On a Tuesday in November, just over a week before Thanksgiving, Carroll County Food Sunday was a flurry of activity.
Volunteers moved back and forth between the front room and warehouse portion of the building at 10 Distillery Drive in Westminster, working to cut open boxes, unload and carry food items to stock shelves.
In the freezer are boxes upon boxes stacked on one another, each containing a multitude of turkeys. Nearly 600 are passed out in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, 550 of which were purchased from the Maryland Food Bank.
Once an organization that provided food for about 200 families a month, Carroll County Food Sunday now helps about 400 families a week, a number that can climb to 600, especially around the holidays, Dennis Fahey, the food bank administrator, said.
The organization has grown in its 32 years of existence, first starting on Md. 140 before moving to its location in Westminster. And since moving there, the building has gotten bigger, too.
“It’s been expanded once in this building — they doubled the size,” Fahey said, adding, “We’re servicing a lot more people.”
Carroll County Food Sunday is one of five beneficiaries of Holiday Hope, the Carroll County Times’ annual campaign aimed at driving donations to organizations that help those in need in the Carroll County community. In addition to Carroll Food Sunday, the Times also partners with Access Carroll, Neighbors in Need Year Round, Carroll Hospice and The Shepherd's Staff.
This year, the Holiday Hope campaign goal is to raise $120,000 for the five organizations. To participate in Holiday Hope, readers need only clip the advertisement that appears in the paper every day between now and Christmas, or go to www.carrollcountytimes.com/holidayhope and print out the form.
Fahey said Carroll Food Sunday provides “a supplementary food supply for each week.” When a person comes in, Carroll Food Sunday provides a milk voucher, a produce voucher for farmers markets when in season, and then nonperishables and a pound of meat per family member.
Ed Leister, executive director for Carroll Food Sunday, said while Carroll Food Sunday is considered supplemental food, the organizations knows that for some, especially the older population, this is most of the food they will have each week.
“We have a lot of elderly people come through here. And they’re living on a social security check that is very small, or they worked for a company that did not have a retirement plan,” he said. “We know that we are a big part of their food for the week.”
The organization runs on food and monetary donations, Fahey said. Many organizations do food drives for Carroll Food Sunday, though he said there are less these days.
“We used to get a lot more food drives before the schools started having food pantries,” he said.
The Boy Scouts still do a large drive for the organization every year, Leister, added.
And, Leister said, Carroll Food Sunday also holds events like a road race and a dinner in the fall to help bring in money. They also do grant writing, he said.
“But basically, the churches, civic clubs, different businesses, donate to us throughout the year. We really couldn’t keep this running without them. It’s a very generous county,” he said.
Holiday Hope is another important aspect of their budget, Leister said.
This year, the budget calls for Carroll Food Sunday to raise $511,000 so long as they also get 80 tons of food donated, he said. The organization uses about 8,000 pounds of food each week.
Leister said there has been some concern about this year, though, because while food donations have been good, financial donations are down.
Carroll Food Sunday is about $55,000 below the income it’s budgeted for, he said. Leister said they think donations are down for two reasons — the county has had a lot of organizations with major projects to donate toward, and with the change of how people file taxes, fewer people are itemizing and thus there is less financial incentive.
But, he said, there’s hope the holiday season will bring in more money.
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“We’re hoping Thanksgiving and Christmas will bring that back up to the level we need,” he said.