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Saunders: Hope springs eternal in the midst of disease and destruction | COMMENTARY

Here we are in August and the pandemic is still dominating our lives. The COVID-19 disease has caused over 150,000 deaths nationwide, with countless others sickened and debilitated by its aftermath.

While most of the cases in Carroll County that resulted in death were in nursing facilities, the deceased were nevertheless remembered dearly by loved ones. And with the spike in cases in many other states as of the beginning of June and well into July, one has to wonder about the wisdom of reopening businesses and resuming “normal” life too soon, especially since no vaccine has been sanctioned.

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If the illness itself and the number of deaths associated with it are not bad enough, many have been devastated by the loss of a livelihood. Since mid-March more than 40 million people have filed unemployment claims in the U.S. As of the end of May continuing claims still totaled 21.05 million, with weekly jobless claims totaling 2.1 million workers still sidelined.

In Carroll County just 31 people filed unemployment claims the first week of March. But by the week ending May 2, 2,384 filed for unemployment, showing how economically devastating the pandemic has been locally. Stimulus checks and unemployment checks only go so far, and for those who are marginalized economically those checks are woefully inadequate.

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As if disease and death and economic loss were not enough, George Floyd’s terrible murder at the hands (knee) of a police officer only added still more agony to an already devastated populace, black and white alike. Here was a man with no COVID-19 who died senselessly for a $20 crime. About the same time in Carroll County some KKK activity reared its ugly head. We can only hope and pray that out of Floyd’s death and all the racial unrest will come renewed hope for justice, not merely for his murder, but also a renewed commitment to “All men (and women) are created equal” and “Justice for all”!

Bad news and sad news always makes its way front and center. But out of the bad news and sad news always comes glimmers of hope that feed our soul. I have recounted some of those hopeful signs in two previous articles about the pandemic. One of those glimmers of hope came back to Carroll County on Tuesday, June 30, at 9:30 a.m., when Carroll County Food Sunday reopened its facility at 10 Distillery Drive.

In March, Food Sunday needed to close its facility in Westminster to protect its clients and older volunteers from the rapidly spreading pandemic and to look for other means of service. Those other means came initially with county and Red Cross personnel distributing food on the parking lot. Very soon thereafter, Grace Lutheran Church stepped up to help Food Sunday serve its clients and many others. Church members, under the leadership of Ann Gilbert, accepted food donations from outside sources as well as at least 1,200 pounds of prepackaged food every week from Food Sunday. Beginning in May, Food Sunday added eggs, milk vouchers, and veggie vouchers to its food supply for distribution at the church.

Carroll County Food Sunday wishes to thank Grace Lutheran Church for helping to feed the food insecure during this very crucial time. The number of people served over the course of weeks that the church had its drive-through open was astounding. The total people served on any one day went from a low of 39 families, or 156 people on a day in April, to a high of 128 families, or 342 people on a day in later May.

Debbie Titus and Ann Gilbert distribute food at Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster where volunteers distributed 2,000 pounds of food in just a couple of hours Thursday, April 23.
Debbie Titus and Ann Gilbert distribute food at Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster where volunteers distributed 2,000 pounds of food in just a couple of hours Thursday, April 23. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

This pandemic has demonstrated how much the marginalized are in need of the services that Carroll County Food Sunday can supply. Those marginalized economically include older people dependent solely on Social Security, single women (or men) trying to feed themselves and dependent children, people who have lost their jobs, the homeless, anyone who is food insecure, all of whom are welcome at the Food Sunday “table.”

With the gradual reopening of our state and county, Carroll County Food Sunday was able to return with a new way to serve clients that employs the use of an outside line for registering and picking up prepackaged bags containing meat and eggs, nonperishable food items, milk vouchers, farm market vouchers, and bread based on family size. Necessary precautions are in place to protect the clients and volunteers as the pandemic seems to be on the rise again.

And with this new way of serving the food insecure of Carroll County has come another glimmer of hope in a new cadre of younger volunteers who are serving the food. Under the leadership of Stephanie Albright, head of Missions & Outreach, members of Crossroads Community Church are handing out the bags of food, which allows the older volunteers to remain in the background to package the bags for distribution.

These glimmers of hope for Carroll County Food Sunday have been enhanced by those members of the community who support its work, many with their donations of nonperishable food, and many more with their generous monetary gifts. Donors of monetary gifts, many of them first-time donors during the pandemic, have made it possible for Food Sunday to keep its shelves, its refrigerator and its freezer stocked with the necessities to serve the food insecure in the Westminster, Taneytown and Eldersburg environs.

And so hope springs eternal — even in the midst of a disease that kills a multitude, an economic downturn that marginalizes many, and a killing that reveals our nation’s frailties. That hope has come from the people of Carroll County who give of themselves and their funds to feed those in need through the work of Carroll County Food Sunday. Thank you to all who give hope!

Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears on the second Sunday of the month.

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