Businesses Taking Care

A Thanksgiving Spirit Blossoms All Year for Local Charities

By Kate Poindexter | Posted on 11.10.16 – Feature, Lifestyles, People & Places

You see the messages everywhere today Chivalry is dead, civility is on the decline, snark passes for wit, misbehaving is an art form.

Before repeating and internalizing those messages, consider this: There are thousands of good people doing even more good deeds in the Frederick community. The place would be lousy without them. For the most part, they ask for no recognition and happily go about the work of helping those in need, just because they can.

The largest social service nonprofit organizations in Frederick County wouldn’t exist without volunteers and much of that support comes through partnerships with local businesses. Companies have supplied money, food and other goods, as well as services and facilities. Their employees log thousands of volunteer hours. Their stories could fill several magazine issues. Here are just four.

Frederick Community Action Agency

“We cannot thank our volunteers and donors enough. We couldn’t do what we do without their assistance,” says Sarah McAleavy, coordinator of food and nutrition services at the Frederick Community Action Agency. Established in 1968, the agency is sponsored by the City of Frederick and the Friends for Neighborhood Progress, with support from the United Way of Frederick County. The agency provides food, shelter, medical care and other forms of assistance. Its soup kitchen serves an evening meal seven days a week and its food bank provides sustenance to individuals and families who cannot afford groceries.

Dozens of local businesses and individuals assist the agency’s outreach to the homeless and hungry. Area restaurants and supermarkets donate food all year. “So many businesses support this community in so many ways, and most people don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes,” says McAleavy.

On Nov, 22, the agency will sponsor a Thanksgiving distribution, supplying 1,000 grocery bags with turkeys and all the trimmings. Two area businesses are supporting the project held at Harry Grove Stadium, Wegmans and the Bicycle Escape.

Wegmans provides goods and employee volunteer time at the food bank throughout the year. But this month it steps up its effort, collecting funds in the checkout aisle and showing up to help distribute the turkeys. For this one event alone, Wegmans generates $6,000 in product and monetary donations. Since opening its doors in Frederick in 2011, Wegmans estimates that it has given $61,500. “We have five giving priorities: feeding the hungry; helping young people succeed; encouraging healthy eating; enriching the neighborhood around the store; and supporting United Way initiatives,” says Clayton Brown, service manager at the Clemson Corner location. “In any community there are always going to be individuals who will need our assistance,” he says.  He stressed that all decisions about local donations take place from the local store.

Meanwhile, local father-and-son business team Roger and Tom Rinker of the Bicycle Escape have adapted a national campaign called “Cranksgiving” to benefit the food bank. It is part bike ride, part charity event and part scavenger hunt. Volunteers are given a bingo-style card listing items to be purchased at local grocery and convenience stores. Riders travel from store to store collecting the items. Those who collect the most items receive prizes provided by the bike shop and other areas businesses. Most riders use baskets, backpacks, saddle bags or bike trailers to transport their food items back to the Bicycle Escape in Clemson Corner, where it is weighed and readied for transport to the food bank.

Last year the shop collected 2,600 pounds of food. The Rinkers expect the 40 to 50 riders who will participate in the event on Nov. 19 to bring in 3,000 pounds or more. Those who don’t ride bicycles can contribute to the Cranksgiving effort by donating gift cards or dropping off food at the shop.

“One rider last year was purchasing food at a convenience store and the cashier said that the game was helping her family. It turns out the cashier had gone to the food bank for assistance earlier in the year and been helped,” says Tom Rinker.

Frederick Rescue Mission

“Business wants to invest in the community. They will work with those who care for the community,” says Arnold Farlow, executive director of the Frederick Rescue Mission. He points to the new Food Distribution Center on the mission’s campus on West South Street with hope and optimism. The new center, constructed this summer, is providing a more efficient, modern and friendly atmosphere for those who are struggling with putting enough food on the table. Grocery aisle clients can now walk through a brand new building, constructed by Dan Ryan Builders with the help of 32 vendors who provided materials and labor. According to Will Benton, Dan Ryan Builders production coordinator, approximately $100,000 of time and materials was donated by area building suppliers.

“Everybody needs help at some point in their lives,” Benton says. He and coworker Coty Myers say they are proud to work for a company that emphasizes giving back to the community. “Dan Ryan is a large company with a small-time feel,” says Myers. He says that encourages employees to volunteer where they live and work.

