Blog For The City

It’s #GivingTuesday!

Have you heard? TODAY is #GivingTuesday­–a global movement to put the giving spirit back into the holiday season. And with a $20,000 matching challenge on the table, Bread for the City is all set and ready to go!

It takes a lot of resources to make sure that our friends and neighbors in DC have what they need to live healthy lives. And with food costs rising and our distribution increasing from three to five days’ worth of food, Bread for the City’s food pantry needs your support now more than ever.6303577754_673d9d35d6_o

Will you help us sustain our work with a $35 donation to our food pantry TODAY? With every dollar up to $20,000 being matched, your generosity will be doubled!

Our goal is to match $20,000 today so that our food services do not have to be restricted or reduced in 2017. As long as the need is here, we’ll be here. Stand with us. Together, we can fight harder against hunger.

We can’t do this work without your support, so please make your #GivingTuesday donation! TODAY ONLY, your gift will DOUBLE!

Let’s get the giving going!

BFC Organizing Post-Election Statement & Call to Action

Things are not getting worse, they are just getting uncovered.  We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil. -Adrienne Maree Brown

America is in crisis, and more visibly so than it has been in at least a generation.

In the wake of the election, first we must sit with our fear, sadness, and anger; lovingly collect ourselves with our communities; and begin planning a new resistance.

As we sit and reflect on the path forward for our communities, city, and country, let us not forget how this country has historically responded to anti-racist movements. The backlash we are witnessing post-election fits into a historical narrative of suppression of progress in movements fighting for the liberation of the most marginalized.

Dramatic shifts like the one we just witnessed with this election show that our movements have polarized society enough to inspire a backlash. It also took opportunity from those who believe in solidarity and justice, and handed it to those who plot to divide us and conquer us.

While the Democratic Party failed, and will likely continue to fail in the near future, our grassroots movements demanding justice and liberation must continue to push forward. When crises befall us and our communities, we must have answers better than those offered by the systems that seek to oppress us.

In this pivotal moment, we cannot afford to remain sullen or complacent, or to allow normalization of bigotry and authoritarianism to set in. The conditions we find ourselves organizing in have shifted, and so our strategies and tactics–what we do, and how we do it–must also shift.

The following principles are coming into focus for us as community organizers at Bread for the City:

Center self-care and healing from trauma. We know the coming socio-political, economic, and physical attacks will land hardest on those already suffering the most. We must pay close attention to the pain and fear that may befall us and our community, and center healing in our work. Even when our attention is pulled in many directions, we must continue to practice self-care as a non-negotiable part of surviving, thriving, and resisting.

Strengthen our relationships and communities as we continue to build our base. As conditions rapidly change over the next three months, it is vital that all people who want to fight for justice and liberation join and create political organizations where we learn, struggle, organize, and fight together. Bread for the City serves as that organization for many of the people we serve, but it is absolutely imperative that we increase our numbers and grow our base. Too many still struggle without community or collective strategy. The boldest and most effective organizing comes from people who are in genuine, trusting, and accountable relationship with each other. In this time of fear and instability, we will only be able to find the consistency and courage needed to fulfill our goals by starting from a foundation based in these powerful relationships. We must build a large, powerful, and politicized base in order to bring to bear our mandate of dignity and justice for all people in our city.

Center the most marginalized among us, while building solidarity among groups of differently marginalized people. Immigrants, refugees, Muslims, low-income people, people of color, women, LGBTQ people, Jewish people, and people with disabilities will face threats that are different but at times overlapping, and always originating from an increasingly unapologetic white supremacist power structure. These are our communities, and it will be imperative that each of us – many of whom live at the intersection of these communities – stand together. As our struggles all intersect, so must our strategies against our common oppressors, if we are to truly transform this country. Our liberations are tied up together – none of us is free until all of us are free.

This is a call to action. These fights will take all of us, and there are many ways to get involved, including:

  • Talk to a Bread for the City community organizer about how you can get involved in our fight against the elimination of low-income folks in DC by emailing us at organizers@breadforthecity.org or calling us at 202-791-3997.
  • Do anything, anything, ANYTHING but nothing.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass reminds us that: “Power concedes nothing without a demand–it never has, and it never will.” We cannot afford to do nothing. The time to demand justice is now!

