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Pay It Forward, DC: 15 Ways To Give Back Locally

My article for On Tap magazine

Pay It Forward, DC: 15 Ways To Give Back Locally

‘Tis the season for paying it forward, so we decided to put together a list of 15 ways to give back to the DC community year-round. Our handpicked list is chock-full of unique organizations eager to put new volunteers’ hands and minds to novel uses. Read on for a list of creative ways you can give more of yourself to those in need around the District.

Restore the Anacostia Watershed

Eco-minded folks can help restore wetlands, plant native plants, collect seeds and much more, all while learning about the watershed and its ecosystem.
www.anacostiaws.org/how-to-help/volunteer.html

Put Down Roots with Casey Trees

Channel your inner tree-hugger through a variety of opportunities, from tree planting and tree care to advocacy.
www.caseytrees.org

Get Your Hands Dirty with Columbia Heights Green

Put your green thumb to good use at Columbia Heights Green, one of many participating parks and gardens in the Community Harvest Program at Washington Parks & People.
www.columbiaheightsgreen.org

Show Compassion & Offer Advocacy through HIPS

Donate to and/or volunteer with HIPS (Harm Reduction Experts Improving Lives Since 1993), offering compassionate harm reduction services and advocacy to people who engage in sex work or drug use in the DC area.
www.hips.org

Expand Your Practice with Yoga Activist

Are you a yoga teacher who wants to take the practice outside of the confines of traditional studio spaces? Yoga Activist is the place to do it.
www.yogaactivist.org

Knit It Forward in the District

Do you stay calm and knit on? Join one of many knitting meetups held at DC Public Library locations and/or donate your handknitted items to a variety of charities.
www.dclibrary.org // www.lionbrand.com/blog/10-charities-for-knitters-and-crocheters

Feed the Hungry with So Others Might Eat

Help provide nourishing breakfasts for those in need. They use real eggs, too – none of that powder stuff.
www.some.org

Provide a Fitness Framework for Girls on the Run

Volunteer with the DC chapter of this national nonprofit dedicated to making a world where every girl is free to boldly pursue her dreams through running. Support students during a 10-week program to help them establish an appreciation for health and fitness.
www.gotrdc.org

Dress to Impress with Suited for Change

Help local women entering the job market dress to impress through a variety of volunteering and donating options, including leading a styling workshop.
www.suitedforchange.org

Support Senior Citizens at We Are Family

Help isolated senior citizens with groceries, cleaning, transportation or just a friendly visit. Make a new friend this season by joining We Are Family.
www.wearefamilydc.org

Save the Felines with Alley Cat Rescue

The trap-neuter-return program at Alley Cat can make life on the streets a little more bearable for our furry friends. Donate to the rescue or adopt one of their many cuddle bugs.
www.saveacat.org

Be a Classroom Volunteer at Carlos Rosario International

Volunteer in adult ESL, culinary, IT and health classes and programs at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, and/or join as a mentor through the Impact Mentorship Program.
www.carlosrosario.org/get-involved/volunteers-2

Mentor Families with Northstar Tutoring

Tutor, mentor and help support members of low-income families in DC through Northstar Tutoring.
www.northstartutoring.org

Help the Homeless at Friendship Place

Help people in need transition out of homelessness at Friendship Place through a variety of volunteer roles, from mentoring to cleaning.
www.friendshipplace.org

Go Pro Bono with the D.C. Bar

If you’re a DC lawyer, you can give back by providing a variety of pro bono legal services.
www.dcbar.org/pro-bono/volunteer

Coach Soccer with DC Scores

Score a winning goal by helping coach and referee soccer games.
www.dcscores.org/volunteer

Interview With Jesse Miller from Cafe Saint-Ex

My interview with chef Jesse Miller from Cafe Saint-Ex

Like most great chefs, Café Saint-Ex Executive Sous Chef Jesse Miller honed his skills the old-fashioned way, eschewing the chef-in-a-box culinary school route to earn his chops by working in kitchens for years. Originally from Baltimore, Jess studied painting at Towson University. To make money during art school, he worked at The Elkridge Furnace Inn, first as a dishwasher, then moving on to prep cook and sous chef. “You can be good at it [cooking] and hate it or bad at it and love it. It just bit me. I decided to focus on this art.” He spent seven years at the Elkridge Furnace Inn, which he describes as “a great place to learn,” and fortuitously met Saint-Ex’s Executive Chef Billy Klein there as well, who recruited him later to join Café Saint-Ex. Their collaboration continues to bear fruits—“we like pushing each other to get better.”
Café Saint-Ex’s menu is very seasonal and showcases the food of local farms. “We go to meet the farmers and it really makes you care about the food more. When you see how hard they work, it really gets you passionate about representing their food.”
At Fashion District, Jesse will be serving a King Salmon sashimi, with a Thai chili relish, yuzu vinaigrette and a soy reduction, with claytonia greens. The soy reduction has a deep, almost caramel undertone, resulting from the soy sauce being cooked for a really long time with a tiny bit of brown sugar, getting it to the right level of viscosity, with an almost-burned tinge for that little bit of char flavor. The yuzu vinaigrette is vibrant and really matches the equally springy claytonia [Miner’s lettuce] that is surrounded by the salmon.

