occurrence for too many families. One in seven American families accessed a food bank this past year, according to Feeding America.
STONESIFERAnd one in three D.C. children live at regular risk of food and security. And so in addition to the dining rooms and the soup kitchens and the -- insuring there's a hot meal for those in greatest needs, groceries are part of the solution to insure that hunger is addressed in this city.
NNAMDIMartha's Table has branched out into providing food for families of school children. Explain how your monthly popup markets work in a dozen D.C. and Maryland schools. Who can shop there for free groceries?
STONESIFERAny family who has a child in these schools -- we go to -- today 12 schools. Are vision is 55 or greater schools in Washington, D.C., where we know there are families at regular risk of hunger. And besides hunger, a constant tradeoff between that monthly rent, the quality of the food, moving to highly-processed low-nutrition food in order to make ends meet. But, again, many of these families -- most of these families have someone working in that household, yet they have far too little income at the end of the day when they've paid the cost of housing, the cost of transportation, to afford the quality food that will insure those young children can really thrive.
STONESIFERSo we do popup markets once a month in the school's gymnasium and partnership with the principals and the teachers. We have great cooking demos. It feels more like a food fair, than a food bank. And we do that, again, with the cooperation of Capital Area Food Bank and other donors who give us the cash and the food in order to insure that families walk out with 30 pounds of food, almost half of that fresh food, to insure that food is a joyful part of their family life, instead of an area of risk and failure.
NNAMDIIf you've called, stay on the line, we will get to your calls. The lines are filled. If you'd like to get through, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with your comment or question. Or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. We will get to the phones very shortly, but, Patty, you've moved to a model that gives your clients a lot of choice. How does it work and why is choice important?
STONESIFERWhen I mentioned that Martin Luther King Jr. quote earlier, he used the word dignity. And for Martha's Table it's -- we've always had the goal of high dignity. But dignity comes when I get to choose what I have for dinner tonight, when I choose between the clothes that I need for that job interview. And so we use what we call a radical choice model.
STONESIFERThere's always more than one choice of pastas, more than one choice of vegetables, more than one choice of proteins, in order to insure that families can match their diet and their dignity and the foods that give them joy and pleasure in order to insure that as they work in their families to break that cycle of poverty that this becomes part of their building process.
NNAMDIFather John, So Others Might Eat has evolved over the years to do more than just feed people. How did you decide to expand to provide housing services as well?
ADAMSWe decided a long time ago that we were serving hungry people, but also homeless people. And that in order to become more independent people needed a place to live. So what we started in the Dining Room is a great feeder into our other programs. We have emergency services. And the emergency services on O Street consist of doing the meals, of course, but also doing showers every day, to clothing distribution, but we also have an excellent health clinic, a medical clinic that people can access to.
ADAMSAnd eye clinic and a great dental clinic that we've had for many, many years. And all those are pretty important programs, but also people are in need of seeing, often times, a mental health worker. Many people living on the streets have some mental health issues. Some people may have addiction problems. And so SOME has a rather excellent program and an excellent team, that if somebody walks across the street to see a mental health worker, a social worker, a case manager, we can help people get onto their SSI almost -- rather quickly -- or to see a counselor. If somebody from the streets wanted to go in our Dining Room and we do a little bit of advertising or…
NNAMDII was about to say how do you invite people who come in for meals to use some of your other services as well?
ADAMSWe have a waiting room where we have a rather large screen and invite people. Plus, that some of our alumni will come back and spend some time talking to people in our waiting room, saying, you know, we went -- we came -- we're eating 10 years ago and we walked across the street and asked for help. And that's rather easily done. And if somebody has a drug problem or an alcohol problem, almost immediately we can put them in our safe house.
ADAMSAnd SOME has wonderful in-patient drug treatment program that is about a year and a half. We have 50 acres on the other side of Winchester, VA, which is on a mountaintop. A place for women, a place for men for 90 days in-patient. And when people comes back, they have another 90 days in the city while people start looking for jobs, a place to live. And that's all important -- major important thing. The mental health piece is a pretty important thing, too. We have several psychiatric beds, city hospice to run and a day program just for that.
