Oak Crest feeds hungry with 800 sandwiches a month

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Ned Ward is up to his ears in peanut butter and jelly. Once a month, Ward and other Oak Crest volunteers make 800 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Maryland [caption id="attachment_13161" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Some of the more than 60 Oak Crest residents who volunteer with the Feed the Hungry project, benefiting the Maryland Food Bank. "][/caption] Food Bank. The effort is part of the Feed the Hungry project at Oak Crest, where Ward lives. When the volunteers come in to help, it s like a dogsled race: Ready, set, go! I help organize everything and fill the bowls of peanut butter and jelly as they run out. They really get on me if I don t keep up with them, he jokes. According to Ward, there s a science to making the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It s peanut butter on both sides and jelly in the middle, he explains. That keeps the sandwich from getting soggy sitting in the fridge overnight before they re shipped out for distribution at the next day s lunch service.

Spreading the love

All sandwiches go to the Maryland Food Bank, which operates two facilities: one in Baltimore, serving all Maryland counties except Montgomery and Prince George s, and one in Salisbury, serving the Eastern Shore. The volunteer project atOak Crest, under the direction of Community Resources Volunteer Coordinator Alison Krull, began in January 2008. We originally set out to create an outreach program for our assisted living residents atRenaissance Gardens, says Krull. They don t have as many volunteer opportunities as the rest of the independent living community. Krull says their goal of making 90 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches quickly expanded into their current much bigger goal (800 sandwiches a month), as ' Oak Crestvolunteers who had heard about the project got in on the sandwich-making efforts. It just goes to show you what a difference a group of people can make a little at a time, says Krull. It s been said that we can t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. That s what we try to accomplish every month for those served by the Maryland Food Bank. Oak Crestresidents Ruth (Missy) and James Yates have been volunteering with the initiative, known as the Feed the Hungry project, since it started and believe those nourished by the food bank aren t the only ones benefiting. When you make two people happy, one of them is bound to be you, says Mrs. Yates. That s why we enjoy volunteering. The Yateses have always been active volunteers. Even before moving toOak Crest, they have been lending a hand to organizations such as the Board of Child Care, the Optimist Club, and their church. Since we ve moved toOak Crest, we encountered even more opportunities to get involved and volunteer, says Mrs. Yates. There are so many things here to do. It s really been a great experience!

The cost is peanuts

AnotherOak Crestvolunteer sandwiched two of her interests together into something for the greater good. Irma Seitz, who heads upOak Crest s concert committee, hosts peanut butter and jelly concerts every few months to help raise money and collect supplies for the Feed the Hungry project. In May, the Baltimore Symphonic Band was here, and the admission price to the concert was a donation toward the Feed the Hungry project, says Seitz, who works tirelessly to bring first-rate music to the people who live atOak Crest. From that concert alone, we received over 150 jars and $65 in cash donations. That should cover the next three months worth of supplies. A little bit here and a little bit there goes a long way. Collecting donations has been a community-wide endeavor, with organizations such as theOak CrestCatholic and Protestant communities contributing to the project as well. Peanut butter and jelly is donated byOak Crestresidents and the bread is also provided for free, courtesy of H & S Bakery. I think people are receptive to it because when you donate something tangible like a jar of peanut butter, you know it s going to feed someone and that makes you feel good, says Seitz. Oak Crestalso partners with a diverse group of volunteers from the business community and youth organizations, namely the Perry Hall Office of Long & Foster and Boy Scout Troop #146. Sharon Blough, Perry Hall branch manager for Long & Foster, leads a team of local Realtors and staff who volunteer with the Feed the Hungry program atOak Crestthroughout the year. Knowing that this effort benefits people in Baltimore through the Maryland Food Bank truly makes the project meaningful, says Blough. Collaborating withOak Cresthas been a natural fit since our first community service project at their campus several years ago. We have a great time, and we have learned so much from the enthusiastic people who live there. They all display a level of enthusiasm and commitment to the task that is so inspiring and uplifting. Krull says the project has grown so popular that when people see her pushing a cart of bread down the hall, they know it must be peanut butter and jelly night. But as widespread as the project has become, Krull says they still welcome new volunteers and donations. Ward adds this side note regarding donations: Every now and then somebody will get fancy and give us the peanut butter that s already mixed together with the jelly or the crunchy kind, he says. But we prefer to keep things simple. Plain old peanut butter does the trick just fine.

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