Blog For The City

Bread welcomes our newest physician Dr. Monica!

Here at Bread for the City, we are always excited to welcome in new staff members! For us it means that we have another soul dedicated to providing vulnerable residents of Washington, DC, with comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

Our new staff member is Dr. Monica Vohra!Dr. Monica

Dr. Monica, welcome to Bread for the City! Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Gaithersburg, MD.

What did you do work-wise, before Bread For City?
I just completed my residency training at Washington Hospital Center in Internal Medicine in July so this is my first job and I couldn’t be more excited!

What made you want to work at BFC?
I did a rotation here during residency and loved the energy, patients and mission here at Bread. I wanted to be in an environment where I could not only practice medicine but learn from my colleagues about the other challenges my patients face.

What is the most fulfilling part of your job at BFC so far?
Forming a long term relationship based on trust, support, and mutual respect. Now that I’ve been here for a few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to see some patients more than once allowing me to develop a stronger relationship which is very rewarding.

What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
I love to run and go hiking!

Some of our Awesome Volunteer Partners

Last week, Bread for the City welcomed in some amazing volunteers to help with our Holiday Helpings campaign. Among them were the enthusiastic students from Center City Public Charter School – Brightwood Campus, MCN Build, Navigant Consulting and Clark Construction.

At BFC, our volunteers and donors are the ones that make it possible to do what we do. We are most appreciative of your help and support!

Navigant Staff

Navigant Consulting staff

Clark Construction Staff

Clark Construction staff

MCN Build staff

MCN Build staff












Center City Brightwood

Center City Charter School students

It’s not too late to donate to our Holiday Helpings campaign! Our goal is to feed 9,000 low-income families in Washington, DC this holiday season, and just $58 provides a complete holiday meal for TWO families! Please consider joining our superb volunteers in their support. Donate here:

Sewing Classes at Bread for City!

Did you know there are sewing classes at Bread for the City?  Every Tuesday at 10:30 AM a group of seamstresses (and seamsters) gathers at our NW center to share ideas and inspiration for everything needle-and-thread related.Sewing photo 4

Lead by longtime volunteer and 2014 Good Hope Award Winner June Wilson, the class is informative, fun, and lately, packed! All skill levels are welcome – some have never sewn before, some are eager to brush up on rusty skills, while others want to share their knowledge with their peers. “I can sew by using a pattern, but if I don’t have a pattern I can improvise as well,” says Hilda Dozier.

At Bread for the City we recognize that fostering wellness isn’t just about making sure people have things like food and medicine, but addressing all the needs of a complete human life. Are people creatively satisfied? Do they have a time and space for socializing and camaraderie? Events like sewing class let people explore these options for enriching their lives.

Sewing photo 2People sew for all kinds of reasons – for practical need, creative expression, and fun! But sharing your sewing knowledge with others is a way to share your whole life, as well. These skills come to us often from older generations. As Hilda Dozier can recall about her childhood, “…My brother was able to fit my father’s pants, but they had to be hemmed at the bottom. Once my mother would hem the bottom of the pants, I’d ask her for the materials and use it to make clothes for my Barbies- and the rest is history!”

Sewing is a great way to make new things out of old, which is not only good for your wallet, but for the environment as well. “I use items like pants, shirts or so on and fold them in half to make my own”, says Hilda. Sewing is also proving to be a popular class- just this last week there were four new members and the conference room was packed with enthusiastic craftspeople of all genders. Exciting though this is, it also means that the materials needed (fabric, thread, pins, needles, and machines) are stretching thin. Please visit our “Wishlist” if you would like to help out with a donation! photo 1

Don’t believe us about the value of this class for our clients? Hear Carolyn Wright tell it in her own words -“Last year, I came to Bread for the City for something else, and I seen the sign about a sewing class. All I want to do is to make stuff and do something with my hands. Thanks to Ms . June W. I learn how to make bags, pajamas, aprons, blouses shorts and now I’m quilting by hand, not by sewing machine. Ms. June W. also taught me how to crochet a throw blanket, cow neck scarfs, and dishcloths. And don’t want to forget about the SE crew at Bread for the City! I like to thank them too, and the fellowship we have with one another. Thank you Bread for the City for having this for people.”

