January 4, 2011

Hard to believe: decades of Bread

This week, as we prepare for our Grand Opening on Friday at 4pm, here at the expanded Northwest Center (1525 7th st NW), we've asked some longtime Bread for the City community members to share their reflections with us.

Below, former board member and longtime volunteer Roger Kuhn (pictured right, at our groundbreaking in 2009) reflects on the long road that we've traveled to this point. Thanks for your tireless years of service, Roger!

Standing in the stunning new building, in the midst of its vastness, its white walls, high ceilings, sound echoing around me, my mind wanders back to 1990, when I began volunteering at Bread for the City.

I did intake interviews in an old construction trailer, standing in the Popeye’s parking lot on 14th Street, just north of N. The trailer housed the entire food program -- staff, storage, delivery desk. Clients lined up on the ramp outside the trailer door, rain or shine. In the basement of a 3-story brick row house next door was the clothing room; the office was one flight up. Around the corner in another basement was a free medical clinic, run by an outfit called Zacchaeus Free Clinic.

Then came the first of Bread’s great leaps forward. Within two years, Zacchaeus added free legal services, and Bread and Zacchaeus jointly started a social service program, named for Jane Addams. Next, the church that owned the property on which the program operated announced that it was taking it over to build a large low- and moderate-income apartment complex. Bread and Zacchaeus both had to move, and they began looking for space to share.

What they found was an abandoned lumber warehouse on 7th Street, and as they revamped it and prepared to move, they began talk of merging, and I was invited to join the Board. That merger gave birth to the organization that exists today -- serving ten times as many clients out of what is now two buildings in Northwest and one in Southeast.

All this from a trailer in just 20 years. Hard to believe. What’s next?

--Roger Kuhn

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