BFC’s advocacy program is funded in part by the Open Society Foundation.

Chairman’s Corner: Happy Holiday Helpings!

Welcome to Chairman’s Corner”, where our Board Chair, Paul Taskier, will write about a variety of topics that impact Bread for the City and indeed the community and nation at large. We invite you to Read, Enjoy and Share!

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Many things about Bread for the City have touched my heart and given me many rewards, but our annual Holiday Helpings drive is the most meaningful part of my year, and it is what originally drew me deeply into the organization.

A few years ago, during a Holiday Helpings fundraising effort at my office, a young staff member came to me with a $29 donation. I knew that $29 was a lot of money for him so I asked him why he was donating. His answer touched me deeply. He said that as a child, the only time he ever had Thanksgiving is when his mother got a turkey from Bread for the City. So now that he was earning, he wanted to give back and help another family have a Thanksgiving. That is the power of community, of caring, of seeing yourself in the shoes of another and sacrificing a bit so that others do not go without.

Thanksgiving is special. For so many of us it is the one time each year that our families come together solely in celebration of family and the simple gift of life. It isn’t about religion, or football, or even the Pilgrims. It’s about being grateful for what we have, for the gift of our parents, our spouses, our children, and others dear to us. We need only look at the world around us to see how blessed we have been, even though we know there is much work yet undone.

It is a special day in my family–my mother’s favorite holiday–celebrating that she was able to escape the horrors of World War II in Europe and establish a family here, surrounding herself with dear friends, surviving family, and the children who anchored her. Nowadays, we celebrate with my wife’s brothers and their families, with a meal that is over the top in quantity even for the twenty-plus family members who surround the table. In fact, it’s much too much when I think about the many people who have no Thanksgiving meal at all.

That is why Bread for the City started Holiday Helpings back in 1996. The idea was that we could help our clients have the dignity of a full holiday meal in their own homes. It resonated with me. I made it my own cause, and did a drive to raise money. That effort brought me deeply into Bread for the City even though I had done volunteer work well before that. And Holiday Helpings still remains my favorite program at Bread, just because it touches that part of us that gives thanks and recognizes that we are not alone in this world.

The goal for Holiday Helpings in 1996 was to raise enough money to distribute about 800 turkeys to our clients and their families. Twenty years later our goal is to distribute 10,000 turkeys. But it is no easy task. Donations to Holiday Helpings are what pay for the food we distribute. We can’t do it without our donors and their generosity. A turkey dinner is now $29 for a family of four, because we Paul Taskier croppedhave become super-efficient in sourcing our foods. Please consider a generous gift of $29 or more to Holiday Helpings.

Let’s make Thanksgiving a holiday where we can all truly give thanks. If it’s one meal, 10 or 100, every gift is gratefully received and put to its best use.

May each of you have a wonderful, happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

A Note to the Bread for the City Community

Bread for the City Community,

Tuesday’s election results have stirred up a wide range of emotions for many of us in the Bread for the City family. The past year was filled with hopes and dreams as well as angst and anxiety as our process of electing a new president unfolded. Forty-three years ago, our founders committed to fighting poverty and the conditions that perpetuate it. And for 43 years, we have fought. Many of the promises made in this campaign – including targeting marginalized groups, eliminating the Affordable Care Act, and limiting charitable giving incentives – threaten our ability to serve our community and to do it in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

Today we gathered Bread for the City employees for a powerful lunchtime discussion. I spoke about our organization’s core values of dignity, respect, service and justice. We have always celebrated diversity, and fought against sentiments that marginalize the community where we live and serve. Our staff discussed our commitment to come together as an even stronger, more determined, and united community.

Over the coming days we’ll all seek to come to terms with the results, and move forward despite them. We will continue to refine our advocacy efforts to affect change in our country and community. We will join together in candid, productive dialogue, and we will continue to lead as we have for the last 43 years. And, of course, we will honor our four decades long commitment to providing critical safety net services to people experiencing poverty.