Good Hope Awards Honorees, Part Three!

Every fall, Bread for the City honors the engine that keeps our organization running: our incredible volunteers! This week, we’re learning more about the honorees of our 2014 Good Hope Awards, which took place on October 23rd.

AWARD: Administrative Volunteer

HONOREE: Ms. Sandra Edwards

ACCOLADES:  If you’ve ever visited our SE Center, you’ve probably benefited from the service of Ms. Edwards. She is a dedicated volunteer who helps us keep our SE Center running smoothly by serving in an administrative role, including making copies, organizing our “Resource Wall” for clients, and assisting with our client calendar. In addition, Ms. Edwards has recently taken on a leadership position in Bread for the City’s Time Bank to advocate for Time Bank members and to help expand our Time Bank Community. We are grateful for Ms. Edwards’ support!

Sandra Edwards 2 (2)

AWARD: Pro Bono Partner


ACCOLADES:  Aronson LLC has contributed numerous hours of service worth thousands of dollars in technical assistance—dollars that allow Bread for the City to stretch our limited resources further so that we can provide more services to people in need. Kathryn L. Cuddapah, CPA, Senior Manager at Aronson LLC, has made a difference by helping us to prepare our tax returns, at no charge. We enjoy working with Kathryn, and she is always makes herself available for consultations as needed. Additionally, Bread for the City also has the great benefit of working with Craig Stevens of Aronson LLC as the Treasurer of our Board of Directors.

We appreciate the time, talent, and expertise that Kathryn, Craig and and others at Aronson LLC have contributed!aronson-llc (2)

AWARD: Social Services Volunteer

HONOREE: Myles Davis

ACCOLADES:  Myles Davis has been a very dedicated volunteer assisting the Representative Payee Program weekly for the past year.  Myles is always happy to help us keep the onslaught of mail and paperwork that we receive under control. He helps to sort and label piles of incoming mail for distribution to our partner agencies, and also scans documents into our electronic records system. This work can be a little tedious at times, but Myles has approached it with enthusiasm and perseverance. We would like to thank him for being such a dependable and hardworking helper for our team!Myles Davis 3 (2)

AWARD: Development Volunteer

ORGANIZATION: Dickstein Sharpiro

HONOREE: Rick O’Neill

ACCOLADES: Rick O’Neill has been volunteering with Bread for the City’s Development Department since 2009. Through this role, Rick provides pro bono legal counsel on all estate and tax matters for Bread for the City. Specifically, he helps by teaching donors and staff about the best ways to support our mission through estate planning. Estate planning is a complicated subject, but Rick knows how to explain the process in a way that lay-people can understand – not an easy feat. In addition to his contribution of expertise, we appreciate Rick because is very responsive to our requests, and he’s a really nice guy. Thank you, Rick, for helping us to grow!ONeill_James_Portrait_LR (2)

AWARD: Corporate Partner

ORGANIZATION: Clark Construction

HONOREE: Dave Pastrick

ACCOLADES:  Clark Construction has been a partner of Bread for the City’s since 2011. Clark volunteers have helped in many capacities, including sorting clothing, working in our gardens, distributing produce at our Free Farmers Markets, packing Holiday Helpings bags, planting trees at City Orchard, and even serving on our Board of Directors. Clark is always willing to help where needed and respond to our urgent requests, when other large groups cancel, or when we receive an unexpected—and large—donation of food or clothing.

In addition to contributing to our mission through service, they have given in other ways too! They supported the expansion of our NW Center, hosted Thanksgiving lunches with proceeds benefiting Bread for the City, and have co-hosted golf tournaments to also help raise funds for our programs.

We thank Clark Construction for their great dedication and support of our mission! Clark Construction (2)

Good Hope Awards Honorees, Part Two!

Every fall, Bread for the City honors the engine that keeps our organization running: our incredible volunteers! This week, we’re learning more about the honorees of our 2014 Good Hope Awards, which took place on October 23rd.

