As coronavirus-related closures quickly quieted an otherwise bustling city over the past two weeks, moms across Annapolis started wondering what they could do to help the most vulnerable communities.
This week, over the course of a single day, a group of moms banded together and brought in enough donations of food and cash to feed nearly 30 families in need — a joint effort the Annapolis Moms group and the West Annapolis Business Affiliation plan to continue until the pandemic subsides.
As of Friday, there were at least 9 confirmed cases in Anne Arundel County and 149 cases in the state — including three confirmed cases in children. Officials expect these numbers to rise quickly. To stop the spread, state and local officials have taken aggressive measures including closing schools, restaurants, malls, and limited the use of public transportation to workers on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus.
As a result, many local residents have lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced. Anne Arundel County Public Schools have 52 locations across the county where students — not just students who qualify for free or reduced lunch — can receive three meals and a snack each day.
Still, Lisa Peri, who started the Annapolis Moms Facebook group 9 years ago, she and many others are concerned about families that lack access to transportation and kids who are home alone while their parents are at working going hungry.
She put a call out on social media Wednesday morning for donations, and by the end of the day they had collected $1,800.
“It was so many people coming together,” Peri said. “But the common denominator was that it was all moms.”
Half the donations went to the Center of Help, which serves Anne Arundel’s immigrant population with programs and resources, and half went to the Stanton Community Center, which provides after-school care to kids.
Diana Love, executive director of the West Annapolis Business Affiliation, said she had already been racking her brain when she heard from Peri. Within an hour of talking to Peri, she said, she had permission from the organization’s board to help facilitate the donations.
“How unfair is it that you have moms that can’t afford to buy that second package of toilet paper or are working hourly jobs and their bosses don’t let them out until at night when the toilet paper is already gone,” Love said. “What do you do if you’re not a person of means in Annapolis?”
With the donations provided, Vice President of the Center of Help Tatiana Klein said they were able to serve 11 families. She’s been in communication with Peri to ensure that monetary donations are used to buy food that the community would normally eat.
In addition to supporting immigrant families through food and gift certificate donations, Klein said the Center of Help is working to support families who participate in their other programs.
Klein said she is monitoring the needs of kids from the María de la Paz Youth Outreach Center, an after school program for immigrant youth that provides a safe place for kids to go where they receive academic support and activities that are culturally sensitive. All 12 of the students have been provided with a Google Chromebook from the organization, and volunteers are reaching out to them periodically to ensure they’re doing alright emotionally and academically.
They are also checking on families with younger kids to make sure their needs are met.
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“One of the important things to understand is that many of these kids are American kids and many of the parents are not and unfortunately that makes them not qualify for many services that other people would have,” Klein said. “Like if you get laid off and you’re unemployed, you cannot apply for unemployment benefits.”
Many parents are out of work or have had their hours significantly reduced and are unsure of how they are going to pay their rent.
“I’m focused on the families that are going to be taxed like that,” Klein said.
Community members who are interested in donating can do so monetarily through the Friends of Annapolis Moms — the group’s nonprofit arm — or drop off products from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at East Coast Martial Arts in Forest Plaza.
Love said they will accept donations on an ongoing basis for as long as necessary. Community members who are interested in donating products can maintain social distancing while dropping off supplies — both locations will have bins for drop-offs.