A grassroots organization that has helped many local families in need is looking to expand their network on the Broadneck Peninsula.
Last year, Tara Markey, of Severna Park, decided to do something about families struggling over the holiday season. She made a “last minute” effort to gather food, clothing, and toys for families who needed help.
The effort was successful and inspired her to continue beyond the holiday season. A Facebook page, Open Arms for Families in Need was created. She started matching members; both people who needed help, and volunteers and sponsors. The group now has 563 members, about 100 of whom are sponsors, and relies largely on the honor system to help those facing challenges.
Markey, who posts as Malia Michael, administrates the page, along with page moderators Cassie Donaloio, a Broadneck resident, and Mary Canaan. Markey thinks of the group as a family. She stresses there is no judgement toward those requesting help.
This Thanksgiving, the group sponsored 80 families, and partnered with Smith and Co. HVAC in Pasadena. It sponsored 12 of the Thanksgiving families and has a drop off box at their office, 2406 Mountain Road in Pasadena. The company will also match donations made.
The group will continue beyond the holidays. All items on the page are giveaway only, from toys to baby items to clothes, the group works to arrange pick up and drop off. Members also help with transport to doctor’s offices, emergency food, and sponsored a boy with autism to visit the Landsdowne Volunteer Fire Company and receive his own uniform.
While the group has helped and received help from people on the Broadneck Peninsula, they are seeking additional sponsors on the peninsula. They hope a local business will volunteer to be a drop off point for the holidays and have arranged pick up and transport to other areas of any goods collected.
Individuals who may have time and resources to help in other ways are encouraged to join the group. While requests for holiday sponsorships closed Dec. 1, plans to continue beyond the holidays are being made.
The group promotes honesty and safety in arranging help, and while Markey admits that one or two have taken advantage of the honor system, this has been the exception to the rule. The group is collaborating with local churches to ensure people are not on more than one list for sponsorship.
There have been several posts from members thanking the group and saying they have received help elsewhere.
Markey says her heart “goes out to those who experience the hardship of not being able to provide for their children, especially at the holidays.” Having lived through that experience as a child, she has empathy for those going through it.
Rules of the group state requests for money are not allowed, nor is selling or soliciting permitted. Donaloio, who has recently started working with the group said Markey and Canaan have kind, giving hearts.
“They go out of their way to make sure that they do any and everything to assist families who are struggling,” Donaloio said. “The families in need are also so appreciative of the help.
“We are excitedly in the process of collecting donations and seeking sponsors for our Christmas drive right now and so far, so good.”
The group has over 200 families on its Christmas list its hopes to help. It is planning its first post-holiday group meeting for January where it will distribute donations to families in need, and provide light refreshments.
“We hope to create and maintain one big family atmosphere with our group,” Donaloio said. “What I find particularly refreshing is seeing even those who are in need and struggling willing to provide any help they can to other members that may be in need.
“This group is exactly what our community needs--a place where people of different backgrounds come together to help each other.”
Those interested in helping can contact the group through Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maureen Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.