Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hometown Heroes

“Throughout the year we produce 12 different menus every day, so we meet the specific nutritional needs of the clients," stated Craig Shinderman, The Director of Food & Friends' in Washington, D.C. "But Thanksgiving is an All-American Holiday and people really like turkey, stuffing, greens, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, pumpkin pies. We provide the whole nine yards, thousands and thousands of pounds of food."

In fact--8,400 pounds of turkey, 975 pounds of cornbread stuffing, 1,050 pounds of mashed potatoes and 2,600 dinner rolls.

Mr. Shinderman was standing in the kitchen of Food & Friends' Headquarters off Riggs Road in N.E. Washington. "This a monumental effort and it’s a traditional feast. We know our clients are sick and kind of living at the margins of society. The role of Food & Friends’ is to help those people maintain a dignified and independent life. And on Thanksgiving, we want them to share this All-American Holiday.”

A meal that could not be provided without the thousands of volunteers whom give their free time to help out those in need. These Hometown Heroes as Mr. Shinderman calls them that on Monday, November 23rd, included nearly 30 Front Office Staff of Our Washington Nationals, along with Pitcher Craig Stammen. Two teams that worked two shifts at Food & Friends'. The first of four labor intensive days involved in the cooking, preparing and packaging of nearly 3500 Thanksgiving Dinners that will be delivered this Thursday Morning.

“This is a chance to help some people out here who are less fortunate and are not in position to have that typical Thanksgiving--like so many others are accustomed to," said Craig Stammen. "So, it’s very nice to be here and give them a helping hand—and give them some good food to eat as well. I am accustomed to growing up in a big farm community where everybody pretty much does their own thing. So, living in the city (now), has exposed me to what’s not perfect in the world."

Food & Friends' formed in 1988 to serve those suffering from HIV/Aids, but now has grown to also help those with cancer and life-threatening illnesses.

Craig Shinderman: “All of our clients are critically ill with HIV/Aids and Cancer--and most of our clients are referred to us by health care providers. But our program is not specifically an anti-hunger program, though our clients are in need of food. We are a part of a system of medical care where the nutritional support we provide--is a part of the total program of medical care for the clients.”

1/3rd of Food & Friends' $8 Million Dollar annual budget comes from local, state and federal funding. The remainder from generous contributions from corporations, foundations and The United Way. In September 2008, former Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs came to Food & Friends' with his NASCAR Driver--Denny Hamlin--as part of FedEx Cares Day. "Of course, it didn’t spark my NASCAR career!" laughed Craig Shinderman, "I am still driving my Ford Truck. But they did give us a Toyota Prius for the organization. And Coach Gibbs made a very generous personal contribution that was not originally in the plans. I think he was very touched by the experience."

Joe Gibbs getting that belonging feeling that comes from giving ones self today--so others may lead a better life tomorrow.

Yesterday was the fourth visit by Nationals Staff over the past few years, but this relationship between Food & Friends and Washington's Baseball Team was forged before Baseball Returned to Washington in 2005. "We have a nice connection with the family that owns the team (The Lerner Family)," stated Mr. Shinderman. "Marla Lerner Tanenbaum is a former member of our Board of Directors at Food & Friends’. She and the family have maintained that connection. The family is charitable and very supportive of our work. So, I believe The Nationals visiting here today is an extension of their wonderful philanthropy.”

Marla Lerner Tanenbaum: "We’ve been supporters for many years. The motivation for our gift was my mother (Annette Lerner) recalling how she made chicken soup for a dear friend of hers who was dying of AIDs. This was many years ago and my mother was struck by how nourishing the soup was to his soul and spirit. So, when a good friend asked me to participate (as a board member), the memory of that incident came to mind. It’s a great organization; it does such meaningful and important work and it’s run by smart people who respond to the community’s needs."

Just outside Food & Friends' main door is a garden endowed by The Lerner Family.

As Nationals Staff helped prepare the turkeys, sorted canned and baking goods, poured soup into protective containers and wrapped meals--they were joined on Monday by other volunteers from Capital One's Main Headquarters in Tyson's Corner, Virginia and students from Penn State. In a typical year, nearly 11,000 volunteers will assist the 50 staff members of Food & Friends'. Six days a week, meals are prepared and delivered to their nearly 3000 clients. This week, the nearly 3500 meals to be sent out for the Holiday Feast, will be assisted by over 800 volunteers.

"We simply wouldn't be able to do this without the volunteers," believes Shinderman. "The volunteers are critical. With only 50 on staff, we would never be able to deliver over 1 million meals in 2009. Every day people are the celebrities here every day, and especially on Thanksgiving. The 800 people that are here today, tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday--we applaud them as they are leaving the building carrying their deliveries. These people always look shocked as every day people are rarely treated as celebrities. But for us—they are our Hometown Heroes."

Final preparations in Food & Friends' Kitchen will begin at 4AM Thanksgiving Morning. Just a few hours later, those many Hometown Heroes will be out on the streets of 14 counties and cities in Maryland, Virginia and District Of Columbia delivering that All-American Family Holiday Meal. Volunteers like members from Our Washington Nationals Family, whom gave a few hours of their time Monday in N.E. Washington so those with HIV/Aids, Cancer and Life Threatening illnesses can spend more time peacefully, and happily, with their families on Thanksgiving Day.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Craig Shniderman said...

All of us at Food & Friends appreciate Nats320 taking time to visit us as we prepare for Thanksgiving. This is a great blog and reflects the Nationals' spirit and the spirit of Food & Friends. -- Craig Shniderman, Executive Director, Food & Friends

Pete said...

As Always thanks for sharing, great coverage! PP