News Archives 1st Half 2020

Our Work Isn’t Done And We Need Your Help To Continue, June 2020

Times are tough. We are all being asked to give in many places.

The Student Support Network can only continue our mission of helping as many students and their families as possible during this summer of crisis with the generosity of people like you.

In the last month alone, the Network has distributed over $144,500 in donated food and essential items. To put it another way, that’s the equivalent of over 85,000 meals!

On June 19th alone, the Network served 3,343 students and their families at our three distribution sites.

Help us sustain this tremendous effort over the summer months when hunger and food insecurity are at their greatest. We simply cannot do this without your contributions.

Please, donate what you can today by clicking here:

Thank you!

League Of Women Voters Of Baltimore County Shines A Spotlight On the Network, June 2020

Thank you to the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County who highlighted the work of the Student Support Network in its most recent newsletter, The Voter, (Volume 2019-2020 Issue 10, Summer 2020).  The article was published under the Advocacy heading on Page 8:

ADVOCACY
STUDENT SUPPORT NETWORK NEWS

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, President, Student Support Network

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and one week after Baltimore County schools closed, the Student Support Network began distributing food on two distribution sites, Parkville High School and Owings Mills High School. These opened on March 20, and a third site, Loch Raven Technical Academy, opened on May 22. All students and their families are welcome at any site regardless of where the students attend school. The sites, open on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., are now serving hundreds of students and their families every week.

Parkville High School is the largest site. On June 12, in a little over two hours 430 families, a total of 2,180 people, came through for food and other essential items. Non-perishable groceries, produce, bread, and other basic household items were given to families arriving in cars or walking to sites. In some locations, school staff are delivering items to families who cannot access the sites.
The Network has also distributed over $50,000 in grocery gift cards to students/families in great need as identified by school staff.

Since early March, over 110,000 new claims for unemployment have been filed in Baltimore County, a staggering shock to our residents and to the overall economy of the County. According to Feeding America, nearly 40% of people going to food distributions have never had to go before. Even before the pandemic, over 50,000 students attending County public schools lived in severe poverty, 44% of all students in the system. With job losses and illness, hunger and food insecurity have increased dramatically.

While food remains and will remain the most important part of distributions, families are also running out of essential non-food items that are not paid for by food assistance programs. The items in greatest demand are paper products and soap, diapers, and personal menstrual cycle products; about 5,300 diapers were distributed on June 12 alone, and all sites still ran out. Abby Letocha, a Girl Scout working on a Gold Service Award, has made up over 1,000 packs of period products for our sites and will continue as donations permit. The expense of these items, especially diapers, puts a huge strain on families in poverty and creates toxic levels of anxiety and stress when they do not have them.

The Network will continue these distributions throughout the summer and reassess the schedules and distributions when more information becomes available about the school system’s plans for the fall and the new school year.

New Program: In collaboration with the BCPS Office of Title I, the Network has begun the Food and Essentials Program for Children. This program provides grocery cards for families identified by school staff as in dire need for supplemental food— $25 per child in the family per month for four months. These families cannot get to distribution sites (no car, public transportation not feasible, can’t take off time from work, etc.) and are running out of food. In addition, homeless students, many of them “couch surfing” from place to place, do not have regular access to food, but some are in touch with their counselors and may also receive cards.

The Network has committed $10,000 to this program and is currently running an appeal for donations to help children for the next four months, online at www.studentsupportnetwork.org or by check to Student Support Network, Inc., 1740 E. Joppa Rd., Baltimore, MD 21234. They have also applied for grant support for this program and will continue to do so.

The Network is deeply grateful to the many members of the LWV of Baltimore County who have supported our efforts, notably Betsy Sexton and Yara Cheikh, who supported the Network by giving many hours of their time, providing drop off centers, and helping with the distributions at Parkville High School!

A Shout Out To The Baltimore Union Boys 2006 Select Soccer Team, June 17, 2020

A big thank-you to the players and families of Baltimore Union Boys 2006 Select soccer team, who generously donated these items for our food distributions – and to Shaina Zobel for keeping us informed about their efforts!

The Network Welcomes Spencer Pollock To The Board Of Directors, June 12, 2020

The Student Support Network is very happy to welcome Spencer Pollock, Esq., CIPP/US, CIPM to its Board of Directors. Spencer brings important experience to the Network. He is an attorney at Niles, Barton & Wilmer. His primary focus is representing and counseling clients with aspects of their data security and cybersecurity. Spencer also works with the Maryland Volunteer Legal Services to provide legal assistance to individuals who cannot afford legal representation. He served as the Assistant Director for Bridges, a non-profit organization founded to support opportunities for higher education for inner-city students.

