In crisis, Grassroots center feels community warmth

When polar vortex-induced frozen pipes caused a sprinkler system to go off in the dining room of Columbia's Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center last week, the organization had an opportunity to feel the warmth of the community.

The center, which provides housing and support services for Howard County citizens in crisis, had to shut off the sprinkler system in its dining room and kitchen for several days to prevent further water damage, according to Grassroots Director Andrea Ingram.

But with 51 residents, including some children, living in the Grassroots shelter, that left a big problem: how to feed everyone?

Ingram and others turned to the community for help.

"Many of our meals are ordinarily brought by volunteer groups or organizations, and our kitchen manager called some folks who were already scheduled to bring meals and asked if they could bring boxed or bagged lunches instead," Ingram said. "Word just got out."

Grassroots staff turned the lobby into a food distribution center to pass out three meals a day, including donated sandwiches, chicken, potato salad and vegetables.

The response didn't come as a surprise to Grassroots.

"When we're in trouble we ask for help, we tend to get it and we have a lot of supporters throughout the community," Ingram said. "If we let people know we're in trouble we tend to get a great response."

Ingram said the dining room would be closed for a few more days while the county, which owns the building, works to fix drywall and ceiling issues caused by the sprinkler leak.

"The county has been terrific in working very quickly with us on this," Ingram said. "We feel very well taken care of by the county government and the community."

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