The government shutdown that started Dec. 22 dragged along Thursday, and the local professional baseball team is again looking to lighten the burden on furloughed federal employees. The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation announced a $100,000 donation to the Capital Area Food Bank and is encouraging others to follow its lead, noting that “every dollar will help our neighbors experiencing sudden financial hardship.”

“For some people, the government shutdown can be a little bit of an abstract idea, it’s kind of tough to wrap your arms around what exactly that means and what exactly are the government programs that are being shut down and stuff,” said Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, who is helping to spread the word of the joint initiative. "But once you start hearing about these families that are being affected by it, I mean there are a lot of people that are caught in the middle that are having to make some really difficult decisions right now on how to pay their rent or how to pay their bills or how they are going to provide for their families.

“So we’re hoping that with this donation and this fundraising effort that by being able to donate some food and take care of their meals, that that’s one less thing that they have to worry about. That’s one less thing that they have to figure out how to pay for.”

The Capital Area Food Bank opened five free pop-up markets earlier in January aimed to provide produce and groceries for the federal workers furloughed during the government shutdown. One of the locations is in Alexandria, three are in Maryland and the fifth is in the District. The Dream Foundation’s donation is “to meet rising demand in the D.C. region from government workers, contractors, and social services recipients not able to afford adequate food at this time,” according to a page on the team’s official site. The donations, the page continues, “will allow the CAFB to continue and expand its ‘pop up’ markets around the region and deliver additional food to its network of 450 community-based food pantries in the metro area.”

In a CNBC television interview Thursday morning, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was asked to discuss federal workers leaning on food banks during the shutdown. Ross’s response — “I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why” — sparked outrage on social media. Around 800,000 furloughed federal employees are scheduled to miss their second consecutive paycheck this week if the government does not reopen.

“It’s important to note that the government being central to Washington, D.C., so there are a lot of people being affected in the D.C. Metro area. But there are government programs that are being affected throughout the country,” Doolittle said. “I think it’s awesome that the Nationals have taken kind of the lead on this and it would be really exciting if we could maybe see some other teams follow suit.”

Thursday afternoon, the Boston Red Sox Foundation, Boston Bruins Foundation and Celtics Shamrock Foundation made a $75,000 donation to the Massachusetts Coast Guard members affected by the shutdown, according to The Boston Globe.

The Coast Guard is the only military branch currently working without pay. The donation to the Capital Area Food Back is the second measure the Nationals have taken to aid federal workers during the shutdown. On Jan. 7, they announced that employees or spouses of employees of federal agencies affected could start postponing monthly ticket payments. “For those of you who are employed by federal agencies impacted by the shutdown, we want to make sure that your NATS PLUS plan isn’t adding to your stress," the Nationals wrote in an email earlier in the month.

Now the Nationals Dream Foundation hopes it can help alleviate a bit of stress in another way.

“The Nationals put up $100,000, but people don’t need to put up a lot of money in order to make a big impact with the Capital Area Food Bank," Doolittle said. “Because every dollar being donated to the food bank provides two-and-a-half meals. So, like, a $20 donation is 50 meals. So at a time when someone has no idea when their next pay check is coming in, that could go a really long way.”

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