Our community members are already asking what they can do to help Bread for the City. To that I say, continue to give as you always have. Share your time. Share your ideas. And donate the critical resources that we need to fight poverty in the District and beyond. 

Yours in service,

George A. Jones

Chief Executive Officer

 


Language Access: More work to be done!

Last year, I blogged about an important bill that Councilmember David Grosso introduced – the Language Access for Education Amendment Act. This bill proposes to amend the DC Language Access Act of 2004 to allow for DC government agencies to be fined if they fail to provide language access.

The DC Language Access Act of 2004 was groundbreaking legislation that was intended to ensure the rights of DC’s diverse community to access government services. This law already requires DC government agencies to provide interpretation–in all languages–for limited and non-English proficient (LEP/NEP) individuals that seek to access services, and in some cases government agencies must provide written translations as well.

This is an important law for LEP/NEP Bread for the City clients. It means that a French speaking mother has the right to an interpreter during a special education meeting at her son’s DC Public School. A Spanish speaking family has a right to receive a notice in Spanish from the Department of Human Services letting them know that they need to come in for a meeting in order for their medical insurance to continue. And an Amharic speaker has the right to an interpreter when he is picked up by the Metropolitan Police Department and charged with a crime. If this law did not exist, many Bread for the City clients and other DC residents and visitors would struggle to access basic government services.

DC Councilman David Grosso with the Language Access Coalition

As good as the Language Access Act of 2004 is on paper, in the more than ten years it has been in existence it has become clear that it needs strengthening. The current law lacks “teeth.

Under the law, if someone claims that a DC government agency failed to provide language access to an LEP/NEP individual, the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) conducts an investigation. If OHR finds that the agency has violated the law, it tells the agency to take “corrective actions” and makes a written finding of non-compliance. But agencies have no obligation to follow OHR’s corrective actions, and the finding of non-compliance has no financial or other impact on the agency.

As a result, DC government agencies simply ignore the law in many instances. One government agency, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has continued to violate the law over and over in spite of multiple findings of non-compliance by OHR.

In response, one year ago, a group of attorneys (with Bread for the City “of counsel”) filed a DC Human Rights Act Class Action lawsuit against DHS on behalf of LEP/NEP individuals who were denied language access. Just last week, I met with another Spanish-speaker at Bread for the City whose food stamps were terminated after DHS failed to provide an interpreter when she went in to re-certify.

The Language Access for Education Amendment Act would not impose new requirements on DHS or other DC government agencies to provide language access. However, under the bill, OHR would order DC government agencies to pay a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 for each finding of non-compliance with the law. The complainant will get to keep half of the money, and half will go to a fund to promote language access in DC government. If agencies continue to violate the law in the same manner, they may face doubled fines.

This fine structure is exactly the “teeth” that the existing law needs in order to make DC government agencies take note and come into compliance.

The bill has unanimously passed through two DC Council committees already–the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Education–and is just waiting to go before the Committee on the Whole before it can be put up for a vote.

It is crucial that the bill be set for a vote this year so that it does not die out. We urge you to contact your Councilmembers to let them know that our LEP/NEP community members deserve a language access law that is actually enforceable!

The work of Allison Miles-Lee and Bread for the City’s Legal Clinic is funded in part through private and public dollars awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.

Making the Case for Community Lawyering

vs-clients-in-front-of-dc-council-520x388Excerpt from an article posted at Clearinghouse Community:

For 42 years, Bread for the City has delivered poverty-relief services in the District of Columbia. For the last 25 years, a key part of that relief has been given through legal services.

In the 1990s the social services staff noticed that many of their clients were routinely being denied disability benefits. What started as an ad-hoc initiative to try and help more clients burgeoned into the current iteration of the legal clinic, where attorneys assist clients not only on disability benefits but also in the areas of public benefits, family law and domestic violence, and housing law.

Read the full article: “Making the Case for Community Lawyering” HEREhttp://bit.ly/2fzaesl

Watch the video “Making the Case for Community Lawyering”

*BFC’s Community Lawyering work is made possible in part through public and private funds awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.*

Guess What?! It’s Turkey Time!

sylvia-ford-scott-2There is so much excitement in the air right now. Why? Holiday Helpings kicks off today!

