Volunteers, nonprofits, local civic groups, businesses support those in need
By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(Jan. 4, 2024) Diakonia, a shelter and food pantry in West Ocean City, is a hub of activity 365 days a year, but during the holidays, the volunteers, businesses and organizations that support the organization go into overdrive.
A special group that has been committed to Diakonia for more than a decade is United Tour Riders (UTR), a local motorcycle organization involving enthusiasts from Kent and Sussex in Delaware and the Maryland Eastern Shore.
Every year UTR has a Santa Run that takes gifts to the children living at Diakonia. This year other fundraising efforts also led to Diakonia being presented with a check for $2,500.
UTR, while mainly a riding club of about 70 members, has made Diakonia its charity of choice since 2008 and in total has donated over $25,000, according to Sandra Venable, one of its members.
UTR raises most of its money within its own group, conducting club auctions a couple of times a year and raising member donations.
Each year, members gather to bring cash toys and food for the pantry, said Venable. Susan Blaney, the community coordinator for Diakonia, said the pantry at Diakonia is so good that people travel miles just to access it.
Food comes from various companies throughout the region, including Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks and Wawa.
Whatever the shops don’t serve, volunteers pick up and bring to Diakonia. Food Lion provides produce, bread and meat.
Food drives over the holidays help Diakonia bulk up the pantry for the year.
All that food means a lot of organizing and that is where another important volunteer comes in: Barbara Peletier: a daily presence at Diakonia.
She discovered Diakonia through the Kiwanis Club. When her husband, Dan, was helping paint the thrift shop. She has been in the pantry ever since.
“Barbara works eight hours a day in the food pantry as if she were on the clock,” Blaney said.
She has been organizing the food pantry for four years, with breaks to head south for the winter.
“It’s a nice feeling to be able to help out a bit,” she said.
“They tease me because all the cans are facing the same direction. I like things organized,” Peletier said.
She organizes all the food and puts it all away. She also bags food for monthly pickup for those in need.
“It’s a rewarding feeling. Giving a cookie to a child, and getting a smile. It makes you feel good.”
Anyone looking to give back in the new year can contact Diakonia here www.diakoniaoc.org/volunteer/ or call 410-213-0923