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On Dasher! DoorDash drivers deliver donated Christmas trees to Harford families, community organizations

Amy Novak with the United Way of Central Maryland and DoorDash driver, Ryan Warfield wheel some of the seven foot lighted Christmas trees donted by Lowes that will be delivered to Harford County residents that are in need of some holiday cheer. December 10, 2020
Amy Novak with the United Way of Central Maryland and DoorDash driver, Ryan Warfield wheel some of the seven foot lighted Christmas trees donted by Lowes that will be delivered to Harford County residents that are in need of some holiday cheer. December 10, 2020 (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

Bel Air resident Ryan Warfield has been a driver for DoorDash for about two years, delivering restaurant meals to people, but Thursday was the first time he has delivered Christmas trees and decorations.

“I deliver what people want,” noted Warfield, who was one of a handful of DoorDash drivers who swung by Bel Air United Methodist Church to pick up boxes of 7-foot artificial trees, along with decorations to be delivered to local families and community organizations.

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The deliveries were coordinated by the United Way of Central Maryland as an initiative of its Home for Holidays program to help families in need during the Christmas season — 300 trees plus sets of decorations were slated to be delivered throughout the Baltimore region Thursday, including about 40 trees in Harford County.

The trees and decorations were among bags of nonperishable food, toys and other items being stored at the church for distribution to those in need. The DoorDash drivers pulled up, and either Amy Novak, director of development for the United Way, or Greg LaCour, head of the church’s food ministry, helped them put the trees and decorations in their vehicles.

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Warfield happened to be dressed in Christmas colors, with a green shirt and red pants, during his pickup. He said his outfit was a coincidence, quipping that “’tis the season!”

“It’s definitely cool,” he said of the tree deliveries. “People will be happy — God knows, we need it for this year.”

DoorDash, which became a publicly traded company Wednesday with its initial public offering of stock, is a food-delivery app that allows users to order restaurant meals for delivery or pickup. A driver, known as a “Dasher,” then delivers the meal to the customer.

Sarah Smoot, of Bel Air, has worked with DoorDash since September. Making deliveries is her only job at the moment, as she was furloughed from her job with the YMCA earlier this year. She worked through the Y at a local school but could not continue to do so when Harford County Public Schools were closed for in-person learning and activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s still a nice thing to do, and you’re still making people happy,” she said of her current work.

Most of her food deliveries are no-contact, meaning she does not interact with the customer at the door, but she often gets text messages after she leaves, thanking her for the meal.

“Even if I don’t see them, it’s a nice thing people have been doing and I appreciate that,” she said.

The United Way of Central Maryland has partnerships with multiple individuals, organizations and business entities — Novak cited last year’s series of volunteer events in concert with the Baltimore Ravens as part of the NFL’s “Huddle for 100″ community service initiative. DoorDash stepped up this year to assist the United Way, she said.

“Once big partners get involved, like the Ravens, others want to come on board,” Novak said. “It just shines a really nice light on the work that we’re doing.”

The United Way also has an adopt-a-family initiative for the holidays, through which people can support a family in need in the Baltimore area this season — about 20 families in Harford County have been adopted, according to Novak.

Demand for United Way services has increased this year with the pandemic, since more people are in need of food, mental health services and housing assistance as moratoriums on evictions come to an end, according to Novak. She noted that the need for assistance could be even greater than what has been communicated, as many families who need aid for the first time don’t know where to turn.

Novak encouraged those who need help, or those who want to provide support, to call 211 or visit the United Way of Central Maryland website. She praised the many people who have volunteered to help this season.

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“With all the negativity that’s around COVID, we’re seeing the kindness and generosity of people rise to the top,” she said.

Bel Air United Methodist Church serves as a storage site for goods to distribute to people in need in Harford County. When companies such as Amazon have surplus items in overstock, they contact the United Way, and church officials pick up and store the materials, according to LaCour.

United Way representatives then come by and pick out the items they need, such as laundry detergent, clothing, even batteries. Anything left over is distributed to families supported by the church, or community organizations with which the church partners.

“It’s wonderful,” LaCour said of the donated Christmas trees. “These are the things that brighten up a house and get you in that Christmas spirit ... if these trees can make someone smile, then we’re all winners.”

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