Jana & Tom: A Family within a Family

Jana started volunteering as a driver with FFA during the Covid days. She wanted to make a small contribution to people’s lives during that challenging period. As a retired grief counselor, she had the time and empathy, and she enjoyed being able to provide groceries to such nice recipients. She was also happy to be able to link up two of her previous clients with FFA.

Tom joined Jana soon thereafter to carry the heavy bags to people’s doors. They quickly figured out that the most efficient way for them to work together was for Tom to drive and Jana to navigate and text and/or call the clients. They love driving around the city together, accompanied by their rescue dog, Gaven. Even though they have lived in DC for 40 years, there is always another nook or cranny to explore.

Jana and Tom enjoy the connection with FFA’s recipients. They especially appreciate both their warmth and emotional honesty. Sometimes people open up about their lives and struggles. Jana is in awe of their resilience. Even when facing physical disability and/or other challenges, people find a way to express positivity. Stops at recipients’ homes brighten up Tom and Jana’s Saturday.

The welcoming spirit of the Saturday crew at FFA feels like a reunion with friends, and it also gives them a lift. When Jana saw the Saturday volunteers sharing store-purchased donuts, she put her baking skills to good use. Every week she brings delicious baked goodies for all the volunteers to enjoy together.

Recently she got a karmic response for her baking generosity. After her dad died and she had shattered an elbow, the volunteers brought her a bag filled with goodies. “That was so moving,” Jana said. “I felt part of a large family.”

Chris & Jenny: Supporting a Relationship with New Experiences

Two years ago, when their boys had grown up, Chris and Jenny looked for other ways to use their time. A friend was already volunteering at FFA, so they willingly accepted his invitation to join the group.

They have been bagging groceries on Thursday mornings ever since. They enjoy the company of the volunteers and look forward to seeing these old and new friends each week. They feel they are getting more out of volunteering than they put in.

In addition, Chris delivers food on Saturdays, sometimes with their oldest son, who had this to say: “We have fun going around the city and meeting new people with different backgrounds. Some of them even remember my dad’s name.”

Chris and Jenny agree that volunteering at FFA has given them something completely different to get involved in. They love the new conversations that have been sparked by their shared experience. “Sharing something different with a partner is a key to a good long-term relationship,” said Jenny.

They also enjoy driving through the city to get to FFA. They both grew up in DC and point out places linked to their histories. “It has been great to piece together each other’s biographies,” Chris reflected.

Cathy & Hank: Better Together

Cathy and Hank started volunteering with FFA in September 2020 as a way to help the community get through the Covid-19 pandemic. Cathy returns voicemails and messages one day per week and also schedules deliveries. On Fridays, Cathy and Hank deliver meals to FFA clients together.

“It was a time we could be together doing something we enjoyed, as we were both working full time during Covid,” said Cathy. “Volunteering together gives us a chance to share the experiences together, and it also helps to have two when navigating the city.”

Over the years, Cathy and Hank have enjoyed meeting other FFA volunteers and clients, building relationships that keep them coming back. They say they’ve been impressed by the optimism and the dedication to going above and beyond that they see at Food For All.

“There is one client we visit, Helen, who is always filled with so much joy and sunshine,” said Cathy. “We always leave with such joy, and we vow to each other to never complain about anything again.”

Both Cathy and Hank agree they’re happy they started volunteering together and recommend FFA to others who have time to give.

“Volunteering at FFA is easy, impactful and enjoyable,” Cathy said. “The ability to relieve a client’s stress of where their next meals are coming from by delivering healthy groceries to their door is amazing. This is especially true for families, because SNAP often does not cover the cost of groceries for growing children. I think if we can lessen someone else’s load, we should take the opportunity to do it.”

“Our society needs to get back to a sense of community, and each of us must take action toward that end — this is one of the ways we hope to be living up to that ideal,” Hank added.

We’re so grateful for the time Cathy and Hank give to FFA (and the time they gave for this interview!). Our volunteers make Food For All DC possible — we wouldn’t be here without each of you, whether you volunteer as a family or on your own.

