Ode to Dapper Don

From left to right; Co-founder Ted Henson, NBC Host Leon Harris, Artist Barbara Pollard, Co-founder Lauren Osuri, and former vendor Donald Brooks. Photo courtesy of Ted Henson.

These tributes were first distributed on July 22 as private emails to D.C. Department of Human Services and D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness staff. It has been published with permission of both the authors and Mr. Brooks’s family.

Mr. Donald Brooks was an employee of the D.C. Family Services Administration (FSA) Office of Work Opportunity (OWO) who was well-received by his colleagues, supervisors, management, community partners, and executive leadership across many government agencies and community organizations. He was always willing to share what we called his “old school” philosophies, ideas, and opinions – solicited or not.  He too expressed that he was old school and often said that it was “[his] duty to help groom the next generation.” We used to joke that without the old school there is no new school. 

Donald told many funny and serious stories about his personal and professional experiences in public service and as a United States Army Veteran. Having last served as a Vocational Development Specialist/Case Manager for FSA-OWO on the Family Rehousing and Stabilization Program team, Donald was a true advocate for his customers and the underprivileged at large. 

He was very vocal about his stance on policies that he felt impeded customers’ success and was not shy about speaking his views at every level and venue. He shared with many of us his contribution to the writing of the Homeless Services Reform Act of 2005, as an initial constituent on the Interagency Council of Homelessness. He was very proud of this accomplishment and we were proud of him. There was much respect for Mr. Brooks’s honesty and openness about his personal struggles at an earlier time in his life that, as he explained, led him to assist others to reach their goals and potential. 

If you knew Mr. Brooks, you know that he took dressing professionally to a whole other level, as he wore matching shirts, ties, shoes, hats, jackets, pins, jewelry of every color, fabric, and shade. He was affectionately known as OWO’s true “Dapper Don” – though also referred to as “Dapper Dan.” He had a style all of his own and it personified his unique character. 

There are so many other things that can be said about Donald. Following are just a few quotes from staff:

  1. Spencer – “Devoted family man … His youthful exuberance was infectious to the entire staff and he will be sorely missed.”
  2. Saunders – “His sense of humor always made me smile even when I was not in the best of moods.”
  3. Burks – “Everyday was ‘Easter Sunday’ in his best-dressed suits. Mr. Brooks will be missed. His smile and laugh warmed the office and our hearts.”

We want Mr. Brooks’s family and friends to know that we know the loss of him to be great and our thoughts and prayers are with them in this time of need.  We also welcome his family and friends to visit the OWO team to allow us to listen and to share in memories and laughter.

What better way to conclude our Ode to Dapper Don than to use his own words, “There is no more honored work than helping someone reach a better space in their lives.”

With much respect and honor for Mr. Brooks.

DHS Director Laura Zeilinger also wrote a tribute to Donald.

Issues |Death

Region |Washington DC

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