D.C. Central Kitchen Day 4
posted by Clair Pomponi '12
Today at D.C. Central Kitchen, as well as having us for volunteers, they also had another group our size (about 15 or so), helping as well. Of course, we are the elite crew and we dominated in the kitchen per usual. Lindsay and I got the job of husking corn, while Sara, Harriet and Kirsty made turkey and cheese sandwiches, and everyone else was in the other room chopping vegetables. Later, Kirsty, Lindsay, Harriet and I chopped tofu while Sara opened cans and managed to spill some of the canned vegetable juice all over her pants. Harriet also managed to splash us with tofu juice, which was so lovely. Although it was great that there were so many volunteers, it made the kitchen super crowded and we didn't get to do as much. The experience was still just as rewarding and although we had a new group of chefs, they were still so nice and made the experience so fun. One great thing about DCCK is that all of the employees are so supportive and make you feel so comfortable in the kitchen. Courtney missed Bo from the weekend chef group but found a new friend in Freddy who she could be seen hugging and taking pictures with all day.
After we had finished cooking for the day DCCK served us lunch that consisted of corn on the cob, baked chicken, ribs, tossed salad, cupcakes, and coconut macaroons. Besides being able to get our food before the other group, we also had the pleasure of eating lunch with Robert Egger, the founder of DCCK, the author of Begging For Change, and as Fee likes to say, "a rock star." Because Robert was at the kitchen today, there was also a camera-woman from Voice of America, an international TV and radio show, who was filming everyone in the kitchen, including us! The food was really good, and it was cool to know that we had made some of it over the weekend, and just like we were eating what we made, we were also feeding 4,500 people on the streets every day with it as well.
DCCK day four
By: Courtney Raneri '11
We had another adventurous day at DC Central Kitchen. We had a guest appearance by the "Man" himself, Robert Egger, amongst us in the kitchen. The morning was filled with chopping onions, sweet potatoes and salad making. As many people may come to conclude that Robert Egger is, in fact, a rock star, today definitely spoke the truth to that statement. Not only did this man create the concept of DC central kitchen but his office is located in the kitchen itself. Today, while I was chopping up the green peppers, I could feel his presence; literally he was everywhere. He was asking people about their morning, see what was being made today, as well as the plans for tomorrow. Robert truly showed his involvement even when a camera was following him around the entire time. It's amazing to see that this man can still be a part of the everyday basics of the organization he created despite the fact that he flies all over the country and world to speak to others about this organization. He really is a rock star.
On the other hand, we were blessed with Miss Dot's presence today, an infamous woman notorious for her reprimanding hand of "how to use a knife correctly". She was in a jolly mood and even though I was under her wing last year, I immediately thought upon seeing her that she would clearly remember me. Miss Dot sees hundreds of volunteers every week and even though she did not, per say, remember me, she welcomed me with a hug, that took away my doubting thoughts. Even though I did not personally work with Miss Dot this year I know my peers thoroughly enjoyed her company.
So apparently, I'm name dropping, but to continue to do so a little further, Louisa Polos, a Gettysburg alum of '08 paid us a short little visit. Louisa was a student of this class her first year at Gettysburg and continued to be a part of the class the remaining three years by being Professor Fee's peer learning assistant; the position that I received when Louisa graduated. Not to mention that she also brought Campus Kitchens to Gettysburg's campus. This organization is a smaller scale of DDCK which takes un-used food from our very own campus's dining facility and products from our local farmer's market, etc. and re creates meals for local organizations such as Circles of Support. She stopped by to sit with us for a few and it was nice to see the familiar face that had such an impact on this seminar and the campus for the past four years.
So as I previously stated, this camera lady was walking around the kitchen the entire morning, zooming in on a few of us dicing and cutting, and tossing and churning; a somewhat awkward scenario. But it was not until she pulled me aside to ask me a few questions in front of the camera did I realize how much this whole ideology not only impacted me as an individual but at the community at large. I can't help but relate to our current economic situation, that many companies are cutting back at the moment and letting go many employees. It is now more important than ever that the community band together, something that the DC Central Kitchen has been doing for the past nineteen years. To many people DCCK is just a kitchen but after spending reading days last year as well as this year, it is much more than that. One thing that really sticks out in my mind is that Heart is being put into the creation of these 4,500 meals that are made each day. This kitchen is a family. They support each other and give each other the encouragement that one should need. Whether this is a little notion as saying thank you for bringing the dirty cutting boards to the wash area or creating an assembly line, that with the help of five people, can make 10 pans of salad that will potentially feed 250 people. To take it even further , I know that myself along with the staff and other volunteers are helping the less fortunate get through the day. Try sleeping on that thought every night! It's an amazing concept and a success! After just spending a few days here everyone is giving each other hugs and smiling from ear to ear. DCCK has a positive atmosphere and to come work here and being able to love what you do every day is, is an aspect of a job description anyone would die to have.