That’s right, it’s turkey time. The leaves are turning, winter coats have been taken out of storage, and we’ve got 10,000 families to feed this holiday season!

We need your help. Can we count on your gift of $29 to Bread for the City today?

At Bread for the City, we firmly believe that our neighbors who are living below the federal poverty line shouldn’t have to forego holiday celebrations. That’s why we come together through our Holiday Helpings program to provide free holiday meals—a turkey and all the trimmings—for our clients to enjoy at home with family and friends.

This year, we will provide turkey dinners to 10,000 families. Families like Sylvia Ford-Scott’s.

Sylvia is a longtime client, volunteer, and supporter of Bread for the City. Here’s what she has to say about Holiday Helpings:

“Whoever may come over during the holidays – friends, neighbors, or family – I have to have enough to feed them. That’s just how I was raised.”

You can help bring the excitement of the holiday season to one, two, or even 10 families like Sylvia’s with your donation of $29, $58, or $290 today.

Here’s wishing you the best of holidays!

21 outstanding volunteers celebrated at BFC’s Annual Good Hope Awards

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They come in all shapes and sizes, from all corners of the metro area, and all walks of life. They are lawyers, business owners, retirees, students, and everything in between. Above all, they are selfless and committed to being of service to their community. Luckily for us, Bread for the City is a part of that community!

At the 2016 Bread for the City Good Hope Awards, we honored 21 of our dedicated volunteers in fine style. The Awards, hosted at Hotel Monaco on Thursday, October 13, recognized these remarkable 18 individuals and three (3) organizations for their support to the organization over the past year.

Keynote speaker Will Jawando, highlighted the importance of dignity in working with the community and how Bread for the City embodies that in its approach to helping. He spoke of his own childhood experience of growing up and depending on the support of organizations like BFC. His message was powerful resonated with the audience.

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Hawkin’s award was accepted posthumously by friend Mike Hopkins.

Recently, Bread for the City lost one of our own, Ms. Dorothy Hawkins. A special award was presented posthumously to the former board member for her outstanding dedication to Bread for the City in executing our mission to help people. This award will henceforth be named in Hawkins’ honor and presented annually to an outstanding board member.

 

 

Join us in congratulating these outstanding Bread for the City volunteers:

LEGAL – Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis

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SE SOCIAL SERVICES – Richael Faithful

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FINANCE – Esther Kim

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Esther’s award was accepted in her absence by Ally Blaine (pictured).

 

NW SOCIAL SERVICES – John Heath

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE – Barbara Flint & Willnet Stokes

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NW FOOD PANTRY – Wayne Gardner

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SE FOOD PANTRY – Yahweh Outreach International

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DEVELOPMENT – MCN Build

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ADVOCACY – Client Organizers: Nicole Baker, Lark Catoe-Emerson, Charles Crews, Vielka Downer, Marilyn Harris, Robert Harvey, Adrianne Hill, Rashad Johnson, Ebony Price, Taha Shabazz, Wilnett Stokes, Antoinette Williams, Schronda Williams

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If you would like to support Bread for the City as a volunteer please sign up online at www.breadforthecity.org/volunteer.

Our community needs affordable housing, not more police and jails!

This post was written by Erin Shields*. Erin is a Community Organizer with Bread for the City.

On October 1st, Bread for the City clients, community members, and allies rallied outside DC General and DC Jail to demand that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District’s City Council invest more in housing than they do in police and prisons. In its current FY17 budget, DC is spending about $700 million on jails and police, compared to only $235 million on housing programs – a 3:1 ratio.

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photo by: Robyn Di Giacinto

Bread for the City client organizers intentionally chose the location of the rally to highlight the disparity in funding between the city’s housing and policing budgets. With a demand that Mayor Bowser “Balance the Scales”, organizers used images of Lady Liberty’s Scales of Justice to juxtapose the city’s police and housing budgets.