AWARD: Community Champion

HONOREE: Michael Park

ACCOLADES:  Michael Park, Esquire, is an attorney at Alston & Bird and has done extensive pro bono legal work to help Bread for the City in our efforts to become a certified Federally Qualified Health Care Center (FQHC) look-alike.  Michael and his firm worked with Bread for the City over many months to ensure that we understood the pro and cons associated with the FQHC look-alike status, and his work also included making a formal presentation to the BFTC Board and management staff.  Because of these tireless efforts, Bread for the City was officially certified as a FQHC look-alike in May of this year! Michael continues to provide advice and counsel regarding emerging questions concerning the look-alike program’s rules, regulations and other related matters. We thank Michael for his dedication and important work in helping to move Bread for the City forward!

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AWARD: Community Lawyering Project Volunteers

HONOREE: Chearie Phelps-El & James White

ACCOLADES: Chearie and James are two very engaged volunteers who were critical in the effort to organize Returning Citizens around Ban the Box. Ban the Box was a successful advocacy initiative in the District of Columbia to remove the checkbox from employment applications that requires applicants to disclose criminal convictions. This often leads to applicants never even being considered for employment, and is highly discriminatory.

Chearie played an important role in this process by giving interviews for news outlets (including NPR); speaking to the Washington Lawyers Committee; and also speaking in front of elected officials at a Ward 8 Tenant Town Hall Meeting about the difficulties faced by returning citizens as they try to find affordable housing in DC.Chearie (3)

James took the time to carefully craft and deliver testimony in front of DC Councilmember Tommy Wells, telling the story of his charges and of the constant discrimination he faced from employers, and he led the joint rally between the Wage Theft and Ban the Box coalitions.

Chearie and James deserve Good Hope Awards because they are the definition of what it means to embody hope. We thank Chearie and James for the time, energy and passion they have contributed!


James White 2 (2)

AWARD: Pre-Employment Program Volunteer

HONOREE: Josh Stierwalt

ACCOLADES:  Josh has been volunteering with Bread for the City for the past year in various capacities, but has dedicated most of his time to helping with our Pre-Employment Program. Through this role, Josh works directly with participants to provide life management and job readiness skills. Josh is an asset to the Pre-Employment Program because he is a non-judgmental presence, and he understands how to help people effectively address barriers connect with resources. In addition, Josh has also put his tech skills to work by creating a Pre-Employment Program Linked In page to help connect participants with each other and the larger community. We thank Josh for his dedication and the creativity he has contributed to the Pre-Employment Program!

Josh Stierwalt 3 (2)

Good Hope Awards Honorees!

Every fall, Bread for the City honors the engine that keeps our organization running: our incredible volunteers! This week, we’re learning more about the honorees of our 2014 Good Hope Awards, which took place on October 23rd. Drum roll, please…

AWARD: Housing Access Program Volunteer

HONOREE: Carolyn Peery

ACCOLADES:  Carolyn provides valuable support in the sometimes-chaotic environment of our Housing Access Program. She excels as a volunteer because she has a very caring personality and easily builds rapport with clients. Even in difficult situations, she comes from a place of understanding and she does not judge. She is dedicated, compassionate, and is always willing to stay until the job is done. When Carolyn is not assisting clients in the Housing Access Program, you can also find her helping out in our food pantry. It is clear that she enjoys the work she does with us, and we appreciate her even more!

Carolyn Peery 3 (2)

AWARD: Medical Volunteer

VOLUNTEER: June Wilson

ACCOLADES: June is a wonderful addition to our medical volunteer team!  As the instructor of our sewing class, she has been sharing new skills and offering a therapeutic learning environment to class participants. With June’s assistance we have been able to broaden the services of our “medical home” environment. Through her sewing class, June has developed relationships with a core group of patient students who enjoy the collaborative and creative process of sewing. We thank June for sharing her skills and passion with Bread for the City and helping us expand our services!

