The holidays are here, and every November the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) Staff Senate and Office of Community Engagement collaborate to provide Thanksgiving meals for our neighbors in West Baltimore. This year, UMB combined efforts with the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) and WJZ-TV to maximize the reach and impact of the annual Thanksgiving Drive.
“We are so glad to be able to partner with UMMC and WJZ this year because it significantly broadened our reach,” said Brian Sturdivant, MSW, UMB’s director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships. “We have never collected quite this much, and we’ve never been able to help this many families, so the success of this year’s drive feels amazing.”
The original goal for the drive was to raise $45,000. With the combined efforts of UMB, UMMC, and WJZ-TV, donors crushed that figure, raising a total of $54,769 that provided Thanksgiving meal baskets to 1,484 families in West Baltimore. Each basket contained a frozen turkey, a box of fresh produce from Hungry Harvest, and a booklet of heart-healthy recipes — everything neighbors needed to cook a Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings.
“This is exciting to be able to receive Thanksgiving turkeys,” said Delores Cheatham, who volunteers at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School and received one of the baskets. “With how expensive groceries are this year, just a turkey for the family will cost around $40. This helps so much with making sure we prioritize time with family rather than worrying about the dinner. That’s what this holiday is all about: time with the family.”
Donations were collected through Nov. 18, and the culminating event of the drive took place Nov. 22, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Hundreds of volunteers from UMB, UMMC, and WJZ-TV rolled up their sleeves to deliver the meal baskets to community partners in West Baltimore.
The delivery day started at 6:30 a.m. when volunteers loaded up four moving trucks with produce boxes and frozen turkeys from Shoppers Food. Once the food was loaded, the trucks set out to deliver the meals to 25 locations in West Baltimore where neighbors could pick up their baskets in a convenient location.
“It’s really about being a good neighbor for us,” Sturdivant said. “We are an anchor institution in West Baltimore, and we’re not going anywhere, so we have a responsibility to our neighbors to help make their lives easier. And that’s what we’re here to do.”
The success of the drive set the tone for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was an act of coming together to support our neighbors and spread service, gratitude, and kindness within communities.
“This drive brought UMB, UMMC, and really everyone together to support our community,” said Jill Hamilton, MSW, vice president, UMB Staff Senate. “None of this would have been possible without all the contributions from donors and the efforts of all our partners including the Staff Senate Community Outreach Committee, which helped spread the word early and often.”
The Thanksgiving Drive comes on the heels of another successful partnership between UMB and WJZ-TV on the annual Staff Senate Back-to-School Supply Drive.
UMB organizers hope to continue to grow this wonderful partnership in the coming years.