Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
This week, in support of Bread for the City’s Holiday Helpings Campaign, People’s District will tell five stories on the people affected by and fighting against hunger and poverty in D.C. Today’s story comes from George Jones, Bread for the City’s Executive Director. Tomorrow, we will hear from Tony who works at Bread’s food pantry in SE.
“When people ask me about how I got into this kind of work, I always tell them that my Mom was influential in leading me towards service. She was a private duty nurse and let me know that helping people was something natural to do.
“Ever since I was 12 or 13, I always knew that I was headed for a career in non-profit work…or as a professional football player. At Norfolk State University, I played football, but also majored in psychology and spent a semester interning at a community agency in Chesapeake, Virginia that worked with the mentally ill. That was the first time that I really put a face to this kind of work.
“After college, I relocated to Los Angeles to work for Chrysalis, which is an employment agency for the homeless. I was there for seven years, and worked with the many aspects of homeless life, including building a number of single room occupancy hotels in downtown Los Angeles. While I liked the work, I am an east coast guy and was looking for a way to get back here, as I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia.
“At the time, Bread for the City was looking for an Executive Director. I was excited about the opportunity because it offered me a chance to do the work that I find most meaningful, which is reaching out to the people who are most disenfranchised, disadvantaged, and trying to come up with creative solutions to help alleviate the pain and suffering that so many people are experiencing.
“What I found in Bread for the City was a one-stop shop that takes a holistic approach to service. We provide food, clothing, medical, legal, job support, counseling, mental health and other social services. I like to describe what we do with the alliteration, helping people survive, stabilize, and succeed. It is not unique to Bread, but it really captures the spirit of what we do.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Does Bread help people to get jobs?’ I explain that between 60-70% of the people we serve are the most vulnerable we have in our community: the elderly, disabled, and children. When you think about those three groups, they are either too young, too old or too disabled to work. There are able-bodied working age adults who do come to us, and despite the tough economy we offer them support in their efforts get jobs.
“We like to think that we have made an important impact on this city and also impacted how the city thinks about its most vulnerable. Looking at the indicators in the city, from the fact that 150,000 – 200,000 people live at or near the poverty line to the fact that nine out of ten low-income people with legal needs never get to see an attorney, it is clear that the government is the long-run solution, but the short-term solution will come from organizations like Bread.
“We will continue to serve those needs and reach out to the community. It may sound simplistic, but the best way to serve people well is to, first and foremost, let them tell you what they need. And so, Bread listens. I listen to our people.
“My dream is to blanket this city with our services. Currently, we are expanding our facility in NW, which will allow us to provide almost three times as much health care as we do now. I would love to build on our site in SE and even expand out into NE. So, if you check us out in another decade, don’t be surprised if Helpyou see that we have locations all over the city.”
Bread for the City’s Holiday Helpings campaign provides low-income DC residents with a turkey and all the trimmings so that they may enjoy a celebratory meal at home with their families. This year they expect to serve more than 8,000 families. You can help! Just $29 provides Holiday Helpings for a family of four. Make a donation here, and to learn more about operating a food or cash drive in your workplace or community group, contact Nathan LaBorie at email@example.com or 202.386.7611.