The Network Welcomes Gwen Betts To The Board Of Directors, June 12, 2020

The Student Support Network is very pleased to welcome Gwen Betts to its Board of Directors.  Gwen brings a wealth of experience to the Network.  She has taught in Baltimore City and Baltimore County Schools and received the Specialist of the Year award for her work on Visual Arts curriculum from Baltimore City Public Schools. She was the coordinator of the AVID program at Randallstown High School and was also a mentor for the Fine Arts Department there. Gwen is a Founding member of The Baltimore County Highlanders: Professional Black Women in Baltimore County who are committed to work on education issues and other advocacy.  We are so happy to have Gwen as a member of the Network administration and family!

A Recap of Network Accomplishments March 20 – June 1, 2020

Since March 20, the week after schools closed, we have:

  • Mailed over $43,000 in grocery gift cards to families in need
  • Staffed three distribution sites each Friday: Parkville High School, Owings Mills High School, and Loch Raven Technical Academy in Towson
  • Added essential items to our distributions, including toilet paper, laundry detergent, soap and diapers

The distribution sites have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cars that come through from week to week. The need is increasing at the rate of 10-15% a week. Every week, we run out of diapers in about 30 minutes. Additionally, the Network has been purchasing food to supplement the incredible efforts of our volunteers and to sustain these sites through the summer months.

The need is great.  On May 29th alone, we:

  • had 565 cars come through in two hours
  • made 40 deliveries to families who could not access food distribution sites
  • had 12 families walk up to get food
  • supported an estimated 2,000 students and family members in need
  • distributed nearly $20,000 worth of food and essential items, either in-kind donations or purchases we made through generous donations!

“Look For The Helpers. You Will Always Find People Who Are Helping.”

— Fred Rogers

The Student Support Network has been both overwhelmed and heartened by the support, volunteerism, and donations of the Baltimore County community.  When the Network set out to provide a weekly Friday distribution of food and essential items to county residents already living in poverty and now dealing with the increased economic challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, we weren’t quite sure how we were going to accomplish that goal.  But we watched as more and more donations from more and more people and organizations were provided to help more and more families.  To say “thank you” doesn’t seem enough.  On behalf of the many families who have been helped by the unwavering generosity of the community, we express our heartfelt gratitude.  Here are just a few of the many — individuals, school staffs, non-profit and for-profit organizations — who are our Network Heroes:

Maryland Food Bank Publishes Maryland Hunger Map, May 2020

From the Maryland Food Bank:

“Traditionally, the Maryland Food Bank has relied on numbers from Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap (MTMG) study to quantify the need and help guide our efforts. The 2019 study, for instance, indicated that roughly 650,000 Marylanders were food insecure. [But] we know the true need is much higher.

In working with the United Way on a FoodWorks project, we realized that their holistic approach to identifying Marylanders who needed help could be a valuable addition to our efforts. Rather than just looking at money coming into a household, the yearly United Way’s ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report looks at what it takes to maintain a Survival Household Budget — the actual costs of basic necessities (housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, technology, and taxes) in Maryland, adjusted for different counties and household types.

[A Maryland Food Bank team] combined MTMG and ALICE information with other localized data, and created the Maryland Hunger Map, the most detailed and accurate view of hunger we’ve ever had.”

To see the interactive version of the Maryland Hunger Map, click here.

Network Radio Spot To Air On Sportsradio 105.7FM, Saturday, May 23, 2020

A huge thank you to Andy Paladino, his wife Debbi and daughter Cammi for coordinating 3 radio spots this Saturday about the Student Support Network Emergency Grocery Card Drive! They will air three times on Saturday, May 23 between 9 and 10am. Go Sportsradio 105.7FM The FAN!

To hear the ad, click on the audio file below.

More Network Heroes, May 22, 2020

We are so grateful to the many people and organizations that help us meet the needs of Baltimore County families each week, including:

Bill George, aka Mr. Potatohead, delivering to Parkville High School last week.

The Maryland Waterways Foundation, for a huge delivery of great produce last week to Parkville High School.  They also donated fabulous canvas bags, a wonderful additional gift to families.

The families of The St. Paul’s Schools, whose donations were coordinated by a much beloved teacher at St. Paul’s Pre and Lower School, Nancy Budacz Dimitriades.

New Distribution Site At Loch Raven Technical Academy Opens May 22, 2020

We have a new food/essential items distribution site opening this Friday, May 22, from 11 am to 1 pm at Loch Raven Technical Academy!  Please note these instructions from the Towson Police Community Outreach Office:

Cars: for this distribution, the school entrance can ONLY accept cars turning RIGHT into the school from LaSalle Road. NO left turns from LaSalle into the school entrance will be possible.

