Not long after the coronavirus hit in Maryland, Diana Love and her friend Amy Marshall learned that a man who frequently worked in their West Annapolis neighborhood died from COVID-19 on Easter Sunday.
One of the man’s children attends Bates Middle with Love’s daughter. While the other members of the household were self-isolating, no one was able to work and support the household. So Love and Marshall stepped up. Love started by calling on members of her online mom and neighborhood groups and was able to provide the family with groceries, meals and other necessities. By partnering with Center of Help in Annapolis, the family, as well as two other families on the property were supported until they could recuperate.
Soon after, another family was hit hard by the virus. In this case, three sisters were struck down, leaving a teenage daughter isolated in one house with nine younger siblings and cousins while the adults quarantined in another home nearby. Again, Marshall and Love called on their friends and neighbors, and again, this family received hot meals, groceries and a supply of books, toys and arts supplies to keep the children occupied.
As the outpouring of support continued, and other local families came forward with requests for help, Marshall offered her empty Air B&B in town and the West Annapolis Pop Up Pantry was formed. Bolstered with donations of fresh vegetable boxes from Rob Levit and his nonprofit, Creating Communities, as well as fresh bread from Great Harvest, Love, Marshall and Amy’s husband, Tim, began making twice weekly deliveries to local families. Thanks to a wealth of empathy and kindness from moms across the area, the Pop Up Pantry soon filled with food, children’s books, clothing and diapers. Every week the pantry empties, and every week it is refilled with love and generous donations from the community.
After a local teacher donated his stimulus check, Chef Frederik De Pue of Flamant was able to provide 120 fresh, nutritious meals to distribute to families. Later, a donation from a West Annapolis neighbor provided 150 hot spaghetti and meatball meals from Bella Italia Annapolis. West Annapolis and Bay Ridge moms baked hundreds of cookies to gift moms for Mother’s Day. These meals and cookies were included in drop offs before the holiday and at a major food aid event.
When a COVID+ pregnant mother called asking for help, moms from around Annapolis rose to the occasion. With donations of a crib, stroller, car seat, tub, diapers, clothes, bottles and every item every mother wants to create a warm and safe space for her baby, Love was able to throw this mother a shower on her front lawn. This front-yard baby shower has happened more than once in the four weeks since then.
Meanwhile at the Pop-up Pantry, volunteers who collected food from generous neighbors around Annapolis, Arnold and Cape St. Clair continued to arrive with trunk-loads full of supplies. The pantry has provided food for hundreds of children and families each week. And they haven’t stopped. In fact, the Pantry has grown enough that Marshall and Love moved to a larger space in the empty classrooms of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Annapolis on Ridgely Avenue.
Love’s friend Katie Cooke, a former reading teacher at Annapolis Elementary School, agreed to organize a book drive for families stuck at home who typically depend heavily on the library. Cooke set up boxes at five locations in Annapolis: Caliente Grill, Harry Browne’s, Be Home, Vin 909, and Bean Rush Café-Annapolis.
Annapolis parent Erika McKee and her children Tommy and Danny have started a drive to collect art supplies, something most every child requested of the Pantry. The drop-off location for this effort is in West Annapolis at the intersection of Melvin and Tucker Street near West Annapolis Elementary School.
Seeing firsthand how the immigrant community has been especially hard hit by COVID-19, Love and the West Annapolis Pop Up Pantry teamed up with Center of Help (Centro de Ayuda), a local nonprofit that serves the immigrant population in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. The Center was able to identify more than 200 families in dire need, and the Pop Up Pantry was able to help. That list continues to grow.
“These families in need are low-income members of the Annapolis community, many of whom have lost their jobs or are experiencing reduced hours while serving as essential workers,” says Kirsten Clark, Center of Help’s Interim Executive Director. “They help us in this time of crisis, and now it’s our turn to help them.”
“These families typically have no social safety net,” says Love. “Amy and I think of them as an invisible community that’s been battered by an invisible virus. When the shutdown occurred, with the exception of essential workers, these families went into lockdown, and became a community that’s virtually unseen. We feel honored to give back to the hard work our servers, landscapers, housekeepers, child care providers and others provide us every single day with what little aid and comfort we can.”
While some families took it upon themselves to collect food and goods from their communities, others have been singularly donating by sending families meals through a meal train coordinated by Pantry vounteer and Bates Middle School parent Jennifer Brianas. Love notes that while some people are able to rally their communities and show up at the pantry with entire Suburbans filled with food collected from friends and neighbors, others are able to make a double batch of dinner or grab a rotisserie chicken and some sides for a specific family. Whatever the case, says Love, these families are grateful, and so is she.
You can help in any way you are able by donating to the West Annapolis Pop Up Pantry here:
You can bring donations to the Pantry at 710 Ridgely Ave, Annapolis, MD 21401 (the pantry is now located behind the church, near the playground).
In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, meat, cheese and non perishable items, families are also in need of diapers, baby wipes, and feminine products, including adult diapers. The Pantry also accepts small toys such as bubbles, coloring books, art supplies and craft kits for ages Preschool through High School. Cash donations help pay for gaps in food supplies, additional food aid and hot meals from area restaurants. This enables restaurants to hire back their service workers, the community in which Love and Marshall are focusing their assistance. The Pantry gives 100% of donated funds to the effort and operates strictly through the help of volunteers and the continued support of the Annapolis community.
Diapers can be dropped at Caliente Grill or at the Pantry.
Books can be donated to one of the locations below through May 15.
· Bean Rush Café 112 Annapolis St. in West Annapolis
· Be Home 80 Maryland Avenue, Downtown Annapolis
· Harry Brownes 66 State Circle, Downtown Annapolis
· Vin 909 909 Bay Ridge Avenue, Eastport
· Caliente Grill 907 Bay Ridge Road, Annapolis
To contact Love and the West Annapolis Pop Up Pantry, email email@example.com or text 410-294-3555.
To learn more about the Center of Help, visit their website.
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