‘They See The Smiles In Our Eyes’: Masked Volunteers Distribute Food To Families

AAACERT Coordinator Joe Dorffner, AAACERT President Bruce Morgenstern, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, and Pastor Sheryl D. Menendez at the food distribution on April 27 at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center in Annapolis.

The City of Annapolis Office of Emergency Management (OEM) tasked nine trained, certified volunteers from the Anne Arundel-Annapolis Community Emergency Response Team (AAACERT) to support the city’s fire department, police, and police cadets during a food distribution to help families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic on April 27. AAACERT’s roles at the event, which took place at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center located at 237 Hilltop Lane in Annapolis, included traffic management and maintaining social distancing. Volunteers at the event all wore face masks and gloves as Personal Protective Equipment.

Pastor Sheryl D. Menendez of Light of the World Family Ministries and the nonprofit Restoration Community Development Corporation in Glen Burnie, who helped organize the event, said, “People lined up in cars for several blocks a couple of hours before we were scheduled to open. What does that tell you about how serious this issue is? So many people in need are determined to feed their families.”

After pausing for a photo with Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, AAACERT President Bruce Morgenstern, and AAACERT Coordinator Joe Dorffner, Pastor Menendez continued:

“To organize this food distribution in Annapolis, which we call Pantry on the Go, we partnered with Diana Taylor — the Senior Manager from the county’s Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families — as well as the Maryland Food Bank. We generally give out from 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of food. On a day like this, it was 8,000 pounds. We did a similar food distribution on April 16 at Whitmore Park in Annapolis.”

Ten AAACERT volunteers helped with traffic management and social distancing at the April 16 food distribution. To date, AAACERT has contributed more than 650 hours of community service in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

‘They can see the smiles in our eyes and in our body language. They hear the smiles in our voices. And that does a lot.’

Pastor Sheryl D. Menendez

“We also run a Maryland Food Bank pantry at our Brooklyn Park location, where we give out food every Monday,” said Pastor Menendez. “We’ve got another food distribution coming up in Bay Ridge Gardens off Forest Drive in Annapolis around noon on May 6. We have four events scheduled over the next four or five weeks.”

Unfortunately, the demand was so high that volunteers ran out of boxes of food and had to turn away a long line of families in need at least an hour before the event had been scheduled to close.

“I’m crying because we are not going to have enough food,” said Pastor Menendez. “We give out quality food, including fruits and vegetables, from the Maryland Food Bank; they get chicken, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, melons. And more than 25 restaurants provide pre-cooked meals through Feed Anne Arundel. This crowd-funded effort pays restaurants across Anne Arundel County to prepare nutritious meals for those in our community in need. Today, we received 600 prepared meals; two weeks ago, we got 1,000.”

How does food distribution make a difference?

“A lot of people for the first time find themselves without jobs, and there are some folks whose unemployment or stimulus checks have not come through yet,” said Pastor Menendez. “Even that’s not enough, because people have to pay rent. On top of that, our school systems are closed, so the kids are not receiving meals there. We are seeing how food insecurity is compounding mental health issues. People worried about feeding their families are experiencing an increase in stress, depression, and anxiety. So what we’re doing helps people on several levels.

“When people come out to receive food, they can’t see us smiling behind our face masks. But they can see the smiles in our eyes and in our body language. They hear the smiles in our voices. And that does a lot.”