Clients squeezed through the door of Bread for the City last Friday as rain began to fall, packing the narrow aisle leading to the food pantry to wait for free groceries.
Latanya Keys, 43, near the front, clutched her number and ID card as workers heaved sacks of frozen turkeys and cans of vegetables onto the counter. Clients are limited to one free food pickup a month to make the food go around and must show their ID card.
Linda Walker calls out her number to see if she can collect her bags of food as Sean Lewis looks on. At right, Scott Walsh and Catie Pittaway donated about 100 pounds of food on behalf of their Gaithersburg company. "When I saw how many people were waiting, I wished we had brought more," Pittaway says.
"This Bread for the City is doing me a big favor," Keys said. "If I wouldn't need food, I wouldn't be here. I'm not one to take just because it is here."
Keys, who said she was let go from her job at Legal Seafood recently after she failed to click with her boss during a 30-day trial, is looking for work. Her husband is laid up with a knee injury, and her three children are enrolled across town in a charter school.
The Anacostia resident was one of 150 people who filed through the busy social service agency in less than two hours at midday. Most came for food, but the organization also offers clothing, medical care, counseling and legal services for the poor at two locations, in Shaw and Anacostia.
Bread for the City is one of dozens of charitable groups asking for help during the upcoming holiday season.
Individual donors provide nearly a third of the organization's financial support. Foundations, government and special events also help.
Catie Pittaway, 23, is an example. The research assistant got a flier in the mail about Bread for the City's needs, organized a food drive at her biotechnology company in Gaithersburg and delivered the goods with colleague Scott Walsh, 33, a scientist. They unloaded their vehicle in the back of the Bread for the City offices at 1640 Good Hope Rd. SE as Keys was waiting on the other side of the counter for help.
"We had never done a food drive before," said Pittaway. "When I saw how many people were waiting, I wished we had brought more."