Share your blessings: Volunteers, donations keep Catonsville assistance programs alive

Waltitia Hollman said the staff and volunteers at Catonsville Emergency Assistance are “so nice” that for this month’s visit to pick up groceries, she brought them gifts: miniature bottles of perfume.

Hollman, of Catonsville, said she has been coming to the small white house on Bloomsbury Avenue for help with food for close to a year, after her friend and neighbor, Margaret Gaither, recommended it. The two women waited last week to pick up bags of groceries.

“They help when you’re having a hard time or have unexpected bills,” Hollman said. “I have old parents; You have to help them so you have to cut something out of the budget. This helps fill the gap.”

Filling gaps is Catonsville Emergency Assistance’s mission. The organization provides monthly grocery bags for people in need, as well as weekly bags for the homeless. They also help people keep the lights on and stay in their homes by assisting with utility bills and rent in emergencies.

As the days grow colder and holiday food drives ramp up, that mission is going into overdrive, staff and volunteers said.

"It takes enthusiasm and energy” to handle the volume of donations and requests over the holidays, Director Bonnie Harry said. “It takes a conscientious response to whatever walks in the door.”

Harry took over as director four weeks ago, after working as a registered nurse and in related healthcare positions for 37 years. She said the skill set — serving people — is the same.

The organization receives an influx of food donations during the holiday season. On Nov. 12, Harry said, dozens of volunteers helped sort and store close to 5,000 pounds of donated food.

“We usually don’t have things bursting,” Harry said, gesturing at stacks of containers filled with boxed potatoes and canned chicken soup.

“We’re overwhelmed,” volunteer Ed Cohen said.

Cohen and his wife Anita, both five-year veteran volunteers, packed “holiday bags” — along with normal monthly groceries, clients get an extra bag during November and December containing goods such as pumpkin, cocoa mix, stuffing and cranberries.

Though Cohen said recipients tend to need extra food around the holidays, he encouraged donors to keep donating throughout the year.

“People are not aware that hunger is all year ’round,” Cohen said.

Harry said the number of people they help is up by nearly 12 percent in 2017 as compared to the year before — largely, she said, because wages have not risen enough to meet household needs.

In addition to food, Harry said, the most critical need in the colder months is monetary donations, so the organization can help Catonsville residents pay utility bills to keep the heat on.

The organization received nine utility calls last Monday alone, Harry said, and halfway through November has already used all of its budgeted utility funds — something she said happens every month.

To help more people, Harry said Catonsville Emergency Assistance is encouraging people to donate on or before “Giving Tuesday,” a national movement to encourage giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 28.

The Catonsville Library and Catonsville United Methodist Church are also collecting toys for a December toy drive, in which Catonsville Emergency Assistance families who have children can pick up toys and clothing.

With more donations and more requests, the small house Catonsville Emergency Assistance operates out of is hectic, full of busy people dodging each other in narrow stairwells.

As volunteers rushed paper bags across the small waiting room on Tuesday, program assistant Mandy Zivin called out to Hollman across the room.

“Waltitia, I know you love liverwurst,” she said. “I have some if you want it."

Amid the “organized chaos,” Harry said, the center still strives to ensure they are “respectful and compassionate” to clients, preparing their grocery bags ahead of their appointments to show them their time is valued.

“They’re important, because they’re people,” Harry said.

Throughout the area, there are dozens of nonprofit groups committed to serving those in need. These groups can always use our help. Below is a sampling of some organizations seeking donations of either money or items, or both. In this season of giving and Thanksgiving, please share your blessings, by giving to those less fortunate.

The Arc Baltimore — 7215 York Road., Baltimore, MD 21212. Provides advocacy and high quality, life-changing supports to more than 6,000 adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Contactus@thearcbaltimore.org or 410-296-2272.

Wish List: diapers (all sizes); Pull-ups (25-125 pounds); Goodnights (S-XL); canvas grocery bags; grocery store gift cards; protein (peanut butter, tuna, chicken, chili, etc.); laundry/dish detergent; toiletries; gift cards for family/holiday activities. Or designate a donation to the Family Fund at www.thearcbaltimore.org/donate.

Casey Cares Foundation — provides uplifting and on-going programs for critically ill children and their families throughout Mid-Atlantic region. 443-568-0064. CaseyCares.org.

Wish List: $10 or $25 gift cards for Target, Walmart, Ledo Pizza, Pizza Hut, Red Lobster, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Chick-fil-A, Panera. $10 or $25 gift cards for Redbox, AMC and Regal Theaters or Fandango. New, two-piece pajamas (adult and infant sizes are needed most).

Dream 4 It Foundation — raises funds to support educational scholarships for college freshmen. 443-472-3311. www.dream4it.net.

Wish List : Cash donations and services and products for annual silent auction event.

— provides comprehensive services to victims of intimate domestic violence and their families. 410-889-0840. www.hruth.org.