Walkers: there will be a station open for students/families walking to pick up food, Parking is available on both sides of LaSalle Road.

A big thank-you to Sergeant Horst of the Community Outreach Office, and to Officer Suber (SRO for the school) for advising on traffic logistics!

This distribution is open to all BCPS students/families regardless of where students attend school.

Gathering Point Giving Circle Donates Soup Kits, May 21, 2020

Lisa Rogers, head of the Gathering Point Giving Circle, delivered 100 wonderful soup kits for our food distributions this week, and her group will make more. We’re very grateful for this new partner! Each kit feeds six people. 

Loch Raven High School PTSA Donates Grocery Gift Cards, May 15,2020

Shout out to Loch Raven High School PTSA for their generous donation of gift cards to our Emergency Grocery Card Drive, in honor of the wonderful teachers and staff at Loch Raven High School!

Roland Run Club Women’s Tennis Community Donates, May 15, 2020

Another wonderful collector, Karen Hube, through her great outreach in just a few days to the Roland Run Club women’s tennis community has generated what you see below – thank you, Karen, and the tennis crowd at Roland Run!

Tiny Toppers Group Donates Two Carloads Of Food, May 13, 2020

Two remarkable sisters, Jeanne and Meg, dropped off two gigantic carloads of donations for our food distributions – the photo shows only one carload! They are members of the Tiny Toppers group that normally meets in Kenilworth Mall to knit hats for babies in hospitals – thanks to Pat France, they have become involved with the Network and fed a couple of hundred people with their donations – we’re grateful!

McAvoy’s Sports Bar & Grill Makes A Second Donation To The Network, May 8, 2020

Many thanks to Nick Shah, owner of McAvoy’s Sports Bar & Grill for making another wonderful donation of 100 sandwiches, juice and cookies to today’s food distribution at Parkville High School!

The Network Welcomes A New Donor, May 7, 2020

We have a new donor to our food distributions at Owings Mills High School – Pearlstone Center is donating their wonderful goat’s milk soap to the bags given out to our students and families – thank you so much!

A Special Treat For Students, May 7, 2020

A big thank-you to Nick and his Mom Tracy – Nick just dropped off his second big donation of snack bags for kids – he has spent hours putting these together. We put them in grocery bags for families. Nick’s bags are a bright spot in a difficult time for kids who get meals mostly from cans and boxes – we are grateful and so are they!

WBAL-TV Publishes An Education Alert On The Student Support Network, May 1, 2020

Many thanks to Tim Tooten of WBAL-TV who came to our distribution at Parkville High School today! The station published an Education Alert on the work of the Network, titled “Baltimore County support organization passes out boxes of food to families in need”.

To read the Education Alert, click here.

WYPR Covers The Covid-19 Hunger Crisis, April 28, 2020

Our thanks to John Lee, who in an article titled “Fighting the Hunger Crisis in Baltimore County”  profiled the work that the Network is doing in distributing food to those in need. 

To read the article (there is also a link on that site to the audio report), click here.

The Baltimore Sun Spotlights The Network On The Front Page, April 25, 2020!

Reporter Colin Campbell and photographer Jerry Jackson visited the Parkville High School food distribution program on Friday, April 24 — week 6 of our ongoing effort to help feed Baltimore County students and their families who are living in poverty and particularly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic upheaval.  The resulting story was published digitally on April 24 and featured prominently on the front page of the Sun paper on Saturday, April 25.

We are very grateful to Colin Campbell, Jerry Jackson, and The Baltimore Sun for helping us to spread the news of the needs in Baltimore County and the work that the Student Support Network and the community are doing to meet those needs.

To read the digital article (complete with video and 15 photographs!), click here

The Towson Community Pitches In – In A Big Way! April 24, 2020

Delegate Cathi Forbes, Yara Cheikh, and the amazing neighbors in Cathi’s neighborhood stepped up to fill the gap left when the Maryland Food Bank was in crisis and couldn’t deliver the expected 1000 cans of food for Week 6 of the Network food distribution program.  The community came together and donated almost 3000 cans and boxes of food! Block captains collected and delivered the donations. Other volunteers sorted, organized, and packed the food.  It was a true community effort and we thank the hundreds of people who participated!

Family Drops Off Food Donations, April 18, 2020

Laurie was delighted to meet Patrick Delaney and his daughters, who dropped off food donations to the Network – thank you so much, and also wonderful to meet students helping fellow students!

