ESSEX—Many people have a lot of concerns and questions unanswered during this pandemic. But one thing that many people in Baltimore County won’t have to worry about is how they are going to put food on their tables.
Thanks to Eastern Interface Outreach (EIO) and The Baltimore County Food and Nutrition Division, over 25,000 pounds of food were given to an estimated 2,592 people last week at a community food drive.
EIO holds their Pantry On The Go food drive at Renaissance Park off of Stemmers Run Road in Essex every first Wednesday of the month, excluding July, and The Baltimore County Food and Nutrition Division give away meals at the same location to families with children between the ages of 2 and 18 every Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. and give out double meals on Thursdays so children can have breakfast and lunch on Fridays as well.
The food drive last Wednesday was a special one, according to EIO volunteer Marge Blum, because it was one of the biggest food drives EIO has held.
Blum, who has been a volunteer for EIO for 32 years, said she got involved with the organization after she went to one of EIO’s food drives to get food for her and her family.
“A woman named Merrill Bulger came up to me and kept asking me why I was looking down,” Blum said.
“I was raising children and I was a working mom and I needed food and I didn’t want to keep asking my parents [for help]. So how do you pay your bills and feed your kids? [Bulger] said, ‘don’t be embarrassed, smile because that smile may be the best part of someone’s day.’’’
Bulger asked Blum to come back once a week to help out at the food drive—she did and hasn’t stopped 32 years later.
“I did not know [Bulger] was mentoring me. So, I promised to give back.”
Blum has definitely managed to give back and then some.
“By the time my kids got into the school, I was writing articles to The Avenue News and succeeded in getting grants from Nascar and other places,” Blum said.
“I helped [Bulger] from getting 4,000 pounds of food a year to 12,000 pounds a year. Now, in 2018 we had 275,000 and last year we had 290,000 pounds. This year we are going to get around 300,000 pounds of food.”
Blum said EIO gets all this food by partnering with local grocery stores, farmers and residents who donate food. The donations allow RIO to help stock Essex food pantries and hold their Pantry On the Go food drive every first Wednesday of the month.
Blum said the Pantry on the Go has around 20 volunteers who help collect, organize and distribute food during the food drives.
“[The volunteers] are all my friends. I’ve met them in line and pulled themes out of line and tell them [my story],” Blum said.
EIO was able to receive a grant that allowed them to provide meat at last week’s food drive. Turkey, chicken, ground beef hot dogs and dairy products were given out to people regardless of their financial situations.
“I encourage people, whether they work or not to come. This is a non-qualifier. I don’t need any information but I do need a name and a phone number in case I have to recall any food. You don’t need to prove your income,” Blum said.
Another benefit Blum said about the EIO Pantry on the Go is that they give a box of food to each person per car-not just a box of food per car.
“A lot of people carpool together and I want to make sure people get the food they need because this is what we are here for.”
Bill Ledford, who helps collect a lot of the food for EIO’s food drives, said he hopes people take advantage of the Pantry On The Go because otherwise, the food will go to waste.
“There’s a lot of good food out there and if people don’t get it they throw it in the garbage can. I saw it today at the warehouse where I get the bread. They had a 40-foot dumpster down there and half of it was full,” Ledford said.
Ledford gets food for the food drive at a warehouse in town and said a food inspector approves the food but for various reasons, the grocery stores don’t want to sell the food ( i.e. damaged packaging or nonuniform shape of produce). So, instead of throwing the food away, Ledford collects it for the food drive.
Ledford said he started volunteering and distributing food to people in the community over 30 years a go because he knew there are a lot of people who need assistance.
“There are a lot of hungry people. I guess God put it on my heart to help them.”
Ledford, who will be 80 next month, said as long as he is able he will continue to volunteer his time to make sure people get food on their tables.
Baltimore County Food and Nutrition Division also handed out meals for children ages 2 to 18 at Wednesday’s food drive. Cynthia Smith and Kerri Schaffer, who work at Baltimore County’s Food and Nutrition Division, said they were happy to see EIO distributing food and said they didn’t know that EIO holds a food drive every first Wednesday of the month.
“This is wonderful. When we saw them in the parking lot we just came down here and just started walking up to all the cars and asking them if they have any kids in their family,” Smith said.
Smith and Schaffer distributed over 85 meals to kids who were with their families in EIO’s Pantry on the Go line and said they will continue to come out when EIO holds their monthly food drive because it allows them to provide more food to more kids.
“The more people know about this the better because there has been talk of [the county] shutting us down because we haven’t reached many kids in this area,” Schaffer said.
EIO’s next Pantry On The Go will start at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 5 at Renaissance Park in Essex. If next month’s food drive is anywhere near as big as last Wednesday’s, people should plan to arrive early. To contact EIO with any questions regarding volunteer opportunities or local food pantries and the Pantry On The Go food drive call (410) 391-6181.
MIDDLE RIVER—Vince’s Crab House is officially suing Baltimore County, County Executive Johnny Olszewski, and Police Chief Melissa R. Hyatt for allegedly ordering police officers to “stand down” and not arrest protestors that have been outside of the restaurant for over a month.
“This litigation is not about Plaintiff’s agreement or disagreement with the inspiration for the protestors, or the viewpoints expressed by the people occupying that area. Instead, it is about the Baltimore County’s active, knowing endorsement and support of a destructive occupation of a small Middle River business to the detriment of the well-being of those who own, patronize, and work in the small business,” the lawsuit states.
Protestors started to gather outside the crab house after the owners posted what many deemed to be racist remarks and racial slurs on social media.
Brenda Meyer, owner of the crab house, assert that Baltimore County Police have been ordered to stand down and not to engage the protestors or to make any arrests against the protestors.
Meyer said she believes the order was issued after she asked the officers for help.
“The officers have told me on numerous occasions that they’re doing what they are allowed to do. I asked if they are on ‘stand down,’ and they said “yes”, Meyer said.
The lawsuit argues that the stand down order amounts to a command order not to engage the protestors for any reason. The law suite states the Meyer family has spent more than $40,000 to hire private security guards. Now, the family is suing Olszewski for $40,000.
At a press conference Friday, Meyer said her family continues to receive threats from protestors and that her daughter, Brittany Meyer, went to the police to file an assault report after one of the protestors grabbed her arm and have her a bruise.
The lawsuit further states that if elected leaders do not enforce the public safety laws then the government should compensate the tax paying business for the consequences of their actions.
Meyer said she contacted Olszewski and asked him to visit the crab house.
“I shot him a text message and asked, ‘Can you please come here? You need to see what’s going on here. We are being harassed. These are not protestors,”’ Meyer said.
“He never came. You think if this is going on right here in Middle River, that he would come here and see exactly what’s going onHe needs to come here and see what he is allowing to happen.”
Baltimore County said it does not comment on pending litigation, but County Johnny Olszewski said via Facebook that the claims made by the Meyer family are baseless and, “not grounded in fact or reality” and that, “the men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department have consistently gone above and beyond to promote public safety and ensure the right for our residents to peacefully protest.”