Learning to juggle online honors classes, preparation for junior year, and varsity baseball amidst the ongoing pandemic is enough to keep anyone’s schedule full, but the Castleberry twins, Tommy and Jack, have made sure to give back to their community during this trying time.
Being engaged volunteers with the Baltimore-based charity Sarah’s House since 2017, Jack and Tommy have led school-sponsored volunteer projects, made meals for Sarah’s House clients, organized game nights and even made gingerbread houses with the children during the holidays.
Operating as a partnership between Catholic Charities, the United States Army and the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services, Sarah’s House has served families facing homelessness since 1987. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, Sarah’s House has not only faced difficulties complying with the increasing population of those seeking shelter, but also the need to adhere to social distancing tactics, including staggered meal times, the closure of communal lounges and the restriction of all direct volunteer outreach.
“With the pandemic, we knew that their problems didn’t just go away, and if anything, the problems got worse,” said Jack. “We couldn’t go visit them, but we wanted to let them know that we’re still here for them and that we still had the ability to help them out.”
After contacting Sarah’s House and discovering the exact needs, the boys set up an Amazon wish list and started reaching out to friends, posting on social media sites and trying their best to bring attention to the increasing need at Sarah’s House. Through raising awareness among their Instagram followers and Facebook friends, Jack and Tommy were able to deliver $1,300 worth of goods to Sarah’s House on July 9, but the need has yet to be sufficed.
“As long as they still need things delivered and don’t have a consistent supply, we don’t see any reason to stop organizing collections to give to them,” said Tommy.
With help from their parents, Erin and Will, and younger sister Kate, the Castleberrys have collected 2,400 plastic utensils, 600 disinfectant wipes, 624 boxes of cereal, 264 fruit cups, and 264 rolls of toilet paper, approximately $2,800 worth of donated goods from 38 families, both from within the immediate community and from across the country, as of late July.
While the boys’ drive of paper goods, plasticware, and nonperishable food items is in constant need by the 125 families seeking refuge, Sarah’s House is also in need of supplies to kickstart their latest project: “Build-A-Room.” In addition to what can be found on the boys’ wish list, Sarah’s House is asking for twin-size comforters, twin-size linens, pillows, towels and washcloths, artificial table plants, and inspirational books and poems to make their clients’ housing feel less institutionalized and more therapeutic.
“We’ve certainly had a lot of challenges,” said Bruce Clopein, the volunteer resource manager of Sarah’s House, in regards to the impact of COVID-19 on Sarah’s House, “but we’re just so encouraged and inspired by how the community, and especially the Castleberry brothers, have stepped up.”
Jack and Tommy hope their efforts will inspire others to get involved.
“We hope that this drive will make people want to go out and volunteer like we have been over these past few years,” said Jack, “just because of how fun it is and the nice feeling you get after you’ve helped out these people.”
To help the Castleberrys’ drive, find the Amazon wish list at www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1S0C9QH1K7Q3O?ref_=wl_share. To make monetary donations directly to Sarah’s House through Catholic Charities, visit www.catholiccharities-md.org.