The hugs are one of the things they miss the most. But while masks have become necessary and other restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus has brought normal face-to-face interaction to a standstill, for folks like Marlyn and Steve Gambrill of Extreme Family Outreach in Joppa and their team, the work continues.
The Gambrills’ nonprofit organization, Extreme Family Outreach, a faith-based 501c3, is still hosting a variety programs and services for children and families in Harford County’s underserved areas, just as it has for the past 16 years.
“Normally we, at this time of year would be out in each of our nine communities, setting up for Scooby Doo with our teams when the kids get off the bus [from school]. Ready to greet them right where they live,” said Marlyn Gambrill, executive director for Extreme Family Outreach.
Scooby Doo is one of the group’s most popular community impact programs geared toward elementary school-age kids. The one-hour per week lessons teach faith-based positive life skills while building trusting relationships. Other lessons include the dangers of drugs and smoking.
With coronavirus restrictions in place, the team has had to get a little creative.
“We were just ready to start our spring program, geared up for our training and then boom, we got smacked with this whole thing,” explained Steve Gambrill, CEO and performer. “The first thing we wanted to do was be part of the solution and being face-to-face, sometimes cheek-to-cheek, we had to do a little thinking.”
For the first weeks after the stay at home order, the team had to rethink things a bit and come up with a plan to still somehow reach the kids while still keeping everyone safe.
Steve Gambrill began to make some videos to post on the group’s social media sites and during one team meeting, Director of Operations Debbie Wilhelm showed one of the lessons she had printed to the group.
“It was like the light bulb went off. We could put a care package together with the food, the Scooby Doo lesson, all the things we would normally provide. Take it to their door, hang it on the door, step back and communicate from a safe distance,” Steve Gambrill said.
So the team set out to make the plan work. Using their resources, they gathered the items and made the lessons. They decided to deliver the items on a Friday to help families get through the weekends when schools were not providing meals.
Fred Anderson, principal partner, and the team from Thompson Automotive in Edgewood stepped up when called upon, providing 1,000 food bags and employee volunteers to help deliver the packages.
“We teamed up with Extreme Family Outreach and the Boys and Girls Club. We’re really proud of all our employees. We have no problem with help, everyone wants to just kick in and help where they can,”Anderson said proudly as he, Thompson Automotive General Manager Ron Filling and a team of employees loaded the last few bags into the vans to be delivered on a recent Friday afternoon.
The Morning Sun
After a brief rendezvous at the Extreme Family Outreach offices for directions, the teams fanned out to the neighborhoods armed with a list of addresses. As the teams arrived at the homes with a quick knock on the door or ring of the doorbell as they placed the bags next to the door and waited for a response.
An inquisitive “who is it” was heard at most of the stops, and the team members responded “Scooby Doo!” Almost like a secret password was given, the doors would open and smiling young faces would pop out to greet the Extreme Family teams replacing the huge hugs with an elbow bump or just a smile.
After a brief conversation about the lessons and just checking on the families’ well being, the teams would move to the next address.
“I was one of the families that was receiving the help and now I work for the Outreach. It’s an amazing place. They do a whole lot of things for the community like this today,” said April Cheatham, of Edgewood, who has worked with the Extreme Family Outreach team for about a year and a half.
Cheatham was part of a team that delivered the bags to doorsteps in the Harford Square neighborhood on a recent May afternoon.
“They care really past just dropping the stuff on the doorstep. It’s knowing the families, knowing each kids likes, their birthdays," she said. "These children are important to us.”
Extreme Family Outreach will continue to deliver their Friday Scooby Doo care packages, with the help of community donations. To help or get involved you can find more information about the organization at the website https://www.extremefamilyoutreach.com or find them on Facebook.