Today Is Thanksgiving And Our Gratitude Is Boundless, November 26, 2020
This has been a year like no other in memory. It has brought challenges — financial, physical, psychological — to all of us. But it has also shown what we as a community can accomplish when we work together. Thanks to the generosity of our many individual, organization, and company donors and volunteers, the Student Support Network has been able to provide over $2 million worth of food, grocery gift cards, and essential products to our Baltimore County neighbors in need, through our weekly distributions at area schools. We are so very grateful to every one of you who has supported our vital work. Thank you!
Please Note Holiday Food/Essentials Distribution Schedule Changes!
**No Friday distributions in the weeks of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day**
Distributions at Loch Raven Technical Academy, Parkville High School and Owings Mills High School will all be on the following Tuesdays instead — all still at 11 am to 1 pm:
Tuesday Nov. 24, (before Thanksgiving)
Tuesday Dec. 22 (before Christmas)
Tuesday, Dec. 29 (before New Year’s Day)
Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry Recognizes The Network For Its Innovations, November 2020
The Student Support Network’s Emergency Grocery Card Distribution was one of twenty-one programs in the nation — and the only one in Maryland — selected by Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry for their new report, “Innovations in Child Nutrition Programs During COVID-19 and Beyond.” The Network was recognized specifically for “Innovations in Meals Served” for mailing grocery gift cards to families that could not access the weekly food and essential products distribution sites.
As of November 13, the Network has mailed or distributed over $120,000 in grocery gift cards, with many students and families depending on them to purchase food and other essential supplies.
To read the report, click here
A Huge Thank You To Weis Markets And Saving IND For A Successful Food Drive, November 15, 2020
Many thanks to Rob Santoni Jr. of Weis Markets in Fullerton Plaza and to Drena and Kathy of Saving IND, Inc. for sponsoring and volunteering for the 4-day food drive benefiting the Network! During the first two days of the drive, (numbers courtesy of Baltimore County Councilman David Marks), the truck was filled with 330 cans of vegetables 100 cans of meat, 103 canned meals, 40 boxes of mac and cheese, 67 pounds of pasta, 36 jars of sauce, 132 cans of soup 24 large peanut butter jars, 23 boxes of cereal, and numerous donations of personal hygiene and household items.
A second great food donation was dropped off at our storage space after the final 2 days of the food drive! Network volunteers helped unload the truck – donations have already made their way up to Owings Mills – the rest are organized in bins (many more than in the picture) and will be distributed at Parkville and Loch Raven Technical – a fantastic job!
The Network Receives A Grant From Matthews International Corporation’s Children’s Foundation, November 6, 2020
We are so very grateful to Matthews International Corporation’s Children’s Foundation and to Amy Shimp of Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens for her assistance with these grants!
From Amy Shimp: “It was great catching up with Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, President of the Student Support Network, especially to present her with another $1,000 grant from Matthews International Corporation’s Children’s Foundation.
We are proud to sponsor the Network in obtaining this grant that will contribute to weekly food distributions for Baltimore County students and their families facing food insecurity. Thank you, Laurie, for everything you, your staff, and volunteers do for our local community.”
Weis Markets, Saving IND, And Baltimore County Councilman David Marks Are Holding A Food Drive To Support The Network, November 6-7 And November 13-14, 2020
Rob Santoni Jr., the store Manager of Weis Markets in Fullerton Plaza (7927 Bel Air Road, Nottingham, MD, 21236) and major supporter of the Network, is partnering with Saving IND, Inc., and Baltimore County Councilman David Marks to sponsor a food drive for the Network on Nov. 6-7 and Nov. 13-14. On these days, donations of food and essential non-food items will be collected at the Weis Markets store in Fullerton Plaza from 9 am to 6pm. These donations will benefit the Network’s weekly distributions in November and December.
You can help by sharing this flyer and shopping at this Weis store on the days of the drive to help fill the donations truck. Thank you!