Interview With The Prince Of Petworth

My Interview with the Humblingly Awesome Prince Of Petworth

Dan Silverman, The Prince Of Petworth blogger, is refreshingly old school in his sensibilities—mainly because he really is doing this for the community. His dedication literally emanates from him and his genuine love and appreciation for this city is clearly the only impetus he has. Utterly un-prince-like, Dan is charmingly humble and impressively curious and his knowledge of the city is what draws readers in. He goes out every day not in search of trendy happenings to report on, but for things that move people. His droll and thoroughly infectious enthusiasm for it is palpable—and gutsy—I mean only Prince Of Petworth can get away with posting pictures of doors because they are beautiful.

Like some modern day Lewis and Clark, he eschews the trappings of “cool.” You won’t find him to be a member of the hipsterhood, opting to instead literally tread this city on foot in search of beautiful things. Oh, and he definitely has a European definition of walkability—think 15-18 miles! With his trustee pocket notepad and a camera, The Prince goes in giant loops throughout the city, either following up on specific leads or just exploring. “My blogging day is very varied—I try to mix it up with a variety of things, not just keep it retail-focused. I try to find something that would be beautiful to share. When I discover something new, it’s the best feeling.”

“When I started the blog in 2006, I wanted to show was happening in Petworth, not in the whole city. When I moved to Petworth in 2003, my initial response was ‘I don’t see anything happening’ so I set out to write about things in my neighborhood. Things have definitely changed since then with tips coming in from people with the preface of, ‘I know it’s not in Petworth, but you might find this interesting.’”

5 Places I Love in DC:

1. Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park. I can’t think of a more beautiful place year around. The fountains in the summer, the vegetation in the spring, even in the winter when the leaves fall off the trees… It also has some of the most beautiful sculptures around—Dante, Joan Of Arc.

2. The waterfront areas of the city. It used to be that there was just the Georgetown one. Now there is Yards Park, Rock Creek Park, and so much more—I love water.

3. The neighborhoods themselves. There is something unique about every neighborhood and it is so nice to see the contrast in the architecture, the variety of it all…

4. The Aquatic Garden and the Arboretum. They are harder to get to without a car, but they are so huge and gorgeous and changing with the seasons.

5. Embassies. The embassies have such interesting architecture and I love stumbling upon a new one. Not too long ago, I was in Van Ness and I saw some embassies that I have not seen before—Pakistan, Egypt…what jaw-dropping architecture.

Dan Silverman

7 Things Essential To Me

1. A camera. More specifically, a Canon G11. That and the Flickr Pool.

2. Community. I do this for the community and the community is such an amazing thing to behold. People taking photos, people giving tips to me and to each other, the Flickr Pool—all this is what makes this site unique.

3. Music. I work by myself all day long and having music to listen to is essential to me. I listen to a wide mix of things – Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam, Drive By Truckers. I usually walk something like 15 to 18 miles a day—this is how walkable this city is. When I first moved to Petworth, I felt isolated, like I had to drive everywhere, but I quickly learned I could walk. This is how you see all the beautiful things and have a chance to really see stuff you had no idea was there.

4. Comfortable shoes—for all that walking.

5. The Old School Notepad. My wife makes fun of me for it, saying that it makes me look like a geek. Yet, I can’t do without it. This is where I jot down a note when I see a “coming soon” sign. Or stuff like “Remember to come back to XYZ.”

6. Coffee. I started out very pedestrian in my tastes and over time, my appreciation has really grown. If I want something fast and quick, Dunkin’ Donuts is best for taste and speed. The structure of the cup is just perfect for mobility and walking around all day. I find that I need coffee way more than food too—I could go all day on three cups of coffee.

7. My forgetfulness. Being forgetful is a great trait to have in such a finite geographic area. It’s a beautiful quirk that allows me to stumble upon things and rediscover them.