Reaching out to the home-bound and marginalized
Walking into her dimly lit apartment near Gallaudet University in Northeast DC, I notice Emily Flanagan has a small TV going in the background while she methodically crochets a scarf. We smile as I begin to interview her. Emily was born and raised in the foster care system in Maryland. She said she learned to crochet “to escape to another world.” At the age of 13, she moved to DC to live with her mother. Emily completed high school, married and had four children. She moved soon afterward to an area of DC where drugs, fighting and gunfire were rampant. Her husband left her, and she was left to raise their son and three daughters on her own. “If I didn’t do it, they didn’t eat, and we would have no place to stay,” she said firmly.
She always had a job until respiratory problems forced her onto disability. Her caseworker recommended Food for All. “Everybody can’t get the extra food they need to get through the month,” she said. With a small laugh, she said she’s recommended Food for All to her neighbors, “and now they get it, too.”
Emily is one of 200 households that receive assistance from Food for All annually. Like many of the others, she shares her food – with her son, grandchildren and neighbors. In all, nearly 550 people benefit from the 60,000 pounds of food delivered by Food for All every year.
“The protein snacks, you can’t find them in the store!” she said excitedly. Another recipient, David Stewart, said Food for All “delivers the vitamins, vegetables and things that I really need because I don’t get enough of them.” But Food for All delivers more than just food. “The people are the nicest who come out here,” Emily said. “No matter what the weather, they always show.”
Food for All’s volunteers also benefit. Jena, a middle school student, lives 30 minutes away and has plenty of volunteer opportunities closer to home, but she and her father Amer prefer spending Saturday mornings at Food for All. “You just show up and help out,” Jena said. “There’s no pressure; if you don’t come one weekend, no one is going to be upset with you.”
Collectively, Food for All’s volunteers put in 3,650 hours a year helping people like Emily Flanagan, who shares that feeling of compassion by crocheting scarves, sweaters and blankets for patients at Washington Hospital Center. “You can’t always give somebody a hug,” she said, “but if you crochet something and give it to them, that’s a way of giving someone a hug.”
Let’s continue to spread hugs around DC in the form of food for all in need.
Read the interview with site coordinators Cathy and Graeme.