League Of Women Voters’ Newsletter Published Laurie’s Article, October 2020
The October newsletter,The Voter, of the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County published an article by Laurie Taylor-Mitchell:
POVERTY IN BALTIMORE COUNTY AND THE STRUGGLE FOR BASIC NECESSITIES
Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, President, Student Support Network
We reported in the LWV September newsletter that 30% Baltimore County’s high school students are now suffering from food insecurity — the anxiety and stress of not having continuous access to nutritious food.
Food insecurity is accompanied by many other forms of insecurity generated by poverty.
The Student Support Network has become acutely aware of “period poverty,” i.e. girls and women who cannot afford period products, which seriously affects leaving their residences for work, getting food, recreation, and, when schools re-open, even going to school.
Nationally, one in four women have struggled to purchase period products this past year, and one in four teens report not going to school because they cannot afford period products. Students also use period products for excessive periods of time when they cannot afford them, putting them at risk of health problems (https://www.parents.com/news/survey-menstrual-hygiene-products-period-poverty).
In Maryland, 37% of all girls in grades 7-12 attend Title I eligible schools, i.e. schools with high rates of poverty (https://cdn.b12.io/client_media/HJ1wIVtI/e5c8dfb4-95f9-11ea-a54f-0242ac110003-Maryland_APS_Period_Poverty_Fact_Sheet_052020.pdf).
Fortunately, Maryland does not tax period products. A bill requiring period products to be available without charge in public schools (HB208) did not pass during the shortened 2020 legislative session and hopefully will be re-introduced next year.
Diapers: The inability to pay for diapers and care for a baby or toddler in this most basic way is an acute source of stress for families. A lack of diapers limits child care options and can also put babies at increased risk of health problems and child abuse.
Nationally, 1 in 3 families suffer from diaper need, as identified by the National Diaper Bank Network. In Maryland, nearly 1 in 5 babies and toddlers live in poverty. (https://nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2018_State_Diaper_Facts_11_2018_Maryland.pdf).
Food assistance programs do not pay for period products, diapers, or other basic necessities such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, and soap. An average monthly supply of diapers costs $70-80 (https://nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org/diaper-need/).
Unlike Baltimore City (ShareBaby), Baltimore County does not have a diaper bank distributing diapers to non-profits and partners serving families in poverty.
The Maryland Diaper Bank only distributes diapers in Charles County, Southern Prince George’s County and St. Mary’s County.
Recognizing these other basic needs in addition to food, the Student Support Network recently distributed its 10,000th pack of period products and distributes about 10,000 diapers a week to families. We often run out even with this number.
Why are so many families in Baltimore County struggling to make ends meet?
- A worker in Baltimore County needs to make $25.81 per hour to afford the fair market rent and utilities of a two-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30% of their income (National Low Income Housing Coalition; cited in Maryland Alliance for the Poor http://mapadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Maryland-Poverty-Profiles_2020-FINAL.pdf)
- Nearly half of the jobs in Maryland pay less than $20 an hour (United Ways of Maryland ALICE report, updated 2020, page 1).
- The current minimum wage in Maryland is $10.10.
- In 2018, before the pandemic, 40% of all households in Baltimore County were struggling to make ends meet (ALICE report, page 4).
For more information about the Network and our current activities and advocacy, please visit https://www.studentsupportnetwork.org/ and click on “Become a Friend TODAY”.
The Student Support Network Kicked Off Its Peace of Mind Campaign, October 5, 2020
The Student Support Network launched its Peace of Mind Campaign on October 5, 2020. The campaign aims to give students and families the peace of mind they deserve in these challenging times. It is dedicated to raising funds for and awareness of the food insecurity and need that exist in our community. During the first days of the campaign, the community has the opportunity to hear important messages from our honorary chairs Devin Hess and Orioles pitcher David Hess, families who receive support, and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr.
Campaign Co-Chairs, Tracey Myers-Preston and Michael Preston, shared “We believe during these uncertain times it is vital to provide assurance wherever we can. We want our families to know The Network will continue to be here on a weekly basis.”
