Donna Healey considered herself an independent person. But when she lost “a lot” of her eyesight about 14 years ago, things changed.
It was OK, though. Her mother was nearby and could take Healey to doctors’ appointments, the store, wherever. She could rely on her mother for the things she used to be able to do on her own. Until she couldn’t.
Her mother got sick about 6-1/2 years ago, eventually diagnosed with cancer. It was a difficult time for Healey. She had no other family, and lived in a rural area without cabs or buses to take her to the places she needed to go.
That’s when A Little Love stepped in.
A Little Love is a program at Uniontown Bible Church that provides non-perishable food and household goods to people in need in Carroll County. Healey got connected with Brian Chapline and Tony Parrish, who direct the program, and they started giving her food, talking to her about God and her faith and driving her through the bustling streets of Baltimore to head to Johns Hopkins for her appointments.
Though the food was useful, she’s found their help, particularly the spiritual conversations and prayer — for which she always has a list ready — has “really brought [her] to life again," making her feel joyful and cared for.
“So, I always said, the food is secondary,” Healey said, wiping tears from her eyes. “What it really feeds is your soul.”
The program serves about 28 families between New Windsor, Union Bridge and Taneytown, Chapline said. They don’t really advertise it, and typically get calls from people in the community who request the church help specific families, he added.
It doesn’t matter whether a person attends the church; Healey actually attends Union Bridge Church of the Brethren, another house of worship in the area.
“It feels weird to say we serve her now,” said Chapline, 54, of New Windsor. “It’s just going to visit a friend now.”
A Little Love, which had volunteers heading to people’s doors beginning about 10 years ago, stemmed out of the efforts of a woman named Sharon Little, hence the name, Chapline said. She was a member of the church who served food to those who needed it in the alley that backed up to her Union Bridge home.
"It was really cool that it was her because she had no means herself,” executive pastor Mark Anderes said. “I mean, she really did it out of the kindness of her heart.”
The program runs year-round to help community residents like Healey — volunteers head out on the third Saturday of each month to families, bringing a bag of food and a gospel message — but the crux of the donations come through the church’s vacation Bible school, which was in session last week.
With a “Blast to the Past” theme, children in preschool through sixth grade “time-traveled” from the present day to biblical Jerusalem and whirled through worship songs that had choreographed dances featuring popular dance crazes, like flossing and moves from Fortnite, an online video game.
Bringing in goods to the camp comes with an incentive: If the girls bring in more stuff than the boys, the male camp leaders get punished with pies smashed in their faces, pudding dumped on their heads, silly string sprayed on them or slime dumped all over. And vice versa, for the boys.
Although 11-year-old Jonathan Rice brought in some food and ideally wanted the boys to win, he said he didn’t really care which way it turned out.
“People don’t have food like we do,” he said. “I was fortunate.”
Annabelle Buntin, 10, agreed — winning wasn’t “that important, but it still is fun.”
“I just think it would be best to help people that need food,” she said.
On Thursday night, the collection containers at the front of the room were overflowing with donated goods, from pasta and sauce to paper towels and soap. In past years, they’ve collected about three or four pallets — crates of about 4-feet-by-4-feet, and 3 feet deep — of donations, Anderes said.
Anderes, 41, of New Windsor, said it’s been wonderful to see the church and community meld through the camp, and their outreach work. It’s something he doesn’t see happening at churches “a lot of times these days.”
Those efforts continue. On Sunday, the church kicked off its school supply drive, which aims to provide backpacks and other classroom essentials for students to pick up at Elmer Wolfe Elementary School on Aug. 21. They set up the supplies to look like a little shop, so students can browse for what they need.
“I think all of these different things together is kind of the heart of our church ... to love God most and love others best,” Anderes said. “And so these are just perfect examples of how, in the community, we’re loving others best, and not just the people within our church, but outside the community.”