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Rewards of giving

Friends of ‘Cocktail Charities’ organizer come to his aid

(Published Dec. 4, 2000)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

A devastating fire ravaged Andy Miscuk’s apartment home in late October, destroying most of his belongings and taking the lives of his two beloved cats.

Left with no clothes, no bed or roof over his head, his situation could have been desperate.

Instead, he learned the rewards of giving to the community and the value of friends.

Miscuk runs an organization called Cocktail Charities, which has raised almost $25,000 for local charities and nonprofit groups that provide services in his Adams Morgan neighborhood. He organizes events at local bars during which volunteer bartenders and wait staff donate their tips to the charities Miscuk chooses for that night. Miscuk is also an advisory neighborhood commissioner for Adams Morgan.

In his time of need, the friends he made through his fund-raising activities and community service came to his aid.

The Oct. 27 blaze started around 11 a.m. and soon smoke was billowing out of the 18th Street NW building. Miscuk’s friend Constantine Stavropolous, who owns Tryst coffee house across the street from Micuk’s apartment, called him at work and told him about the fire.

By the time Miscuk got home an hour later, he found that his adopted alley cats Wilbur and Babe had perished in the blaze. The next several hours were spent talking to insurance agents, discussing the future with his landlord and accepting condolences from friends while sitting at Tryst.

But while he was drinking lattes and salvaging a few possessions from his gutted apartment, his friends were busy making arrangements for his temporary lodging. By 5 p.m. they had taken him to his temporary quarters: a fully stocked apartment complete with new plates, glasses, silverware, a table and a refrigerator full of food, beer and root beer. They also had bought him a week’s worth of new clothing, a couch, bed, dresser and bathroom items.

"Whatever he gave to the community over the years was evident when this happened," Stavropolous said. "He’s got such a great standing in this neighborhood that any and everybody here would come to his aid."

Miscuk acknowledged that the aid his friends and neighbors offered was a bit of a revelation.

"Yes, a fire did destroy my apartment and most of its contents," he said. "But instead of losing everything, I discovered how much I had."

Miscuk said he was surprised by how much generosity came his way after people learned about the fire.

"Within a day I had enough offers of lodging to run a small hotel indefinitely," he said. "Within a day I had enough offers of meals to feed that hotel for weeks. Within a day I was offered enough money to buy a car."

Miscuk said he wants to channel all that generosity back into Cocktail Charities.

"If they really want to give, I would rather they give toward something that would do more good," he said.

Miscuk is resuming Cocktail Charities, which was on a brief break, with a fund-raiser Dec. 7. The event will start at 5 p.m. at Tryst, 2459 18th St. NW. Several of the wait staff and bartenders will donate their tips for the night to three organizations.

The first group will be the Neighborhood Gift Drive, which has been run for several years by Katie Davis of the Urban Rangers Youth Corps. The drive buys Christmas gifts for children of families that might not have enough money to provide for themselves.

In memory of his two cats lost in the fire, Miscuk has chosen Alley Cat Allies to receive a portion of the night’s tips. The program runs a spaying/neutering clinic at the Petworth Animal Clinic to help reduce the population of stray and feral alley cats in the city.

Also, the event will help set up a seed fund for individual neighborhood emergencies like the one Miscuk himself faced. The Neighborhood Safety Net will administer a fund that will be used to pay for food, shelter, clothing and other expenses for residents who face disastrous circumstances.

"Most people who would find themselves in this situation would lack the options and resources that I am fortunate to have," Miscuk said. "I just can’t imagine the situation I’d be in if I didn’t have the help I got."

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator