Give help for the holidays

December 13, 2013

Residents of Flats 130 at Constitution Square apartments in Northeast D.C. are taking part in an annual holiday drive to collect toys and food for local charities. (Teddy Wolff/For Express)

Daniel Krug was raised in a small town in Pennsylvania “where everyone helped each other,” he says. “When I moved to D.C., I was looking for the same type of thing.”

Krug, 27, was happy to learn that his 14th Street corridor apartment community, 14W Apartments (1315 W St. NW; 866-671-6117), would be holding a food drive during the holidays for nearby Martha’s Table, which provides food, day care and other services for local families in need (2114 14th St. NW).

“I wouldn’t have known where to go on my own, not being from this area originally,” Krug says. Having the collection boxes where he lives made it easy and convenient for him to donate a few cans of food to the nonprofit.

Krug’s building isn’t the only one where residents are trying to give something back. “Around the holidays, everyone just gets into the spirit of giving and wants to make the holidays a little more special,” says Tess O’Brien, resident manager at Flats 130 at Constitution Square (130 M St. NE; 866-300-2981). “With these large apartment buildings, you have a good opportunity to do that and actually make a difference.”

Apartment complexes can be a natural fit for holiday-giving programs. They have a lot of people living under one roof who often pass through a central location (i.e. the lobby) each day, making collection boxes placed there hard to miss. Tapping that strength-in-numbers for charitable purposes, especially at this time of year, can yield sizable donations.

Since 2011, residents of the 643-unit Flats 130 complex have donated nonperishable food items for the Capital Area Food Bank and toys for children in need at DC Prep charter schools. “We get overwhelming participation from our residents,” O’Brien says.

Flats 130 is also collecting donations of used books, CDs and DVDs for Turning the Page, a nonprofit that supports D.C. public schools.

Often, these campaigns are reflective of a culture of giving at the companies that own or manage the apartments.

For example, Flats 130 is one of several local apartment communities managed by the Bozzuto Group that collects gifts for DC Prep; other complexes include Senate Square, Capitol Yards, the Apartments at CityCenter and the Lexington at Market Square. Bozzuto properties collected about a dozen large boxes and bags of donations for DC Prep both in 2011 and 2012, and a similar amount is expected this year.

When the 14W community began thinking about a holiday-giving campaign for its residents, it didn’t have to look far.

“We’re pretty much across the street from Martha’s Table,” says assistant community manager Deanna Jackson. That factored into 14W’s decision to collect food donations for the D.C. nonprofit.

Simpson Property Group, which owns and manages the 231-unit 14W Apartments, mandates that employees at its properties spend one day volunteering each year, typically on company time. Jackson, who also lives at 14W, says she tells fellow residents about the staff’s volunteer work. The residents tell her that “it’s nice to see their community giving back to the community they live in,” she says.

But sometimes it’s the residents themselves who get the giving process going.

The Douglas Knoll apartments in Southeast D.C. (3331 22nd St. SE; 202-889-2500) became a collection site for Toys for Tots this year after a resident inquired about participating in the program.

After only a week, the collection box was already half-filled with toys dropped off by both residents and contractors working at the property.

“We will definitely be doing it again next year,” assistant property manager Dominique Crawford says.

These donation drives also make it simple for apartment dwellers like Krug to contribute. “There was definitely a convenience factor,” he says.

The research, planning and legwork have already been taken care of by the building staff or charitable organization. All the residents have to do is drop off the requested items in boxes in the lobby or main office, and the apartment complex or nonprofit takes care of pickup and delivery.

“Residents really like that,” says Jason Hogan, corporate marketing director at Borger Management.

Borger is collecting food donations during December from residents at Dorchester House, Hill House Apartments and Tivoli Gardens, to name a few, for Food & Friends, a D.C.-based nonprofit that provides meals and groceries for people with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other illnesses.

“They want to give but often don’t have the time or resources to get items to the charities themselves,” Hogan says.

When giving back involves your home and community, it becomes a pretty easy thing to do, if the success of the holiday drives are any measure. “We have a very active group of residents here,” Jackson of 14W says. “I definitely think we’re going to get a lot of donations.”

 

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