Resale Store Volunteering: Great Fun, Great Causes

When Joan and John Vatterott retired to Naples, Fla., nearly 10 years ago, they volunteered with the Guadalupe Center, a nonprofit that supports 1,100 children in the nearby town of Immokalee, a low-income community with one of the largest populations of crop pickers in the country. The Vatterotts started English-speaking classes for the workers, who are mostly Hispanic, Haitian and Mayan Indian. John also helped start the Tutor Corps program, which pairs high school students with mentors and pays them to tutor …

A Warm Atmosphere at a Hypothermia Shelter

Soft, melodic piano chords fill the sanctuary of the Church of St. Clement in Alexandria, Va., early one morning. I get up from my cot to investigate. A man is thoughtfully creating music on the church piano. He pauses between chords, listening, thinking. “That’s beautiful,” I tell him. “You must be a professional.” Yes, he was, the former hip-hop musician tells me. He continues, speaking softly, gesturing with his hands. “Creating music is like building with Legos. It’s all about building …

Helping to End Poverty, One Person at a Time

“What does the world need me to do?” When Mark Bergel, 51, asked himself that question, his answer was to start A Wider Circle, a nonprofit in Silver Spring, Md., that provides everything from furniture to job training and clothing to support those in need. Now, 13 years later, Bergel, who serves as the organization’s executive director, is on a mission: End poverty in America. As I sort and fold donated baby clothes in the organization’s huge warehouse, Bergel, a 2014 CNN …

How to Find Reward by Working With Those in Need

As Maureen McCarty and I meet with Maria (not her real name), I realize the compounded struggles of the poor. Maria’s English speaking and comprehension are limited. She and her husband are separated. Her son’s health issues complicate her search for work. And at this moment, with area rents topping $1,000 a month, even for a small apartment, Maria needs rent assistance. Can we help her? Each Wednesday morning, McCarty and other finance counselors who volunteer with a Christ Church’s …

Wisdom for Life in the New Year

As I travel in diverse circles from day to day, I pick up tidbits of wisdom from various voices, whether from speeches, conversations or even something I may have read. Approaching 2015, I’ll take a moment now to reflect and share a few recent quotes for what I call “wisdom for life in the new year.” The first quote comes from the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. as he eulogized former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Dec. 6. He said: “When champions …

One Man’s Secret to Playing a Great Santa

Edward Lacy, 56, has a secret identity. Once a year, Lacy transforms into a superhero more powerful than Superman and Batman combined. Without a cape or Batmobile, he flies around the globe in 24 hours, squeezes down chimneys and visits every child in the world. Yes, Lacy is Santa Claus for the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority in Virginia. The rest of the year he’s the authority’s ombudsman. A week before Christmas, I play elf to Lacy’s jolly St. Nick …