Tenant association presidents admit they lose everything from sleep to wives because of time spent with their tenant groups.
"Most tenant leaders don't last more than a year," says Gloria Corn, who has been a president of the 4707 Connecticutt Avenue Tenant Association since early last year.
"I have the reputation of being married to my tenants," she says with some amusement.
The tenant association at 2800 Wisconin Avenue recently elected their third presidential in a year.
"What we trying to do now is divide the board of directors into committees so six or seven people wind up doing all of the work instead of just one," explains Mark Gordon, board member for the group.
Many tenant leaders interviewed estimated spending five to ten hours a day on tenant-related projects -- many times at the expense of their full-time jobs.
Jeff Smith, president of the Letterman House Tenant Association, has a firm policy against mixing tenant business with his job as a writer for a science magazine.
"It interferes with my work," he said in an after-hours interview. "I can't allow that to happen."
Despina Kaneles, president of the Swarthmore Tenants Association and a legal secretary by profession, does much of her working during her lunch hour.
"I haven't eaten lunch in months," she says with a laugh. "I always have a meeting scheduled with someone connected with the Swarthmore.
"I think about the tenant association from the minute I get up in the morning till I go to sleep at night. I find I really don't have a personal life, but I don't resent it. I'm committed to this and I find it an enriching experience.
"I have a whole lifetime of social life ahead of me. What's a year or 18 months for something I really believe in?"
One tenant leader, who asked not to be identified, blamed his recent divorce on the time he spent away from home with tenant activities.
Presidents of well-established associations often work with newcomers in an attempt to help new groups get off the ground.
For instance, Kaneles addresses Foggy Bottom tenant groups with a pep talk about keeping the tenants motivated when they become discouraged.
"I always take voter registration forms wherever I go," she says. "I urge tenants to register to vote and make their feelings known.
As time goes on, many tenant leaders find their volunteer work eating away at their free-time.
"I went from spending only 80 percent of my time on tenant business to spendihng 100 percent as we got closer and closer to the purchase," said Gene Heller, a free-lance writer and president of the Ordway Porter Tenants Association.
Tenant leaders may be surprised to find the work doesn't end with a successful purchase and consequent conversion.
Jim Wick, an attorney living at the recently converted Webster House, is apprehensive about the work involved in the newly formed condominium association.
"I'm worried about the condo owners association," he says. ""We just got notices that we would have to elect officers and the present tenant association leaders have said they will not run for office. I really don't blame them. CAPTION: Picture, Despina Kaneles, right, with fellow residents at the Swarthmore. By Craig Herndon -- The Washington Post