Since the closing of schools in March, the Network has delivered more than $1.2 million in food and other essential supplies to Baltimore County families – the equivalent of 750,000 meals. This was made possible by Network volunteers who came together and quickly built the infrastructure and processes to serve the current 900 families each week. Due to the ongoing pandemic, school closures, and job loss, the need is ongoing and is predicted to increase. The Peace of Mind Campaign was created to ensure that the important work of the Network would continue and Baltimore County families would have the support they need.
The Baltimore Sun Investigates Food Insecurity In Baltimore County, September 28, 2020
Baltimore Sun journalist, Taylor DeVille, wrote an article detailing the extraordinary work that is being done to mitigate food insecurity in Baltimore County. The work is spearheaded by Baltimore County government offices and the Student Support Network, with help from county agencies, police and fire department personnel, BCPS students, the Maryland Food Bank, local farms, and many volunteers. In the article, Laurie and our partner, Phong Le (assistant professor at Goucher College), provide insights on food insecurity and inequities in the county.
To read the whole article, click here.
Laurie Taylor-Mitchell Will Be A Panelist In The Back to School Forum, September 22, 2020
Laurie Taylor-Mitchell will be participating as a panelist in the Back to School Forum, “Empowering Families for Student Success and Wellness in a COVID-19 Era”, sponsored by the NAACP Maryland State Conference.
This virtual forum will take place Tuesday, Sept. 22 from 7-8:30 p.m. To read about the forum, click here.
This should be a very informative event for parents, teachers, and community groups involved with student education and wellness. To register, click here.
We Are So Grateful To The Community Outreach Team Of The UM St. Joseph Medical Center! September 16, 2020
Since the end of March, the Community Outreach team of the UM St. Joseph Medical Center has supported the Network’s assistance to students and families.
For the last six months they have provided:
- Hand sanitizer and gloves (for our first distributions when there were none to be found)
- Alcohol swabs for a diabetic child whose family could not acquire them
- Thousands of fresh sandwiches for children delivered to our distribution sites
- Hundreds of boxes of fresh produce delivered to our distribution sites
- Information on COVID-19 in English and Spanish for distribution to our families
- Volunteers for our distribution sites
Since the beginning of the school year, the Community Outreach program has donated or provided:
- 100 headsets with microphones to facilitate online instruction for children in need
- Hundreds of bags for the distribution of school supplies.
- Information on flu shots for distribution at our sites
This sustained support has been fostered and organized by Kristen Artes, the head of the Community Outreach team, and we are so grateful to her and to the St. Joseph Medical Center for their comprehensive approach and understanding of student needs right now. Thank you!
League Of Women Voters Highlights Education In Latest Newsletter, September, 2020
The League of Women Voters of Baltimore County has been extremely active in advocating for improvements in BCPS, notably the expansion of CEP but also for improvements in infrastructure. Please check out pages 4-6 of the September Voter on education and advocacy – and consider joining the League – men also welcome!
Yara Cheikh is a member of the LWV Education Committee and also runs the Parkville distribution site for the Student Support Network –
Betsy Sexton is a regular volunteer at the Parkville site too. These League members and many others advocate for our schools and support the Network through volunteering and donations.
Great News From BCPS: 87 Schools Eligible for CEP (Community Eligibility Provision) Are Enrolled For 2020-2021! August 31, 2020
All of these schools will be sites for serving meals starting Sept. 8. To see a list of the schools in the CEP program, click here.
An additional $4.1 million dollars will be added to the P-EBT electronic cards of qualifying students, about $123 per student, for the month of September.
These rates are locked in for FOUR YEARS. When schools reopen, all of the students at these schools will be offered breakfast and lunch at no charge to them – no more lunch shaming, meal card debt, or paperwork for parents to fill out every year!
About 60,000 students, nearly half the student population, will benefit from the implementation of CEP, in which ALL students are offered breakfast and lunch at no charge, including students and families of special concern and those who make too much to qualify for Free and Reduced Price meals, but not enough to make ends meet.
Statement issued by BCPS on Monday, August 31, 2020:
“On Friday, August 28, 2020, BCPS learned that the Maryland State Department of Education confirmed the status of the Baltimore County Public Schools’ application submitted for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Program. The application has been approved and validated, with 87 schools confirmed to participate in the CEP program effective at the start of 2020-2021 school year. Meal delivery, in collaboration with the Office of Transportation, to all 87 schools, will begin September 8, 2020.”
