Feed the Fight’s Elena Tompkins to Receive Georgetown Ministry Center Award
By September 16, 2021 0 823•
Georgetown resident Elena Tompkins could never have predicted that her idea to provide healthcare workers with donated meals from area restaurants during the pandemic would benefit not only these two groups but, eventually, homeless individuals in her own community as well.
But now, because of her efforts to help feed clients of the Georgetown Ministry Center (GMC) – a day center for people experiencing homelessness — Tompkins is being honored at GMC’s annual Spirit of Georgetown benefit on October 6th.
Back in March, when Tompkins first conceived of using donations to purchase meals for overworked medical staff, she didn’t think of it as anything beyond a neighborly effort. “I sent an email to a bunch of people on the 16th, and sent the first lunch to Sibley [hospital] on the 17th,” she recalled in a phone interview. “I thought of it like meal trains for people who’ve had babies.”
On Instagram, she posted a picture of Millie’s taco boxes going to staff at Sibley Hospital, and within a few days, donations were pouring in. She was inundated with meal suggestions and connections to hospitals, and decided to create her own organization — Feed the Fight, a tax-exempt entity housed under the Greater Washington Community Foundation.
A healthcare lobbyist by day, Tompkins also received publicity from various TV, radio and print outlets, including CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, whose husband owns Chef Geoff’s, a Feed the Fight partner. Soon Tompkins was talking to people around the country who wanted to start their own branches.
“I got calls from Boston, Austin, Texas, New Mexico, Charlotte — all over the place. That was really cool. They would ask, How’d you do it? I’d say, ‘Call a restaurant, order food, and send to a hospital.” She laughs. “That’s it, people!”
After so much success in helping various restaurants stay afloat — she’s had “more than one emotional restaurant owner” — and feeding literally thousands of medical workers, a new opportunity arose. The Georgetown Ministry Center, founded by the Georgetown Clergy Association, occupies a small building at 1041 Wisconsin Ave. NW next to Grace Episcopal Church and provides space for homeless individuals to shower, use computers, and get lunch during the day. In winter it operates a shelter housed in area churches, but, due to Covid, had to cancel last year’s program.
In talking with her friend Richard Riddell, a GMC board member, Tompkins learned about the winter shelter cancellation. “He had been trying to think of other creative ways to help GMC clients,” Tompkins said. “I thought, oh, hospitalizations [due to Covid] are slowing down. What if we did this?”
Once again, what began as a simple concept expanded organically. A representative at Capital One told Tompkins the company wanted to contribute to Feed the Fight, but there had to be a community aspect to it. “I said, ‘Funny you should say that. I just got off phone with the Georgetown Ministry Center,’” Tompkins said. “So, I applied for a community grant with Capital One, and they gave me a $10,000 grant for GMC.”
GMC’s executive director, Kelly Andreae, said that through Feed the Fight, GMC’s clientele received more than 1,000 meals from Chef Geoff’s, Peacock Cafe, Surfside, the Georgetown Club, Jetties and DC Harvest. “Feed the Fight was the key partner to making the pilot of GMC Extends a success,” Andreae said.
Restaurants didn’t hesitate to help when they learned who would be receiving their meals, Tompkins said. “I called Peacock [Cafe] and Chaia, and they were over the moon to be helping GMC. Everybody loves that organization. A lot of their guests walk past these restaurants all the time.”
“It’s so important to be able to do something immediate for people who are part of our community,” said Shahab Farivar, co-owner of Peacock Cafe. “This shows how Georgetown came together through Feed the Fight and Elena’s leadership to offer restaurants an opportunity to do what we do best — serve people.”
Tompkins plans to continue working with the GMC Extends program as needed and helping wherever she can, noting that she is “just trying to connect the dots,” and the rest has resulted from the generosity of the community.
“I feel like in Georgetown people put their money, time and effort where their mouth is,” she said. “What also strikes me, in this day and age, is the foundation that GMC is built on. All the different religious communities coming together as one. I found that to be such a heartwarming part of GMC.”
Carrington Tarr is a Georgetown resident and a community representative on the Georgetown Ministry Center board. For more information, go to https://georgetownministrycenter.org/.