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Celebrating Bread for the City

As you’ve probably heard by now, our 2017 Good Hope Gala was a massive success, raising over $1.26M in support of our programs. Nearly 500 people gathered together to celebrate all that we’ve achieved as a community and it was grand!

The program kicked off with a welcome from our Board Chairman, Paul Taskier, a decades-long supporter and advocate of our work. Below is an excerpt from his very moving tribute to our clients, staff, donors, and volunteers.

Tonight we hope to entertain you as we show you firsthand why Bread for the City is such an extraordinary place. As you surely know, because you’re here tonight, Bread for the City is one of Washington’s premier service organizations. Our motto – engraved on our hearts – is “Dignity, Respect, Service and Justice.” Each year we serve more than 33,000 DC residents living with low incomes. And they come to us not only because of our services, but because we treat them with dignity and respect, like human beings in real need, not people who need to be pushed through our system.

Our model for service is comprehensive and unique because people with low incomes typically don’t have one problem; they are facing a constellation of problems – and travelling from one service provider to another and then another to seek help for each successive problem is draining and difficult even for the strongest of us. Bread offers all of its programs in one place: Food – five days of wholesome food a month to almost 25,000 people each year; medical care from five full-time medical professionals, advocacy programs that teach community members to organize, legal representation for thousands, and social services for the people who need help navigating the ins and outs of the system — and that’s just the start of what Bread for the City does.

I started as a donor and legal volunteer with BFC in the mid-1990s and really started to connect with the organization in 1996, (just when George Jones, our redoubtable CEO, first came to Bread). I started by working on the Holiday Helpings campaigns that provide families with turkeys and all the trimmings so that they can have a holiday dinner with dignity in their own homes. In 1999 I was asked to join the Board and I have been here ever since. What a difference we’ve made in these past years and how we’ve grown!

Then and now:

  • Back then, we had a budget of about $800,000; today our organizational budget is $10.4 million.
  • Back then, we had fewer than 25 employees; now we have nearly 100 people on the payroll.
  • Back then, we served a few thousand people a year out of a brick building in Shaw – which is now just half of our enlarged Shaw Center, and out of a church basement in Anacostia. Today, we serve 10,000 people per month at our Centers in Shaw and Anacostia. Plus, we have a capital campaign underway to build a new 30,000 square foot Center in Anacostia – just across the street from the existing Center – to serve the overwhelming need in that part of the community. The building we built 11 years ago is just swamped every day.
  • Every one of our direct services programs has expanded in size and in scope, and – because we seek Justice for all people, we’ve added an advocacy department and a robust racial equity initiative to seek awareness of inequity and effect change in our society.

Tonight, we honor the 25th Anniversary of Bread for the City’s Legal Clinic.  We have greatly impacted our community by working together to save their homes, obtain streams of income, and protect people from domestic abuse, among many many other things. To our legal founders, our past and current staff, and all who stand with us, thank you for never giving up the fight for justice. I’ve seen firsthand what can be achieved when we work together, and I’m extremely proud to be a part of it.

As you have probably gathered by now, I am passionate about Bread for the City. We do such important work to help those among us – our brothers and sisters – who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. We make an enormous difference in their lives as they struggle with low incomes and all that means. We literally change the trajectory of lives. In my view, what we do is not charity; it is a moral obligation.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said it perfectly: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘what are you doing for others?'”

I know what all of you are doing for others. The time and treasure that you have given to Bread for the City reaches tens of thousands of our neighbors each year. You make it possible.

Cheers to you!

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