Cockeysville Middle School To Join The Network, August 17, 2020
Cockeysville Middle will soon be our newest Network school! Thank you to the MANY individual donors in the community, including Senator Chris West and Mrs. Anne West, who helped make this possible. Special thanks to Delegate Dr. Michele Guyton, MD State House of Delegates District 42B and all of you who helped spread the word!
A Recap of Network Accomplishments March 20 – July 31, 2020
Since schools closed on March 20, the Network has:
- Distributed over $580,000 in food and essential supplies at sites
- Provided the food equivalent of over 380,000 meals
- Provided support for over 24,000 visits from students and families
- In addition, mailed over $77,000 in grocery cards to students and their families in dire need or who cannot access distribution sites
Your contribution has made these great accomplishments possible and helps us continue this work.
The Baltimore Sun Spotlights Abby’s Girl Scout Project, July 27, 2020
The Sun wrote an article on Abby’s Girl Scout Gold Award project to supply care bags of feminine hygiene products to the Student Support Network’s Friday distributions. Her efforts focus on ending “period poverty” for those students and families who are suffering from economic hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic. At last count, Abby has distributed over 4000 period packs with the help of donations from over 200 people.
The article also notes the other girl scouts who are collecting period products and diapers for donation (see News items below for more information).
To read the full article, click here.
Girl Scouts Rock – Part 4! July, 24, 2020
Today is the launch of Kate, Chloe, and Saara’s Silver Award Project for Girl Scouts. They are three rising 8th grade Girl Scout Cadettes who have opted to focus on a problem that is pervasive, yet often unknown to many. “Period Poverty” is defined as the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products due to lack of income.
This project is 99% Girl Driven, with only a little guidance from parents and friends.
Please check out their Amazon Wishlist!
Also as part of their Silver Award project, the scouts created a petition to make period products essential items that can be purchased with government safety-net funds in Maryland. If you are interested in reading and/or signing the petition, click here.
Girl Scouts Rock – Part 3! July 23,2020
Another wonderful young volunteer who will be committing her time and energy to help families with babies and toddlers – meet Natalie L.
For her Girl Scout Silver Award project, Natalie is collecting diapers, wipes, baby shampoo and other baby supplies for the Student Support Network. She will distribute these every week to the approximately 140 cars that come to Loch Raven Technical Academy for help.
She has received $1,400 in product donations in less than a week at her house! These donations include over 4,000 diapers, which are as important as food for some families in dire need.
Natalie has made enough diaper packs bags to supply 84 families!
She has also packed more than 50 complete baby supply bags (baby shampoo, lotion, wipes and diaper cream) to give with the diaper packs.
For anyone able to contribute, she has set up an Amazon Wishlist that gets shipped to her house, where she will assemble baby supply packs each week.
Goucher College Has Generously Provided A Wonderful Storage Space For The Network! July 22, 2020
We are very grateful to Goucher College President Kent Deveraux for his commitment to our Mission, and to State Delegate Cathi Forbes, whose conversations with President Deveraux made this possible.
Funding for tables and shelving in our new space (now being ordered) has been donated by State Farm Insurance Agent Brigid Mulligan, through the State Farm Good Neighbor Program. Thank you, Brigid!
To read Goucher College’s announcement of the gift and the college’s ongoing commitment to the work of the Student Support Network, click here
A Young Volunteer Demonstrates Selflessness, July 17, 2020
We celebrate Piper, one of our youngest volunteers. She recently turned 8 and for her birthday she told her parents that she didn’t want more ‘stuff’ — she wanted to help her community. Donations poured in to help make her birthday wish come true and today, alongside her family, she delivered everything to the Student Support Network.
To continue Piper’s birthday celebration, check out her Amazon Wishlist.
Baltimore County BOE Votes For CEP, July 14, 2020
On Tuesday evening, the Baltimore County Board of Education voted unanimously to direct the Superintendent to elect the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for 66 schools that are currently eligible.
