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June 14, 2012

Passing on Compassion: Father and son team up to make meals for those in need

Paul and Mark Elias live busy lives.

Paul is the Senior Vice President of The JBG Companies and usually heads to work around 5:30 a.m. every morning. Mark, Paul’s 18-year-old son, is a busy senior and an athlete at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. With such hectic schedules, time to hang out and bond was difficult to find.

Two years ago, Mark started volunteering with Food & Friends as a way to fulfill a community service requirement for school. Paul, who had volunteered once before, saw this as the perfect opportunity to spend meaningful time with Mark while teaching him lifelong values.

“Mark is a normal teenager, a pretty shy guy, and I saw this as an opportunity to spend time with him. It became a regular activity in our busy schedules,” says Paul. “Our volunteer experience has been more than an act of service but it is an opportunity to make an impact while hanging out.”

Volunteering together has also sparked a new tradition. After working in the kitchen at Food & Friends, Mark and Paul usually grab dinner together at a nearby restaurant and chat about their day and volunteer experience before heading home.

“Mark doesn’t say a lot but I can tell that his involvement with Food & Friends has made a difference in his life. He met his required service hours a while ago but still continues volunteering. We’ve become quite the team.”

By volunteering together, Paul feels like he has had the opportunity to serve as a role model for Mark. He says, “Ultimately and if nothing else, I want Mark to remember what we’ve done and when he has kids, I want him to volunteer with them.”

Together Paul and Mark Elias have spent countless hours prepping, preparing and packaging meals for thousands of individuals with life-challenging illnesses. The rewards of making a difference in the lives of people dealing with serious illness is apparent to Paul and he plans on volunteering even after sending Mark off to college. He hopes Mark feels the same impact.

“I hope this experience is making an impression on him. In fact, I know it is.”

This Father's Day we salute all of the dads, like Paul, who set wonderful examples for their kids about the importance of giving back.

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