November 12, 2010

People's District: Sherita on Putting the Neighbor Back in the Neighborhood

This week, in promotion of our Holiday Helpings campaign, the People's District published five stories told by people from Bread for the City's community. Today's is a familiar voice to this blog: Bread for the City community resources coordinator and all-around superstar Sherita Evans. Read Sherita's story below:

"I think that we did our children a great disservice when we took the neighbor out of neighborhood. Neighborhood should mean something. To me, it means that we take care of each other. I think that the overwhelming needs in places like SE are why our communities have broken down. We all want to be good people and give back, but what happens when all of your kids and grandkids are in need. Then, your nieces and nephews are in need, too. And, then there is your neighbor in need. All of the need becomes overwhelming and you just focus on yourself.

“Working for Bread, I have come to learn that the same thing that broke down the neighborhood is what can bring us back together. We are all in need, but we can learn to help each other and help ourselves block-by-block. We know that problems in this city are never limited to just one block. One block’s problems can spread to another block and then another, and soon the whole city feels it. People need to recognize that, or at least think about how poverty in my neighborhood in SE impacts those who live uptown.

“I live in this community and see people I went to school with at the supermarket not able to pay for their groceries. I used to work in telecommunications for seven years and had to write-up my employees for work issues that turned out to be the result of lack of affordable child care or health care. Come on, these are basic human rights. No one should be allowed to starve or get in trouble at work because they are too poor to have someone take care of their kids.

“I wanted to work to change these things, so I came to Bread as a volunteer and now work in a dual role as the intake and community resources coordinator. When people come in, I sit with them and tell them about the resources available to them. I help them get social services. I tell them that while Whole Foods or Harris Teeter may not advertise accepting food stamps, you can still go there and shop like everyone else.

“The other part of what I do is going out into the community to let people know about Bread. You would be surprised how many people I meet who think that all we do is literally give bread out to the city. Other people may think that we only do legal work in NW. I tell them that we pride ourselves on being a non-traditional service provider across this city.

“Working here, I see how the lines of poverty have changed. It is no longer only the traditional African-American family coming in for help. Now, I see a real diversity of people coming through our doors. Everyone is in need of help. Everyone has a cousin or aunt or grandma in need. I also deal with a lot of veterans. I am not talking about Vietnam or Korea, but Iraq. If you are an E Class 1, your pay was never meant to support you and a family of four. I work to help those families get services.

“I have had a lot of jobs, but this is the only one that gives me instant gratification. You know that job that everyone seeks out of college, the one where you are going to make a difference and make an imprint in the world, I get to do that every day. A mother will come in and say, ‘I just paid my rent and I can’t feed my children. How am I going to feed my babies?’ If I can help her with food, she will be able to give her children the best part of her. It is a wonderful feeling to be a little part of that.

“So, if we really want to end this, let’s be neighborly again all of the time. Let’s not just wait for the holidays to help. I want someone to be neighborly in March when all of the Holiday Helpings are long gone. If you don’t have money, teach someone a skill or lead by example. Stop reading about the statistics in the Washington Post and hearing what they say in City Council and come and do something about it.”

Many thanks to People's District for this great series!. Celebrate this holiday season with us by making a gift to Holiday Helpings today! Just $29 will provide a healthful, plentiful holiday meal to a family of four.

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