Day Four: Robert Egger
posted by Lindsay Preucil '12
"It's so simple but sometimes there's nothing better than a croissant with cheese," said Robert Egger as he stopped at our station and started small conversation. After he moved on to the next group, the five of us making croissant sandwiches paused and gave puzzled glances to each other until one of us realized, "That's him! That's Robert Egger!"
In his book, Begging for Change, Egger gave off a confident air that demanded a change in the way nonprofit organizations are run. He assured his readers that his way was the right way and the way of the future. This was someone described to me before we met him as the "Man" and a "rock star." There was no way this small, friendly man walking around the kitchen interacting with staff and volunteers was not the large, booming man I pictured.
During his talk to the group of us, however, his sweet demeanor packed a powerful message. Robert Egger grew up with the dream of running a famous nightclub. He was moving up in the business when an experience with the homeless along with his knowledge of restaurant waste inspired an idea. He realized that all the food thrown away by restaurants at the end of the night could be utilized to make meals for those who can't afford it. Also, he could create a job training program that would teach the homeless basic food handling skills. He abandoned his night club dream to fight the cycle of poverty with his revolutionary idea.
D.C. Central Kitchens was born and has grown to the great organization it is today. It makes 4,500 meals daily and has empowered many formerly homeless to become successful in the working world.
When he stood at the head of our table as we all ate lunch, he challenged us to use what we know and learn to make a better system out of something that already exists. He said we should use our skills and experience volunteering to create new ways to solve society's problems. Even though obstacles and resistance may stand in the way, a new and good idea is something worth fighting for. Robert Egger's ability to remain humble and kind yet enforce his ideas with vigor and passion proved that he lived up to his description as "the Man."
Day 4- David Hilfiker
posted by Shelby Lutz '12
David Hilfiker, in many of my classmate's minds, was the true "rock star" of homeless writing. As he was preparing to leave the hostel, everyone crowded around for autographs in their personal copies of his book and perhaps a few pictures. Not only was David personable, genuine, modest and passionate, but he was a heartwarming figure in the face of poverty medicine through his stories. It was wonderful that instead of listening to a prepared hour long lecture about his book that the majority of us had already read, he let us ask him in depth questions about the hardships of poverty medicine and being in such close quarters to his patients, and he left nothing secret. He opened up and instantly captured everyone's hearts when he spoke of his multiple "burnouts," and the close encounters he faced in the inner-city which seemed so far from his past rural roots. When asked about his predictions for the future homeless problem in the future as the economy continues to spiral out of control, he was quite optimistic. He saw this more as an opportunity for reform than a major crisis. This kind of serious honesty was what made him so interesting- he was real and he wasn't afraid to speak the truth- he strongly believed in every word he said and we wanted to agree with him regardless of the topic. In 1985, David created the Christ House for sick and injured men seeking a safe place for recuperation in times of vulnerability. This revolutionary idea helped thousands of homeless men over the years get back on track when they could not receive the help they needed elsewhere. It was inspiring to hear firsthand just how far his commitment to the health of the homeless population stretched, and how time after time he never gave up on those who he knew would continually fail. David also spoke about the harsh realities that his job ultimately imposed upon him- the divorce of his wife, and his retirement of medicine due to heavy depression. It was as though David was a survivor in the war of the streets and the personal struggle to fulfill his passion but give his family the attention they needed.
