Tuesday, January 21, 2014

At Love's Table, Plenty for Everyone;

At Love's Table, Plenty for Everyone; NE Family Restaurant Always Sets a Place for the Hungry and Downtrodden

BYLINE: DeNeen L. Brown, Washington Post Staff Writer

The last time money came up missing from Love's Family Restaurant, owner Samuel T. Love Sr. knew it was his head waiter who had helped himself.
So "Papa Love," as his family and regular customers call him, put on his coat and walked up the street to find out just how far Jerry Rufus had gone.
He went first to the drugstore, and then to the supermarket, where he questioned a clerk. The clerk nodded. Yes, he had seen Rufus. The waiter hadn't bothered to take off his white shirt and red apron before exchanging a roll of quarters for bills. He had taken the money and run -- to get his next dosage of heroin.

That wasn't the first time Rufus had stolen from the Love family, which owns the restaurant that serves helpings of love, greens and chitterlings on H Street NE.
All kinds of people from the Northeast Washington neighborhood walk into the restaurant with the maroon tablecloths, plastic plates and waiters who have been down on their luck. People come for food when they are hungry, money when they are behind on the rent and a bathroom when they are homeless.
Nobody is turned away. And nobody remembers the last time someone came to the family for help and one of the Loves said no, even to Rufus, who has known them 15 years and done them wrong plenty of times.
"The man has lifted me up so many times," said Rufus, 50, a recovering heroin addict, who met the Loves at church before he "backslid."
"I've stolen from him," he said of Samuel Love Sr. "I stole his car. I took money from the till. I'm not talking about one or two dollars. I'm talking hundreds, like it was my money. I've done everything to that man but verbally disrespect him. Me, I have no business being here."
The Loves have sent Rufus to drug treatment centers and given him shelter when he was homeless.
Samuel Love Sr., 73, said a lot of people wonder how he can keep forgiving this man after all he's done. "I say God gives us a chance. Just like we mess up, he forgives us and gives us a chance to come back," Love Sr. said. "I feel like if I can't trust somebody, I'm not following God's rules."
Said Irene Love, 65, "I always say, 'Never look down on someone unless you're picking them up.' "
The Loves -- Irene and Samuel Sr. and their children, Samuel Jr. and Althea Love-Salvatierra -- said they believe that the restaurant, whose customers say serves some of the best soul food in town, is more than a business. It is a haven for people in need, the kind of place that government officials hope will fill holes in the social service safety net. They've given away more food and money than they can count. There is nothing in the books that can measure how much, and they are not looking for a profit.
They advertise as a restaurant that serves soul food in a Christian atmosphere.
"We break even, but it's all right," Love-Salvatierra said. "This restaurant to me is not just a restaurant; it's a ministry. We believe God blessed us with this place, so we've got to do what he blessed us to do."
Sometimes people promise to pay later. Some return to pay a little on their bills; others don't. But the Loves carry no grudges and keep giving. The Loves, who are not affiliated with any organized feeding program or homeless shelter, said they believe they are offering a service to people and the city.
"You don't know what a person might do if they get too hungry," Irene Love said. "They might hit somebody in the head. Maybe giving someone a sandwich could stop someone from snatching a purse or doing something to someone to get a sandwich."