NNAMDIHere's Patrick in Arlington, VA. Patrick, your turn.
PATRICKWell, I am a longtime supporter of SOME. I was a student at Gonzaga about 50 years ago and knew Father McKenna. I've been acquainted with Father Adams and right now I am the SOME provide-a-meal coordinator for Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown. And the church has been doing the provide-a-meal on the fourth Sunday of the month for 37 years. We were, I guess, the first provider of meals at SOME's dining room.
NNAMDIWhat do you have -- what are your plans for tomorrow?
PATRICKWell, I'm going to be at SOME. I'm bringing about 36 people down to serve that's being provided by Clark Construction. And I'll get there about 8 o'clock, be working in the kitchen and the rest of our staff will probably be there about 10:15.
PATRICKAnd we're going to be interacting the clients and hopefully make some positive reinforcement for them.
NNAMDIFather John Adams, you are, I'm assured, familiar with Patrick.
ADAMSI am. And Trinity specially. And many of our -- we have at least, I would say, close to 80 parishes, churches, corporations that sign up for doing a meal once a month, either breakfast or for lunch. And Trinity has been a big supporter. And they have a lot of volunteers that have helped to renovate some of our houses, smaller houses and have done a terrific job over the years.
NNAMDIPatrick, thank you very much for your call. You all may be able to provide some assistance for Alfredo in Fairfax, VA. Alfredo, thank you for waiting. You're on the air, go ahead please.
ALFREDOKojo, thank you so much for taking my phone call. Anyway, very simple. I would like to be a volunteer. Beside -- I mean, before I would like to thank you guests. Thank you so much for what you do for the community. I would like to be a volunteer tomorrow. Can someone give me a number, email or anything?
STONESIFERWell, Martha's Table will have volunteers tomorrow as will SOME. And I'll be at Martha's Table. You'll be welcome to join us. But I will say this, which is the holidays are a time of plenty for us when it comes to volunteers and when it comes to everything from book clubs. We had a wonderful group of five-year-olds walk in with food yesterday. The princess cupcake ballerina fairies book club.
STONESIFERAnd the challenge for all of us is yes to have the volunteer capacity tomorrow, but to have it in January and in March and in April. And we are lucky enough to have a website with the opportunities to volunteer all year round and we would welcome our caller but also everybody else that's listening to log on to MarthasTable.org and see the many ways they can help in the thrift store. They can help with McKenna's Wagon. They can help preparing the foods that are donated to ensure that we can do our work year round.
NNAMDIMary Canapary, same question to you. How can Alfredo volunteer?
NNAMDIOr any other time.
CANAPARYWell, we have about 88 different churches and organizations, houses of worship and synagogue takes care of us on Christmas Day. He could -- let's see, our hours are 1:00 to 5:30 from Monday to Friday. So that's very, very awkward for anyone who's working outside the home. But nonetheless, the number, shall give a number?
NNAMDIAlfredo, thank you very much for your call. Father John Adams, what are -- what role do volunteers play in your organization?
ADAMSI think volunteers play a major role in everything we do at SOME, whether they're tutoring in our -- we have a great job training program, a six-month job training program. Volunteers often will volunteer one or two days a week or -- many different roles. Certainly the dining is one of the more important things that we do every day of the year. But we were getting lots of calls starting in September, October of every year past that wanted to volunteer on Thanksgiving or Christmas. And so, we had to turn away a lot of volunteers.
NNAMDIAnd I'm going to ask you to hold that thought for a second, because we do have to short -- take a short break. But when we come back, I want you to talk about how you turned an overabundance of volunteers into a band of runners. But we'll get to that when we get back. If you'd like to join the conversation on feeding the hungry, call us at 800-433-8850. Send email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're having a conversation about feeding the hunger (sic) with Mary Canapary. She's volunteer coordinator for the Gaithersburg Community Soup Kitchen, also known as The Lord's Table. Patty Stonesifer is president of Martha's Table in Washington and Father John Adams is president of So Others Might Eat also known as SOME in Washington. Father John, tell us how you turned overabundance of volunteers who wanted to serve food on Thanksgiving into a band of runners who help raise money for SOME.