Of all the speakers we met on this four day long journey through the dark side of the DC streets, Hilfiker really brought our experiences to life. Speaking to different homeless persons can give you a good idea of life on the streets, but it is not until you devote your life to helping these people that you experience the full spectrum of homeless hardships. He experienced the extremes of working with homeless people that most volunteers and shelter managers only hear about. No matter how serious and dangerous his line of work became, he never quit. It is this undying love David exemplifies that makes the communities he visits want to help in his fight for universal medical care. Through talking with Dr. Hilfiker, I have discovered the difficulties for the homeless population to receive adequate medical assistance. Before this I believed that the homeless had many more options in front of them, but as it turns out not all is at it seems. This down and out group of people has become trapped in a life of poverty with what looks like no way out. It is through only medical treatment and rehabilitation that they can hope to escape this terrible fate. Until then, they must mange on their own getting by through only the help of kindhearted people such as Dr. Hilfiker.
Day Four D.C.O (D.C Outfitters)
posted by Sara Kinsley '12
Last night we participated in D.C Outfitters. Prior to the trip Clair, Lindsay, Courtney and went to an off-campus site where we went through donated clothes from Gettysburg students and organized the clothes into categories. We then brought the bags with us to DC and stored them in the hostel until last night when we brought them to give away to homeless people in the parks. Last night we brought the 6 bags of clothes filled with shoes, pants, t-shirts, coats and sweaters to a local park near our hostel. At first I was unsure of what to expect from the experience. I didn't know how the homeless men and women would react to us or how I should react back to them. However, as soon as we stepped foot into the park men began to approach us asking for clothes. Everyone was exceptionally nice and whatever reservations I had walking to the park went away. The first two men that came up to me were laughing and having a good time with us and each other. One of the men was a little larger, so when I was holding up jackets he kept saying how Santa Clause needed a bigger jacket than that. Finally I found I sweater that might have been able to fit him, but his friends came up and took it saying that it wouldn't fit him. Harriet was handing out pants, and she found a very large pair of pants that was the perfect size for this man. He took them and started dancing with them and saying how good he was going look walking down "da streetz" of DC. I was also impressed with how intelligent some of the individuals were that came up to us. Harriet and Tina talked later of a man that expressed his ideas on a Laundromat for the homeless. This would be a place where homeless men, women, and families could go and wash their clothes. I had never heard of this idea and I thought it was a great idea, and would also help the homeless to feel like they had more responsibilities.
I was then approached by an older woman in her I would say her late 50's who was limping and not wearing any shoes. At first, her raspy voice was hard to understand but I managed to hear her say she needed a nice coat because she was always so cold. My heart immediate went out to her, and I looked through the bag for a nice coat. Unable to find a thick coat, we gave her a thin green windbreaker along with a heavy sweater that she could wear under it. She also took some brown furry boots to keep her feet warm in the winter. At this time she grabbed my arm and asked me to bring her back to her wheelchair that was located on the other side of the park. We didn't know if we should bring her to her wheelchair, so we all offered to go get it. She didn't want to move her chair and was persistent on having me bring her over. I couldn't let her stand any longer because it looked like she was about to fall over, so I began to lead her over to her chair. I instantly became attached and the no touch rule was unintentionally forgotten. On the walk over I learned Catherine's life story. She was bipolar and diabetic, she was an ex-convict, and had a son and daughter. Her son was using her hard earned money on his new wife and their 7 children, and she was unable to live with her brother because the laws of Maryland don't allow ex-convicts to be in the same house as an adopted child. She then went into detail about her son, who is also bipolar. She explained that they are the same person, so when the two of them are together they always butt heads. At this point Courtney "Ma" came over to make sure everything was alright. Catherine immediately started to talk to Ma like she had known her forever explaining that she was going to be moving into a home soon, and that it was just being set up for her. I was thankful that she was going to be able to have her own home and I wish the same could happen for all the others in the park. Catherine then told Courtney and me that she was thirsty and wanted a soda from the drugstore. After a few moments of silence, Courtney offered to go get her a Sprite. I went along and we talked about how we were unable to say no when she asked for a soda. Both of us felt that it was impossible to turn her down. After returning with the soda Catherine was very thankful and had actually put on one of the jackets she had received from a bag. We told her it looked so stylish and she began to laugh. We then said goodbye and good luck and walked back over to meet the rest of the group who had almost gotten rid of everything. Walking back to the hostel I began to think of what it would be like if I was homeless. Would I be that friendly, would I be able to be making jokes and would I even be able to survive without the support system of my family? This trip and this class have taught me so much about the homeless and the poor. Stereotypes about the homeless that I once had are completely gone and I understand that it could happen to anyone. Walking through DC I feel that this trip has changed me. I want to give back to the community and I will definitely be coming back to "da streetz."