By Paul Holston
Posted 8:10 PM EST, Sun. May 1, 2016
For over 42 years, Bread For The City, a nonprofit organization, has selflessly served the underprivileged throughout the nation’s capital, helping more than 33,000 people each year. As the years have progressed since its founding in 1974, originally working from a Lutheran church basement, the organization has grown beyond providing only food, clothing and medical care services: It provides support.
“It’s not what we do, it’s who we do it for,” said Karen Byer, Bread For The City’s communications manager. “We are not trying to be gatekeepers, we are trying to be one with the community.”
Bread For The City’s vision is to “share a vision of Washington, D.C. as a nurturing community, where all residents have access to the basic material resources they need for survival and growth, and the prosperity of their social, emotional, and spiritual lives.”
The organization aligns its services through six core values: Food, clothing, medical care, dental care, legal assistance, benefits and social services.
Not only does Bread For The City attack challenges that their clients face personally, but also tackles many of the poverty issues that affect their patrons directly across D.C., such as hunger, healthcare inequity, homelessness, mental illness, unemployment and domestic violence.
Lynda L. Brown, Bread For The City’s center director and director of Southeast social services, said that as a group, the organization is known for reaching out and engaging the community.
“We really try to make sure that our clients have a voice in letting us know what the community needs. We also want to transform those who need assistance to become a person that helps others,” she said.
“It’s just something about this organization that is completely different,” said Byer. “The way we go about our mission, the things that we do and the way that we go about doing them are different I believe from other organizations.”
Bread For The City’s mission is “to provide vulnerable residents of Washington, D.C. with comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.”
The organization also promotes a collaborative cooperation of clients, volunteers, donors, staff and the community as a whole to join together to advocate and fight for solutions towards ongoing, difficult conditions.
According to Byer, a staggering 95 to 97 percent of Bread For The City’s clients are African-American. And while they do have two locations in the Northwest Center [1525 7th St NW] and Southeast Center [1640 Good Hope Rd SE], Byer expressed that the organization wants to make sure that not only do their clients become stable and receive service from them, but also to eventually have their clients attain a stable life.
“We really want to continue to service the community needs with dignity and respect, but we also want to dismantle these systems that were built on racist structures that oppress our people,” said Byer.
Employee Charity Barr, a clothing room staff member and volunteer coordinator for Bread For The City, tries to bring all of her efforts and energy to the table.
“The ‘bread’ is a figurative symbol of what all we bring here. We take care of everything in holistic way,” said Barr. “We try to help take care of your entire being as much as we can.”
With Bread For The City currently running on an almost $11 million operation and ongoing expansions [their Northwest location expanded to 11,000 sq. ft. in Dec. 2010 and their Southeast location recently purchased a lot next door to build a brand new center], the nonprofit organization has an optimistic future ahead.
But ultimately, the organization wants to help eradicate the poverty problem.
“We don’t want to look around and see our brothers and sisters always struggling,” said Byer. “Our CEO [George A. Jones, Bread For The City’s Chief Executive Officer] says figuratively all the time: ‘We are working to put ourselves out of business.’”
For more information on Bread For The City, visit http://www.breadforthecity.org/.