Sewing Class (2)

AWARD: Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer

HONOREE: Marline Coughman

ACCOLADES:  Over the course of each season in the Sustainable Ag Program, we have the opportunity to work with hundreds of volunteers and community members–but seldom do we have the opportunity to work with people from the beginning to the end of the season! Marline Coughman has been one of those volunteers who could always be counted on to enthusiastically attend events, rain or shine, with a positive attitude and unstoppable curiosity. The whole team appreciates her contributions to the SE Garden, to the Client Retreat and our Crop Mobs. We are thankful for Marline’s cooperative spirit and all she has given to the Sustainable Agriculture Program!Marline Coughman (2)

AWARD: Legal Partner


ACCOLADES:  DLA Piper has been involved with Bread for the City’s Kenilworth-Parkside Legal Clinic project for the past two years as the financial sponsor of our Equal Justice Works Fellow, Taylor Healy. The clinic, part of Bread’s Community Lawyering Project, provides legal services to people living in the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative footprint in Ward 7. This neighborhood is part of the Department of Education’s national Promise Neighborhood pilot project that aims to develop a “cradle to college” continuum of services to improve the outcomes of children and families.

DLA Piper has gone above and beyond providing generous financial support to the project by also dedicating hundreds of hours of pro bono time conducting legal intakes and representing clients in Landlord and Tenant court. The firm’s support has allowed more people to receive high quality representation in a court where over 95% of tenants do not have a lawyer. Furthermore, recognizing the importance of continuing our joint commitment to the neighborhood, DLA Piper recently went a step further; committing additional funding and pro bono attorney time to allow Taylor to continue and expand our scope of work in the community.

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Holiday Helpings Is HERE!

The turkeys are here!

Holiday Helpings has officially kicked off and we’re going BIG this year. Our goal is to make the holidays happen for 9,000 families this season. That’s 9,000 turkeys and all the trimmings for our neighbors in need – wow!

9,000 turkeys is almost 1,000 more turkeys than last year, so we need you to help us meet the demand. Will you donate $29 to feed one family?

Your gift will help people just like Margie Jennings.margie

“The price of food is so high,” Margie says. “We can’t buy enough for the month.”

Bread for the City is hearing this refrain from clients more and more, which is why visits to our pantries are up 9% this year. It’s also why we set a higher goal for Holiday Helpings: 9,000 families. We need your help!

And so does Margie.

Margie had been working as an in-home care aide until the arthritis in her joints became so painful that she had to stop. She gets by each month with the help of Bread for the City, but in a few weeks she would like to invite her daughter over for a Thanksgiving dinner. Can you help?

To make Holiday Helpings successful, we need thousands of donors to give whatever they can, and then ask their friends to do the same. (Like I did!)

Can we count on you? Will you sponsor a family (or two!) this Thanksgiving? Your kindness will give a family – like Margie’s – the gift of a holiday meal.

Make a secure online donation

These Code for Progress fellows are giving a leg up to subsidized housing applicants

This is a crosspost from Lalita Clozel with about Code for DC‘s cool project that they are working on with Bread for the City.
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These three current and former Code for Progress fellows — left to right, Pamela Davis, Jason Towns and Terri Acker — created a texting app for subsidized housing applicants.

Filling out the paperwork to apply for subsidized housing can be a pain. And there’s another hurdle for prospective residents with little tech know-how: tracking available properties.

So local community organization Bread for the City devised a plan to reach its clients as soon as a listing’s wait list opened up: with a texting app.

Bread for the City, which helps low-income people apply for subsidized housing, approached Code for Progress with a plan.

“Waiting lists open and close very quickly and they only accept a certain number of people,” said Terri Acker, a Code for Progress fellow who first encountered Bread for the City when she needed legal counsel while also searching for employment.

So she and two other fellows, Pamela Davis and Jason Towns, produced the customized app within a summer month.

Now when a listing opens up, “a text is sent out to say this particular housing complex is accepting application,” explained Acker, who now serves on the organization’s Client Advisory Board, organizing activities like computer, yoga and crochet classes and a rooftop garden.

Stacey Johnson, a rather tech-savvy social worker at Bread for the City, already used Salesforce to store the group’s client data.

The three coders used Twilio to send the texts out from the Salesforce database. The team created the app on Flask.

Acker said she’s hoping to eventually do more to help ease the process of applying for subsidized housing. “I wanted to match up some of the landlords with the nonprofits in the city that would be interested in connecting,” she said. “It’s actually in my Github.”

Bread celebrates Food Day!

