This past sunny Sunday afternoon was brightened up even more by some colorful produce and a few kind actions. Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, County Councilman Israel “Izzy” Patoka, and staff from County Executive John “Johnny ” Olszewski, Jr’s office distributed produce for community members in need outside BHC June 13.
The initiative began a few weeks ago when the county approached the synagogue and other partners to initiate a charity event for relief under the pandemic. The office partnered with Jewish Volunteer Connection, Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. (CHAI), and Community Assistance Network for the distribution event on Sunday.
They then chose the food based on the area. “The second district is diverse,” said Patoka. “and so it was important we distributed foods that would be for all families in the second district. Produce is generally considered kosher, and it’s a food product we can provide second district families.”
Olszewski and Patoka discussed how to best provide food in both the Orthodox community and to all their constituents. Because the location is at an epicenter of that diversity, and represents leadership in the community with both BHC and Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim, they decided BHC’s parking lot there would be an ideal location.
“Baltimore Hebrew Congregation is honored to host this food distribution, in light of the real financial challenges so many people are facing at this moment,” Rabbi Andrew Busch of BHC said in an email. “We are glad to provide the space and to provide some of the volunteers.”
The county then took on the role of collecting supplies. “Baltimore County in my personal humble opinion has responded extraordinarily well to the food insecurity from the pandemic,” said Mitchell Posner, executive director of CAN and a past president of Suburban Orthodox. He said this was part of the nearly 3 million meals the county aimed to distribute since March.
Volunteers handed out 350 boxes of fresh produce through the BHC food drive in a drive-thru, pick up on a first-come, first-served basis. All were welcome, with no registration or IDs necessary.
“It was a terrific event,” said volunteer Steven Cornblatt. “We couldn’t have had a more glorious weather day, and everyone was very positive and glad to participate.”
He and about a dozen others handed out the boxes full of bountiful fresh bananas, carrots, lettuce, and much more. A steady stream of a few hundred vehicles took in the foods within a little over an hour.
Cornblatt believes less than 5% took more than one box. “But when they did, they said they were covering an additional household, usually elderly and unable to do it on their own. Anyone who asked for an extra box received it with no questions asked.”
He is concerned that there are many more who are in need but who too embarrassed to have taken advantage of the day. Posner seconded that. “There definitely was a need.”
Perhaps they will have a second chance, as organizers expressed interest in
planning another occasion.