 

The Baltimore Sun Highlights Orioles’ Community Heroes, April 17, 2020

In an article titled “Orioles put Birdland Community Heroes program online to honor frontline workers in coronavirus response”  the Sun noted that the Orioles’ first group of Virtual Birdland Heroes included everyone on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.  Among the organizations specifically named was the Student Support Network!  The article also included the video that David and Devin Hess created asking for donations to the Network and the Emergency Grocery Card Drive.  We are so grateful to the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Orioles, and David and Devin Hess for their support of the Network!

To read the article, click here.

The Orioles’ David Hess And His Wife, Devin, Created A Video Supporting The Network, April 16, 2020

Many thanks (!) to David and Devin Hess for their Instagram and Twitter videos that encouraged donations to the Student Support Network and specifically the Emergency Grocery Card Drive to benefit Baltimore County students living in poverty.  David has thousands of social media followers so we are very grateful for their shout-out.

Donations Enable Food Distribution, April 16,2020

The Network was so grateful today to Baltimore Hunger Project for providing hundreds of bags of bread, and to Jen and Kerri of Empower4Life, which donated over 2,700 items of food and essential non-food items. Other volunteers including Abby Letocha, Barb Carden, and Yara Cheikh and her family, and volunteers from several local churches worked countless hours this week to sort and bag donations for our food distributions tomorrow – thank you, thank you! There are no distributions without donations and without people to transport them.

Weis Markets Makes a Major Donation, April 6, 2020

The Network received a major donation: $5,000 in grocery gift cards thanks to Rob Santoni Jr., the store manager of Weis Markets in Fullerton Plaza! This wonderful gift will allow us to distribute more cards and stretch our resources as we probably face many more weeks of school closures – Mr. Santoni‘s compassion is yet another example of our local business community helping Baltimore County students and families in great need. Please spread the word about Weis Markets’ generosity – thank you!

McAvoy’s Sports Bar & Grill Donates To The Network, April 3, 2020

Many thanks to Nick Shah, the owner of McAvoy’s Sports Bar & Grill who dropped off boxes with sandwiches, juice, candy bars and chips for our food distribution today at Parkville High School! He reached out to us after seeing our event this past Friday – so generous, and we are grateful!

On March 13, 2020, The Day BCPS Schools Closed For Two Weeks In An Effort To Contain The Spread Of The Coronavirus, The Network Sprang Into Action

  • Grocery cards totaling $4,600 were distributed to staff at Network schools to give to students in need and their families
  • Bags of food and produce were distributed at two Network schools having refrigerators
  • Additional food was purchased by many Network volunteers for distribution that afternoon
  • Volunteers staffed Rooms of Support to assist families and students
  • Volunteers “emptied” most Rooms of Support of food with the intent of distributing as much food as possible to students before schools closed that afternoon
  • Student Resource Officers receiving food from the Network distributed all of their food and handed out grocery cards.
  • Any food not used was transferred to our storage space in the hopes that we will be able to distribute it to staff over the next two weeks, or longer if schools remain closed
  • Sanitizer and disinfecting wipes were stocked in the storage space for use by volunteers if the storage space will be used as a staging area for bagging food for distribution.

Pine Grove Elementary School Joins the Student Support Network, February 2020

Thanks to the generosity of the community, who helped to raise the necessary start-up funds, the Network is excited to welcome Pine Grove Elementary School as its 10th member!  All of the funds raised will go to buy shelves and bins as needed and to initially stock the Panda Pantry – and the Network matches these funds right away. 

The Network Created A Video to Tell Our Story, January 2020

Owings Mills High School Joins the Student Support Network, January 2020

We are thrilled to announce that Owings Mills High School has officially joined the Student Support Network! Owings Mills High School is the 9th Network school and the 2nd on the Northwest side of the county.

Lead volunteers are Vicki Almond and Sally Shapiro. They will work with school staff to fulfill student needs, as well as stock and organize the Room of Support for students. Currently, the school is facing a 44% severe poverty rate. We are looking forward to working with their wonderful staff to help their kids in need.

Battle Monument School Joins The Student Support Network, January 2020

The Student Support Network is excited to welcome the Battle Monument Network to the Student Support Network! The lead volunteer of the Battle Monument Network is Cathy Bartosevich, who will work with school staff to fulfill student needs and stock and organize the room for students, now known as the Clothing Pantry.

The Network Has Received a Grant From The Mt. Moriah Charitable Foundation, January 2020.

The Student Support Network has received a grant of $12,500 from the Mt. Moriah Charitable Foundation for 2020.  Once again we are deeply grateful for the continuing support from Mt. Moriah for this coming year! With Network programs now active in seven schools and with several schools working through the process of joining, this grant will help the Network provide essential items for more students in need. The Mt. Moriah Charitable Foundation has supported the Network since 2017.