Eaton House, a cultural centerpiece in D.C., is ready to welcome back Washingtonians. These past few months apart have been defined by the pandemic and protests for societal reform, and Eaton House was there for every part. Between organizing food distribution for the community and using their platform to educate the District on ways to add to the current movement, Eaton House is living up to their mission to be “a gateway to a more humane, conscious future.” District Fray sat down with Emily Lombardo, Eaton House DC manager, to discuss their opening and everything they’ve been doing leading up to it.
Eaton House is a collaborative workspace and gathering space for our community. How has Eaton House stayed connected to the community through this time while we are all apart?
Emily Lombardo: We’ve used this time to reconnect with our mission and dive deeper into the member experience. We closed House at the end of March and made sure to connect with all of our members personally about our plans before closing in addition to getting member feedback on how we can improve the member experience when we reopen. We’ve used our digital platforms to host virtual events and programming with House members.
We’ve donated space at Eaton House to serve as the donation and distribution center for our neighborhood’s mutual aid efforts. Our team has worked with volunteers to organize food and supplies for senior housing buildings in Ward 2 like Wah Luck House and Museum Square since the pandemic hit D.C. Our fourth floor has been converted into a 3D printing workshop with a group called Print to Protect, who have assembled and donated more than 15,000 face shields to local hospitals facing PPE shortages for front line workers.
Food insecurity has been a major issue in the community with unemployment rates at a historic high. Eaton DC and our in-house food and beverage company, Plan Do See, have partnered with World Central Kitchen, Hook Hall Helps and Real Food for Kids to produce over 20,000 meals for people in need during the pandemic. Eaton DC also created a free meal program for employees who have been furloughed. We’ve offered a meal per day for each employee throughout the hotel’s closure.
How do you plan to welcome people back safely?
We are strictly following guidelines set out by the CDC to keep our community safe. We plan to rearrange the furniture in our common spaces to ensure that members are able to socially distance within the space and limit the number of people at each table or station. We are providing touchless hand sanitizer stations on each floor and contactless check in via a QR code at the front desk. For the amenities, we will have a touchless coffee dispenser for members to use and we will be providing a “welcome back kit” with masks and sanitizing wipes as well as providing masks for members upon entry.
Eaton House embraces pro-social advocates. Have you been able to support the Black Lives Matter activists during this historic time of mass peaceful protests across the globe?
Sebi Medina-Tayac, Eaton DC’s director of impact, has been on the ground throughout the uprising in D.C. and has used Eaton’s physical and digital platforms to educate and inspire our community around the Movement for Black Lives and the need to divest from militarized policing and reinvest in community well-being. Being within the radius of action during the past couple months, we’ve provided sanctuary for protesters during crackdowns at Lafayette Park and handed out snacks and masks during demonstrations. We’re looking forward to being a major hub for both local and national activist organizations at the end of August during the historic March on Washington.
What has the Eaton House team learned from this time apart?
That we can’t take places that foster and build community for granted! It sounds corny, but Alicia [Hehir, manager of Eaton House DC] and I feel so lucky to have members who are so passionate about doing their part in creating a welcoming space in their work and at Eaton House.
What are you most looking forward to in Eaton House’s future?
We are looking forward to getting to see all of our members in person! We are really lucky to have a tight-knit community and we’ve missed being able to do the small things like dropping by an office for a quick chat and hear about all the amazing projects our members are working on.
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