Written by Andrea
October 4, 2009
At 6:30pm, on one of the last summery October evenings, the masses began to converge. In a little alleyway one block east of 7th and Q Streets, NW, right in historic Shaw, a group of young, energetic, recent-arrivals to Washington united their well-honed organizational skills behind local charities and a unique idea.
The concept was simple, said group leader Carrol Chang, and resident of the block. These former Obama campaigners and top-notch graduates from all over the country aimed to apply the same methods by which they raised surprisingly large sums for the campaign, but this time to benefit DC. Now officials in just about every agency, these motivated organizers got together over brunches and barbecues on weekends and evenings. After a particularly successful neighborhood summer barbecue, they agreed to incorporate as the Q Street Neighborhood Association, with the aim of a larger, charitably-oriented gathering. The next time, they would invite the neighborhood writ large—bringing the community out to party for a great cause. Actually, four of them.
As their invitation detailed, attendees could designate their donations to any one of four causes, or they could place them in the general pot for equal division between the four selected non-profits. In the end, KIPP DC Charter Schools, college-preparatory schools that gained fame for their success in New York City and, in part, by Malcolm Gladwell's nod in "Outlier," took the most donations. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the organization for which several of these peppy officials are also fundraising in another, even more athletic endeavor than keg-hauling— their preparation through Team in Training for upcoming local marathons—took second. DC's Young & Powerful Inaugural Mentorship Program at Dunbar High School just down the road and The Equity Project Charter School, with its unprecedented commitment to retaining quality teachers, rounded out the causes to which attendees contributed.
For their $20 donations, party-goers said goodbye to summer with beer pong, a flip cup tournament, horseshoes, pumpkin carving, face painting, and temporary tattoos. They nibbled on freshly popped popcorn and hot-off-the-machine cotton candy to accompany their bottomless cups. And they got down. Local DJs Travis Skinner, Ty Moore, Chris Vaeth aka DJ Whitecastle, and birthday boy Caben Chester spun grooving dance mixes late into the night with the approval and, indeed blessing, of neighbors.
This was no amateur house party. Coordinators had clearly done their homework—and legwork—canvassing the neighborhood to get residents on board in writing and working with local authorities, including the fire and police departments.
For all their running around—and apparently alley party permits are nothing like child's play—they were not disappointed. In fact, the organizers found themselves absolutely blown away by the positive response, the number of additional volunteers eager to leave their name at the entrance to serve a rotation manning some table or duty. "Considering the number of people involved, it was pretty amazing," remarked Chang, "that there were no disputes or problems."
As a veteran events-goer of venues both experienced in handling large crowds and less so, I had to tip my Greg's List DC Editor's hat to this group. Where other, much more "established" organizers have run out or broken down with last minute surges, this group handled the over 1,000 Facebook responses with grace. In the end, there was plenty of space, beer, and food for the almost precisely 1,000 attendees. In total, the party-goers consumed 26 kegs of beer and some 200 Ben's Chili Bowl half-smokes and 550 other dogs. They also chowed down 100 Julia's Empanadas, 100 rice krispy treats, assorted chips, and fun candy.
Both attendees and organizers were thrilled by the fruits of their own grassroots labor. Proving once again the power of small donations, the evening generated some $14,500 for the four charities.
Kudos to all those who "Fell for DC," in their individual ways. Greg's List DC will provide readers the inside scoop on any future FUN-raising by the same group. You'll all want to come out and play with these big kids. While they may all call themselves "transplants," this city welcomes them as contributing community members with open arms.