Monica: Saved by compassion

After a turbulent childhood, Monica Coe’s mother asked her to leave their home. With nowhere else to go, Monica ended up in Shepherd’s Cove Emergency Shelter. She was angry and disoriented, leading to more troubled behavior. As a result, she was transferred to the Patricia Handy Place for Women shelter in D.C. There, she had good case managers who helped her bring more meaning into life.

Monica and her 2023
Steinbruck Award

Monica started loving herself more, did things that made her happy, rekindled old friendships, and made new ones. She got a job at Burlington Coat Factory because the interviewer saw her future and not her past. Monica realized that family doesn’t have to be formed with blood ties; it exists in many different forms.

“It is a beautiful feeling when others step in,” she said. “This human warmth saved me from the precipice. I was so depressed. The supportive people along the way gave me light.”

In 2021, she was offered a room at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA on Rhode Island Avenue and a chance to become more independent. She loved the freedom of movement, the modern rooms, and the color purple of the interior design.

Monica handled her freedom so well that she was one of three recipients of the 2023 Steinbruck Award organized by N Street Village. This award honors those who have transitioned successfully from homelessness to independence. Monica credits her transformation to an inner flame of hope inside that was kindled by faith, the support of others, and grit. “I had to find the true Monica and then never look back,” she said. “This needed courage.” Now, Monica is getting an IT certification and finishing her associate degree. She has lost 57 pounds.

“Each plant goes through different stages in different circumstances. One has to keep watering the plant and soon it will blossom. When we blossom, life happens.” – Monica Coe.

Darrine: Pain is the motivation

It can take a single second for a life to be ripped apart. In Darrine’s case, that second was the time it took a bullet to shatter in his body and rip through his lungs, back, and spinal cord. The bullet was shot at close range from someone demanding his money. It contained the anger of a man who wasn’t given what he wanted.

Darrine at home in Washington DC

It took six surgeries and two near-death moments for Darrine to survive. Now he sits in a wheelchair, paralyzed by a piece of bullet, but freed in his mind. The bullet may have broken his body, but it couldn’t break his mind. As Darrine describes it, the snake became a butterfly.

But that transformation took time. When Darrine first came back to life in George Washington University Hospital and discovered what happened, he was hissing like a snake — angry at the world and bitter with life for throwing him into hell. The health workers avoided him, recoiling from his negativity. Even before the incident, he had become numb to many feelings and situations. So at first, the shooting magnified his negativity. But he had time to think. He had time to read the Quran. He had the presence of mind to ask God to give him more guidance and greater self-control.

One day, when he woke up from yet another surgery, the sun was shining on his face like a divine presence. He felt somehow liberated by the illumination, as if flying freely like a butterfly. He gestured to the nurses to take out the incubation tube. They said it was a risk; his lungs might not have the power to breathe. But Darrine insisted. It was a struggle; he coughed up a lot of stuff, but he took one deep breath and felt free again. He knew he couldn’t be mad all the time — that takes too much energy — so he was reborn into a better version of himself. Somehow, Darrine was able to hold the pain and then transform it into positive energy.

The health workers were at first baffled by this transformation, but then they celebrated it. Now, they all want to socialize with him, and they feel slighted if he doesn’t greet them whenever he goes back to the hospital. Part of Darrine’s desire for a new life was motivated by his twins. They were still in the womb when the bullet struck, and he wanted to do everything in his power to witness their birth. Sure enough, on April 20, 2021, Darrine was present when his twins entered the world.

Darrine is rediscovering the joy and mystery of life. At first, it was learning to do the little things again. Breathing freely. Sitting up. Holding a fork. Taking a shower. And then it was realizing that he had been given a second chance and needed to use his time well. When the medics who picked up his bloodied body came to visit him in the hospital, they were stunned. He wasn’t supposed to survive. There is something special about you, they said. God has special plans for you. Those plans include coaching basketball and motivational speaking. Darrine wants people to understand that one isn’t defined by the state of the body, but by the state of the soul.

No matter how tough life’s circumstances may be, there’s always a light somewhere. Darrine is living proof of that, floating like a butterfly when everything seemed lost.