Schools electing CEP offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all of the students at schools with a certain percentage of students in poverty. No more lunch shaming, meal card debt, and paperwork to fill out for students attending these schools.
There may be even more schools eligible than that and we are waiting for the updated list.
At this point, two schools belonging to the Network, Halstead Academy and Battle Monument Schools will implement CEP.
Many thanks to Board of Education members Erin Hager and Cheryl Pasteur who spoke extensively on the need for CEP, and for the tireless advocacy of Tam Kelley of No Kid Hungry, State Senator Shelly Laskin Hettleman and Delegate Cathi Forbes, the Maryland PTA, PTA Council of Baltimore County, Teachers Association of Baltimore County, The League of Women Voters of Baltimore County, and many others for their tremendous efforts to get CEP into as many of our schools as possible. The Student Support Network also advocated for CEP.
To see the letter of support signed by over 70 individuals and groups, please click here
All of the schools below, and at least twenty more, will be able to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to ALL students- which will comprise at least 30% of the total student population in the school system.
1. Arbutus Elementary
2. Baltimore Highlands Elementary
3. Battle Grove Elementary
4. Battle Monument School (Network School)
5. Bear Creek Elementary
6. Berkshire Elementary
7. Catonsville Center for Alt Studies
8. Charlesmont Elementary
9. Chase Elementary
10. Crossroads Center
11. Deep Creek Elementary
12. Deep Creek Middle
13. Dundalk Elementary
14. Dundalk Middle
15. Edmondson Heights Elementary
16. Elmwood Elementary
17. General John Stricker Middle
18. Glyndon Elementary
19. Grange Elementary
20. Halethorpe Elementary
21. Halstead Academy (Network School)
22. Hawthorne Elementary
23. Hernwood Elementary
24. Holabird Middle
25. Lansdowne Elementary
26. Lansdowne Middle
27. Logan Elementary
28. Mars Estates Elementary
29. Martin Blvd Elementary
30. McCormick Elementary
31. Meadowood Education Center
32. Middlesex Elementary
33. Norwood Elementary
34. Oakleigh Elementary
35. Riverview Elementary
36. Rosedale Center
37. Sandalwood Elementary
38. Sandy Plains Elementary
39. Scotts Branch Elementary
40. Seneca Elementary
41. Stemmers Run Middle
42. Sussex Elementary
43. Victory Villa Elementary
44. White Oak School
45. Woodholme Elementary
46. Woodlawn Middle
Kudos To Our State Delegates Who Are Volunteering At Distribution Sites, July 2020
We now have state delegates who have volunteered at all of our three distribution sites:
Dana Stein volunteers at Owings Mills High School.
Cathi Forbes, coordinates the distribution at Loch Raven Technical Academy.
We are so very grateful to them for their continuing support of the communities they serve and the Student Support Network!
Dana Stein with Vicki Almond at Owings Mills High School
Cathi Forbes with Jesse Albright of Albright Farms at Loch Raven Technical Academy
Dr. Michele Guyton at Parkville High School
Harry Bhandari with Yara Cheikh at Parkville High School
Girl Scouts Rock – Part 2! July 10, 2020
In April, Abby L., a 2020 graduate of Towson High School, created a Girl Scout Gold Award project to #EndPeriodPoverty. Each week, Abby has bagged period packs of pads and tampons to give out at the Network Friday distributions of food and essential supplies. As of this date, Abby has supplied over 3000 period packs for students and families.
To contribute to Abby’s project, please check out her Amazon Wishlist.
Girl Scouts Rock – Part 1! July 2, 2020
Special thanks to Girl Scout troop #2455 for sharing their cookie money to help others in their community!
Student Support Network Issues Resolution, Summer 2020
The Student Support Network is committed through its mission to assist students in poverty and those experiencing homelessness in Baltimore County Public Schools and to advocate on their behalf. As part of this mission, the Network is resolved to improve communication, intentionally create inclusive programs, and work to end disparities in access to resources. The Network is particularly concerned about addressing the effects of poverty and homelessness disproportionately affecting students and families of color. The Network is also committed to practice honest and thoughtful reflection in considering its programs and advocacy, guided by the principle that creating an environment that can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people ultimately benefits everyone.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
— David Hess (@hess_express28) April 16, 2020
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.
