Heaps of donations for first responders, residents affected by riots

Good Samaritans emerge to donate after rioting.

Baltimore's firehouses, the home bases for crews that battled more than 100 fires during Monday night's riots, were filling up with donations from a grateful public on Wednesday.

"Our firehouses are full of cakes and pies and Cokes and waters," said Rick Hoffman, president of the city firefighters union. Residents are "just coming out and giving us all kinds of support. People are coming down with arms full of ... stuff."

Churches and other organizations across the city are organizing food drives for seniors and others in neighborhoods hard hit by rioting and looting on Monday. The Whole Foods grocery store in Mount Washington donated fruit and sandwich wraps for children at the library branch at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North avenues, an epicenter of rioting as well as of peaceful protest. And Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's office is trying to coordinate cleanup and other volunteer efforts through five Community Action Partnership Centers.

The Baltimore Police Department also said via Twitter that people have been dropping off food and other donations for officers.

Hoffman said the firefighters appreciate the sweet fare after the events of the last few days, during which rioters threw objects at fire trucks and cut holes in hoses.

"Maybe," he joked, "they should start bringing us some salads."

At St. Peter Claver and Pius V Church in Sandtown-Winchester, volunteers handed out food to neighborhood residents at an event sponsored by the No Boundaries Coalition. According to the coalition, many residents are cut off from food because stores remain closed in the riot's aftermath.

Volunteers joined hands in a prayer circle before helping to distribute fresh produce, pasta, canned goods and other items.

Residents in the area regularly lack access to affordable, quality fresh foods, getting "the lowest grade of everything," said one coalition member, Greer Dorsey, 29.

"We are giving them things that we would want," she said. "We want to make sure the Sandtown residents are served."

The sense of goodwill even spread to Baltimore's surrounding counties, with residents dropping off food and drinks to be distributed to law enforcement and firefighters in the city. A parent at Our Lady of Grace School in Parkton planned to drive a carload of collected donations of candy, granola bars, crackers, snacks, water bottles and sports drinks to a law enforcement staging area near Camden Yards on Wednesday.

At Orchard Beach Volunteer Fire Department in Glen Burnie, Kaitlyn Ballard of Millersville dropped off cases of water, bananas, chips and granola bars.

It began with a Facebook post Monday evening. Orchard Beach asked people to "make care packages for the Baltimore City police officers working during this horrific time."

Said Ballard: "They need to know there are still good people that support the first responders."

In Howard County, Columbia resident Dylan Goldberg issued a call for food donations Tuesday night and ended up with 1,700 pounds of non-perishable food, 150 pounds of meat, 400 pounds of produce, 250 subs and 25 cases of water by Wednesday afternoon.

He drove the donations up to the Center for Graceful Living, a faith-based organization in Baltimore's McElderry Park, on Wednesday evening to be distributed to young Baltimoreans in the neighborhood, where convenience stores have been boarded up since Monday night's looting.

The Downtown Partnership spent $4,000 buying food from bars and restaurants damaged in the riots, including Mick O'Shea's on Charles Street, and distributed it to residents living downtown, said Kirby Fowler, its president. At least 20 downtown businesses were damaged on Saturday and Monday, he said.

Tuesday "was a very slow day in particular for many of the businesses that were directly affected by what happened," Fowler said.

State Sen. Bill Ferguson of Baltimore spent Wednesday afternoon at St. Peter Claver Church in Sandtown-Winchester helping to put together roughly 2,000 bags of canned goods, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes and deodorant to be distributed among needy residents with few options given the closed or looted stores in their neighborhoods.

"People want be part of a solution," Ferguson said. "I think everybody recognizes that this is a very important moment for Baltimore's future and they want to be part of something better. It's not just one community, it's everyone in the city of Baltimore that's affected."

John Minadakis, the owner of Jimmy's Famous Seafood, said his restaurant has passed out more than 2,000 plates of crab cakes, crab pretzels and shrimp to first responders, letting them eat for free in his restaurant and driving meals around in a food truck.

"We're going to keep it going until further notice," he said.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Alison Knezevich, Amanda Yeager and Tim Prudente contributed to this article

cwells@baltsun.com

How to help

Call 311: The Baltimore Department of Public Works announced a new 311 category to direct citizens to opportunities to clean up.

Donate to the fund: The Baltimore Community Foundation has established The Fund for Rebuilding Baltimore, which will aim to repair the physical and emotional damage from the riots. The fund is accepting payments via the Community Foundation's website or via check. The United Way of Central Maryland also is soliciting donations and already raised more than $71,000 to restore Baltimore.

Rebuild burned buildings: Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore, across the street from the community center and apartment building that burned Monday, posted on its Facebook page asking the public to donate via the church website, which includes an "online giving" button.

Help homeless youth: Youth Empowerment Society, a drop-in center for homeless youth ages 14 to 25, was damaged in a fire Monday night, according to its Facebook page. The organization is accepting donations via PayPal.

Give emergency food assistance: All donations to the Maryland Food Bank this week support emergency food assistance efforts in Baltimore

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