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‘Community-driven’ group hosting pop-up, drive-thru food pantry at two Carroll County sites

The Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) of South Carroll County is holding a pop-up drive-thru food pantry Sunday, April 26 at two locations to help members of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

No registration is needed. The first pantry is scheduled to go from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Calvary United Methodist Church, 3939 Gamber Road in Gamber, the second from 2 to 4 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 915 Liberty Road in Eldersburg.

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The group was initiated by Carroll County Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, and state Sen. Katie Fry Hester, who represents legislative District 9, about a month ago. They put together a survey on social media that showed the dominant need of the community was food.

“We just want to make sure that the people who are hungry can stop by and get a bag of food based on the very preliminary results we had in the survey,” said Fry Hester.

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Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D - District 9), waves to the gallery on the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019
Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D - District 9), waves to the gallery on the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Food for the food pantry was donated by the Indian Origin Network of Howard County after Hester reached out following a food bank event.

“I had reached out to a good friend of mine, Pravin Ponnuri, who runs the Indian origin network of Howard County, because he’d just done this food bank that’s open right now at Long Reach,” said Fry Hester. " I said, ‘Hey, we’re doing this and we’re looking for food, how did you get yours?’ He said, ‘Well, we actually have some and we’re willing to donate 2,400 pounds of food.’"

There will be food for about 150 families at each location. The distributions will include canned food, fresh produce, rice and beans, according to Hester.

The COAD had a Zoom meeting on April 20 to go over what they were trying to establish in South Carroll, to listen to and learn from over 30 members of the community, and to lead an effort to do something, Rothstein said.

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Those on the call were from a variety of South Carroll organizations, including the Downtown Sykesville Connection, the Freedom Lions Club and Calvary United Methodist Church.

“What we’re looking at is how we’re going to organize," said Rothstein. “What are some of the requirements, like needs that are out there, and how can we get some quick wins?”

According to Rothstein, secondary needs people expressed in the survey were transportation and medical services. The COAD will have another meeting via Zoom to continue to discuss ways to help the community.

Fry Hester added that they hope to help seniors access their medications and just help the community however they can, “one step at a time.”

“We just wanted to have an immediate quick win to show that by working together, we could deliver services to people in need in a very quick fashion,” Fry Hester said. “So, I don’t know where the COAD is going to go next.”

The COAD partnered with two local food pantries for the Sunday pop up driver-thru pantry. According to Fry Hester, social distancing guidelines will be in place, like drive-thru pick-up to give one large bag of groceries to each family.

Rothstein expressed that this initiative was mostly a community effort, not a government initiative.

“It really comes down to community serving community and neighbor serving neighbor; to me, it’s a very grassroots effort,” said Rothstein. "I made it very clear to the group that although I may have resources and opportunity leverage being a commissioner, I want to be treated as a neighbor and part of the community.

"So Senator Hester and I are not leading this COAD, it’s not for the government to lead, it’s got to be community-driven. That’s what’s going to be so successful about it.”

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