Halstead Academy Joins the Student Support Network, November 2019
The Student Support Network is delighted to welcome the Halstead Academy Network to the Student Support Network!
The lead volunteers of the Halstead Academy Network are Ashlee Alem and Mary James, who will work with school staff to fulfill student needs and stock and organize the room for students, now known as the Care Closet.
Important Grant Received From Divinity Lutheran Church, November 2019
The Student Support Network has received a grant of $12,000 from Divinity Lutheran Church in Towson to support food programs at Parkville High School for two years. We are deeply grateful to the Endowment Committee and members of Divinity Lutheran for this extremely generous support, which will help hundreds of students at risk of hunger and food insecurity at the high school. The funds will be used to purchase food for the offices of the three Student Resource Officers at Parkville, who all distribute food to hungry students. The Officers have reported improvements in discipline, attendance, and trust in school staff after the Network began purchasing food for their offices. Through this grant, the Network will be able to increase funding for their efforts in 2020 and 2021. Thank you, Divinity Lutheran Church!
Student Resource Officer at Parkville High School
The Network Announces A New Partnership With Pressley Ridge, October 2019
The Student Support Network has begun a partnership with New Pathways Pressley Ridge, a non-profit assisting disconnected youth trying to stay in school and successfully move into the workforce. Pressley Ridge received a grant for housing and support from a case manager for unaccompanied homeless students attending local Baltimore County schools, including Parkville High School. The Network will provide food for the first few weeks before food assistance becomes available, and then as needed from the Pantry for these homeless students.
Kyle Beliczky, Youth Housing and Community Services Coordinator, New Pathways Pressley Ridge
Laurie Speaks At Pine Grove Elementary School’s 50th Reunion, October 2019
Laurie was invited to speak at the celebration of Pine Grove Elementary School’s 50th Reunion on October 4, a celebration of the continuous engagement of current and former students, parents, and educators with this school. Christina Pumphrey, our Network Lead Volunteer for Pine Grove Middle School, was also there – her daughters attended Pine Grove Elementary.
Left to right: Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Michele Guyton, State Delegate District 42B, Chris West, State Senator District 42, County Executive John Olszewski, and Kathleen Causey, President, Board of Education of BCPS.
Christina Pumphrey with her daughters and Laurie at the event.
Photos courtesy of Brian Glock
Laurie Presents Information On Poverty in BCPS To The Lilacs Group, September 2019
Many thanks to Terri Seitz Parrish and other members of the Lilacs (Ladies in Life & Christian Service) Group for the opportunity to present information on poverty and hunger in BCPS at their September meeting, and for all of the donations to the Network (photo only shows a few) – a wonderful group of compassionate and energetic women devoted to helping others! The Lilacs are longstanding supporters of the Network.
Dumbarton Middle Network Receives An Important Donation, September 2019
Special thanks to Jeremy Talman and the Maryland DC Wireless Association (MDDCWA) for a very generous donation benefiting the Comfort Closet at Dumbarton Middle School. Network Volunteer Shannon Carney says the $2,000 donation will go towards the most high-demand toiletry items to supplement donations already received directly from the local community (shampoo/conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, laundry pods, etc). In addition, it may cover other costs that always come up throughout the year — field trips, white shirts & bow ties for concerts, gym uniforms, etc., — for students at Dumbarton who otherwise would not be able to afford these additional expenses.
The Network Receives A Grant From The Matthews Children’s Foundation, September 2019
The Student Support Network has just received a grant of $1,000 from the Matthews Children’s Foundation, administered through Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. This grant will be used to purchase school supplies for our Network schools; several programs at our schools request many school supply kits every year. We are grateful to Amy Shimp and Cheryl Percy for their assistance in applying for this grant.