Farlow could not be happier with the new building. Prior to its construction, clients had to meander through the old building, snaking up and down staircases and hallways and out through the parking lot. It was neither pleasant nor efficient. But the new building is both. He says that in the first three weeks of operation, the new facility has seen a 276-percent increase in people coming through the grocery aisle. He says many of people who come to the mission are homeless, some are elderly or saddled with medical issues, and others are the working poor. “They are not eating consistently. They don’t have any choice about their food,” he says. “Hunger in America is insufficiency, not absolute zero.”

The Rescue Mission coordinates 700 volunteers per month to accommodate the needs of the hungry and accepts donations of food from more than 15 local grocery stores and restaurants, including Giant Eagle, Walmart, Red Lobster and the Maryland Food Bank. In addition to providing food, the mission has 70 men enrolled in the Beacon House transitional shelter and plans to open Faith House, a residential program for homeless women and children this year.

Mental Health Association of Frederick County

“When children are safe and happy, they grow up to be healthy adults,” says Anne Soule director of family support services at the Mental Health Association of Frederick County. She is working with a diverse group of local business people and volunteers to bring a more inviting space to kids and adults enrolled in MHA programs.

MHA provides education, advocacy, empowerment and treatment options to local residents. Soule’s staff facilitates safe visitation interaction between noncustodial parents and their children at the South Jefferson Street offices. “There is an assumption that everybody knows how to parent perfectly,” says Shannon Aleshire, MHA’s CEO. MHA provides resources for those who are court-ordered to visit their children with supervision. The project is designed to help children and parents build and sustain healthy relationships.

While there are rooms set aside for television watching, crafts and games, the fun factor at MHA is about to increase, thanks to a collection of local bakers, playground builders and construction materials suppliers. Each company is donating funds, equipment and volunteers to build an outdoor playground and recreational area, right on MHA grounds.

Bimbo Bakeries, the parent company of Thomas’ English Muffins, located on English Muffin Way in Frederick, is providing $5,000 and volunteers. Ijamsville-based Sports Systems is providing playground equipment and picnic tables at reduced prices. Home Depot is helping with fencing, landscaping materials and lumber.

“A lot of our associates are parents and grandparents, working hard to support their families.  They have a soft spot for children and want to help those in need,” says Janice Parrish of Bimbo Bakeries.

Of course, Sports Systems has a vested interest in healthy, fun activities for kids. “Our favorite part of every job is seeing the happy faces of the children and parents alike, when we’re finished our part and it’s time to play,” says sales manager Keith Lively.

In the end, the project is designed to help kids and parents navigate through stressful times in a safe and healthy environment — while having a little bit of fun.

Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs

“I can’t tell you the number of businesses I deal with every day. They know our challenges and they go out of their way. This community is so supportive,” says Sara Ryan, public relations/development manager at the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs.

The Coalition provides shelter to homeless adults and families, healthcare assistance, utility assistance, homeless prevention programs and food assistance in conjunction with local food banks. Its Adopt A Night program asks businesses or individuals to consider donating the $800 it costs to keep the shelter up and running for one night.

While it has many partners, one local bank has provided support for several of the Coalition’s programs, offering funding and volunteers for the last 15 years. And, a local pharmacy works closely to bring affordable medical supplies to those who need it most.

Frederick County Bank senior vice president of marketing Richard Davies says, “We try to be apolitical and not preferential to any religion or belief. But, we believe in helping the Religious Coalition.”  Throughout the years, the bank has supported the Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, personal hygiene supply drive, school supply drive and sponsored runs, walks and golf tournaments to raise money and awareness for the Coalition’s programs. In addition, Frederick County Bank employees are among the Coalition’s 1,000 volunteers. “The Coalition provides a safety net and a safe place in a fragile situation,” says Davies.

The Coalition also arranges access to healthcare for those who have no insurance or any other means of obtaining care, providing prescriptions to 306 individuals with chronic health conditions. Whitesell Pharmacy on North Market Street is a longtime backer of the Coalition’s healthcare and prescription-outreach services. “We started volunteering with the Religious Coalition in the mid-1980s, providing discounted medications to their clients. In the early 1990s, we started offering prescription and medical equipment at discounts to be passed on to the Coalition’s Prescription Coverage Fund,” says Michael Westbrook, pharmacist at Whitesell.

“At the heart of it, we still find so much joy in helping coordinate critical medications for people that really have no other means of getting them. From diabetes to seizures to mental health, these medications are doing a lot of good in our community,” Westbrook says.

As fall and winter holidays approach, service organizations see an increase in activity. “I think it’s a time that we all have some self-reflection,” says Sara Ryan. Need grows and people respond. In Frederick, local retailers, regional distributors and national chains team up with nonprofits and charities to take care of business—and each other.