This week, Nats Buzz is profiling the three Nats finalists for People's All-Stars Among Us campaign. Make sure you vote before Sunday, June 20th. One of these three amazing individuals will represent the Nationals at the 2010 All-Star Game.
Eight years ago, Mark Bergel was volunteering to deliver food to those in poverty. He visited one apartment where a family -- a grandmother, her daughter and two granddaughters -- had nothing. The older woman, who needed oxygen tubes and assistance walking, reminded him of his own grandmother -- until she told him she was only 35 years old.
"That's what poverty can do to people. It's people all around this region who are living without all the necessities we take for granted," he said.
On his way home, Bergel pulled his car over alongside Georgia Avenue and wondered how he could help. An expert on health, wellness and poverty issues and a professor at American University, Bergel decided right in that moment to start a nonprofit to assist those living in poverty. He began collecting furniture in his living room and delivering it to families in need.
Today, he's the Executive Director of A Wider Circle, a nonprofit which helps 12 families a day furnish their homes. To date, they've helped over 50,000 people throughout the metro D.C. area create a livable atmosphere in their homes.
"The idea to help folks who didn't have anything came because we have enough stuff in this region where we can help these folks get out of poverty," he said. "So people who have more than they need call us. We pick it up or they drop it off and we bring it to families who need it."
The organization also provides tutoring and adult education classes in low-income, urban schools.
"We're focused 100% of the time on helping folks who are living in poverty have a chance, just a chance, to live the life that the rest of us live."