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‘The need is so very great’: Amigos of Baltimore County hosts drives to provide food for Latinx community

Amigos of Baltimore County has been holding community food drives such as this one with 4MyCiTy, a regional nonprofit “food rescue” organization that distributes leftover food from hotels and restaurants to local community kitchens and shelters. (Courtesy Photo)

On a cloudy Palm Sunday afternoon, a line of cars snaked through the parking lot and street surrounding St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church in Windsor Mill.

Volunteers wearing face masks and gloves greeted them with plastic bags filled with groceries and other necessities, while Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, members in neon yellow vests ushered them in.

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By the end of the afternoon, 476 cars would roll through the line, serving 789 families in Baltimore County.

The food drive was the first of three this month conducted by Amigos of Baltimore County, an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of the local Latinx community, according to its Facebook page. For the last three Sundays, the organization has partnered with 4MyCiTy, a regional nonprofit “food rescue” organization that distributes leftover food from hotels and restaurants to local community kitchens and shelters.

To address the immediate needs of Latinx immigrants in the county who are ineligible to receive a government stimulus check issued to some U.S. citizens, Amigos of Baltimore County and 4MyCiTy teamed up to feed their community.

Due to the food shortage created as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Alejandra Ivanovich, 36, a community advocate and volunteer for Amigos of Baltimore County, decided she wanted to conduct a food drive to help meet the needs of those in her community.

“I was coming home from my job, and I received a phone call from a single mother with five children who told me she was two weeks out of work,” Ivanovich said. “I heard in my spirit if the people cannot go to the food, then take the food to your people, so I went ahead and did a [food drive].”

After not having any luck with large-scale regional food banks for donations, a contact she had at St. Gabriel recommended she reach out to 4MyCiTy for help.

Chris Dipnarine, CEO and founder of 4MyCiTy, launched the organization two years ago after noticing the amount of food that is wasted nationwide. After thoroughly researching food waste reduction, he developed a four-step plan to turn food waste into reusable materials, which involves food rescue and distribution, recycling and composting.

“Food waste has been a major issue in our country for a number of years,” he said. “I know someone who runs a program called Food Rescue Baltimore and I wanted to do something to revolutionize food waste.”

After learning of Ivanovich and her endeavor to conduct a community food drive, he and 4MyCiTy donated rescued food from local food distributors and volunteered to help hand out bags to families in need.

“Alejandra reached out to me and I said we will get some stuff for her,” he said. “[We donated] two or three truck loads of food, baby stuff, diapers and lotion to the food drive.”

One week later, on Easter Sunday, a team of volunteers from Amigos of Baltimore County and 4MyCiTy gathered at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Glyndon to distribute bags of food and other necessities to community members — 711 cars would roll through the line, serving roughly 1,600 families.

“The [food drive] was amazing because everything came together for me in my heart,” Ivanovich said.

The following week, the team would meet at Iglesia del Nazareno in Owings Mills where 329 cars came through, serving 619 families.

To further address the growing demand for food and other necessities, Amigos of Baltimore County created a GoFundMe page to continue to conduct food drives for members of the community. Created on March 29, the fundraiser has surpassed its goal of $2,500, raising nearly $2,700 as of Wednesday.

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“I feel super happy because I feel supported and my people are supported,” Ivanovich said. “People who I never thought would support me are supporting.”

Baltimore County Councilman Julian Jones, who has represented Owings Mills, Woodlawn and Randallstown for the past six years, donated $100 to the fundraiser, according to the GoFundMe page. He said when he learned of the fundraiser, he felt compelled to give.

“This is a very trying time for everybody, and I think the government is doing what it can in terms of sending out stimulus checks and all of these things are great, but there are still going to be an awful lot of people who are going to fall through the cracks,” Jones said.

State Del. Sheila Ruth, who donated $50 to the fundraiser, shared his sentiment.

“The need is so very great,” said Ruth, who represents the western and southwestern part of the county. “There are so many people in pain and suffering right now, and I want to do anything I can to help.”

In addition to donating to the fundraiser, Ruth said she and her husband plan to donate a portion of their stimulus checks to Amigos of Baltimore County and other local organizations serving the Latinx community.

“I think a lot of times the Latino community gets overlooked, and groups like Amigos of Baltimore County are people who are a part of the community who recognize the problems and are in touch with the community and can make sure that there are resources that can help,” she said.

As a result of the donations they received, Amigos of Baltimore County plans to conduct food drives April 26 and May 3 to continue to feed the community.

To express their gratitude, community members wrote messages in Amigos of Baltimore County’s WhatsApp group, Comunidad Hispana.

“Thank you very much for taking the time to organize everything so that we do not lack food on our table. God bless you,” one wrote in Spanish.

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