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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Bloomingdale Bites

Kwanzaa Kitchen Turns 25
This month, St. George’s Episcopal Church celebrated 25 years of bringing breakfast to the homeless and needy in the surrounding Bloomingdale community. The Kwanzaa Kitchen breakfast program provides a hot pancake breakfast and the warmth of the church community to those who need it most – “physical and spiritual nourishment to the bodies and souls of those in need.”

The idea of a breakfast program was originated by the Black Panthers in the 1960s in Chicago and Los Angeles, and the originator of the St. George’s program wanted to preserve the significant African heritage of the event, thus the name Kwanzaa Kitchen. But the ministry serves all faiths and races; anyone who needs will be welcomed.

The ministry serves 25-40 meals from the weekly restaurant, inside at tables and carryout. With the changing demographics in the community, there has been a decline in attendance over the years. A core volunteer staff of six does all the shopping, prep and cooking, and other members come to serve and join in the event. Volunteers shop for the groceries, cook, serve dine-ins, bag and disseminate carryout meals, take food to shelters and clean up.

“It makes us feel good about fulfilling God’s purpose of service to others, in a tangible way, by alleviating malnourishment and hunger in our community,” says Janis Evans, program coordinator for Kwanzaa Kitchen.

The 25th anniversary was celebrated with a slideshow of volunteers and attendees, the usual reading of scripture and blessings over the food and speeches about the importance of Black History Month and keeping such traditions alive in the community. The Hunger Fund Committee, which pays for the weekly events, is funded solely through donations from local churches, asking each member to give $1 a month toward feeding the neediest.

Peace, Play and Professionals at New Workafrolic
The District is full of working parents who know how hard it is to get work done when their child needs full-time attention. A new venture on North Capitol Street is here to help. It combines the benefits of childcare, play space and professional space, so those with little ones can do the work needed to provide for them.

For Workafrolic founder Naomi Rasmussen, the concept is purely personal. “Before you have kids, you assume these places exist that can help you balance your life. I realized there was a deep need for this kind of space.” She leased a three-story townhome-turned-commercial space and turned it into a multi-use space, complete with playroom, kitchen and formal meeting room. The top floor is a child-free work space.

In addition to a peaceful workspace, Workafrolic provides childcare for babies and toddlers, as well as the older, after-school crowd of children up to six years old. There is a nursery area for the babies, for naptime at whatever interval the napper deems appropriate, and separate afternoon sessions involving art and music time.

Workafrolic offers wellness classes and workshops, in keeping with its mission of helping provide a true balance to the daily lives of parents. “My intention is for Workafrolic to be a space that parents and children can share together and thrive independently, as well as connect with peers and build community,” explains Rasmussen. “My vision is that Workafrolic will increase the quantity and quality of the time that parents and children spend doing the things that add value and joy to their lives.”

Memberships run from $250 to $1,820 a month.

Historic Designation
A new development fight will decide the fate of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church, which had been on the market for years. The congregation is moving to Prince George’s County, but the fate of the original church structure, finished in 1905, is in the hands of the Historic Preservation Review Board.

The property was purchased in August by Kadida Development Group after a bidding process. Kadida’s original plan for the corner lot was to remove the existing structure and subdivide the space into four lots containing two rowhomes each, for a total of eight fee-simple units. Those units would include parking for at least one car and the by-right use of the back alleyway created through the subdivision.

After input from the community about molding the design to fit the neighborhood, Kadida applied for the required raze permit. The following day, it received notice that a member of the community had requested that the DC Preservation League (DCPL) file for historic designation of the site, causing the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to revoke the permit and put all building on hold until the designation hearing on March 22. “It was definitely a punch in the gut,” explained developer Tom Kadida. “We couldn’t understand why this didn’t come up in the years the property was on the market.”

Both sides made their case to the Bloomingdale Civic Association, with Rebecca Miller of DCPL stating that the structure was “particularly associated with the development of the Bloomingdale community as the earliest and best surviving example of a neighborhood church, and for its relation to patterns of demographic change in the city and local community as the church of the first African American congregation in Bloomingdale.”

The real crux of the fight in the minds of the neighbors is that, if the development must incorporate the existing church structure, not only will use be affected, but no units will come with parking, a hot commodity in Bloomingdale.

“While I understand the concerns of other interests in this project, my hope is that the DC government will take great weight in the feedback of the neighbors directly impacted by this development,” explains Brian Smith, who lives in the home closest to the development and will be directly affected by its outcome. “Bloomingdale is undergoing some amazing changes, but it is crucial that change balances well with those directly impacted by a project like 150 S St.”

The historic designation hearing is on March 22.


Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with The Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates Inc. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch: taylor@midcitydcnews.com; @rtaylorb.

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