- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Taalib-Din Uqdah didn't vote for Anthony A. Williams for mayor, but when the mayor asked residents for help, Mr. Uqdah drove with his snowblower a few blocks from his home in Northwest to West Elementary School, where his niece goes to school, and spent hours blazing a path through the snow.
"I'm not a particularly big fan of [the mayor], but when somebody says they need help, they need help. I can't hear something and then not act on it," Mr. Uqdah said.
As the metropolitan area fought to emerge from one of the biggest snowstorms in its history, some residents began to focus their efforts on helping others.
"We're getting a good volunteer effort," said D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat. "It's needed when you get this much snow."
Volunteers helped shovel sidewalks and stairs at schools, and those with sport utility vehicles drove hospital staff to work, made and delivered meals to sick people, and gave medical personnel rides to treat dialysis patients.
"One thing our city can be proud of is our volunteers," said Peter G. LaPorte, director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency.
Food & Friends, a D.C.-based charity that caters to people coping with the advanced stages of life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS and cancer, saw its volunteer rolls swell after this weekend's snowstorm.
"People are getting cabin fever, and that works to our advantage," said Craig Shniderman, executive director of Food & Friends. "People that aren't going to work or school need to get out. This is where good will and self-interest come together."
Mr. Shniderman said that yesterday Food & Friends received about 20 more kitchen volunteers and 45 drivers than expected. That was slightly more than Monday. He said that because of volunteers, the organization was able to deliver 1,600 meals yesterday about 85 percent of what it usually delivers.
"It is so wonderful to see this response," he said. "It is nice to take a break from worrying about what is happening in the world to feel good about what is happening in our own neighborhood the spirit of generosity is alive in Washington."
Mr. Uqdah responded to the mayor's request Monday that D.C. residents help clear snow from public schools and shovel sidewalks in front of their homes, as well as away from fire hydrants.
He spent several hours at the school, along with William Lewis, who also brought his snowblower. Mr. Lewis has two daughters who go to school at Lewis Elementary.
"I'd do anything to help them out," said Mr. Lewis. "I'm out here because they need help, not because of the mayor."
The EMA arranged for roughly 1,500 snow shovels to be donated to volunteers, 500 of which arrived in time to be used yesterday. The other 1,000 will be available today to be picked up by volunteers at the Reeves Center, at 2000 14th Street NW.
Volunteers will need to pass a screening test, however, said EMA spokeswoman JoEllen Countee.
"We don't want people thinking they can just show up at the Reeves Center and get a shovel. We want to be sure we're putting the right people in the right position," she said.
Jabeen Bhatti contributed to this report.


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