By Aaron Allen
“Making a difference in people’s lives one person at a time,” Ahndrea Blue emphatically states as she began to describe her life’s work, The Making A Difference Foundation (MADF), a local non-profit organization she founded in 2003.
Based out of Tacoma, MADF prides itself through altruistic action, feeding, housing and protecting those in need in our community and the world at large.
The Making A Difference Foundation’s first mission came after Blue came across two young children who looked as if they hadn’t eaten in awhile so she went to their mother to offer help. Their mother declined the offer, but Blue felt the need to help anyway and hired someone to deliver groceries to the door of her building. That gesture was the foundation for Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank, one of the programs run by MADF, which is run without government assistance with resources secured by Blue.
Established in 2009, Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank provides quality food to the communities of East and South Tacoma, Washington, and professional cooked meals to the homeless. Every fifth Sunday the Food Bank, along with executive chefs and volunteers prepares meals for over 100 clients, staff and volunteers.
According to their website, Eloise’s Cooking Pot is the third largest food bankand the #1 food delivery servicein Pierce County. In 2017, the served over 116,838 clients, distributed over 2 million pounds of food and served over 2.4 million meals.
“It is unusual to find someone who gets to live each day following their passion, that is what Ahndrea does,”says Chris Morgan, an associate of Blue. “She saw a need in 2009 with one family leaving a bag of groceries on their door step. Today 10,000 people a month are fed through the food bank program.”
Not only is the foundation about feeding those in need, but housing, scholarships, ministry and mission work are a part of the fabric that make up MADF.
Homes For Veterans is another MADF program that has made an immediate impact on people within the community. The program helps high-need verterans with families re-establish themselves through training, education programs, employment programs and housing.
“My family and I were homeless and had run out of options. That all changed when Ahndrea Blue allowed me to enter the Homes For Vets Program,” recalls Martin Dowd, a participant of the program. “Since entering the program my family and I have made considerable gains. Thanks to the angel at the head of MADF and staff for helping change my life for the better.”
MADF’s Transitions Backpack Program, started in 2011, addresses the most vulnerable of the homeless, homeless children, by providing backpacks loaded with on-the-go food, beverages and hygiene products. It supports Tacoma’s Household Stability Service Focus Area by supplying Tacoma residents with much needed necessities.
Another MADF program is Blair’s Sanctuary Garden, which is a garden for women veterans aimed to help women grow in Serenity, Acceptance and Peace. In partnership with the Washington Department of Veteran Affairs and the Making A Difference Foundation, this garden provides therapeutic and collaborative community environment for female veterans. Paticipants learn about sustainable crop management and growing food organically and the fruits of their labor provide fresh produce to the community through the Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank.
Blue, a product of Compton California, was shaped by her environment. Blue’s mother moved Blue, her twin sister and her elder sister out of the gang and drug influenced neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles and relocated her family to the Pacific Northwest in the early 1980s. After experiencing the negative affects of the War on Drugs that destroyed the Black communities across the nation particularly in South Central Los Angeles, Blue knew right then and there that she would not return to that way of life of uncertainty and her commitment to helping the people of the world, one person at a time was born.
After arriving in Seattle, Blue attended Roosevelt High School graduating with the class of 1987. After her mother gave her and her twin sister an ultimatum, “its either find a job or go to school”, her sister’s advice motivated her to take education more seriously by looking at the math.
“My mom made it very clear we only had two option, we where either going to be working full time or we were going to college and those where the only two options we had to be in her home,” said Blue.
“My twin decided she was going to college and she told me that college was only three hours a day and my mom said, ‘work was eight hours days’, so I did the math, and said I’m going to college,” added Blue.
During high school Blue, admittedly, struggled to utilize her potential. After her mother’s ultimatum, she consulted her high school counselors on the best way to prepare and get into college and the metamorphosis began.
After graduating from high school, Blue attended the University of Washington where she obtained a degree in African American studies and Society Justice in 1995.
After receiving a Law degree from the University of Washington Law School, she began her quest as a public defender but soon discovered the criminal justice system was not necessarily about helping people as much as it was about negotiating the amount of time the system can incarcerate a person and became disillusioned with this path.
“When I graduated from law school, I was going to became a public defender, free all my people, I was going to turn the system around, I was going to be the community lawyer,” states Blue.
Between 1999 and 2002, Blue’s career took a different path as she Blue gained community experience working as Interim Director of the Urban League from 1999 to 2001, before working for Gov. Gary Locke as policy advisor and legal counsel from 2000 to 2002. She also delved into insurance law. However, Blue realized that trying to balance the notion of community service and making money was truly difficult.
“I realized it was like pushing a rock up a hill, a deferred dream, a raisin in the sun, it was hard,” says Blue. “There has to be a better balance in doing community and making money.”
Blue discovered the one thing that seemed to be the difference maker in changing the world and helping those in need was money.
“I learned while working for Gary Locke that if you represent a community your access to power or the government was limited, but if you had money you always had access to power, and the government will come to you.”
“So, I decided to go into corporate America and make money,” Blue continued. “I said, [to myself] ‘hey I can at least write some checks and free some people that way.’”
After working in the community and the corporate world, Blue decided she needed a break to think, so she ventured out and went on missions in Santiago, Chile and Peru.
One day she came across an article in the Wall Street Journal on Oprah Winfrey and Condaleesa Rice and a book by T.D. Jack that was referred to her and she became inspired even more and returned from her hiatus with a plan.
“I fell in love with mission work and it came to me, my purpose was to make a difference in people’s lives,” proclaims Blue.
Upon her return she had to two visions, one around equities and real estate, so she aligned herself with professionals in the business and began learning equity real estate investment and her new path established a foundation for resources. The second was a foundation, a conduit in which she could use her financial resources to make an impact in the community and so she established the Making A Difference Foundation.
“We are able to fund the foundation,” states Blue.
“I kept doing my equity work, building my portfolio and I realized I can do more for the community than I could have ever done practicing law, because I can see an issue and resolve it in two minutes,” continued Blue. “I don’t have to ask anybody and I impact someone’s life just like that and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Blue believes in the notion of “I am my brother’s keeper” and she works diligently and very hard to set the standard in the hopes that her community and the world at-large can follow her lead as she tries to make a difference in people’s lives. For all that she has done, Blue just asks for one thing in return….
“Just pay it forward,” she says with a smile. “No need to say thank you or acknowledge me, just make sure you are able to help someone else in the future.”