SO OTHERS MIGHT THRIVE
Seneca Wood arrives at work before 6:30 each morning.
As program director of So Others Might Eat, part of his role is to supervise volunteers at the 7 a.m. breakfast served to more than 400 homeless and hungry DC-area residents each day.
"I think I have the most unpredictable and opportune way of all my friends to make a direct service impact on a daily basis," he said. "There's no day quite like the day before. I wake up humbled and grateful."
Though known primarily for its dining room and food services (the name, after all, is "So Others Might Eat), SOME provides a spectrum of services from showers to employment training.
"SOME's mission is to care for people who are poor and homeless in a holistic way that respects them," said Tracy Jefferson, associate director of development and marketing coordinator. "It really is about seeing each person as a complex individual, and figuring out what they need to stabilize their live, to improve their life."
The mission, Jefferson said, began in the 1970's, when Father Horace McKenna saw men sleeping on the steps of St. Aloysius. He began providing them with food, then started passing out sandwiches to other homeless people in the neighborhood, aided by a small group of dedicated citizens.
In 1978, SOME moved into its current home on O Street, in Northwest DC.
"I really was pretty blown away the first time I came in to interview," said Jefferson, who has been with SOME for a decade. "I'd studied anti-poverty policy, and SOME was doing all of these things I'd studied as best practices. It was amazing to see people come in 20 pounds underweight and addicted, and a year later, I'd see them at their job in Columbia Heights. You can't ask anything else in terms of purpose. It's a privilege to see that, it's a privilege to be part of an organization that's facilitating that."
She recalled a day meeting with clients who were visiting to share their success stories. A gentleman came in, she said, holding a Starbucks cup and dry cleaning. "I thought he was a donor who had gone to the wrong part of the building."
As it turned out, however, the man was a former client who, thanks to SOME, was now working and living independently.
"He said when he came to SOME he was so skinny from addicition he was wearing boys jeans," Jefferson marveled. "You would never even know he had lived through what he had."
Both Jefferson and Wood draw daily inspiration from the clients they are able to serve each day. Wood remembers a single father who didn't have any Christmas gifts for his children. The distribution period had ended, but Seneca found some presents for the man to give his kids.
"I was doing my job," he said, "but he gave me a big bear hug. It was great seeing his appreciation."