Volunteers at SOME preparing lunch for the homeless
Lara: What are a few key lessons you have learned during your time at SOME?
Mr. Gerlach: The key lesson for me is that it is possible to overcome seemingly overwhelming obstacles. Even people in the direst situations can turn their lives around. SOME knows that what people want is dignity and respect. Not pity. Except for the basics of food and clothing SOME encourages small payments for its services when affordable, be it nominal rent for an apartment or a small fee for a training program. Being able to “pay” for a service out of their own earnings is very empowering for those we serve.
Lara: What can my friends and I do to help?
Mr. Gerlach: There is a great idea called the shoebox gift where you take any box lying around the house and fill it up with essential toiletries to be distributed to the homeless. More boxes are always welcome! You can give them to Lara or bring them to the SOME office at 71 O street NW Washington DC. Please go to www.some.org for a list of other ideas. Any help is greatly appreciated!
So Others Might Eat (SOME)
71 'O' Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Interview Of Richard Gerlach, Director of
So Others Might Eat (SOME), Washington D.C., 2008
Lara: How long has SOME been in existence and what are SOME’s key activities?
Mr. Gerlach: SOME has been in existence for thirty eight years (since 1970) of which I have been with SOME for thirty. SOME started out as a soup kitchen, primarily feeding hungry people in the district—hence its name. Even today SOME feeds the hungry—about 1,000 of them—serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week, 365 days a year. However, SOME now also offers a range of other programs from drug addiction treatment to elderly care to after school facilities to job training to housing for the homeless. SOME strives to ensure that its services go beyond basic survival needs and that they enable people to gain long-term independence and become respected members of society.
Lara: How has the food crisis affected your food supply and donations and how do you ensure that the food you distribute is healthy and nutritious?
Mr. Gerlach: The economy and rising food prices have reduced contributions, but I hope that now and in the near future people will still find a way to donate foods, even with the prices skyrocketing. In the past, we received a lot of food donations that were not especially nutritious, but we have tried to encourage
certain food groups such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables and this has increased the number of healthy foods we receive. However, we would never turn down food for being “not healthy enough” because some of the homeless men and women we serve need to consume calories which they get in all food.
Lara: What are you most proud of regarding your past success?
Mr. Gerlach:We are most proud of encouraging people to take ownership of their own lives by helping them to overcome addictions, learning new skills, moving into their own apartments, and living as respected members of society makes me proud. At SOME we call this “empowerment.” We treat people with respect and dignity and help them get back their self-esteem. It is rewarding to see the people we helped using their newly acquired life skills to help other people. As our newsletter describes, Perry is a perfect example. Perry believes that greeting the poor and homeless, who come through the doors of SOME everyday, with respect, warmth, and a smile makes a world of difference. Perry should know; he used to be one of them. When he first came to SOME, Perry was homeless and addicted to drugs. Today Perry is a member of SOME’s dining room staff.