Photo of two women, side-by-side, smiling together in a brightly painted room.
Ken Martin

On a cold Monday in January, as the polar vortex bore down on the northeastern United States, Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington held a “Winter Warm-Up” event at their Northwest D.C. office. The event is held annually at each Samaritan Ministry location to distribute warm clothing, a warm meal, and warm smiles to their program participants.  

A photo of two women holding up clothing in front of a table of clothes in various sizes and colors wrapped in plastic.

Samaritan Ministry Caseworker Sofia Nalty (right) helps a client find the best fit among clothing provided by Gifts for the Homeless Inc. Photo by Ken Martin

While there I saw one of the District of Columbia’s unsung heroes in action. It was Ms. Annette Carver, social worker extraordinaire. Ms. Carver hates the spotlight. (Believe me, I will pay for this write-up.) But you should know what type of people are needed to make a village, well, a village 

She and I go back a minute, even further than I thought. I won’t mention dates, but when I was a young man working at McKenna House on Park Road, she worked around the corner providing life-enhancing services at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, which now houses Thrive D.C. and other nonprofits. Years later, she could be found at Samaritan Ministry providing the same as lead caseworker 

When I lost my housing, Ms. Carver helped me to provide for my family. As a matter of fact, there were two Christmases that would have been very sparse without the aid of this angel. Both times,  following the loss of income, I was struggling to maintain housing and reunite with my kids. This past holiday, our tree was adorned with ornaments they made years ago at a Samaritan Ministry holiday party.  

Photo of a woman pulling a large bag-covered tray out of the trunk of a car.

Ms. Lydia is a one-time restaurant owner who now volunteers and who feeds everybody. While some participants “shopped,” others enjoyed a tasty spread that included Jamaican curry chicken, Dominican yellow rice, and homemade brownies. Photo by Ken Martin

On a more current note, Sofia Nalty, a Samaritan Ministry caseworker, keeps me on my toes with the Next Step Program as I prepare to restore/replace merchandise for my hat business. I am relying heavily on her cultural insight, knowledge of social media marketing, and corrective criticisms. She possesses wisdom and empathy that surpasses her years, some of which I suspect is from association with her unsung colleague. 

“Volunteers and staff rallied together early Monday morning and even over the weekend to move, sort, and fold all the clothing donated through Gifts for the Homeless, Inc. Many hands made light work!” 

Photo of a woman and a man in heavy winter coats standing on a porch with one arm around each other.

A quite pleased couple now totally prepared for the upcoming arctic blast, thanks to Samaritan Ministry. Photo by Ken Martin

Nalty wrote in a post for the organization’s website. “No stomach was left empty or body unclothed. We look forward to next year’s warm-up and another opportunity for Samaritan participants and volunteers to come together.” 

Samaritan Ministry is one of the rare programs that I continue to trust. The staff and volunteers are sincere, positive, resultsoriented, and empowering! They seek what we were taught to deliver when I was a Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA) volunteer so many years ago: Don’t seek statistics, seek positive outcomes! 

With veteran leadership like Ms. Carver to inspire them, Samaritan Ministry is demonstrating exactly what a community action program should reflect: ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary feats! 

Photo of a yellow-brick building with white trim, a curving porch with a wrought-iron railing, and signage that reads

The Northwest D.C. office of Greater Samaritan Ministry of Washington. Photo by Ken Martin