Citizens living in the Greater Washington Area braved frigid temperatures on Monday, Nov. 21, heeding the call from partnering local television, radio and print media organizations and other leading groups in the District, Virginia and Maryland – all committed to assisting those in need in order to provide turkeys with all the fixings for their Thanksgiving Day dinners.
Several food drives took place days earlier including on the campus of Howard University but throughout the day on Nov. 21, with NBC4 at the helm under the auspices of its long-running “Food4Families” program, and with the assistance of a host of partnering organizations, food and financial donations exceeded numbers not seen in recent years as generous donors kept showing up.
Thousands showed up at the Verizon Center with canned goods, dollars and turkeys, volunteers arriving as early as 3 a.m., while others made their way to the Boys & Girls Club on Benning Road in Northeast. Together they collected and packed food donations, secured financial contributions, engaged with donors and illustrated the joy that comes with giving from the heart.
Donna Weston, NBC4’s vice president of community affairs, said while leading the charge to provide Thanksgiving dinners for those in need has become a tradition for the television station for over 35 years, this somehow year felt different.
“The turnout was phenomenal even early in the day. It’s just noon and we’ve already received $5,000 in cash donations and a mound of food too. Some are filling bags at the Boys & Girls Club. Later this week we’ll be distributing the food from a variety of venues so that we can reach every family or individual that needs a little help,” said Weston, noting that the “Food4Families” concept began 11 years ago due to the creativity of NBC4’s Aisha Karimah.
Weston further noted that the success of the annual giving drive could never be successful without the many partners who step up to the plate.
Donors this year included: The Washington Wizards, Washington First Bank, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Pepco, Comcast, The Washington Informer, the Boys & Girls Club of America, the D.C. Film Office, Radio One and the Metropolitan Police Department. Several radio stations broadcast live from the Verizon Center: 93.9 WKYS, Praise 104.1 and Majic 102.3.
WKYS on-air personality EZ Street, who has been bringing the hits to the area for 25 years, began volunteering with the Thanksgiving food drive a few years ago.
“It’s always successful and it’s never warm. But no one cares about the weather. It’s all about helping people from our community that need a helping hand,” he said.
MAJIC on-air personality Teresa Marie also began donating her time and energy two years ago. She said it’s something to which she now looks forward.
“This is one of the benefits of being on the air and cracking the mic,” she said. “Of course besides helping those in our community we serve up some great music too. We’ve had so many people come out today to donate money or food. One 10-year-old Caucasian, accompanied by his father, gave one dollar – it was all the money he had. It illustrated the kind of lessons he’s learning at home.”
There are all kinds of testimonies that are shared due to the kindness of people from the DMV. Weston noted one that she had heard that she says truly touched her heart.
“One family had a veteran who earned a Gold Star and the family’s home was recently destroyed by fire,” she said. “They needed help and we were able to do just that – help. There are so many families in need, seniors in need and single parents in need. Sometimes we look to other parts of the country or the world but there are a lot of people right here in the DMV that are struggling. Our efforts really make a difference for them.”
Popular hip-hop artist Wale, along with his crew, Every Blue Moon, brought boxes of turkeys and canned goods as their way of giving back.
“This is what we do,” he said. “It’s the least we can do. Hopefully others will do the same.”
As for one 17-year resident of the District, she said she donates money every year without fail.
“There are so many people here in D.C. who are hungry and homeless,” said Cynthia Jachles, a resident of Northwest and a native of Syracuse, New York.
“No one seems to notice them. But there are more than 50,000 children and adults who are living day-to-day. They’re hungry. They’re invisible to most people but I can’t pretend that they don’t exist.”