On a recent chilly night, a man pushed open the door to the restaurant at 514 H St. NE. It was near closing time, and Irene Love was near the cash register. The man, scratching and dirty, asked for a dollar. One of the waiters reached in his pocket and gave the man a bill. Before the man turned to leave and without hesitation, Irene Love yelled to the cook to fix the man a sandwich.
Irene Love is from Virginia, her husband from North Carolina. They ran a family restaurant in New York before moving to Washington. Irene Love's face has soft, brown folds, a countenance that soothes customers with an expression that says everything will be okay. She rarely raises her voice.
Samuel Love Sr. also is quiet. He speaks in measured tones and talks often about the ways of a religious man.
The menu includes hamburger steak, pig's feet, fish, barbecued ribs, cabbage, greens, fish and grits and scrapple -- all prepared from recipes Irene Love keeps in her head. Regular customers include cabdrivers, government workers and others, who say the food is good and the Loves are like family.
The restaurant employs 15 people, including some who were recently released from jail and mothers seeking to end dependence on government assistance. "People use this as a steppingstone," Love-Salvatierra said. "Mom teaches them how to cook and teaches them on the grill."
Love-Salvatierra said the business breaks even most times. But the family's generosity sometimes makes them late paying utility bills. "We may have to pay another deposit, but somebody's kids aren't on the street," she said.
On a recent afternoon, Gospel music poured from a small box radio on the window sill behind the cash register. Irene Love was sitting in her favorite chair across the small table from Papa Love. For 16 years, from 7 a.m., when the restaurant opens, to 7 p.m., when it closes, the Loves have watched a stream of people flow through their door.
A transvestite named Jacquelyn walked in. His tight denim skirt was dirty. He swept long, brown curls from his wig out of his face. His eyes were lined with thick, black mascara. He took a seat near the corner and promptly was served his favorite dish of pork chops. It didn't matter that Jacquelyn rarely pays on time.
"I like to come in out of the madness, come to a real setting," Jacquelyn said. "The people here are down to earth. There is no pretense. They make you feel like it's family."
None of the customers looked twice when Jacquelyn came in. He returned later to change clothes after doing his laundry.
Mae Bridges, 61, a waitress who wears white shoes and a net over her red hair, said the Loves are the best employers she's ever worked for. But the retired cook for the National Institutes of Health said the Love family also is too trusting. "A lot of people come in and keep begging and begging, and they keep giving and giving," Bridges said. "They never say no. You should see the stack of tickets of people who won't pay.
"You never see them angry and harsh," she said. "If something goes wrong, they put it in God's hands and pray. If I come in here with a headache, they say, 'Don't claim it. It's the devil. Pray.' "
Bridges keeps track of how much customers owe the Loves. She opened the book on who has an outstanding balance: Kevin owes 75 cents; Jacky owes $ 2.75; Charles, a regular, owes $ 6.75; Walter, $ 8.70; and Wolfe, $ 3.30.
The Loves said their goodwill comes back in the form of an informal neighborhood watch that focuses on their restaurant.
"You see good things happen here," Rufus said. "They won't touch this shop."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

