Aug 29, 2013
WASHINGTON - As Georgetown University Head Men's Basketball Coach John Thompson III said on Tuesday morning, the Hoyas were just there to help. For Thompson, his coaches, players and staff, that was indeed the goal.
While many students were enjoying a free day in the District before classes started on Wednesday, the members of the basketball team hopped in vans, and headed to Southeast Washington, D.C. to help clean a playground.
The Hoyas arrived at Independence Place, a housing project managed by SOME - So Others May Eat - and were greeted by maintenance workers the building's director at around 10 a.m. and, after a brief background on the place, they were put to work.
SOME is an interfaith, community-based organization that exists to help the poor and homeless of the Nation's Capital. The group meets the immediate daily needs of the people they serve with food, clothing and health care. Last year, the Hoyas partnered with SOME and spent a day at its food shelter in Northeast D.C., serving breakfast and lunch to the more than 1,000 people who go there for meals each day.
In addition, SOME helps to break the cycle of homelessness by offering services such as affordable housing, job training, addiction treatment and counseling to the poor, elderly and individuals with mental illness.
"We decided last year to partner with SOME," Thompson said. "They have tentacles in many different areas as it relates to helping people in need. Last year, we went to what I would call their Mother Ship, where they help feed the homeless. This year, we're at Independence Place, one of their housing facilities for families with children.
"We're outside, it's hot, it's very, very hot. We're weeding, gardening, cutting bushes, cutting grass, just trying to make the exterior look nice."
The Hoyas immediately went to work, picking up rakes, bending down and weeding the playground and helping to clean the area for the 20 families that live there. Independence Place was opened in 2005 and is the oldest of five buildings operated by SOME, specifically catering to families with children. Another building, expected to house veterans and their families, is slated to open soon.
"It's important for us to make a point to do this before school starts and before the season starts," senior forward Nate Lubick (Southborough, Mass./St. Marks) said. "We like doing stuff like this. SOME does an unbelievable job and we're very happy to come out and help."
The excitement of the players and the coaches was not surpassed, however, by the people who work with SOME and oversee the property. "Just to know we're not in this fight alone helps," Aiysha Whittaker, Program Manager for SOME, said. "When you work with this population it can be tiring, but when we have volunteers, it not only shows us, but it shows the community that lives here that others are pouring in to help them as well. It feels really good to know there are organizations that will help out."
For some of the Georgetown players, several of whom are from the area, it had even greater meaning. "It's exciting because you're getting everyone back together," senior guard Markel Starks (Accokeek, Md./Georgetown Prep) said. "It's a good time for all of us to catch up. It reinforces that community is important. I'm from the area so this is like a homecoming for me."
While it was a simple thing the Hoyas did, the impact of their visit is something that will be felt, not only by them, but by the people who call Independence Place home.
"I think it's a great thing for the players in terms of taking value and going out and helping someone else," Cynthia Smith-Lewis, Property Assistant Manager for SOME said. "It's a great thing to know they care. And for the families to know the Georgetown team came out and worked on our playground, it has value. For the families to know that someone is investing in them to help their life, it means a lot."