Food Day is a national celebration of food and the work communities do to make food more healthy, equitable and accessible. Though it’s technically on October 24th, we celebrated it here at Bread during our Free Farmer’s Market and Fall Harvest Celebration on Friday, October 31st.

What started as a partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank to distribute massive amounts of free produce in SE every month, has evolved into a community event with music, activities and opportunities for advocacy. The market was the birthplace of the Wellness Space and Crochet Class, two successful client-led programs that are taking on a life of their own in the future of the SE Center. Bread’s future focus on wellness is unquestionably a result of the leadership of client organizers. Last year, on the third anniversary of the market, SE Center Director, Lynda Brown said,

“…staff and clients worked together to make the Free Farmers Market a place to create, dream, and strategize about the root cause of poverty and how to address it…We dug into our networks and brought people to the market we believed would enliven the space and inspire creativity.“

On the fourth anniversary of the market, it’s still going and growing strong. We hope that the Free Farmer’s Market will continue to be a space of possibility for the hundreds of community members who gather every month.

Client Retreat at City Orchard

City Orchard, located on the University of the District of Columbia’s Muirkirk Research Farm, is home to far more than fruit.  It has been the stage for endless learning and team building opportunities for volunteers and now, our client community. Nearly a year after the Bread Garden Club took a trip out to the Orchard, the Sustainable Ag Crew, Bread’s Volunteer Coordinator and client leaders of the DC Timebank co-produced The Client Retreat–a full day of food, fun and shot- client retreat at orchard oct 2014

On Friday, October 10th, we loaded up Bread’s vans and headed to Beltsville. The clients who joined us came from both centers. On the way up, we talked about change. Most were riding up Rhode Island Avenue for the first time in years and were seeing the effects of recent development. Ms. Frazier, Timebank Organizer said, “I need to ride this way more often, I hardly recognize it.” Change, both good and challenging, would be the theme of the day.

We started the day with breakfast and a walking tour of the City Orchard plot. The trees were still laden with apples so we had the opportunity to talk about our organic practices and taste the difference right off the tree. Ms. Mckinney, was able to recount her experience with our scrappy organic produce. “They look different than the ones you get at the store. That takes some getting used to but it seems like they last longer.”

After the orchard tour, it started to rain a bit so we headed to the greenhouses where clients got to harvest vegetables from the UDC research plots. Thousands of polunch - client retreat at orchard oct 2014unds of these vegetables have been harvested this year to go into our food pantry so many people were already familiar with their favorites.

By far the greatest highlight of the day was a cooking demonstration by Professor Yao Afantcho, who is the Specialty and Ethnic Crop Specialist at UDC. Last year, clients were introduced to Yao and his specialty crops but didn’t get the chance to taste any of Yao’s famous dishes. This year, he arranged to make a tasty smoked fish infused “Garden Egg Stew” from produce his department had been growing at the farm. Yao’s fun and interactive discussion highlighted the nutritional value of these ingredients within African and African-American food culture.

The Client Retreat was designed specifically for clients to engage with City Orchard for educational and recreational purposes. Many of our clients had given feedback that, while they heard the message about volunteer opportunities at the Orchard, they were too busy or not physically able to engage in regular volunteer tasks. This hit home when one woman, a cancer survivor with chronic back pain, slowed down so that she could finish the tour at her own pace. No one knew until then that she needed accommodation but all were happy to go slower.  Obviously, having the benefit of each other’s wisdom, and sharing stories and laughter, outweighed all other concerns.

Debra Frazier, organizer of the Bread Timebank in the Nharvesting apples - client retreat at orchard oct 2014W and SE centers and core organizer of the retreat, put one of the greatest lessons of the day into words. While giving her presentation on Timebanking, she said, “Sharing our skills and your time with each other is something we all can do. We need all of the skills and talents you have, regardless of your background, education or ability because everyone has something unique and valuable to give.”

We’re so grateful for the valuable and unique contributions of clients, staff and community members to the Client Retreat. Clients and community members want to continue investing their time to make positive change happen in their community and at Bread for the City. And we want to make our work relevant and accessible. Stay tuned for more through the winter.