LUTHERVILLE-TIMONIUM — It's early on a Wednesday morning and the Baird family is busy packing up their pickup truck with donated casseroles, toilet paper and lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. All of it is headed to Our Daily Bread Employment Center in Baltimore.
"It started with friends, family and neighbors," said Bobby Baird, the father of the family. "We have people coming who heard about it and wanted to help out, they randomly show up. We can spot them now, they come into the neighborhood looking for the street number and ask if this is the PBJ sandwich house."
This is indeed the PBJ house, where Bobby and Lizzy Baird's five children, Bobby, 17, Shehan, 16, Morgan, 14, James, 12 and Johnny, 9, are hard at work each week assembling dozens of sandwiches.
"We have a system when we make the sandwiches and we bag them and it’s just part of helping to contribute to the whole process of feeding the poor," said Morgan.
The idea to make and donate the sandwiches came from the older kids' school, where once a week they would go in early to assemble PBJ sandwiches for Our Daily Bread. The non-profit serves hundreds of free meals a day.
When school shut down in March, the Baird family decided to keep it going and Lizzy reached out to a few family and friends to see if they wanted to help.
"With less than 24 hours notice, we got 400 sandwiches that day," she said.
Their network of donors quickly grew beyond family and friends, to strangers who heard about what they were doing and wanted to lend a hand. Each week they drop off food donations to the Baird's home and the family takes all of it to Our Daily Bread.
As of the end of July, the Bairds and their network have donated 16,000 PBJ sandwiches, 75 casseroles, 1,200 desserts, 450 loaves of bread, and 1,500 non-perishable items.
"It’s been really great as a family for everyone to help on a weekly basis and to see how much good and how much it’s helping Our Daily Bread," Lizzy said. "Every time we drop off, they’re so excited for the donations."
The staff at Our Daily Bread is very grateful for the food as they continue to evolve to meet the needs of their clients during this pandemic. For safety reasons, they are no longer serving meals in their dining room and are now distributing to-go meals plus giving food to local soup kitchens and other organizations.
"The guests who come to the center here have come to know us as a reliable source. That may look different but it still has to happen and we’ve been trying to find ways to do that continually as things have changed," said Kevin Creamer, the manager of client services at Our Daily Bread.
"For our volunteers who have stepped up the way that they have with donations of food and money to the program, it wouldn’t be possible to keep doing this without that," he said.
The Bairds say they're at capacity for the donations that come to their home, but they hope their story of a grassroots effort to do some good in these tough times will inspire others to do the same.
"It’s really been amazing to see how we can do so much, but when we offer it up to other people as a community, we can do so much more," said Lizzy.