Around lunchtime for the past 18 years, Darren Duvall has found something to do by washing dishes and taking out the trash at a Bethesda meals program for local homeless people.

The Rockville man is one of Bethesda Cares’ most ardent volunteers. He also was homeless, meaning he experienced what it’s like to have basic survival be the only job that mattered each day.

Once he secured his own apartment and got off the street, he then experienced something almost as difficult — finding new routines.

“I got to thinking, ‘How can I spend more time not just being at home,'” Duvall said. “I just like being here because it gets me out of the house.”

Later this month, Duvall will be one of the volunteers honored by County Executive Isiah Leggett and other local leaders at Bethesda’s Imagination Stage during The Silver Spring native was a student at the Maryland College of Art and Design in the early 1980s, when it was still on Georgia Avenue. There, he studied painting, drawing, sketching and all aspects of art.

Despite work as a dishwasher and at a car wash, he fell into homelessness. He found a bed at the Bethesda House that until recently was on Cordell Avenue. There, Duvall met Lawrence Blake (known simply as “Blake”), a counselor at the facility who got him interested in various volunteer opportunities.


He started going to meetings to help his recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. When Duvall received a voucher for an apartment of his own in 1997, he settled in at the Bethesda Cares Lunch Program to help others facing similar situations.

“That’s where you say one hand washes the other,” Duvall said. “I was just going step-by-step.”

Each weekday at one of two Bethesda churches where the program meets, Duvall is side-by-side with Blake — the former Army cook who prepares the meals. For three hours a day and more than 600 hours a year, his focus is squarely on helping Blake and keeping the space tidy.


“You’ve got to concentrate here,” Duvall said. “I’m just a clean-up man.”

That’s just the way he likes it.
Photos courtesy of MagguiGR Photography and Design