Thursday, January 04, 2007

Donnell Long provides the holiday celebrations that he never had

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Donnell Long
Every Christmas and Thanksgiving, owner Donnell Long invites disadvantaged and foster children to his restaurant, the Stone Fish Grill. He serves dinner to 100 children who are either homeless or residing in foster care and unable to share this holiday with their biological families.

Long, 35, was deserted in a car in New York at age 3. He remembers the pain of childhood holidays "without love and family." As a child, Long pledged that if he were ever in a position to help children like him, he would.

Living in foster care made him distant. Long said he was an angry child. He said he and his brother Melvin were physically abused. He said he was teased and bullied at school. By sixth grade, he started fighting back and frequently ran away.

"The worst part was knowing that everyone knows you are a foster child," Long said. "Other kids' parents are coming around, and yours don't. And kids can be very cruel."

Fortunately, most of the time he and his brother were placed in the same homes, so they have remained close. They share a home in Silver Spring. "Melvin and I have always parented each other," he said.

Eight years ago, Donnell Long began providing gifts as well. He solicits donations from local businesses and provides thousands of dollars from his own pocket. He studies the children's wish lists very carefully.

Long said the children "don't ask for a lot because they don't expect anything. I remember that. That's why I do this -- because nobody did it for me."

Thomas-Lester, Avis. Christmas for every child: Maryland man tries to give kids merrier holidays than he had. Washington Post, Dec. 25, 2006, pg. A1.

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