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photo by : Robyn Di Giacinto

Client organizers, all deeply impacted by housing and incarceration issues, strategized, canvassed, and prepared for weeks prior to the event. Their efforts paid off when nearly 75 people joined the rally demanding Mayor Bowser and the District’s City Council prioritize the housing needs of the city’s most vulnerable. Coming through loudly and clearly, client leaders Nkechi Feaster, Nicole Baker, Brother Rahshad Johnson, and Charles Crews connected their personal struggles to the broader demand for city investments in housing.

“The lack of housing has had a negative effect on my children,” said Nicole Baker, a Bread for the City community leader. “Housing stability would give some mental stability, which would help create a more productive and healthy environment for my children to grow with the opportunities they deserve.”

Their words were echoed by tenant leaders from Brookland Manor and members of the District’s large Ethiopian and Eritrean communities, many of whom are refugees who face additional barriers to housing and employment. Issues of affordable housing affect everyone, particularly those who have been historically marginalized in this city.

Organizers also passed out postcards for attendees to sign asking Mayor Bowser to invest more money into housing than into police and incarceration, and to attend a community meeting this December to discuss affordable housing issues specifically.

Housing is a human right, that is why we have to fight. Join Bread for the City and residents of the District living on low incomes as we demand a #Right2DC.

See coverage of the rally by WAMU here.

Stay tuned to Bread for the City’s #Right2DC campaign by following us at @BFCorganizing, or emailing us at organizers@breadforthecity.org

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photo by: Robyn Di Giacinto

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photo by: Robyn Di Giacinto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Erin’s work is made possible in part through private funds awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.

Tons of Creativity at the Fall Craft Bazaar

For the love of creativity and supporting our budding business women, Bread for the City’s WomenStrong DC program hosts regular bazaars to help our members work on economic empowerment. At the last Fall Craft Bazaar, four of our talented WSDC women sold self-made items ranging from earrings and stretch jewelry to incense, soaps shampoos, and baked goodies.

Here are their stories:

30179990411_8195b39135_mJune: For three years, June taught sewing at Bread for the City with the WomenStrong DC program. Her grandmother taught her to bake and sew when she was 8 years old, and she thought it was important to pass on some of those skills to her colleagues. She has a master’s in Liberal Studies but it is her undergrad minor in Food and Nutrition that comes in handy when she’s making her delicious treats including cookies, brownies, and cakes. These are all her own recipes. “Who ever thought of making lemon cookies with chocolate chip and made ‘em taste right,” she says.

29634718954_a07d6bdc08_mPeggy: “It’s pretty easy to make these actually; it’s the ideas that take the longest.” Peggy has been making beaded necklaces and stretch jewelry for a while, but at the Fall Craft Bazaar, she showcased her talent at making earrings. “I’d been making them for a while actually, but then I went through a rough patch and I just kind of stopped. In talking with the ladies and being able to bounce ideas off them, I’ve been getting back on track; the energy is up, the sleeping is regular and the creativity is back.”

30149930452_e9ff9a691c_mSakinah: Sakinah makes candles, washcloth dolls, fragrances, burning oils, sugar scrubs, bath salts, shower gels and soaps. This all began with her trying to find a soap for her daughter’s eczema. “It was difficult. Hardly anything worked and if it did it was so expensive. So I started trying things myself to see if I could come up with something that was effective and affordable.” It worked, and then other people started enjoying her soap so she started vending them in 2006 and has since turned it into a small business.

30179995811_4d51252724_mStephanie: “I sew, I make bags and accessories. I take worn jeans and I make them into bags and purses.” Stephanie has been doing this for 3 years; a talent she picked up from interactions with the ladies at Women Strong DC. “I just bought a sewing machine one day and started playing around until the designs started turning out good. I also picked up a few things here and there from the senior people Women Strong.”

Take a look at the images from our Fall Craft Bazaar here: http://bit.ly/2d7Qiet. If you’re interested in purchasing any of the items we’ve reviewed, please contact Donnie at dhampton@breadforthecity.org.

Bread for the City’s WomenStrong DC is proud to be a consortium member of WomenStrong International (WSI), a network of organizations worldwide dedicated to empowering women and girls and to sharing what works. For more, and to learn what you can do as part of this effort, see www.womenstrongintl.org.