Allison Canada of Capitol Heights drove to the nearby Peppermill Community Center last weekend to pick up free food for the Thanksgiving holiday, but supplies were exhausted in about an hour.
Her disappointment was short-lived, though. Less than five minutes, she spotted a line of vehicles stretched about a block long to receive free meals outside Impact One Church in Capitol Heights, she decided to pull in line and patiently wait.
“I got a turkey, apples, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, string beans, macaroni and cheese, canned corn, cornbread. Glad I turned around,” said Canada, a program assistant at The Pathways Schools based in Silver Spring. “With what’s going on, it’s appreciated. I have three kids at home. This helps a lot. It’s free food. I can save money and get more food. It shows the public people care.”
Impact One Church served as one of the many locations in Prince George’s County that distributed free meals for Thanksgiving on Saturday, Nov. 21.
This year, COVID-19 has presented additional mental, social and physical challenges to the majority-Black jurisdiction that’s caused thousands of workers to become unemployed and face evictions from their homes.
Even worse: the virus claimed nearly 900 Prince Georgians in about seven months.
Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro helped the effort to distribute meals at Impact One and Mount Ephraim Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro.
Several years before his election as a state delegate in 2014, he organized community events to offer turkeys and other food for families through his Men Aiming Higher nonprofit organization.
“There’s really more of a need this year than other years and I think the pandemic has played a lot into it,” Barnes said outside Impact One Church. “It just [breaks] my heart to see so many people in the year 2020 that are still in need of food [and] necessities. I’m just glad I’m in a position through a collective effort to be able to help out so many people so they can have an enjoyable Thanksgiving with their families.”
Both Impact One and Mount Ephraim provided 500 free meals for two hours on a first-come, first-serve basis. All volunteers wore masks and other face coverings.
Motorists at Impact One Church also received grilled hot dogs and hamburgers while they waited.
Laverne Webb, who resides down the street from Impact One Church, missed the chance to receive a turkey.
“I still got the trimmings. We appreciate whatever we get,” she said while munching on a grilled hamburger. “It’s just a blessing from God.”
In the southern part of the county, County Council member Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8) of Fort Washington helped distribute 2,500 meals that to churches, a women’s missionary and some homes.
She praised volunteers and partners such as the Rev. Darin V. Poullard, pastor at Fort Washington Baptist Church.
Poullard said one example of how the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact everyone comes from meal distributions.
“Your perception who would want a [meal] basket has radically changed,” he said. “People I would have never thought who would come by the church to get food are coming by. Young people, older people. Males. Females. Singles. Couples. The pandemic has put everyone in a position of needing some assistance.
“The blessing is having relationships with people like Monique Anderson-Walker to partner with the church and serve the community,” he said. “I’m just humbled we’re able to do it.”