Demand has tripled at Anne Arundel County Food Bank locations since the start of the pandemic, and more than 50% of those customers are new.
Executive Director Susan Thomas said she is fearful that restaurant workers will have their already limited hours further reduced as coronavirus cases surge. That sector has been hard-hit, she said. Typically they use Giving Tuesday, the charitable counterpart to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, to thank donors, she said.
The day will have extra importance for most nonprofits this year, as in-person fundraisers are canceled, and the need for a helping hand is high across all sectors.
“Any and all food funds are welcome; nothing is staying on the shelf,” Thomas said. “The need is just so great right now.”
To donate to the county food bank or purchase food that can be sent directly to them, text FOOD to 41444.
Jesse Steele of CASA of Maryland, Inc., said on Giving Tuesday they are asking for donations to the group’s community sustainability fund, which will help Latino and immigrant communities in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia weather COVID-19.
“It could take three to four years before the immigrant community, and supporting institutions are back on their feet after COVID,” Steele said.
Among services offered to support the community is a health hotline, a vital resource during COVID, Steele said. The hotline predates the pandemic. This year they also gave money directly to people who were not eligible for the stimulus benefit.
United Way of Central Maryland President and CEO Franklyn Baker said layoffs related to the pandemic had affected their fundraising campaigns at workplaces, but a significant donor filled that gap.
He said they had faced many challenges connected to COVID-19 this year. They have seen more cases of spousal abuse, child abuse, people have lost hours at work. Distance learning and working have widened the digital divide.
Many are on the brink of eviction, he said. He said as part of United Way’s Neighborhood Zone Strategy, they operate a homelessness prevention program.
“For every dollar spent, there (are) four dollars saved,” he said.
Friends of Anne Arundel County Animal Care & Control, Inc. is also raising money on Giving Tuesday. President Chris Weinstein said the pandemic sparked an increased interest in fostering animals, saving some tiny lives in the process. When kittens come in at a very young age, and there is no one available to socialize them, they face euthanization, she said. When animals come in with a bite mark, and there is nowhere to quarantine them, it is the same case.
But more people quarantining at home has meant those dogs have a place to quarantine now, and the kittens can get less feral. It has meant the animal group has spent thousands to support foster families, such as replacement milk for kittens and litter.
“COVID refocused people on ‘What can I do from home,’” Weinstein said. “‘How can I help from home?’”
The group also helps pets stay in homes by providing pet food to those who can’t afford it.
COVID has had a ripple effect, with one disruption causing another. It has worsened a shortage of recycled oyster shells for oyster growers, the preferred material to grow new baby oysters. Oyster Recovery Partnership spokeswoman Karis King said by this time last year they had collected 31,000 pounds of shell. This year they have 14,000. Starting in 2022, it will affect the scale at which they can plant oysters, she said.
Their primary source of the shell is restaurants, which collect and recycle the hard material after diners finish. With restaurants at limited capacity, far less shell is coming in. On Tuesday, the partnership is holding a 12-hour Shuck-a-thon to raise both money and awareness of the challenges facing oyster growers and harvesters.
If all goes according to plan, competitive shucker Dan Worrell will have shucked 3,000 oysters in 12 hours, a pace of more than four a minute. The event will be live-streamed, and Worrell will be joined by watermen, brewers and other purveyors throughout. The meat will be turned into a stew and donated to Paul’s Place in Baltimore.
They will use proceeds to directly connect customers with oyster growers and harvesters, as well as for the shell recycling program, which offers drop boxes for people who want to recycle oyster shell. King said they are asking people to eat oysters to address the shortage. They’ll take the shell any way — raw, baked, fried, broiled, even crushed up.