Wish List : New wash cloths, wire hair brushes, deodorant, diapers (sizes 4, 5 and 6), new undershirts (sizes 24 months to 3T), new boys undergarments, all sizes (including men’s for the older boys), new girls undergarments (size 2T-6X), new girls socks (toddler sizes), new socks and undergarments for women and children, new pillows, new twin-size blankets, comforters and sheet sets, new air mattresses, baby wipes, pampers (sizes 3, 4, 5 and 6, Pull-ups sizes 4T, 5T and 6T), crib sheets for small cribs and cots, crib sheets that fit mattresses sized 23 3/8 x 37 1/4 (not standard size), new infant and toddler sleepwear, infant and toddler toys, play mats, rattles, baby mirrors, stacking cups and boxes, Jack in the boxes, Lego duplo, Fisher-Price Learning toys, nesting blocks, new socks and undergarments for women and children, gift cards for grocery stores, gas stations, department stores (Walmart, Target, etc.) and non-perishable food (peanut butter and jelly, tuna, cereal, pasta, granola bars, juice boxes, etc.)

Kennedy Krieger Institute — is improving the lives of children and adolescents with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord as well as developmental disabilities through patient care, special education, research and professional training. 443-923-7300. www.kennedykrieger.org.

Wish List: Cause and effect toys, light-up and sound toys, stacking/sorting toys, educational toys, Fischer-Price Little People toys, Playskool toys, arts and craft sets, DVD movies (G-PG13), Wii games (rated E), board games (ages 8 and older), sports items, gift cards for grocery stores/gas stations, and nonperishable food items. Please, no stuffed animals.

Maryland CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children), 402 W. Pennsylvania Ave., 3rd Floor, Towson, MD 21204 www.MarylandCASA.org / ed@marylandcasa.org . Provides more than 1,000 trained volunteer advocates for more than 1,500 children and youth who are under court protection due to abuse and neglect, ensuring their right to safe, permanent homes. Far more children and youth need our help.

Wish List: gift cards (Target, Walmart, etc.) for holiday gifts for children and youth, as well as to help older foster youth who are leaving foster care to set up their own households, office supplies to assist youth in their job search or to pursue college, office/training supplies to train additional volunteers, etc. Tax-deductible donations are also welcome at http://marylandcasa.org/get-involved/make-a-donation/ or above address, and we are always in need of volunteers to serve as advocates, assist in the office, help with fundraising and public awareness, etc. ( http://marylandcasa.org/get-involved/ ).

Maryland Food Bank – as the largest charitable food provider in the state, the Maryland Food Bank distributes an average of 115,000 meals every day to thousands of food pantries, soup kitchens and community-based organizations across Maryland.

Wish List: The Maryland Food Bank can stretch monetary donations furthest, turning every $1 donation into 3 meals. Make an immediate impact and donate to help hungry Maryland households today! Visit www.mdfoodbank.org for more information.

Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland — provides nutritious meals to homebound individuals since 1960. 410-558-0827. www.mealsonwheelsmd.org.

Wish List: Homebound Health Kits, adult diapers (Pull-ups: sizes M, L, & XL not tabbed), anti-bacterial liquid soap, adult wipes/towelettes, deodorant, body lotion, tissues, shampoo, comb/hairbrush, toothbrush/toothpaste, back-Up boxes, boost or ensure (plain, vanilla and chocolate), canned goods (corn, beans, stew, fruit, etc), canned chicken, tuna or salmon, crackers/cheese crackers, peanut butter/peanut butter crackers, cereal, mac 'n cheese jelly, single servings of fruit cups/applesauce, soup - vegetable/ chicken noodle, fruit juice (single serving size), ultra high temperature (UHT) milk, high protein items, dishwashing liquid, paper towels, laundry detergent, toilet paper, cleaning wipes, dish towels, flash lights, non-skid socks and magnet clips.

NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore — provides education, support, and advocacy to improve the lives of individuals and families impacted by mental illness in Baltimore County. All programs are free, confidential, and peer-led. Donations can be made online at www.namibaltimore.org or by mail to 6600 York Road, Suite 204, Baltimore, MD 21212.

Wish List: Monetary donations and gift cards (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Target, grocery stores) are needed to create a mental health education library and to support volunteer training. Volunteers are needed to share their time and talents in a number of roles, including program facilitators, mentors, presenters, and HelpLine volunteers. Contact volunteer@namibaltimore.org.

Salvation Army — The Salvation Army operates three Boys and Girls Clubs in central Maryland, which provide children and youth with educational, spiritual and recreational programs.

Wish List: cash donations, volunteers, sporting equipment, video games, educational material and beauty supplies.

Santa Claus Anonymous — provides assistance in the form of gift certificates redeemable at local merchants to aid families in the purchase of toys, clothing, or books for holiday presents. 443-557-7000.

Wish List: Monetary donations by mail or online only. PO Box 28385, Baltimore, MD 21234 or www.santaclausanonymous.org.

United Churches Assistance Network — (UCAN) provides emergency financial assistance to families and individuals in the Northern Baltimore County area, to prevent evictions and utility turnoffs. Networking and referrals to other organizations also provided. Open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 410-628-2102.

Wish List: Money, gift cards to food stores, Target and Walmart.

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