Photo, left to right: Amy Shimp, General Manager of Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, President, SSN, Jess Wodarczyk, Executive Director, SSN, and Al Fritz, Matthews Cemetery Products, representing the Matthews Children’s Foundation
Another Local Business Commits Its Support To the Network, Fall 2019
Owings Mills Elementary School Joins the Student Support Network, August 6, 2019
We are delighted to announce that Owings Mills Elementary School has joined the Network – our first elementary school, and our first school in the Northwest area of the County. We met again with the wonderful staff and lead volunteers to sign the paperwork and see the new “Kindness Closet” in the school.
Front, left to right: Susan Katz, Nora Linstrom, lead volunteers, and Jenny Conrad, Assistant Principal. Back: Vicki Almond, lead volunteer and Network Board member, Laurie, and Scott Conway, Principal. Photos taken by Jessica Duvall Wodarczyk our new Executive Director.
Why The Work Of The Student Support Network Is So Vital, August 2019
We have recently updated the statistics on our Network schools with the new addition of Dumbarton Middle School, and with Owings Mills Elementary School, which will join the Network in August.
*SNAP is the acronym for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; these students live in families at or below 130% of the federal poverty level, which in 2019 is an annual income of no more than $33,475 for a family of four people.
Loch Raven High School
Enrollment: 870 students
268 students qualify for Free Meals, 31.3% of all students
111 students depend on SNAP benefits*
18 students currently identified as homeless
Parkville High School
Enrollment: 1937 students
870 students qualify for Free Meals, 47.9% of all students
301 students depend on SNAP benefits
200 currently identified as homeless (up from 143 since 1/31/2019)
Pine Grove Middle School
Enrollment: 921 students
361 students qualify for Free Meals, 38.6% of all students
180 students depend on SNAP benefits
15 students currently identified as homeless
Loch Raven Technical Academy
Enrollment: 769 students
413 students qualify for Free Meals, 54.9% of all students
195 students depend on SNAP benefits
20 students currently identified as homeless
Dumbarton Middle School (July 2019)
Enrollment: 1,188 students
223 students qualify for Free Meals, 18.7% of all students
79 students depend on SNAP benefits
26 students currently identified as homeless
Owings Mills Elementary School (joining August 6, 2019)
Enrollment: 784 students
505 students qualify for Free Meals, 64.5% of all students
244 students depend on SNAP benefits
18 students currently identified as homeless
Total numbers for Network Schools
2,640 students live in severe poverty (qualify for Free Meals in school)
1106 students depend on SNAP benefits (extreme poverty)
297 students currently identified as homeless
In 2018, the Network funded over 10,000 visits and requests for assistance at Network schools, with over $123,000 in monetary and in-kind donations.
Maryland Presbyterian Church Reaffirms Commitment to SSN Students, July 21, 2019
Maryland Presbyterian Church helped the Student Support Network get started in 2016 (when we were in only one school, Loch Raven High School). Their Mission Committee there has also conducted drives for donations to the Network, and is doing one again in July and August. Laurie spoke to Mission Committee members and also to the congregation in their “Moment for Mission” on July 21. We are grateful to MPC for their ongoing support!
Photo Left to right: Dot Attwell, Rosemary Plummer, Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Mary Jo Zimbro, and Leslie Erickson
Linden Heights United Methodist Church Continues to Support Network Schools, July 2019
The Student Support Network is very grateful to the Mission Committee and congregation of Linden Heights United Methodist Church in Parkville for their continuing support of Pine Grove Middle and Parkville High Schools. The church will have donation drives in August and September benefiting teachers and students at these schools in their local community. We are grateful to have them as another church partner supporting students in need!
Dumbarton Middle School Joins the Student Support Network, July 2019
The Student Support Network is delighted to welcome Dumbarton Middle School! Volunteers and staff have been developing Dumbarton Middle’s Comfort Closet throughout 2019 and officially joined the Student Support Network in July.
The lead volunteers of the Dumbarton Middle Network are Shannon Carney and Lisa Mathias, who will work with school staff to fulfill student needs and stock and organize the room for students, now known as the Comfort Closet.