Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A great Halloween

In 1989, just after I turned 12, my parents decided I was too old to go trick-or-treating. My friends were still going, and I was upset.

At the last minute, I came up with a way to join them. Two weeks earlier, the Loma Prieta earthquake had struck San Francisco. On Halloween, instead of trick-or-treating for candy, I asked for donations to the Red Cross to help earthquake victims.

Other than a $10 bill from a friend’s mom, the endeavor was unsuccessful. People wanted to give all of us a Halloween-size Snickers and be done with us; they did not want to reach into their wallets.

This year’s Halloween reminded me of that one—except that last night was a huge success.

Liz and I had received an invitation from our friend Jessica: “Join me for grown-up trick-or-treating! Wear a costume, have a drink, and go door-to-door collecting canned goods for Martha's Table, a food bank in Columbia Heights.” Jess has been collecting canned goods on Halloween for nearly 10 years. She is not closely connected with Martha's Table, though she does receive a note from them every year, in which they address her as a Mr. named Jesse.

We put on our ninja costumes and met up at Jessica’s house in DC’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Before trick-or-treating, we checked out the amazing block party around the corner on Lamont Street. (Best costume on an adult: a very well-done zombie holding a handmade “I WAS THE 99%” sign.)

Then we grabbed our backpacks and canvas bags and split into pairs to traverse different parts of the neighborhood, taking care not to hit the same house twice. We got a handful of looks that said, "Aren't you a little old to be trick-or-treating?"

But after we explained that we were trick-or-treating for Martha's Table, people’s generosity was inspiring. We expected them to give a can or two; at some houses, younger trick-or-treaters had to wait a minute while residents fetched four or six items—or, a couple of times, a plastic bag full.

When our backpacks and bags got too heavy, we had to make an unplanned drop-off at Jessica’s house before heading out again. At the end of the night, friends built towers of nonperishables on her coffee table. (The one pictured at left was followed by an additional one at least twice its size. And no, I'm not sure what the food bank will do with oysters, but most of the donations will be quite useful.)

We're sorry only that we heard, but didn't see, the annual Mount Pleasant rite of re-creating Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance.


  1. Love the Zombie story, the costumes and the tower(s.) Keep up the good work.

  2. This is so cool. I imagine that people expect the collection now, and may prepare for it. A couple of teenagers in our neighborhood used to do this, but they stopped...perhaps went off to college or something. Anyway, congrats! Continuing in your cousin Evie's food bank donation vein.
    Love you both,
    (as you see, I am also a blogger.)

  3. Dan, you probably know this, but I've learned only recently that when collecting canned goods it's important to pick a recipient agency that is prepared to sort them before distribution. Otherwise much can be wasted.

    Food banks do better with money, because they maximize the dollars we give them into multiples of goods they know people will use via manufacturers' extras, etc. The one here doesn't even sort donated canned goods. Other places do.