Sometimes the people who need help, such as food stamps, cash or medical assistance, are those least able to get to the people who can help.
That's why Kristin Hollis, of the Carroll County Department of Social Services, has started bringing such assistance to them.
Hollis created a pop-up satellite office on Nov. 18 at On Our Own, a peer support and recovery center on Main Street Westminster meant for people with disabilities and substance use disorders. She said she'll be back Dec. 30, with dates in January and February to be announced.
"I wanted to come out and be able to give them the same opportunities the people that do have transportation get," she said. "I wanted to go there to help them apply for benefits and be approved all in one place."
While her initial plan was simply to help those who needed food, cash, energy or medical assistance to file that paperwork without having to hoof it to the Social Services office near the Westminster airport, Hollis said she quickly realized she could gather donations of food and clothing to have on hand as well.
"We have winter clothing for people, we have toothbrushes, toothpaste and hygiene products," she said. "I got a restaurant to donate a hot meal for the day."
Penguin Random House donated a large box of books, while many of Hollis' co-workers donated stylish winter hats and gloves, tote bags, and even tiny calculators.
Rachel Koontz, of Westminster, an On Our Own regular, was thrilled to find a set of gloves last month, before true winter weather set in. She sat at the center's conference table, perusing the array of books Hollis had brought.
"I like books and I think it's nice that somebody cares enough to take the time out of their day to help bring joy to somebody else's life," Koontz said. "It's pretty exciting."
Another On Our Own regular, Bridget Naylor, was also touched by Hollis' presence.
"I think it's great that they are helping people, it shows that they care, that they can bring joy and happiness to other people's lives," Naylor said. "It's very helpful to a lot of us."
Hollis was on hand at On Our Own from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Nov. 18 and spoke with 15 people, seven of whom were able to either obtain benefits or have important questions about their benefits answered, she said. She will return once a month for the duration of the Cold Weather Shelter season, which Human Services Programs of Carroll County, Inc., keeps open through April 1.
It's during those colder months, Hollis said — when more people are in the Cold Weather Shelter when it closes at 7 a.m. — that she suspects she will be the most busy.
"[On Our Own] is the only place that's open that early," she said, "so I wanted to be able to come here and that way people that can't really go anywhere else during the day, if they need food or clothes or something like that, they can get it as soon as they get here."
During the winter months, Hollis said, many people find their way to On Our Own, which is one of the few places that opens early.
Bringing services into On Our Own is one way in which the community supports others' recovery, according to volunteer manager on duty Bill Thomas-Azud, who noted that all On Our Own staff, with the exception of the executive director, are peer volunteers.
"[Hollis'] is one of the programs we are connecting people in the community with — we have had the Department of Human Services come here, and the Assistant State's Attorney was here doing a Good Samaritan Law training. If you are coming here for support, we have some connections, we know the people to send you to," Thomas-Azud said. "If you say you can't get support in Carroll County, you're going about it all wrong. There is definitely help here in the county."
That's something Hollis understands first-hand: About six to eight years ago, she, too, found herself with nowhere to go on some cold winter mornings.
"I used to come here years ago when I didn't have anywhere to be warm for the day," she said. "That's one of the main reasons I wanted to give back to them because they helped me when I needed it."
That giving back is something Thomas-Azud said is really meaningful, as is the fact that Hollis is there representing the success that everyone who comes to On Our Own seeks.
"She is one of ours," he said. "People do recover, and thats what we're all about."
If you go
What: Department of Social Services hours at On Our Own
When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30
Where: On Our Own of Carroll County, 262 E. Main St., Westminster
Latest Carroll County News
How to help: Businesses or individuals that would like to donate food, clothing items or services at upcoming service dates should email firstname.lastname@example.org.