It's a good day at the The shelves inside the tiny building tucked next to are filled with pies and breads and salsa.
Stores like The Fresh Market and Whole Foods Market regularly (and generously) donate leftovers and surplus products to the center. But bread goes stale, salsa spoils and in a matter of days, those shelves will be right back where they started.
This is where the assistance center finds itself, just a month after Christmas. Donations of key grocery items have slowed and administrators have had to buy food to fill crucial needs.
The assistance center, funded by 48 area congregations, serves low-income individuals in a wide swath of zip codes in Towson, Parkville, Lutherville, Timonium and Cockeysville, stretching all the way up to the Pennsylvania state line. About one-third of its clients are homeless.
Besides food aid, the assistance center provides emergency utility and rent assistance, toiletries, health services, clothing, transportation and other services.
Several times a year, a low-income resident or family can receive a three- to five-day supply of groceries, a package that includes cereal, pasta and other pre-selected items from the center's pantry.
Twice a week, the pantry is restocked from the center's storeroom, located in an undercroft at . On an average day, volunteer Suzanne Boellner said, the room is too packed to even walk through. On Friday, the floors were clean and the shelves were lined with boxes.
"Basically it looks like it's full, but it's a lot of miscellaneous stuff that we don't use in our bags," Boellner said.
When it runs low on staples the center uses every day—things like canned green beans, macaroni, tuna, spaghetti sauce—volunteers have to go out to a supermarket and buy them. That's money they can't use to help a family stay in their home or help a homeless person get to a job interview.
Though people who drop off more complex items, like cake or brownie mix, mean well, "people are picky and you've got to think of the nutritional value too," Boellner said. "Even some of the people who come in and we give bags to, a lot of them if their electricity's turned off they might not have stove access and stuff like that."
A full list of the assistance center's needs is available on their website. Boellner also suggests bringing bagged lunches, small snacks and unused hotel-size toiletries.
The assistance center's top needs right now:
- tomato sauce
- peanut butter
- baked beans
- meat sauce
Click on this listing for the address and phone number: . You can also write a note to the center.