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More potatoes to harvest, more people to help, more work to do. Why I serve.

Steven V. Roberts is a journalist, writer, political commentator, and Bread for the City board member.

Some years ago, my wife Cokie and I decided to stop giving each other Christmas presents and donate whatever we would spend on gifts to worthy local charities.

Bread for the City has always been one of our major beneficiaries, since we believed deeply in its mission of feeding the hungry, especially at holiday time. Then we attended the 40th Anniversary Gala two years ago and our commitment to the organization –and our knowledge of its wider mission—continued to deepen. Yes, we bought t-shirts (which our grandchildren wear proudly), but far more importantly, we came to understand that Bread did far more than feed people. We came to understand that the organization’s core insight made total sense, that its clients required a range of services that included medical treatment, legal advice and community advocacy—all in one accessible place.

Steve and Cokie Roberts at BFC's 40th anniversary gala

Steve and Cokie Roberts at BFC’s 40th anniversary gala

Within several months, after talks with George Jones and other Bread staff members, I agreed to join the board. I didn’t realize my education was only beginning.

At one meeting, I moderated a panel about expanding Bread’s presence in the Southeast community and learned a lot about the nature of our client base and the Washington real estate market. At another, I heard a marvelous presentation from the staff of WomenStrong-DC, an innovative program that focuses on supporting and empowering women as leaders. During the holiday season, I took my three grandsons who live here to volunteer on a Saturday morning. We thought we’d be filling grocery bags. Nope. You quickly learn that when you volunteer at Bread you do whatever needs to be done, no questions asked. That morning, a vast but very dirty load of sweet potatoes had come in from City Orchard, the BFC-run mini-farm in Beltsville that produces fresh fruit and vegetables for Bread’s feeding programs. So we spent two happy hours scrubbing those potatoes clean. Actually, one of my larger grandsons joined the team that hauled and stacked boxes. Another specialized in bagging the cleaned yams. A third got really dirty joining me on the scrub line. A great day, and at the next Board meeting I recommended the experience highly. Being part of the Bread family helps build a commitment to community service that’s far more effective than listening to a speech or a sermon.

So, now to the future. I know I have a lot more to learn and to contribute. For example, Bread knows that affordable housing is a key problem for many of our clients. Just look at the building boom surrounding our 7th Street center. Where are the people who used to live in our neighborhood going? How can they afford a new place? How can we continue to serve them when they need to take a couple of buses or metro rides to reach us?

My wife and I will be at the Good Hope Gala this year and we hope you’ll join us. The more you learn about Bread, the more you’ll be moved to support its vital mission. Every day, every dollar, every sweet potato makes a difference.

Cokie and I look forward to seeing you on April 30th.

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