Keri Nash, '09, Engages In Random Acts Of Sandwiches To Make World A Kinder Place
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Posted by: Keri Nash
When the World is Hostile and Toxic, Let’s Make Some Sandwiches
Guest Post by Keri Nash
Earlier this year, as I watched toxic infotainment stories and scrolled through my Facebook page, I read a post from Central Union Mission, an emergency shelter in Washington, DC, that said that 15 people could make up 250 sandwich bags for our homeless and hungry sisters and brothers in about 2 hours. Each bag should have a sandwich, bottle of water, cookie, fruit and a granola bar. A lightbulb went off in my head, and I turned to my partner and said, “I don’t do enough for the homeless. I’m going to organize a Brown Bag Assembly Party.” He looked over at me and said, “Cool. You can do that.” And, “Keri’s Brown Bag Assembly Party” was born.
I put out feelers to my various networks (Facebook, coalitions, UDC DCSL alum, TimeBanks USA, family) to see if folks wanted to help make some sandwiches. I didn’t know where or when, yet, but I asked folks, “Are you in?” I received an overwhelmingly positive response from friends and family, but where could I host such a shindig? I have a groovy crib, but I cannot accommodate all the people and goods needed to make a whole lot of brown bag lunches. I reached out to The Potter’s House in Adams Morgan. I asked if I could use their community space for free because I’m just one woman with a shopping cart who needs some space to create brown bag lunches for our hungry brothers and sisters. And, of course, the Executive Director, Tim Kumfer, said, “Yes! We can give you 3 hours on Saturday, July 16, 2016.”
Before I knew it, it was on like popcorn: Snap, snap!
One of my dear friends reached out to me and said, “I’m in. I’m ordering 250 brown bags for the party.” Our figure was set: We were making 250 brown bag lunches for our homeless sisters and brothers. Over the course of about six weeks, I updated my networks, solicited donations and tracked donations and worked with friends to pick up and purchase goods. I asked for contributions of funds, bread (white and wheat), cheese, sandwich meat (ham, turkey, roast beef, salami or chicken breast), mayo and mustard packets, dessert, napkins, granola bars for the brown bags in addition to zip lock bags, gloves, paper plates, markers, boxes and drivers. Additionally, I received contributions of coffee, bagels, lox, and cream cheese so our packers and drivers could have snacks!
On Saturday, July 16, 2015, over 50 people from all over the world (shout out to my family in Canada) contributed funds, goods, their time or some combination of the three to make and deliver 250 brown bag lunches. We finished making everything by 11:00 am and a caravan of love headed from Adams Morgan to Central Union Mission with boxes and boxes of beautiful, substantial brown bag lunches. When I arrived at the Mission with the last of the boxes and signed the donation form, one of the pastors whispered in my ear, “God told you to do this. We needed the food. We had nothing but snacks to hand out to the people.” It warmed my heart. Even as we brought in sandwich bags, people were walking out of Central Union Mission with their sandwich bag. They needed the food, and we fed the people.
In the end, we made 300 brown bag lunches (50 above our goal) and then UDC DCSL alum said, “Next time we make 350 sandwiches and I’m contributing $100 to the effort.” Well, I couldn’t let an offer like that slide, so Keri’s Brown Bag Assembly Party II was born.
Once again, I reached out The Potter’s House and they gave me three hours on October 15, 2016, but this time it was a little different. I got Joe Libertelli, Director of Alumni Affairs at UDC DCSL, to send out an email to the UDC DCSL alumni network and, as expected, the people showed up! Within minutes of sending out the email, I received a contribution of 350 bottles of water, a $110 Costco card, 30 loaves of bread in addition to fruit. And, that’s just a sprinkling of the goods received from the UDC DCSL family! Students and alum provided granola bars, cookies, fruit, boxes, sandwich meats and cheese, peanut butter cracker snacks, condiment packets, napkins, markers, boxes, time to pack and deliver the goods!
By October 15, 2016, over 40 people contributed funds, goods, their time or some combination of the three to make some sandwiches and sandwiches did we make! Our hungry and homeless sisters and brothers received brown bag lunches that included: 1 sandwich (pastrami, roast beef, ham, turkey, salami, chicken breast or cheese), 1 bottle of water, 1 piece of fruit (apple, orange, banana, pear, mango or plum), dessert (cookie, rice crispy treat, etc.), 1 granola bar, 1 cracker and peanut butter snack, mayo or mustard packet, and a napkin. However, due to a mistake in ordering on my part, we had 450 bags instead of 350, but I figured the extra would be okay, right? Little did I know that the contributions would be enough for us to deliver 500 brown bag lunches (yup, I had to make a Safeway run to pick up another batch of brown bags) to Central Union Mission. We made all those sandwiches, packed the brown bags and delivered them by 12:00 pm.
Once again, unbeknownst to me, the Mission was short on food. The Pastor pointed out a single box of snacks and said that was all he had to give the people until our caravan of love showed up. UDC DCSL alum helped provide 800 brown bag lunches for our homeless and hungry brothers and sisters through Central Union Mission. And, every step of the way, at both assembly parties was Antioch Law School founder, Edgar Cahn, a firm believer in community.
At the first Brown Bag Assembly Party, I told everyone, “Sometimes the world is toxic and hostile, but not today. Today, we rebuild community. Today, we feed our homeless sisters and brothers because we can.”
We can’t fix all the problems in the world, but we can make some sandwiches. It doesn’t take much effort or time to engage with our community. That’s just part of the legacy of UDC DCSL. We can’t fix all of the problems plaguing our city in one fell swoop, but we can feed the people because we take care of our own in Washington, DC. We take care of our own.