WTOP Top Kid: DC teen ‘Woks for Washington’

Cathleen Shi and her sister Grace deliver food to local hospitals. (Courtesy Cathleen Shi)

Many D.C.-area businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic, but one Washington teen has found a way to support health care workers and local restaurants.

Cathleen Shi, 13, and her sister Grace, both Chinese-Americans, founded Woks for Washington after watching many District restaurants close because of coronavirus.

Woks for Washington is a food initiative that uses donations to purchase meals from Asian restaurants to deliver to health care workers.

“We noticed that Asian restaurants are the most affected, due to the xenophobia and racism on top of the restrictions to stop the spread of the virus,” Shi told WTOP’s Melissa Howell.

“And by preserving these restaurants, we hope that the Asian community can continue to play a part in making the D.C. area the melting pot that it is.”

Cathleen Shi is fighting racism and getting meals to health care workers. (Courtesy Cathleen Shi)

Shi said she and her sister connect restaurants with hospitals and homeless shelters “because the heroes who continue to work on the front line are keeping our community safe and healthy while many of the people in need in our community are suffering from increased food insecurity due to the virus.”

So far, they’ve already raised $15,000 in donations to buy food, and they’ve delivered over 1,000 meals.

“I really never thought that it would get this big, but I feel really thankful that people are supporting us,” Shi said.

She added that they will keep working until the donations run out — though that seems unlikely to happen given the momentum they’re building.

Ultimately, Shi wants to inspire others.

“I hope it inspires (people) to do something that they think will help their community as well. Because if you asked me one year ago or two years ago if I would be doing something like this, I probably would have never believed you.”

WTOP’s Melissa Howell contributed to this report.

This article is part of WTOP’s TOP Kids program, where kids in the D.C. area are recognized for the amazing things they do. The winners are awarded $500. The program is sponsored by Northwest Federal Credit Union. Nominate a TOP Kid you know here, and view other winners here.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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