ADAMSWell, we decided that instead of turning away so many people over the months before Thanksgiving or Christmas, we decided to have a Turkey Truck for Hunger on Thanksgiving morning in the nation's capital. So I think it's the nation's Turkey Truck for Hunger. And we started with 100 people around the Tidal Basin that first year. That was probably 13 years ago. I'd have to look that up on our website.
ADAMSBut it's grown since then. And now it's on Freedom Plaza and it's a 5K run and walk. It's a -- some people liked to be timed, other people just like to run or jog or bring their children down and walk with their dogs a lot of times. And so it's a fun day and it's an -- it's early in the morning enough that we have a small children's run at about 8:30 and then the big thing starts at 9 o'clock.
ADAMSAnd so it's a great way for people to participate in feeding the hungry and the homeless -- helping with the homeless during the year and that's a great fundraiser for us, too. So we really thank people for it. And people enjoy coming out.
NNAMDIA lot of callers want to get in on this conversation. Let's go to Joan in Washington, D.C. Joan, you're on the air, go ahead please.
JOANOh, hi, Kojo. I'm lost because for the first time in 30 years I won't be serving dinner tomorrow at the Potter's House, which is up in Adams Morgan.
NNAMDISure. Been there forever.
JOANWhich has grown up around it. It was the one during -- that wasn't burned down when the city burned down. You know, it's been there for over 50 years.
JOANThe thing is, it's being renovated. Gutted and renovated. We say charted up but it's actually bringing it up to code because it was kept to alive with, you know, chewing -- chewing gum and wax and string and whatever else we had there, lots of love. And you didn't know who -- I didn't know who I'd be serving there. There was everybody from the Senator Dole who would pop in and then there was my one favorite gentleman who this -- he had three Thanksgiving dinners in the Potter's House was last on his list.
JOANAnd so he just kept eating his way up the block, you know. He knew all the places. He came every time. And then the other thing that's wonderful when a bunch of Mormon missionaries, the young men in white outfits came in.
JOANDidn't know what the heck the Potter's House was. They saw the books, you know…
NNAMDIThey got to figure it out, yes.
JOANThis one, whatever, you know, this hybrid there, but very colorful. They came in and I said, oh, come in. Sit down. You're just in time. Do you like turkey? Do you want this? And they look bewildered and they were all -- they were all looking alike and looking at each other. And I said, you people are Mormons, aren't you? And they said, yes, we are. And I said, well, welcome to Potter's House. And we fed them there and they were just astonished. And I don't know who converted who that day. But still...
NNAMDIThe Potter's House remains a remarkable institution in Washington. As a matter of fact, it is being renovated. It's temporarily close. It's being renovated. When is it expected to reopen?
JOANWell, you know, everything costs more and takes longer, because it's, you know, being rewired and all that stuff. Hopefully in the spring of next year. They've been at it for a bit. But, you know, they're building 80 condominiums on the next corner.
JOANAnd the going price is $300,000.
NNAMDIYes, so your neighborhood is changing, but the Potter's House will continue to be there. A lot of us are waiting for it to reopen. Thank you for your call, Joan. We move on to Jim in Germantown, MD. Jim, your turn.
JIMYes, hi. I just wanted to say, it's wonderful to hear about all the opportunities that everyone is serving communities. We do have -- and, of course, remember to raise our children with an eye to the homeless and those in need. And in our church we do have the program of 30-hour famine where the middle school and high school age children go without eating for 30 hours to get a feel of what feels to not have food when you want it.
JIMAnd this voluntary fast allows them to spend a lot of time together. And we do a lot of the community activities. We collect food, of course. But also, we get the opportunity to make food (unintelligible) men's shelter in Rockville and to see a lot of very hungry teenagers preparing for a lot of destitute men.
NNAMDIWell, I know experience -- experience does help, because, Patty, you attempted to live on a food stamp budget of, I think, $4 a day?
