Open Doors, Open Hearts - Capital Area Food Bank
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Open Doors, Open Hearts

By Greg Ten Eyck October 12, 2012

“We got this far by faith, and we will move forward in hope. This building is proof,” Father Eugene Brake told the hundreds who took part in the dedication of the Capital Area Food Bank in its new Bedford Falls Foundation Distribution Center on Puerto Rico Ave., NE.
The food bank was founded in 1980 by an inter-faith movement to address the hunger crisis that faced the region and it was fitting that the dedication ceremony on October 11 begin with a joint prayer by religious leaders who co-founded the food bank, along with President and CEO Lynn Brantley, and who have remained faithful to the cause.
Rabbi Fred Reiner said, “When you reap the harvest, don’t reap all the way to the edge; leave some for the poor.” Other members of the clergy who participated in the prayer were Father John Mudd, The Rev. Carolyn Scales and Dr. Sayyid Syeed.
As Master of Ceremonies for the open house program, I had the pleasure of acknowledging those who made significant contributions to the new building’s $37 million capital campaign:

  • Campaign co-chairs: Donald E. Graham, CEO and Chairman of The Washington Post Company; Bill Marriott, Executive Chairman of Marriott International; the late Abe Pollin of Washington Sports and Entertainment; Bennet Zier of Umansky Zier Consulting
  • Bill Conway and his wife, Joanne, who made a monumental $5 million gift to the campaign from their Bedford Falls Foundation
  • The DC Department of Housing and Urban Development that provided nearly $16 million in funding; the State of Maryland that provided nearly $2 million; and the State of Virginia that provided over $300,000
  • BP with a donation of $ 1 million worth of solar panels for the building
  • JP Morgan Chase Bank, City First Bank and Enhanced Capital, all of whom collaborated with the food bank on the New Markets Tax Credit Program.

The open house was a chance for the Capital Area Food Bank to share its remarkable new facility with its guests— partner agencies, board members, donors, friends and staff, who were in awe as they wandered through the huge 123,000 square foot facility that opened its doors on July 31.
U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes, one of the program participants, said, “I think of the Capital Area Food Bank as the mother ship. This beautiful building invites more food.” She noted that 92 cents of every dollar donated to the city’s largest non-profit food distribution center goes straight to purchasing food.
The inspirational and thought-provoking Sister Simone Campbell with the Nuns on the Bus was the program’s featured speaker. “Our Constitution is based on the fact that we are in this together,” she told the crowd.
CAFB Board Member Dave Willy, a staunch supporter of the new building project, joined Lynn in paying tribute to the late Brian Smith, who was instrumental in helping her lead the campaign.
Debbie Marriott Harrison, who represented her father at the ceremony, said, “We believe in the mission here, and are proud to have helped build this new facility. We love the Capital Area Food Bank and we “We believe in the mission here, and are proud to have helped build this new facility; we love Lynn Brantley. We call her the angel of DC.”
DHCD Executive Director Michael Kelly was delighted to remind the audience that the District contributed $16 million to the capital campaign.
The construction’s project team was also acknowledged. The architect was Chicago-based Epstein, partnering with the local firm of MWB. The general contractor was Turner Construction Company and the development manager was Jair Lynch Development Partners.
The reception, hosted by The Washington Post, was a huge success as visitors shared the sense of generosity and good will the food bank inspires.
I want to emphasize that Lynn has demonstrated the vision and perseverance to accomplish this move in order to continue meeting the increased demand for nutritious food. The food bank currently distributes 33 million pounds of food annually, half of which is fresh produce, through more than 700 partner agencies to 478,000 local residents.
Concluding the program, an energetic and powerful performance by the Urban Nation Choir singing Bless This House, Amazing Grace and Lean On Me brought the crowd to its feet in a warehouse filled with people who are pivotal to the success of the Capital Area Food Bank.