From $1 bar specials to $1,000 bottle service, young people flock to District area venues year round for a taste of the cosmopolitan social scene. While many in the city struggle to see how the spirits of patrons in these vibrantly lit clubs can be tapped to make a difference in the community, there are a number of people who see the glass as being half full.
Recently, Amelia Knox, Jessica Gomes, Anwaa Kong and Tony Lewis Jr. hosted the 2nd Annual Operation Keep D.C. Warm, at Big Play Sports Grill in College Park, Md. The coats, sleeping bags and blankets collected went to So Others Might Eat, a nonprofit organization in Northwest, to help the homeless steel themselves against the cold this winter.
"Last night, I was on the corner of 14th and G, three blocks from the White House, and I saw someone setting up a cardboard box for where they were going to spend the night," said Kong, 31, who lives in Takoma Park, Md. "That really vindicated what we are doing, saying 'You're going in the right direction and this is the right thing to do.'"
The four hosts spread the word about the event through Twitter and interviews with radio personality Angie Ange of 93.9 WKYS and FOX 5 anchor Allison Seymour.
The news traveled throughout the metropolitan area, and resulted in a pile of coats stacked nearly as high as the television screens hanging from the ceiling of the restaurant and bar on Nov. 2. Professional basketball players, musicians and individuals who had heard about the coat drive filed through the doors of the sports bar with bags of warm clothing in hand.
"My dad always told me, 'If everybody does a little, nobody has to do a lot,'" said Knox, who lives in Silver Spring, Md. "There's nothing more heartwarming than when you see a lot of people coming together, putting in a little for a bigger cause. The power of community is so strong."
This isn't the first time that the power of this young group has helped the D.C. community. Earlier this year, Lewis hosted the 2012 Annual Back to School Drive at Bar 7, a bar and lounge in Northwest. School supplies collected that evening benefited Sons of Life, Lewis' organization that provides mentors to children whose parents are in prison.
"I have a lot of people in my network who are a part of D.C. nightlife and I see that as an untapped resource," said Lewis, 32, who lives in Northwest. "Whether it has been utilizing D.C. nightlife to have drives for community needs, or getting people from D.C. nightlife to go into the neighborhoods and work with at-risk youth, it has been a win-win."
"Whenever Tony needs something, I always try to look out," said Kris Ramson, Bar 7's general manager and Landover, Md. resident. Ramsom cites dedication to the community as foundation for his willingness to open up Bar 7 as a location for not only the school supply drive, but a turkey drive that took place on Saturday, Nov. 17.
These events not only attract regular customers, but others who are determined to lend a helping hand. Maurice McClanahan said that he contributes to need-based drives and also through his involvement in various ministries at Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast.
"I don't smoke or drink, but giving back is my high," said McClanahan, 30, who lives in Temple Hills, Md. "If a [child] needs something for school, I don't care if it's the middle of the school year; I am going to put my all into making it happen."
McClanahan is currently raising money for Safe Shores, a children's advocacy center in Northwest, through his Christmas campaign, "Santa Cause."
"We're making community service cool," said Gomes, who lives in Laurel, Md. "As Tony says, a lot of us are only one paycheck from being homeless ourselves. Hopefully, what this is doing is opening other people up to try to get their friends to put drives together."
The collective of young adults insist that it's not about self-promotion, rather, it's simply the right thing to do.
"I just hope that we can get more involvement from young people, who may not even have their roots here, but live in D.C. now," said Lewis. "The best way to be a Washingtonian is to get involved. If we all do a little bit, it equals a lot."