7 Serving Up Healthy Hunger Relief & Job Training When “Dawain” was 10, he figured that if he lived to be 21—a big if—he’d probably be in jail. Growing up in southeast Washington, DC, he lived in one of the nation’s poorest urban areas. His father was in prison. His mother, an addict, often left Dawain and his brothers home alone. At 11, Dawain was arrested for stealing food—the start of a 23-year period of repeated arrests and incarceration. With help from DC Central Kitchen, that pattern was broken and Dawain built a new life. DC Central Kitchen recycles tons of leftover and surplus food every day, distributes meals to homeless individuals, and operates a nationally recognized culinary job training program. Several years ago, Dawain graduated from that program into a full-time position with the organization. The nonprofit, established in 1989, recently initiated several social enterprise programs that fund its outreach, support area growers, and benefit nonprofit partners. One such program serves 4,200 healthy, locally sourced meals a day to children in seven DC public schools. These new efforts benefit the community immeasurably, but managing the large workforce that runs the programs is challenging. Last year, Chief Executive Officer Mike Curtin Jr. realized that the organization needed counsel on employment issues and approached his father’s former partner, David Barmak, now Chair of Mintz Levin’s Employment, Labor & Benefits Practice. Since then, our attorneys have provided pro bono assistance to negotiate an employment arrangement with the organization’s founder, rewrite its employee handbook, and ensure compliance with laws such as the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Attorney Tyrone Thomas spent time getting to know how the agency’s managers interact with employees and what their workday is like. He then customized a training program to help managers avoid harassment and discrimination issues. Revising the agency’s handbook from our office in San Diego, attorney Brandon Willenberg relied on Tyrone and David for insight on DC- specific rules and regulations. Dianne Bourque, a Member in the firm’s Health Law Practice in Boston, gave critical advice on privacy issues. “It’s extremely rewarding just to know that, in our small way, we are helping this terrific organization, which has a measurable, positive impact every day on the lives of so many people in need in the DC Area,”says David. “[Mintz Levin] has allowed us to continue to grow and provide employment for a traditionally underserved workforce,”Mike says. That’s a contribution that means quite a lot to Dawain. When his two-year-old daughter looks forward to her future, she’ll no doubt envision a life that is free of the poverty-related problems her father faced in his childhood and youth. Meat & Potatoes Partnerships are what make the kitchen work. Mintz Levin is more than a firm doing pro bono work; it is a true partner. Mike Curtin Jr. Chief Executive Officer DC Central Kitchen At left, two recent graduates of DC Central Kitchen’s culinary job training program work in the organization’s Nutrition Lab. (Photo courtesy of DC Central Kitchen) The Power of Partnerships