STONESIFERYes, there's a food stamp challenge that is a really good exercise for anyone who wants to try it. But it helps illustrate what it really means to try to eat healthy or feed your family on the daily allocation that comes with food stamps. And, of course, many, many families still in need don't qualify for food stamps because their income has crept just above that level. But even those who are on food stamps at $1.40 a meal, it's a challenge. I ate an awful lot of chili and an awful lot of meals. But I was able to do it and it taught me a great deal.
NNAMDIAnd -- Jim?
JIMIt's very important. I think the adults are doing such wonderful work. Children, the next generation, and they're going to be asked to rise to the occasion when their turn comes. And so, it is certainly critical that our children get firsthand experience in helping the homeless and helping the hungry and the needy.
NNAMDIThank you very much. Thank you very much for your call.
JIMI appreciate -- keep up the good work.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, Jim. We move on now to Gary in Woodbridge, VA. Gary, you're on the air, go ahead please.
GARYHey, Kojo. Thank you for your show. I used to be homeless about 20 years ago. And the quality of food, especially with McKenna's Wagon wasn't too good, but the quality -- I've been at their son's recently and the quality of food has really increased. It's very good.
NNAMDIIt's improved dramatically, huh?
GARYDramatically. It's very good. I don't know what they did.
NNAMDIWhich allows me to get this from all of our panelists. Where do you get the food you serve? How much comes from donations? And who makes those donation?
STONESIFERThe food on McKenna's Wagon is almost exclusively donations, whether that's Capitol Grill or Chipotle or the Ballerina's Club walking in food stops or the $20 that someone donates online. It's absolutely essential to have public funds for that group. The same is true with our groceries. Again, we benefit from those who give to Capital Area Food Bank, but we also buy produce and extend the donations that we receive in kind to ensure that everyone has the healthy groceries they need.
NNAMDIMary Canapary, where do you get the food your serve?
CANAPARYAlmost all of it is donated. And if it's not, then the money to buy it is donated because, as I said, we do not receive any government funding whatsoever. So it -- Lockheed Martin just gave us all those turkeys. The Amish market in Germantown, they supply us with the most wonderful things before they return to Lancaster, PA each week. Just local people or local organizations. Manna, the Capital Area Food Bank are the big ones.
CANAPARYBut just individuals as well. And St. Martin's where we are housed, totally free of charge, I might add. They have a food pantry. They receive all their food -- their non-perishable food for Month of Mourning distribution from donors as well. So it's completely donated.
NNAMDIFather John Adams, where do you get the food you serve and to what extent do you rely in addition to food donations on fundraiser?
ADAMSMost of our food in dining room, as mentioned, by Trinity and many of the parishes and many of the corporations that support us is food that is often prepared and frozen and brought down. So I'd say majority of that provide-a-meal programs we call it is done by volunteers and by donors. And that's supplemented with other donations that are made for the Turkey Truck that we have that they will help to provide meals at -- in some of our housing, where we have approximately 360 children living in our housing as well as to the elderly housing that we do as well as our dining room that we provide there every day. So it's a -- it comes from a variety of sources and certainly donations is when -- donations of food, canned goods, but also of financial means to help us.
NNAMDIPatty Stonesifer, we're almost out of time, but how will you think our community as a whole provides for those who are hungry? And what's next on your own list of priorities?
STONESIFERWell, I think we've been talking a lot with people who are active volunteers. And the community is good that way. And, of course, more donations are almost needed, whether it's for sleeping bags, housing, or food. But we also have to be using our voice. And I'm hoping that everybody that's listening but also all those that are volunteering are remembering that with change of administration, change of policies, if you see a need, we need to take the time every week to register our interest and having the right policies and the right benefits and the right housing strategies with those who matter, those who we elected.
NNAMDII'm afraid that's all the time we have. Patty Stonesifer is president of Martha's Table in Washington. Thank you for joining us. Father John Adams is president of So Others Might Eat, also known as SOME. Thank you for joining us. And Mary Canapary is volunteer coordinator for the Gaithersburg Community Soup Kitchen, also known as The Lord's Table. Mary, thank you for joining us. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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