- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick helped spread the spirit of giving yesterday as he pitched in with local volunteers to prepared thousands of turkey dinners that will be delivered to the sick today.

Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, visited Food & Friends’ new facility at 219 Riggs Road NE, where he lent a hand in preparing more than 3,000 Thanksgiving meals for the ill in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

The cardinal, who will spend the holiday today in Rome, said Thanksgiving serves as a reminder of how important it is to help others.

“We have to make sure we’re not praying for ourselves, but for others,” he said. “We need to make sure we’ve stretched our horizons. You go to a place like this; you see people that have stretched their horizons and their hearts.”

Throughout this month, about 450 volunteers helped the charity group’s 55-member staff to prepare the meals for the sick, officials said. About 250 volunteers will help deliver the meals today.

Among those who volunteered were D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, said Lisa Butenhoff, the organization’s communications manager. “We actually had to turn some people away, there were so many who wanted to participate,” she said.

Each volunteer went through a 30-minute orientation before participating, said Craig Shniderman, the organization’s executive director.

Daniel Henderson, 16, of Upper Marlboro, and his sister Jaz, 17, were among several teenagers who lent a hand yesterday. On their day off from school, they arrived at the facility at 8:30 a.m., eager to help.

“I do it to give back to my community,” said Daniel who attends DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville.

Jaz, who attends the Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, has done volunteer work for the past 10 years.

“My aunt made [helping others] an important part of our lives,” she said.

Yesterday’s rainy weather didn’t dampen the cheery atmosphere in the building. Handmade posters championing the volunteers adorned the walls as the aromas of candied yams and gravy filled the bustling kitchen.

More than 6,500 pounds of turkey, 900 pounds of mashed potatoes and 825 pounds of cornbread stuffing were prepared for the meals. Each meal can feed up to four people.

The cost of the food, which is estimated at $40,000, was underwritten by Domino’s Pizza Team Washington and Capital One, Miss Butenhoff said.

After briefly talking with some of the staff and volunteers, Cardinal McCarrick donned a baseball cap, laced up an apron and got to work, scooping sweet potatoes into plastic containers.

“A lot of people are going to say, ‘Not only is it a great meal, someone’s thinking about us,’” the cardinal said. “There’s so many things to worry about, like the war and the economy. But we need to worry about each other and if we ourselves are working to make a better world.”

The archdiocese has supported Food & Friends since 1999, said Susan Gibbs, the director of communications for archdiocese. The archdiocese this year gave a $2,000 grant to the organization, she said.

The cardinal’s presence was a testament to how much he cares for the local community, Mr. Shniderman said.

“He remembered wrapping turkeys last year, and he actually asked if anyone mentioned if he had did a good job,” Mr. Shniderman said. “He’s met thousands of people since he’s been here, but he remembered that. It speaks to what type of man he is. He is so in touch with the people of this community.”

Food & Friends moved into the $8.7 million facility on Riggs Road last month from their location at 58 L St. SE, where they had been since 1995. The facility’s construction was financed partly by private grants, a $1 million community block grant from the District and a $2 million appropriation from Congress.

Since 1988, the organization has provided meals, groceries and nutrition education for persons living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, as well as their families and caregivers.

“It’s easier to get volunteers now than it is in February,” Mr. Shniderman said. “The important message for Thanksgiving is that we need your help all year long.”

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