Maryland Arts Center Turns to Food Distribution

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Language barriers are making it tough for one of the poorest communities in Montgomery County, Maryland, to get help.

Out of necessity, the BlackRock Center for the Arts turned its gallery space into a distribution center to help those families in need.

Grace Rivera-Oven is helping lead the efforts at the Upcounty Consolidation Hub for Community Needs, known as the Germantown Hub.

“We have fed over 1,000 families,” Rivera-Oven said. “It’s been a coalition of coming together with different groups.”

BlackRock has partnered with The David and Mikel Blair Family Foundation, Healthcare Initiative Foundation, Latino Health Initiative, and Nourish Now to create greater access to essential items for children, families and seniors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rivera-Oven has been focusing on bringing food, diapers, and hygiene products to a mobile home park in the county made up of mostly immigrants. She says the crowded neighborhood makes it difficult to social distance.

Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia

COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia

Source: DC, MD and VA Health Departments
Credit: Anisa Holmes / NBC Washington

“It’s a little bit like being in a war,” she said. “The stories that you hear. I had a family who called who had been eating popcorn for dinner for three nights. I had a gentleman call me who called me who’s been sleeping in his car trying to get a test done because he has a very high-risk, months-old baby.”

In addition to getting out food and necessities, the Germantown Hub is also helping people overcome language barriers when trying access county resources like testing.

“Them understanding or being put on hold for a long time and they get desperate,” Rivera-Oven said. “They’re trying to get some help especially food and health access.”

The Germantown Hub is open for community needs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday at 12901 Town Commons Drive. Donations of nonperishable food items, diapers (infant, toddler and adult), health care kits, toilet paper and paper towels are needed. 

Find more information here. 

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