It’s that time of year when the shorter days and cooler temperatures remind us that the holidays are right around the corner. It’s also the time of year when local charities are ramping up holiday giving operations to provide for families in need. As in so many 2020 events, the COVID-19 pandemic is interrupting standard operating procedure.
Making someone’s holiday a little brighter with a gift of food, a desired toy or much-needed clothing is a holiday highlight. It takes many volunteers, individuals and businesses working together to create those special moments. Are charities finding success under social distancing and limited contact restrictions?
In a typical holiday season, Serving People Across Neighborhoods (SPAN) creates gift baskets of food and requested gift items for its clients. This year, to limit interactions and make the process safer for volunteers, donors and clients, SPAN shifted to supplying gift cards to clients. Earlier this fall, SPAN verified each client’s need by phone. Donors dropped off gift cards, to stores such as Target and Walmart, on November 1. Clients will be able to pick up gift cards by appointment, via drive-thru beginning mid November. Jennifer Pumphrey, SPAN’s director of operations, thought the revised format would allow SPAN to assist a larger percentage of clients. Pleased with the community response, Pumphrey stated, “We are seeing an overwhelming desire to help,” and noted two outstanding donors, Severna Park United Methodist Church and Baldwin United Memorial Presbyterian. Visit www.spanhelps.org to support SPAN. Additional funds are needed to help clients keep utilities on and fight court-ordered eviction.
Jeannette Sudano of Giving Back, Linda’s Legacy describes the impact of COVID-19 in her organization’s operations as “very difficult,” adding that “the need is greater than ever. We need to be creative.” GBLL brings Christmas Eve meals, new backpacks filled with warm clothing, toiletry bags, and other needed items into area shelters. This year, volunteers will not be able to enter the shelters and greet the residents. Access to space where as many as 200 GBLL volunteers per day sort, assemble and load supplies is also an issue. Sudano is currently looking for a commercial location large enough for the volunteers to work and social distance.
“This year may resemble operations 30 years ago when one family delivered five boxes in their own car to a shelter,” Sudano said. “It’s not the same as a truck-size delivery of enough supplies to support the shelter through the winter months, but we will do what we can.”
Individuals and families willing to help GBLL should check the website www.homelessdrive.org for future dates and times to donate items like coats, hats, gloves, blankets, toys, travel-size toiletries, and new underwear. GBLL’s website also welcomes monetary donations to fund the purchase of these supplies.
In the COVID-19 days, when people are missing their connections with others, holiday giving becomes even more important and fulfilling. In addition to SPAN and GBLL, check out these other great opportunities.
Arundel Federal Savings Bank
Arundel Federal Savings Bank has sought to make communities better and stronger for more than 100 years. With another successful food drive completed, Arundel Federal is now focused on its 17th annual toy drive that continues through mid December. To donate a toy, find a collection bin at one of Arundel Federal Savings Bank’s locations, including the bank at 50 West McKinsey Road in Severna Park.
The Salvation Army Angel Tree program provides new clothing and toys to more than 1 million children and families in need each year. Simply pick a tag off the Angel Tree located inside a Walmart store or follow the instructions at www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/walmart-angel-tree to shop online using Walmart’s Registry for Good. Once the gifts are received, The Salvation Army will distribute them to families in need for Christmas morning.
Toys for Tots
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program in Anne Arundel County brought 32,797 toys to 13,808 children in 2019. Bins will be set up all around town. The organization has not yet listed its 2020 drop-off spots, so stay updated by visiting Toys for Tots online.
A Call For Coats
Admiral Cleaners has collected, cleaned and distributed more than 100,000 coats over the last 25 years as part of its Call for Coats drive. If you have a gently worn winter coat to donate, visit one of Admiral Cleaners’ four locations (the closest is at 40 West McKinsey Road), or find the drop-off bin at Severn Bank, located at 598 Benfield Road.