Big turnout for Shutdown Social

Our beleaguered federal workers and contractors had to deal with a lot of financial hardship and anxiety during the long federal government shutdown. So I’m happy to report that more than 600 people came to the Shutdown Social that I organized on Jan. 11 at Montgomery Blair High School to show our community’s support for our federal employees and contractors.

We could have never pulled this off without such a supportive and generous community. I’m so grateful to the twenty restaurants that donated food — including 4 Corners Pub, Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant, All Set Restaurant & Bar, Busboys & Poets, Chipotle, El Golfo Restaurant, Fire Station 1, Ghar-E-Kabab, Kaldi’s Social House, Kefa Cafe, Kin Da, Jimmy & Mamma Lucia, Manny & Olga’s, Mark’s Kitchen, McGinty’s Public House, Middle East Cuisine, Pacci’s Neapolitan Pizzeria, Port-au-Prince, Simply Fresh Catering and TPSS Co-Op — to nonprofit partners Nourish Now and Manna Food Center, who picked up and donated meals; to Main Street Takoma for helping organize restaurant donations; to the Service Workers Training & Education Partnership of HERE Local 23, who stepped in to set up the service line; to iconic local musician Joe Uehlein, who organized eight other local musicians to provide free entertainment for the crowd, and to U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and County Exec Marc Elrich, who stopped by to provide words of support.

And although the federal government has reopened — at least temporarily — we’re joining with Montgomery County Fire & Rescue and Jose Andres’ Chefs for Feds to plan another dinner at Blair on Feb. 8.

It’s not surprising that our county was among the hardest-hit in the nation by the shutdown, considering the presence here of major affected agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Food and Drug Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology. That doesn’t include our many residents who work at other federal agencies in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.

Not did thousands of our hard-working federal workers suffer without paychecks for more than a month — whether they were working or not — but their families took a direct hit, too, forced to make tough choices about paying their or mortgage, buying food or medicine, or paying for heat and electricity.

And the shutdown rippled through the whole economy, as businesses such as restaurants that depend on furloughed workers’ patronage saw their sales plunge.

That’s why it was particularly gratifying to see so many of these same restaurants and other food establishments and nonprofits contribute food, supplies and labor to the Jan. 11 dinner, which also featured great music by a variety of local performers.

Together, we showed what a caring, supportive community our county is. Like the first Shutdown Social, everyone is invited to the Feb. 8 event, on which I’m collaborating with Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service. If you’re an affected worker — employee or contractor — stop by with your family for some good food and companionship. And if you want to volunteer your time or donate store-bought packaged food, your contributions are much appreciated. Please stay tuned for details on the Feb. 8 dinner.

And anyone affected by the shutdown who needs help can check for county resources here: