BUILD leadership huddled as soon as the corona virus started appearing in our state. We committ to pivoting to doing everything we could to save lives while building a stronger Baltimore through this pandemic. After weeks of initial listening, BUILD leaders from Zion Baptist, Koinonia Baptist, Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, ReBUILD Johnston Square, ReBUILD Metro, and Turn Around Tuesday kicked off phase one of BUILD's public health initiative.
On April 29th, 21 drivers were dispatched across East Baltimore delivering essential fresh food to the doorsteps of 550 families. Through donations, our drivers, many of whom have lost employment in the last several weeks, received a living hourly wage and have essential PPE while they work. In partnership with John Hopkins and City Seeds (Humanium), this food delivery will operate for the next 4 months.
This is more than food. This strategy helps households with senior citizens and the immunocompromised shelter-in-place and reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19, eliminating the need to stand in long cues at crowded and overstretched food distribution sites. With food in your cupboards, you have more ability to financially survive, putting your income towards other crucial needs.
This is also about dignity. As the drivers left to make their deliveries, Father Bruce Lewandowski at Sacred Heart of Jesus shared, “I remember the photos during the Great Depression of bread lines and I remember the stories my grandparents would tell me about the humiliation they felt having to wait there to feed their family. This strategy helps folks hold their heads up a little higher, even when in need.”
We build power through relationships. At a time when people feel cut-off and isolated, when we deliver food door to door, people see a friendly and familiar face. From a safe distance, they are called by their name and asked if they're okay. We are rekindling and reinforcing church and community ties that weeks of social distancing threaten to erode. Congregations are meeting new people and deepening relationships in the communities' greatest time of need. It shows that institutions are not simply houses of worship, but a place of transformation, even when our doors are closed.
This is the first outbreak in this global pandemic, not the last. If we continue to grow our relationships, strengthen our institutions, and expand our power, we will not only help people weather this crisis, but create a new Baltimore in the recovery. BUILD will be ready.