14-year-old Jake Schellenschlager makes his mark on the powerlifting circuit

14-year-old Jake Schellenschlager makes his mark on the powerlifting circuit


By Published: January 1

The freckle-faced Wonder Kid moves through a gym packed with powerlifters, gliding past the grunting, straining, muscle-bound adults.
In his middle school hallway outside of Baltimore, Jake Schellenschlager blends in with other eighth-graders, but here at the York Barbell Competition in York, Pa., the 14-year-old with a shock of red hair and toothy grin is a star. The Wonder Kid can lift more than twice his weight — a feat that impresses powerlifting aficionados and worries pediatricians who believe the sport poses risks to developing bodies.
On this day, Jake is hoping to set world or personal records.
Jake admits he is nervous as he waits for the announcer to call his name. The competition will pit Jake against himself. Although powerlifting is attracting increasing numbers of teens, there are no other competitors on this Saturday morning in his category — 14- to 15-year-olds at a weight class of 123 pounds.
Jake had been hoping to compete in the 114-pound category and spent the evening before at the gym, running on a treadmill, trying to drop water weight. In the morning, though, the scale in the bathroom of his Pasadena home in Anne Arundel County was stuck at 118.
He was hoping he’d somehow drop the rest on the drive with his mother and sisters to York. But when he steps onto a big digital scale, the attendant announces, “One nineteen.”
Jake’s eyes flash disappointment. “I was thinking if I would weigh in at 114, I could break records. Records are harder for the 123 class.”
His mother assures him: “That’s okay, Jake.”
After the weigh-in, Jake straddles a bench to warm up on chest press. His trainer guides him as he lifts 155 pounds. Other powerlifters pass by and encourage him. Powerlifters share camaraderie, unlike bodybuilders, who compete in a world that is more about vanity and beauty. Powerlifters admire pure strength.
Jake can deadlift 300 pounds. “Three hundred pounds is obviously double his body weight,” says his trainer, Mike Sarni. His physical strength is matched by his mental toughness. “He doesn’t feel he can be defeated. It is that inner strength that tells him, ‘I can do this.’ Usually, you only get that in older, more mature people.”
Jake is one of thousands of teens who compete across the country, according to USA Powerlifting, an organization responsible for sanctioning local and regional powerlifting events. Christy Cardella, a state chairman for the organization, said the youngest competitive powerlifters are 14, and there are several high school powerlifting associations across the country with several thousand members. But there are also youth programs, where children start as young as 8 to lift for fun.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics supports strength training for teenage athletes, it cautions against teens who powerlift while their bodies are still growing.
“Powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting sports are different because they usually are involving maximum lifts — the squat, bench press and the dead lift,” said Paul Stricker, a youth sports medicine specialist at the Scripps Health Clinic in San Diego and fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“There is high risk to heavy maximal lifts or explosive lifts during their rapid growth phrase,” said Stricker, one of eight physicians who worked with the U.S. Olympic team in Sydney. “That is our biggest caution. We just don’t recommend they do maximal lifts or explosive lifts until they have finished the majority of their growth spurt,” especially if they aren’t being properly supervised.
Jake’s father, Chris Schellenschlager, said he understands the risks and makes sure that Jake works out under the supervision of Sarni, owner of World Gym in Glen Burnie.
“You want to make sure they are doing proper form and not lifting too heavy,” said Schellenschlager, 42, a maintenance tech. “I know it’s bad on the joints with him still growing. Some don’t believe it is good to have kids weight lifting too early. But Jake never complains about pain or hurting, and he gets regular check-ups.”
Jake’s mother, Brandy Schellenschlager, 39, a secretary, said initially she worried about Jake competing, but eventually began to feel that it was a good activity for a teenage boy.
“Lifting is a sport just like baseball,” she said. “That’s how we view it.”
Jake started going to the gym with his father when he was 12, after his parents split up. Then one day, he met Sarni and began training in a more serious way.
His father encouraged Jake to pursue powerlifting: “You don’t want your kid to be sitting on a couch and playing video games.”
On a Saturday in York, Jake is scheduled to compete in three categories — squat, bench press and dead lift. He squats 225, breaking his personal record.
There are 11 adults ahead of Jake in the bench press competition. Finally, it’s his turn. The bar is set at 205 pounds. Jake’s trainer wraps and unwraps Jake’s wrists and chalks his shoulders. Just before walking onstage, Jake glances at his father, sitting in the bleachers. His father nods in encouragement.
“My dad, because he is super strong,” Jake says later, “when I see him it gives me motivation.”
The announcer tells the crowd, “This kid weighs only 119.”
Jake straddles the bench. He arches his back. His trainer lowers the bar into Jake’s hands. He controls the weight, bringing the bar slowly to his chest. The weight hesitates. Seconds. The crowd encourages Jake with an echo of “Come on! You can do it!”
Jake pushes the bar up with a final blast as three green lights flash on. “Good lift!” the announcer exclaims.
Jake retreats to the gym and begins to warm up for the deadlift. He will go for 300 pounds, another personal record.
He watches as a woman in pink shoes takes the stage for her deadlift. “Go Patty,” people scream.
Jake waits for his turn until he finally hears the announcer call, “Jake, you are the lifter.” The eighth-grader lifts the bar like a tooth pick. The weight climbs to 255, then 270. Each powerlifter climbs onstage and goes through his or her ritual. The roll of the shoulders. The back bends. The grunts.
The audience cheers them through each personal record attempt. The weight climbs to 300. “Jake you are on deck,” the announcer warns.
Jake’s mother goes to the front of the stage to record his performance with her cellphone. “Come on, Jake,” spectators yell.
Jake bends and lifts 300 pounds. The crowd explodes. The Wonder Kid flashes a grin.