Patti Stonesifer helps increase visibility, mission of Martha's Table

Photo: Martha's Table

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - If one of your new year's resolutions is to give back in 2014, Patty Stonesifer is the one who can show you how it's done.

It's impossible to list all of Stonesifer's successes; becoming the highest ranking woman at Microsoft and being the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are among them.

After spending 13 years at the Gates Foundation tackling global health, poverty and education problems, her new mission is taking on poverty in the District of Columbia.

It was a visit to Martha's Table in 1996 that introduced her to the community-based non-profit that provides food, daycare, clothing and more to the needy in the nation's capitol. Nearly two decades later, she's the organization's president and CEO.

"When I was ready to go to the front lines and see directly what the issues were facing families in poverty in the United States, and particularly in the District, Martha's Table was a natural," Stonesifer said.

Stonesifer says that the disparity between the haves and have nots in Washington remains one of the most striking divides in the United States.

"This is a city with a great disparity," she said. "There are many people who eat too much and have too much in terms of their daily existence, and yet 20 percent of the people living here in the District are living in poverty."

It's no secret that Stonesifer isn't doing this job for the money - in fact, she's doing it for free.

Her commitment to service goes back to her parents; the food bank in her hometown is named for her father.

"My family just automatically considered the community something we shared a responsibility for," Stonesifer said.

Since she arrived, food distribution at Martha's Table has increased significantly. Some of that is because of increased demand based on the government shutdown and cuts in food stamps. However, there is no question that she has increased its visibility during challenging times.

Stonesifer was also named one of ABC7's most fascinating people of 2013.