Prince Frederick, MD – Focusing on the strategy of improving the lives of locals in the areas of education, health and financial stability, United Way of Calvert County gathered its worker bees together Wednesday morning, Sept. 13 for its 23rd annual “Day of Caring.” Considering the pounding more heavily populated parts of the United States have been taking, the weather to start the day was benign but hardly perfect.
“It [weather] is not going to stop us,” said Calvert United Way President and CEO Kelly Chambers, who welcomed the volunteers at the Day of Caring kickoff s at Bayside Auto Group’s newest showroom in Prince Frederick. The 2017 event marked the 23rd Day of Caring. Thirty businesses provided employees to participate in projects aiding 14 agencies. Due to the iffy weather forecast some of the projects were either cancelled or postponed.
“Making a difference in people’s lives, that’s what you are doing today,” Chambers told the participants.
During a bus tour of several Day of Caring project sites, Chambers explained how United Way financially aids the numerous umbrella agencies through the allocation of grants. Agency officials are required to outline how the money will be used in order to obtain the grant.
“I think you’ll see as we go how we’re all connected,” said Chambers as the bus began its journey to six work sites.
Three tour stops—Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry in Huntingtown, the End Hunger warehouse in Prince Frederick and Farming 4 Hunger at Serenity Farm in Benedict—gave observers an overview of how the community’s nutritional needs are being addressed.
Chambers said the food pantry, which was started 16 years ago in a Dunkirk office building, receives a “Basic Needs” grant from United Way and also receives funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “The qualification for food is walking through that door,” said Debbie Weber, the pantry’s director of Community Care. According to Weber an average of 700 families a week from five counties pick up food from the pantry. Weber stated that most of the pantry’s clients are part of the region’s “working poor,” that is, individuals who are employed but don’t have much room in their budget to afford adequate food after all the other bills are paid.
The End Hunger warehouse is located in the Calvert Industrial Park off Route 231. Manager Kathy Ring said the purpose of the facility is to serve all the area’s food pantries. A lot of the food stored at the warehouse for distribution to the pantries comes from Maryland Food Bank. Ring noted that when the three Food Lion grocery stores in Calvert were closed (subsequently transitioning to Weiss’ Markets) 267,000 pounds of food was received at the warehouse. This year the warehouse used a $35,000 United Way grant to buy a new forklift. The facility’s next big necessity, said Ring, would likely be for additional boxed refrigeration.
As the tour headed to Serenity Farm, Chambers told the tour group that Farming 4 Hunger has taught skills to local detention center inmates. “It really transforms their whole being,” said Chambers, adding the farm operation “does multiple things for the community.”
Bernie Fowler Jr. explained to the group how he started Farming 4 Hunger in 2012 as a way to provide food pantry clients with sustenance that was healthier—fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned and boxed food. “Along with path life changed,” said Fowler, who explained that “about 2014 I started thinking about relationships.” The organization’s focus and purpose was then “tweaked” as a way to aid those in substance abuse recovery and incarcerated. Fowler stated that many of the inmates—nearly 100 felons–who spend time doing farm work find fulltime employment once they are released from jail. Fowler pointed out that Farming 4 Hunger now works with 24 other farms and is looking expand its partnerships as it is currently distributes several thousand pounds of food per day, some to Maryland’s larger counties.
Noting the juxtaposition of the large greenhouse–where lettuce, kale and other fresh vegetables can thrive during the cooler weather months—and a meeting room with church pews where inmates share their stories and volunteers counsel inmates and those in recovery—Fowler said, that building grows food and this building grows lives.”
The tour included a visit to the Burnett Calvert Hospice House, a six-bed facility for local hospice patients who can no longer stay at home. Chambers pointed out that United Way has given a health grant to Calvert Hospice for substance abuse grief support. Hospice Executive Director Jean Fleming pointed out that in addition to providing patients with professional care—many volunteers are also part of the program’s success. She pointed out that members of the Calvert Arts Club helps maintain the beautiful landscape that surrounds the house. “We wanted to bring nature to them [hospice house patients],” Fleming stated.
The group also visited the Care Net Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland and the Project ECHO homeless shelter. Care Net, said Chambers, is a program “helping the family unit stay whole.” A program funded by a United Way grant helps families stay connected with fathers who are incarcerated. The center strives to do “anything we can do to help with life issues,” said Center Director Cindy Fehrman.
While Project ECHO has been in Calvert for over 20 years, its multi-story shelter is fairly new, having opened in 2009. Shelter Manager Lori Hony said Project Echo has a 90-day program for adults and children and also runs satellite houses for local senior citizens who may find themselves displaced. Project ECHO recently opened a thrift store on Main Street in Prince Frederick. The organization’s two big fundraisers—the Empty Bowl Supper in spring and the Turkey Trot 5 Kilometer race on Thanksgiving morning—have proven to be very popular.
According to United Way of Calvert County, the annual Day of Caring has been served by 5,564 volunteers who have logged 33,684 volunteer hours and saved an estimated $665,134 for local nonprofits.
The United Way will be one of two organizations—the other being Bay Community Support Services—that will benefit from the Second annual Duckfest Beer and Music Festival Sunday, Oct. 1 at the Ruddy Duck in Dowell.
For more information on United Way of Calvert, visit their web site at www.unitedwaycalvert.org
Contact Marty Madden at email@example.com