Doctors and staff at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda recently honored Silver Spring resident Cecil Calliste for his more than 35 years of work in the hospital and in the community.
Calliste, 71, is the lead anesthesia technician at the hospital and has been volunteering for homeless charities in the Washington, D.C., area since he started working at Suburban in 1975. The medical staff surprised him with its 2012 Humanitarian Award at a luncheon.
“I was astonished and very, very thankful,” said Calliste, a native of Trinidad.
Calliste grew up wanting to be a doctor, but said his family didn’t have the financial resources to help him pursue a degree. He came to the U.S. in 1968 and eventually became a technician at Suburban Hospital.
“I know I didn’t have the opportunity to finish school,” Calliste said. “But the great opportunity for me is to see someone happy, to see when someone’s hungry and I can make the effort to make up a box lunch or help somebody financially.”
Calliste refocused his community service efforts after beating lymphatic cancer in 1998. He founded the Lord’s Lunch food program in Washington, D.C., which distributes food to local organizations such as Casa de Corazon Maryland, the Long Branch Senior Center and Shepherd’s Table. He distributes about 1,000 boxed lunches a week to homeless people in shelters around the area.
He hopes to bring new programs overseas, to poor areas of India and Africa.