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‘A way to give them a thank-you’: Freedom District Lions Club supports Carroll Hospital staff through Hero’s Project

From left, Scott Walthour, Carol Neff, Jerry Apricella, Bob Hodgkiss and Bruce Edwards of the Freedom District Lions Club gather at the Freedom Optimist Hall in Eldersburg to assemble care bags to be distributed to workers at Carroll Hospital Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The group prepared more than 350 of the bags to be distributed primarily among night and weekend staff at the hospital in appreciation for their work.
From left, Scott Walthour, Carol Neff, Jerry Apricella, Bob Hodgkiss and Bruce Edwards of the Freedom District Lions Club gather at the Freedom Optimist Hall in Eldersburg to assemble care bags to be distributed to workers at Carroll Hospital Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The group prepared more than 350 of the bags to be distributed primarily among night and weekend staff at the hospital in appreciation for their work. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

The Lions Club motto is “We Serve” and the Freedom District Lions Club has a history of community service projects, aiding those in need, and caring for the environment.

This year, the Freedom District Lions unveiled an initiative called the Hero’s Project. The goal is to provide support for hospital workers and other staff members working night and weekend shifts at Carroll Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

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“A lot of these workers are working overtime and they’re working extra hours to keep everyone safe,” First Vice President Scott Walthour said. “Early in the crisis they were getting lots of support. … This is a way to give them a thank-you for their help, show that we care about them, and give them special support.”

The Freedom District Lions Club, which has roughly 80 members focused on the Eldersburg/Sykesville area, worked with the Carroll Hospital Foundation to provide 350-400 “thank you” bags to those working at the hospital and stocking the four main break rooms with refreshments and snacks for night and weekend shift workers.

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The bags contain various items requested by nurses and staff who work at the hospital, such as hand-written notes, mini flashlights, and Sharpie markers. The break rooms will be stocked with Gatorade power packets, Vitamin water, miscellaneous snacks, lip balm (donated by Be Blends Collective), and more.

Some of the items included in care bags to be distributed to workers at Carroll Hospital by members for the Freedom District Lions Club Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The group prepared more than 350 of the bags to be distributed primarily among night and weekend staff at the hospital in appreciation for their work.
Some of the items included in care bags to be distributed to workers at Carroll Hospital by members for the Freedom District Lions Club Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The group prepared more than 350 of the bags to be distributed primarily among night and weekend staff at the hospital in appreciation for their work. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

“We identified a need that we basically opened up to suggestions from our members and community members and seeing what we could do to support them,” Walthour said. “A couple of our Lions work at the hospital, a couple are nurses and they suggested focusing on evening and weekend shifts and things they might need.”

The hand-written letters in each bag are written by young volunteers through the organization’s Leo Program. The Freedom District Lions work with high school students through this program to provide an opportunity to increase personal development through volunteering, such as providing meals for those in need at Thanksgiving, distributing Christmas gifts for children, and collecting books for children.

There are approximately 144,000 Leos and 5,700 Leo clubs in more than 140 countries worldwide, according to the Freedom District Lions Club website.

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Walthour said the project will be a one-time event, but if the Freedom District Lions receive enough support and funding to continue, the organization will replenish the snacks at set periods throughout the pandemic.

The French Twist Cafe, Market Tavern, Be Blends, Tri-Sport Junction, Sykesville Station, Norwood Ice Cream, and the Freedom District Optimist Club have each stepped in to donate and provide assistance to the cause as well.

“This is really just to say, ‘Thank you,’” Walthour said. “We want to show that the community is here to support them and we appreciate their help in keeping all of us safe.”

From left, Scott Walthour, Bob Hodgkiss, Jerry Apricella, Bruce Edwards and Carol Neff of the Freedom District Lions Club gather at the Freedom Optimist Hall in Eldersburg to assemble care bags to be distributed to workers at Carroll Hospital Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The group prepared more than 350 of the bags to be distributed primarily among night and weekend staff at the hospital in appreciation for their work.
From left, Scott Walthour, Bob Hodgkiss, Jerry Apricella, Bruce Edwards and Carol Neff of the Freedom District Lions Club gather at the Freedom Optimist Hall in Eldersburg to assemble care bags to be distributed to workers at Carroll Hospital Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The group prepared more than 350 of the bags to be distributed primarily among night and weekend staff at the hospital in appreciation for their work. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Walthour said the pandemic has affected the organization’s regular operations, specifically with the inability to meet in person. Fundraising efforts have also taken a hit and some planned projects were put on hold for the time being.

However, the Freedom District Lions are still doing as much as they possibly can for the community.

“It’s a huge change for us,” Walthour said. “We’re still doing some of our projects, just not meeting in person. We’re not doing that social part of it and we’ve been meeting via Zoom, so we’ve really had to scale back.

“The needs are still there in the community. It’s just harder to organize to meet those needs, but we’re doing the best we can.”

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