Interview: Cindy, Volunteer and Donor

A short interview with Cindy, a Food For All donor and volunteer

What’s a memorable experience you’ve had with FFA?

There is one client, an elderly woman on crutches recently diagnosed with cancer, who carefully goes through the grocery bags with me, giving back those items she doesn’t need or can’t use so that I can deliver them to someone else in need, all the while telling me about her life. A former client, originally from Ethiopia, was always thinking of giving back, once coming to FFA to share Ethiopian bread and coffee with the staff and volunteers. A third client, a retired beautician, is so friendly and has the most amazing style — one time I complimented her on her shoes, black with gold dots, which matched her black and gold outfit, and she said that she had painted the dots on her shoes with nail polish! Yet another regular client is very lonely, having lost her husband due to COVID, and seems as pleased to see me every two weeks as she is to get the food.

Cindy with her arm around another woman, both wearing masks and smiling.

Why is being a FFA donor meaningful for you?

When I donate, I have two questions; “Are my funds really needed?” and “Will the money really go to those in need?” The answer to both those questions for Food for All is an unqualified YES!! The need for food in our community is very high; furthermore, although food does not solve all problems, food insecurity and hunger needs to be fixed first before any other problems can be tackled. As for the second question, Food for All spends very little on overhead, and virtually all funds and donations go directly to those in need.

Why should others also donate to FFA?

The need for the food, and for the food to be delivered, is great; both the monetary donations and volunteering really make a difference.

What does FFA’s tagline “Solidarity Through Food” represent for you?

Food is among the most basic needs of human beings, on the one hand; and on the other hand, food plays such an important role in relationships among people and within a society. The relief many of the clients feel in knowing that they will have enough to eat is palpable, and their joy in receiving turkeys and other holiday food during Thanksgiving week really brought home the true meaning of that holiday.

Food Sharing Stories: Althea Black

Over 45 years ago, in a high school in northeast DC, Ms. Black met a friend for life. They were opposites. Ms. Black was reserved, Di was outgoing. But it was in their differences that they found compatibility. As they grew in life experience they always supported each other by sharing spiritual lessons and advice on how to make life work better.

They also shared food! During their high school friendship, they decided to share one day a year together as best friends. That day became Thanksgiving Day. Every Thanksgiving since (with the exception of the covid years), they and their families have gathered together to honor unshakeable friendship.

Thanksgiving became a symbol of a friendship that never faltered. In fact, even in the covid period, the sharing of food continued. When Ms. Black was rendered homebound by the coronavirus, Di and her husband would driver over to her apartment to leave food at her door.

If we have “friends-security,” then “food-security” will take care of itself. “I love Di,” says Ms. Black. “There is nothing we wouldn’t do for each other.”


Through a diverse collaboration of stakeholders, FFA DC has become a beacon of hope for many of the District’s food insecure residents. Such cooperative action strengthens civil society and helps guarantee the fundamental human right of food security.

FFA’s stakeholders include our volunteers with their heart-felt service, social workers with their referrals, corporate partners with their resources, and you, the donors, with your generosity.

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, we’d like to share with you a short story reflecting the collaborative power of food to connect and strengthen communities.

In early September, FFA hosted GEICO’s marketing team for a group volunteer event. One of the team’s members, Maya, also a volunteer driver with FFA, advocated on FFA’s behalf and secured a much needed $20,000 GEICO grant.

Also participating was Yemi, a former client whom FFA had assisted when she was recovering from serious illness. After the GEICO team had bagged and delivered food, we gathered to enjoy conversation over Yemi’s traditional Ethiopian coffee and bread. Yemi mentioned how in Ethiopia serving coffee is a way to bring neighbors together to share stories, seek advice, and deepen community.

On that September afternoon, Yemi’s coffee brought together not only neighbors, but also stakeholders. In discussion we affirmed the importance of joining hands across diversity to work collectively for a better society.

                                 HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

The sharing of food is one of the sweetest expressions of human culture. When we break bread together, we thrive together. Thank you for your contributions that make this happen.