The smell might remind some of their grandmother’s pantry, and the feel at the North County Emergency Outreach Network’s house-turned-distribution-center is just as welcoming as a beloved family member’s home.
NCEON has been serving up bags of food – and hope – for 29 years. Distributions amount to than $10 million worth, one person at a time. It is an all-volunteer organization, powered by the donations of about 32 churches plus civic organizations. NCEON serves folks within the zip codes of its donor churches.
NCEON helps make a dent in electric bills with turn-off notices, and can help with evictions. Proof of need must be provided. References are offered for additional resources.
On a recent day, near closing time there was one person to be interviewed.
“Be generous with her,” one volunteer instructed the bag filler.
A battered wife was seeking help. Former teacher Marie Fries explained the new client was Amish, had been abused as a child and was later shunned by her family. Her husband beat her severely enough to cause brain damage and stuttering.
“It’s a heartbreaking story, but it’s very rewarding,” Fries said.
Down the hall, stockers Steve Reiner and Buck DiMattei joked about needing to hurry up and get done.
“We don’t get paid after two – nor before two,” Reiner said as he and DiMattei unpacked 50 bags donated by St. Jane Frances – one of the organization’s most generous donors. Reiner said they’d be out of business if it weren’t for St. Jane. The church, as well as its school and Boy Scout troop all donate regularly.
Both men have been volunteering with NCEON for about two years, and signed on as a way to keep busy during retirement. President Jan Murphy said she’d been unable to help while she was working, but looked for something to do when she retired. She figured that was the way with most volunteers.
Jean Marts is the pantry manager. She, too, was looking for something to do that might help others. She said pantry supplies are a bit low, so they’ve sent out the word to partner churches.
“When I first started here we had canned goods coming out the yin and the yang, but we’re short on it,” Reiner said.
In addition to stocking, Reiner and DeMattei are two of the heavy-lifters who pick up donations from grocery stores such as Giant, BJ’s and Lauer’s, as well as restaurants like Bonefish and Chick-fil-a.
Reiner said they never know what they’ll receive, but they do know how to put it to use. NCEON has a list of fellow pantries and distribution days, and are prepared to pass along donations.
“If we don’t use it here or can’t use it because it’s going to expire, we have a bunch of different churches and pantries that we give to so that it gets used,” Reiner said. “We never throw anything in the dumpster unless it’s not edible – we always find a home for everything – we have a lot of avenues.”
One small church recently helped the group be good stewards of their donations by giving NCEON two upright freezers. A haunted trail was able to collect and donate 60 bags of goods.
Ana Boyer said she has been helping for three and a half years. She said she and her husband volunteer with Habitat for Humanity projects after hurricanes such as Katrina. He did construction – she helped with a large food bank.
“I am retired, and I did New Orleans for a week, so I thought why not here in the community?” Boyer said.
Dee French has been showing her love through feeding people for 17 years. Kathy Breach said her uncle lived across the street and volunteered – now she’s been on board for about 10 years. She said folks are so thankful for the food they receive, and often ask to hug the volunteers.
Murphy said she had been the representative for her church to NCEON for 12 years before volunteering. Murphy’s granddaughter Dana Shinski pops in when she can. She got involved because her mother and grandmother help. She likes helping people, and she said doing so makes her feel better about herself.
Murphy said one gentleman was moved to tears to have help, but she told him he’d have to stop crying before everyone else started. NCEON will soon offer Thanksgiving baskets, but being wheelchair bound, the man won’t be able to come to pick-up – but one of the volunteers knows where he lives and plans to deliver his meal.
Neoma Dearing, 90, has been helping for years. She maintains all the paperwork, and she brings in treats of homemade candy or cakes – and she makes a mean beef stew.
“I am in my early 70s, but some of these ladies are in their 80s or 90s,” Boyer said. “If they can do it, why not I? They are very faithful and get along well. I’m happy I found this group and all the good things they do for the community.”
NCEON is open for donations or distributions at 304 Fifth Ave. S.E. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Those needing help can visit 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Parochial school open house
Msgr. Slade Catholic School, 120 Dorsey Road, will offer an open house 8:30–10:30 a.m. Nov. 12 highlighting its teachers, STEM lab, summer programs and extra-curricular activities.
To share your news in the Glen Burnie area, contact Amy Laque at MDGazetteAmy@gmail.com or 443-924-6440. Follow her on Twitter @GlenBurnieTalk.