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Many thanks to those who have helped others during the pandemic | READER COMMENTARY

Jayden Steiner Friedman, 7 1/2 years old, right, had the idea to make 2020 sandwiches to distribute to needy people this Thanksgiving. Here, he makes the sandwiches with the help of his dad, Ben Friedman, left, in the family's backyard. The sandwiches will be distributed on Thanksgiving at Manna House in Baltimore. November 25, 2020
Jayden Steiner Friedman, 7 1/2 years old, right, had the idea to make 2020 sandwiches to distribute to needy people this Thanksgiving. Here, he makes the sandwiches with the help of his dad, Ben Friedman, left, in the family's backyard. The sandwiches will be distributed on Thanksgiving at Manna House in Baltimore. November 25, 2020 (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

When I took over as executive director at Manna House last winter, I, like many other nonprofit directors across the country, never could have foreseen what the coming year would bring. Since COVID-19 hit, we have all seen significant impacts on our communities — unemployment, housing, food security and public health to name a few.

At Manna House, we were fortunate to keep our doors open during this challenging time. With the implementation of new safety protocols for staff and those who access our services, we have continued to serve those in need, providing more than 67,000 meals to individuals in our community since April 1.

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This number — 67,000 — gives the Manna House great pride and tremendous hope because we did not get to it alone (”Too many are hungry in Maryland; can Gov. Hogan do more?” Dec. 9).

With the help of The Baltimore Brotherhood, Jewish Volunteer Connection, Second Presbyterian Church, Heritage Financial, T. Rowe Price, First English Lutheran Church, Catonsville United Methodist Church, Glen Mar Church, Fallston United Methodist Church, Krieger Schechter Day School, JunkIt411 and many dedicated volunteers and organizations, we have seen just what we can do together even in the worst of times.

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People have come into our building to help serve meals and prepare food. They have come to organize and set up our new clothing store for our clients — an experience we are thrilled to offer once we fully reopen. They have helped move boxes as construction for our expansion continues and shredded papers and moved equipment to make room for our new hires.

The support I have seen in my first year with Manna House has been nothing short of inspiring. Being on the front lines, I can tell you that inspiration, day in and day out, has meant the world to our staff and the people we serve.

As the holiday season is in full swing, many folks are looking for ways to give back. To ensure they make the most significant impact, I would like to encourage them to simply look around. Do you have a neighbor struggling to put food on their table? Is there a kid close by who needs someone to throw the ball with? Perhaps you have a former colleague who lost their job and needs a letter of recommendation?

Look at what you have — be it skills, time, money, whatever it may be — then apply that gift you have been given where it is needed most.

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Margaret Meade said it best, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Please reach out to your neighbors and keep reaching out. Let them know about the resources available to them and organizations nearest who can help. The coming year does not promise an easy path, but there is little we cannot conquer when we walk together.

Antonio Coffield, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Manna House.

Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.

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