United by their desire to serve the community, several organizations came together to donate food, coats and health services to hundreds of families on Saturday at Lincoln Elementary School.
Local residents came through the school parking lot in drive-thru fashion. Eyes smiling above their masks, volunteers leaned toward each vehicle’s open window to ask the driver how they could help. A volunteer jotted information on a piece of paper and slid it under windshield wipers. Teachers waved to children in the backseat and offered books from the Judy Center and Frederick County Literacy Chapter.
Following rainbow colored traffic cones, each car’s stop through the parking lot offered families something new — boxes of food, coats in every color and size, flu shots and COVID-19 tests. An hour-and-a-half into the event, the table that was once stacked high with food largely from Frederick Rescue Mission had diminished to a few items.
Each family got what they needed, no questions asked, no judgment made, said Akiyyah Billups, executive director of Frederick March For Justice.
“This is a we project,” Aje Hill said to a group of volunteers before the event’s start. “If they look at you like that one box isn’t enough, give them another box.”
Hill is director of I Believe In Me, a mentorship and leadership development nonprofit that has worked with organizations throughout the pandemic to feed more than 50,000 Frederick County residents. When he heard Frederick March For Justice had a coat drive planned, he jumped at the chance to add food to the donations.
“As we know, through this pandemic, people are struggling to pay the light bill, the rent, phone, so hope’s something that right now is essential,” Hill said. He called the people at Lincoln that day “hope dealers.”
Billups believes the more groups that come together for the community, the better.
“You’re going to make a bigger impact, the more people come together to offer services,” she said.
Billups was joined by her husband Mark, director of innovation at the Boys & Girls Club of Frederick County. Their children also helped that day — Na’shier, 19; Kimara, 17; and Malik, 13.
Frederick March For Justice became a nonprofit, Billups said, after its leaders decided they didn’t want their work to end with the march they held in June downtown. Their hope is they can be a uniting force and, on Saturday, they were far from alone.
The YMCA joined the distribution, as did the Love for Lochlin Foundation and Frederick County Health Department. Local businesses Plato’s Closet, Taco Daddy and 4 The Love of Sweets provided donations.
Billups credited The Greenwood Project for bringing about 70 of the 300 coats collected. Its founder, Musangu Bukasa, was once a student at Lincoln Elementary. He said returning to his school in such a way was a beautiful moment.
“I believe the community has to solve community issues,” he said.
The Greenwood Project’s goals include supporting the Black community and minority-owned businesses.
By the end of the two-hour drive-thru, volunteers had served 306 people through the food distribution, provided 256 coats and administered 29 COVID-19 tests and approximately nine flu shots, according to Akiyyah Billups.
“I’ve been in this type of position before,” Mark Billups said. “We all hope that 2021 will yield better results.”