Baltimore groups donate supplies for Houston relief efforts

Seasons, a kosher market in Pikesville, collects items for victims of Hurricane Harvey to truck down to Houston. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

Yitzchak Goldstein spent more than $100 of his bar mitzvah money at Target buying Lysol, Clorox wipes, paper towels, bottled water, and other bulk cleaning supplies and essentials.

The 13-year-old and his family unloaded the haul into shopping carts Sunday at Seasons kosher grocery store on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville, where volunteers were collecting items to donate to Jewish communities affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston.


He was asked why he volunteered his time and money. His response: "Why not?"

"We felt it was important to assist," he said.

Groups throughout the region are offering opportunities to support recovery efforts in Houston and the Gulf Coast. The death toll from the storm has climbed to 50; analysts say it could prove the second most expensive disaster in U.S. history, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Restoring Inner City Hope Inc. plans to collect donations of baby wipes, diapers, clothes, water, feminine products, deodorant, first-aid kits, school supplies, blankets and supplies Wednesday at the City Garage in South Baltimore, RICH executive director Michael Battle said.

"My goal is to fill a 42-foot tractor-trailer with items for the families in Houston," Battle said. "We're doing like a collect-a-thon all day long. Once the truck is loaded, it's going on [Interstate] 95."

The truck will take the items to Creative Group Economics, an anti-poverty group in Houston, he said.

"We just want to show some love to Houston," Battle said. "We have our issues here in the city, but we're not underwater."

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori asked area parishes to take up an emergency collection for recovery efforts during Mass on Sunday. Similar requests were made through the Catholic schools. Lori said the money would "support the humanitarian and recovery efforts of Catholic Charities USA and … provide pastoral and rebuilding support."

The Pikesville effort was one of seven food-and-item drives organized by a coalition of Jewish organizations: the crisis relief group Amudim; the Orthodox Union; Achiezer Community Resource Center; and two kosher groceries, Seasons and Evergreen.

The supplies are to join a convoy of trucks headed to the Gulf Coast from Seasons stores in New York and New Jersey on Monday.

Given that the small kosher market chain opened the Pikesville location about two weeks ago, general manager Zachary Richards said, the donation drive, promoted via the Baltimore Jewish Life community news website, was an unprecedented success. A full count of the donations wasn't complete as of Sunday afternoon.

"We have tons of compassionate customers willing to take time out of their day to do something kind for someone else," Richards said. "It's just an extension of our community up here. People are happy to give."

Mayer Gold, CEO of Seasons, said helping out those in need is "not a question of business or credit. It's just what you do. This is bigger than Seasons, this is a whole community, dozens of communities doing whatever they can to help their family."

Marshall and Susan Rosensweet of Lutherville donated a 40-pack of toilet paper, 20 boxes of tissues, a carton of juice boxes and a case of 40 water bottles. They heard about the drive from their daughter, who works at a community center in New York.


Storm victims "need everything, but these are things they absolutely need right now down there," said Susan Rosensweet, 65. "I was thinking about, 'What do I want to do? How do I want to contribute?' … This is one thing we can do very easily."

As volunteers unloaded paper towels, cases of water and other donations, Joe Fischer put the items into grocery carts and wheeled them around to the back of the grocery store to a waiting truck.

The truck had been loaded earlier in the weekend with large cardboard boxes packed with donations, but they were unloaded again to be put on pallets instead, to maximize space.

Even so, Fischer said, Seasons likely will need to send a second truck.

The 63-year-old Fischer, of Pikesville, lived in New York during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. As he surveyed the mountains of supplies, he marveled at the generosity of Baltimore's Jewish community.

"Look at this," he said. "Look at this bounty. … The truth is, I never expected this. I'm overwhelmed."

In one of the biggest donations, Park Heights Roofing gave 100 buckets — one of the cleaning items on the Baltimore donation drive's list. That list also included dishwashing detergent, rags, towels, floor tarps, rubber gloves and other supplies.

"The people at Home Depot were probably like, 'What's going on? Why is there a run on buckets?'" Fischer said. "That's massive. You'll have to get one per family for mold abatement. … The next battle is the mold."

Richards, the Seasons general manager, said he knows the donations outside his store don't come close to all the help Houston will need in the coming weeks, months and years. But he refuses to be pessimistic.

"Someone told me this was a drop in the bucket," Richards said. "But buckets are filled with drops of water. Every little bit helps."