The 2020 Ward 6 Brickie Award Winners: five stories of hope, hard work, and resilience in the face of a global pandemic
A neighbor who rallied thousands to volunteer in the early days of the pandemic. A renowned chef who breathed life into an idea that kept kitchens open by cooking meals for hungry neighbors and essential workers. Three DC natives whose nonprofit raced to create a safe learning space for kids in public housing when schools went virtual. A public servant working long hours to coordinate the government’s response for months on end. And a longtime Ward 6 community organizer who put his work into overdrive when the pandemic hit to deliver supplies and food to low-income households.
These are the stories behind the five winners of this year’s Ward 6 Brickie Awards, presented this evening by Councilmember Charles Allen.
Like nearly every other tradition this year, the annual Ward 6 Brickie Awards will be held online rather than in-person in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and limit exposure. But that shouldn’t lessen the recognition for the five award winners who have gone to incredible lengths this year to serve their neighbors and their community as the COVID-19 pandemic puts so many people at risk.
The Brickie Awards are an annual event hosted by Councilmember Charles Allen, normally serving as the Ward’s holiday season get-together and opportunity to celebrate members of the community who make Ward 6 great.
What: 14th Annual Ward 6 Brickie Awards hosted by Councilmember Charles Allen
Where: Virtual Ceremony via Zoom Webinar
When: Tonight, Dec 3, 8-9 pm
Media are welcome to watch the Brickies. Email Erik Salmi ([email protected]) for the link to Zoom.
The winners are selected, based on their contributions, from a wide range of submissions, including dozens of nominations from Ward 6 residents submitted online.
Neighbor Award: Allison McGill, Founder, DC Coronavirus Volunteers
Just one day after Mayor Bowser declared a Public Health Emergency in the District, Hill East resident Allison McGill sent a tweet asking that anyone who needs help or feels vulnerable to the virus should contact her. By that point, she had already amassed a list of volunteers who suddenly had some free time and felt comfortable they could run errands for seniors or parents who couldn’t easily go to the store or run critical errands. Within a month, she had a list of more than 2,500 people she could call on to meet a wide range of needs as a volunteer or donor. Her efforts helped fill in gaps that formed quickly in the aftermath of mass closures around the spread of the novel coronavirus.
For anyone who knows her, this isn’t the first time Allison has jumped into action. When the federal government shut down, it was Allison who got straight to work organizing her fellow neighbors and local restaurants and shops to serve meals to furloughed workers and provide some relief to all those affected by the shutdown. But Allison won't brag on herself. She'll say that she was one of many. And while that might be true, we want to take this moment to honor Allison and her work taking care of her neighbors, and being the best neighbor that she can be.
Community Organization Award: Darius Baxter, Troye Bullock and Danny Wright, GOODProjects
GOODProjects (Giving Out Opportunities Daily) is an organization whose name you should be hearing a lot more about in the near future. Founded in 2016 by DC natives Darius Baxter, Troye Bullock and Danny Wright, who met on the football team at Georgetown University, GOODProjects has grown in its ambition and goals, working to end poverty and uplift families living in poverty in DC by focusing the intensity of their work very specifically to Southwest DC. They’ve focused their work on families in public housing communities in Southwest Ward 6 through summer camps and long-term, family-centered case management.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the GOOD Projects team pivoted quickly to set up the GOOD Learning Hub, providing a safe, physical space for students enrolled in their camps who may not have reliable access to the internet, meals, and companionship when school shifted to virtual. Each student is provided a laptop and a hotspot, has the support of adults who can tutor and help keep focus, and snacks and meals throughout the day.
GOODProjects mission is to end poverty for 500 families in the “GOODZone” by 2030. The GOODZone is made up of the most poverty dense government-funded housing projects in Washington D.C. GOODProjects provides free youth programming to GOODZone students with the goal for 100% of participants to have college as an option upon graduation.
Business Award: Erik Bruner-Yang, Chef, Restaurateur, Creator of The Power of 10 Initiative
For DC foodies and casual diners alike, Chef Erik Bruner-Yang is a household name whose culinary career began on Ward 6’s H Street NE and his dishes have put DC’s restaurant scene on the national and international map. Even as his national profile has grown he and his growing group of restaurants have remained active members of their communities. Within a month of the spread of the novel coronavirus in DC, Bruner-Yang was moving at light speed to get an idea off the ground that would solve two problems at once: fast-rising unemployment in DC’s thriving service industry, and a dangerous rise in hunger and food instability among his neighbors.
He launched the Power of 10 Initiative, aimed at getting chefs back in the kitchen cooking meals for their neighbors and area nonprofits. Beginning in Ward 6, the Power of 10 effort seemed to multiply by a factor of 10, producing 5,000 meals within a few weeks while keeping 50 Ward 6 jobs going. Since then, the project has expanded 30 kitchens locally and across the nation, serving 275,000 meals while keeping restaurants open and preventing layoffs.
Civic Pride Award: Maurice Cook, Executive Director, Serve Your City / Ward 6 Mutual Aid
In any year, the work of Maurice Cook and Serve Your City saving and changing lives would be worthy of a Brickie. But in 2020, and with a global pandemic shuttering schools, recreation centers, libraries, after school programs, meal services, and complicating life-saving daily functions, Serve Your City has stepped up in a major way to help low-income neighborhoods who were most likely the first to feel the pain and remains a powerful voice advocating for change to end inequality in educational, racial, and wealth gaps within the District.
As the lead partner agency for Ward 6 Mutual Aid, a network of more than 30 non-profits, Maurice Cook has led a team of volunteers and organizational partners in meeting an astounding range of needs: distance learning supplies for students; food, clothing, supplies for neighbors living in an encampment; distributing meals to families, diapers to new parents, and meeting almost any other need they spot. The group is guided by the principle of “Solidarity, not Charity” and has built its service model around harnessing the grassroots knowledge of local nonprofits with resources available right in the community.
For nearly two decades, Serve Your City has provided life-changing experiences and opportunities for at-risk DC students, giving “Black and Brown children access to rowing, swimming, yoga, tennis, tutoring, and inspiring experiences often not readily available to children from under-resourced families.”
Public Service Award: Donte Lucas, DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency
Behind the scenes of the District’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, there are a few individuals working very hard to coordinate a wide-range of government services. Donte Lucus is the Deputy Chief of Operations with DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, where he serves as one of the Emergency Operation Center Managers. The EOC is the nerve-center coordinating nearly all of the District’s first responders and many other COVID-19 services. Normally, when an EOC is established, it is for only one or two weeks at most, built around major events or a crisis. The COVID-19 EOC has been up and running since March, with the managers and staff working almost nonstop since then.
The city’s response to COVID-19 has been exhausting for so many, but has also had a tremendous impact on saving lives and getting people the help they need when and where they need it. Donte Lucas has been serving our city with the DC Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency for nearly a decade, moving further in his career with each stop. We know he is no stranger to difficult times, but his steadfast leadership and dedication during this response is what prompted us to recognize his hard work. His colleagues emphasize over and over how much of a team player Donte is, so count this as a Brickie for the whole EOC team.