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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Pitching in to help school children

By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer

Businesses, volunteers see need and respond to loss of school meal program

(March 19, 2020) Since Gov. Larry Hogan closed schools for two weeks by executive order last week, groups and organizations have joined to find ways to feed children who depend on school meals.

Many students who benefit from school meal programs require help receiving meals during this two-week hiatus brought on by the spread of COVID-19 and the Hogan Administration’s efforts to contain it.

Worcester Goes Purple is working with Hope4Recovery to supply a brown bag pickup lunch.

The brown bag lunch will be available on Thursday, March 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Hope4Recovery parking lot at 10226 Old Ocean City Blvd. in Berlin.

By Morgan Pilz
Berlin residents come together to create bagged lunches at Baked Dessert Café in Berlin on Monday, March 16. Pictured, in front, from left, are Kyleith Powell, 13, Olivia Donovan, 15, Abby Melito, 14, and Sarah Reid, 17, and in back, Baked Dessert owner Robin Tomaselli, Pino Tomasello, Karen Bush-Purnell and Melissa Reid. Several organizations and members of the community are working to provide meals for students now that schools will be closed for two weeks. Many children in the area rely on school programs for their daily meals.

“Worcester Goes Purple is about supporting the community and showing community that those in recovery and their families are part of and are supported [by] their community,” Insurance and Billing Specialist Debbie Smullen said. “The coronavirus puts us in unchartered waters, but it does not stop the basic needs for compassion and kindness.”

The lunches will include a sandwich, drink, chips and a snack.

In addition, Worcester Youth and Family Services will be collaborating with Stevenson United Methodist Church’s Spirit Kitchen on Thursday, March 26, for a drive through food pantry from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 103 Flower Street in Berlin.

Donations can be dropped off at Worcester Youth and Family, 124 South Main Street in Berlin. Call and ask for Smullen at 410-641-4598 to arrange delivery.

For more information or to ask about volunteering, email Smullen at or call at 410-870-5161.

Baked Dessert Café owner Robin Tomaselli will be offering lunch bags filled with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, fruits and other small snacks, as well as a breakfast option such as a small box of cereal and a piece of fruit.

“We have for the past several years worked with organizations like Worcester County Youth and Family and Buckingham Elementary School,” Tomaselli said. “We were made aware a while back that when kids are not in school, when they’re on vacation, or when they’re on holidays or extended weekends, that there are a lot of children in this community that actually get stressed out over it because the school food programs are the only places where they actually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner-type meals.

“As soon as we heard that Gov. Larry Hogan was closing schools, we just decided we had to do something,” she continued.

Baked Dessert Café is working with several community partners: SonRise Church, the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department, The Iron Horse, of Willards, Boxcar 40, of Pittsville, Willards Lions Club and Uncle Willies of Willards to collect and distribute nonperishable items to students in need.

Tomaselli made a Facebook post last Friday announcing her intentions to help provide meals for students affected by the school closures. Tomaselli said she was shocked at the amount of support coming from the local community.

“My anticipation was that we would certainly get some donations from the community,” she said. “But the response was just overwhelming. It was very evident early on, a couple of hours after I actually made the post, that it was something that was going to be much bigger than what we could handle alone. So that’s when we began to pull in educators and community leaders and people that do this every day to help out.”

Donations will be collected at select locations Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Lunch will be distributed at select locations Tuesday through Friday from 1-2 p.m. at Henry Park, 111 Flower Street, Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department, 7442 Gumboro Rd. and the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, 12320 Ocean Gateway in West Ocean City.

For more information, or for an updated list of drop-off and distribution locations, visit the “Baked Dessert Cafe” Facebook page or call Tomaselli at 301-785-6161.

Buckingham Presbyterian Church is also getting involved with its Blessing Box installed outside of the property on 20 South Main Street in Berlin, where residents who are in need of supplies can take what they need or drop off donations on the go.

“People can people can leave stuff anytime they want,” Lindsay Ashton, youth group coordinator and youth events and activities for the church, said. “They can take stuff out of it anytime that they want to, like the little libraries.”

By Morgan Pilz
This Blessing Box food pantry outside of Buckingham Presbyterian Church in Berlin on 20 South Main Street is open for public use, where people can give and take what they need.

The blessing box officially opened in February but was inspired by the church’s youth group last year.

“Last year, all the Presbyterian churches gave out money to ignite different people, to go out into the community, so we packed 300 bags for the homeless around here last year and we gave those out to different organizations,” Ashton said. “We still had money left over. So, we were like, ‘Well, let’s give it to our youth groups and get them to come up with an idea that they want to do to help the community.’ They had seen these blessing boxes online, they started doing research and they wanted to build one.”

The donations can include anything from canned fruits and vegetables, boxes of pasta, beans and chilis, cereals, soups, snacks and baby formula, as well as other basic necessities like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, underwear, gloves, and shopping bags.

“So many kids depend on meals from the schools,” Ashton said. “People are able to help each other in a time of crisis and show that even in bad times, people still care.”

For more information about the Blessing Box, visit the Buckingham Presbyterian Church Facebook page, as the church is currently closed due to concerns regarding the coronavirus.

Though schools are closed, the Board of Education is also working with the community to ensure students receive meals during the two-week closure.

Chief Safety Officer Steve Price discussed meal programs offered throughout the county during a Board of Education conference call on Tuesday.

The board is currently working with officials in Snow Hill, United Methodist Church, Snow Hill Elementary School, Pocomoke Middle School and Buckingham Elementary in Berlin to deliver meals to students in need.

“We will be working in collaboration with all those organizations to have a joint message out so that our children can receive the meals that they need as they’re not available through the school,” Price said.

Due to state and federal regulations, the Worcester County Board school system cannot accept food donations, Price said. However, he can be reached at 410-632-5074 or for more information how to receive meals.

In addition, restaurants in Ocean City are offering free meals for students affected by school closures. These include Billy’s Sub Shop on 140th Street. To learn more, call Billy’s Sub Shop at 410-250-1778.

State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) applied and was approved for a federal waiver to provide three meals a day, and a snack, to students affected by the statewide closure of schools. The Maryland State Department of Education has 138 meal distribution centers across the state, which can be found at

Donation drop-off locations for nonperishable items:

  • SonRise Church, 10026 Main Street Berlin. Contact Pastor Tim at 412-571-1373
  • Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, 12320 Ocean Gateway, Ocean City. Contact Lisa Layfield at 443-880-2433
  • Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department, 7442 Gumboro Rd. Contact Paul Suplee at 443-880-1986
  • The Iron Horse, 7485 Market Streets, Willards. Contact Vanessa Founds at 443-397-7469.

Lunch distribution locations Tuesdays to Fridays from 1-2 p.m.

  • Henry Park, 111 Flower Street. Contact Robin Tomaselli at 301-785-6161
  • Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department, 7442 Gumboro Rd. Contact Paul Suplee at 443-880-1986
  • Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, 12320 Ocean Gateway, Ocean City. Contact Lisa Layfield at 443-880-2433