Making it through the historic Blizzard of 2010 was a major inconvenience for some Washingtonians. But for the city’s most needy residents, it was a fight for survival that Martha’s Table helped them win.
“I felt sense of pride in Martha’s Table that we were able to be open and serve people even in the most severe conditions,” said Martha Katz, development coordinator for the non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income children and families.
Although the huge snow piles long since have melted, the lessons learned in the crisis endure at Martha’s Table headquarters at 14th and W Streets NW. Volunteers at Martha’s Table say they will be sure to bring the same commitment they had during the storm to work every day and the past storms prompted the leadership to do some thinking ahead.
“The snowstorm caused us to re-evaluate our emergency plan by thinking about other things that might happen,” Katz said. “For example, we are trying to get a back-up generator in case power goes out in the summer when food would spoil. We are thinking more about being prepared for whatever may come our way – not necessarily a snowstorm, but other emergencies as well.”
The “snowmageddon,” which covered the nation’s capital with more than two feet of snow, left some low-income and homeless people with limited access to food.
“I did okay but I heard that a lot of people didn’t do okay; went through a little struggle,” said Terrell Jenkins of Ledroit Park near Howard University.
Jenkins propped a chair against the side of Martha’s Table building and sat down. He was the last in the long weekend lunch line that included some of the District’s most needy residents. Jenkins peered through his glasses and smiled as he reflected on the brutal two weeks of mountains of snow that challenged even those in better circumstances than the homeless.
“They made it though, I wouldn’t say they didn’t suffer, but they made it through one way or other; they did their best, said Jenkins.”
As the weather began to become more treacherous on the evening of Friday, February 5 and early the next day, Martha’s Table had to decide how to serve food to the regular crowd of people who line up outside the organization’s building every Saturday and Sunday.
“What Martha’s Table did was serve food out the front door, and unfortunately due to the limited amount of space and lack of heat in the building, we didn’t have the facilities to invite people inside with such a small staff and minimal volunteers,” Katz said.
The organization remained open throughout the entirety of the record snowfall. “Even though it was a crazy blizzard, some of us managed to get here, and we served sandwiches, dessert, and fruit and we also had long johns, hats, gloves, heavy sweaters and coats that we handed out at the front door as well,” Katz said. “We normally hand out food during the weekend but during the snow storm we started with Saturday, February 6 and Sunday February 7 and continued to hand food out from Monday through Friday of that week.”
Martha’s Table served well over 400 people during that horrific week and even partnered with Campbell Heights, a senior center on 15th and V Street NW, to deliver hot meals to 64 senior citizens.
“Well they did pretty good out here, they were open for like a whole week every day,” said 30-year-old Clay Williams as he waited in line for the doors to open the Saturday after the storm. “A lot of people depend on these people.”
The first weekend’s snow grounded Makenna’s Wagon, Martha’s Table’s most visible lifeblood for the homeless throughout the city. But the mobile soup kitchen that runs every day throughout the year and delivers food at three locations in Washington braved the roads on Tuesday, Feb. 9 and delivered food to two of the three stops.
While many of Martha’s Table volunteers couldn’t navigate the streets, some people in need made it to 14tgh Street NW from as far as Southeast Washington.
“We could not afford to buy food,” said Southeast resident Adelmo Martinez, a frequent client of Martha’s Table. “We couldn’t wait for the weather to get better.”
Aside from Martha’s Table, other soup kitchens and pantries kept their doors open. DC Central Kitchen said it produced over 45,000 meals during the record-breaking snowstorms.
“Well I managed by going to some of the different pantries around the area. I go to Exchange,” said Jenkins. “I volunteered at Exchange, so I got little items from them and then I went down to Central Mission on R street NW where my ministry and my pastor are. So I had something to pass me over.”
During such a trying time, Katz was pleased overall with the way in which Martha’s Table was able to serve the needy.
“We were pretty happy with how Martha’s Table was able to stay open and remain a safety net for those who needed food and warm clothing during the blizzard, and proud that we stayed open every day of the storm.”