KENT ISLAND — Since the onset of the pandemic, which began in March 2020, the longstanding service of the Maryland Food Bank to provide food to needy people across the state has almost doubled. In fact, the amount of food provided by the MFB “has increased by 88% from March 2020 through February 2021,” Joanna Warner, MFB communications officer, said.
“When the pandemic began, we had to make incredible changes in the way we operated,” Warner said. “All of our older volunteers were not permitted to come help, in concern that they were among those considered most vulnerable to contracting the COVID-19 virus. Fortunately, younger volunteers stepped up, but there was a process in protecting everyone.” And that process didn’t take place overnight.
Among the younger volunteers, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been sending their missionaries from around the Baltimore area to help at the main food facility located in south Baltimore. Different missionaries, both male and female, go to the facility to help each week. According to MFB volunteer coordinator Paul Lynner, at the Baltimore facility, “between October 12, 2020, until January 26, 2021, the missionaries have donated 511.5 hours in service.”
From the Kent Island LDS Branch, which covers all of Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties, missionaries Elders Garrett Davis and Ethan Mott regularly serve in the MFB kitchen, helping prepare meals for the needy.
On one day they went, they helped prepare 1,950 “grab and go” bagged lunches for needy children. They were instructed by MFB chef Alex Thacker.
Thacker said, “We did a few extra lunches today. We normally do 1,500 per day, but we had a holiday weekend coming up, so more lunches were needed.”
Before the pandemic, the Baltimore facility also prepared hot breakfasts and dinners. The dinners are still happening. All meals are individually boxed and shipped out to scheduled locations. Meals are not served at the food bank.
The LDS missionaries' service in this regard has taken place for many months during the pandemic, as their personal contacting of people interested in learning about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has been limited to Zoom meetings. Immediately as the pandemic began, the LDS Church, worldwide, announced there would be no personal meetings at their church buildings until further notice to protect people from spreading the virus. For the first few months, all congregational meetings were over Zoom. Since restrictions have slowly been lifted, limited in-person church meetings have returned, but only with strict CDC guidelines being followed.
For many years, the LDS Church has encouraged its members to become more and more involved in service to the community outside their individual congregations. This began with what was originally called Day To Serve and was scheduled either in late September or early October, each congregation choosing a local service project on a particular date. This was coordinated with the state of Maryland’s efforts, the state also adopting the name Day To Serve, encouraging all Maryland citizens to join in a worthy service project in their communities.
The Latter-day Saints have recently expanded their original Day To Serve, changing the name to “JustServe,” with the vision of making it a 365-day, year-round service by its membership. Asking members of all congregations to find worthy service projects, within their communities and provide service regularly, whenever possible.
At an April Regional Communications Meeting, LDS Baltimore Coordinating Council Director of Communications Jeff Cook said, “Volunteer service is to be considered a part of regular worship among our members. We’re following the example Jesus set for us, as he continually served others who were in need. The goal is for us to serve in weekly and monthly projects within our communities year-round, joining with other faith-based, and non-faith based efforts. We want to be there to help uplift someone.”
Elders Davis and Mott commented on their service at MFB, in a written statement: “They always need a lot of help at the Maryland Food Bank. The leadership there, always make a point of telling us each time, they couldn’t do all they do without us!”
In a letter to LDS Annapolis Stake Director of Communications Barbara Niumatalolo, one of the MFB chefs, wrote, “Through these tough and precarious times, having the help from the ladies and gentlemen of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been MONUMENTAL! Their work ethic is phenomenal! Working alongside them has truly been a blessing.”
Niumatalolo said, “The simplest definition for JustServe is a service to help link community volunteer needs with volunteers.”
Davis and Mott have also been volunteering weekly at the Haven Ministries sponsored Hope Warehouse in Queenstown, helping move in new donations of furniture dropped off to be given to those in need within the county.
As the growing season begins on the Eastern Shore, MFB volunteer “gleaning coordinator” Amy Cawley is again looking for volunteers to harvest crops to be shipped to the MFB facility later this year. Gleaning, (which is a biblical term for harvesting crops from a field that would otherwise be wasted) begins in mid-June, continuing all summer through late October or early November.
Cawley said, “No experience necessary. I train everyone how to glean. All that is needed is time, heart and physical ability. Most gleanings take place during evenings, after people are home from work. We don’t work more than two hours. Crops we glean are sweet corn, apples, cucumbers, peaches, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and fall squash.”
This is the 10th year gleaning fresh produce from local farms has been done on the Eastern Shore, donated by local farmers.
Cawley has had great success having volunteers from the Eastern Shore step up at a moment's notice to glean crops that are ready to be collected and sent to those in need through the MFB. The gleaning effort is known as “FARM to TABLE.”
To contact Cawley to make arrangements to volunteer with gleaning, go online to https://mdfoodbank.org/ways-to-give/volunteer, or call her at 443-735-0757. You can also follow her on Facebook.