Diana Love and Amy Marshall are the faces behind the masks at West Annapolis Pop Up Pantry. Photo courtesy of WAPP.
In the beginning, very few were aware of the amazing success story behind the West Annapolis Pop Up Pantry (WAPP); a grass-roots organization started to help provide groceries to those directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as word spread of the WAPP’S good deeds, WBAL-TV picked it up and a spate of news articles began running across social media. Then, the top-rated NBC Today Show came calling to run a segment on its morning edition. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know more about the women behind the masks. Who was this dynamic duo who spent the last four months acting as role models for an ever-increasing corps of volunteers and community churches eager to help?
The Face Behind the Mask
Enter Diana Love, who originated the project when a landscaper who had worked in her West Annapolis neighborhood died of COVID-19. He left behind a wife and family who quickly found themselves without a provider. Soon after, she learned of other similar stories and realized the burgeoning number of families left behind in COVID-19's path of destruction.Diana and Amy with their team of volunteers at the Food Pantry. Photo courtesy of WAPP.
Diana Love and Amy Marshall
Love reached out through Facebook to spread the word of the needs of the Hispanic Community, asking for volunteers as well as contributions of food, dairy products and diapers. One of the first to heed the call to action was Amy Marshall. She was a friend and mother of four, who quickly offered her empty Airbnb as a storage site for the donations that Love was storing on her property. Love and Marshall, who met while their daughters were attending elementary school together; quickly became a tireless team. The need for WAPP's services soon surpassed what the two women could do in their spare time, as they soon found themselves working at the pantry 40-60 hours per week!
West Annapolis Pop Up PantryRestaurants, churches and numerous volunteers have banded together to make the pantry a success. Photo courtesy of WAPP.
Through an Anne Arundel County Public Schools social worker, the women were connected with a list of approximately 240 families in need, including several new mothers. “Once again our community responded, and we were able to host several baby showers on their front lawns,” says Love, noting that 25 percent of the Annapolis population is Hispanic/LatinX. “Amy and I decided to help this community directly,” she says. “But although we may be leading the charge, it’s our 60-plus volunteers and the generosity of our partners that makes it work.”
Children line up to receive free books, art supplies and games from the WAPP. Photo courtesy of WAPP.
Among the project’s partners are a coalition of churches that include Downtown Hope, the Guadeloupe Ministries of St. Mary’s, St. Margaret’s and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Annapolis. The inventory has grown beyond groceries to include books, toys, games, art supplies and even furniture. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, on Bestgate Avenue; is currently project headquarters. Donations are accepted for processing by a team of volunteers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then, cars line up on designated Saturdays to pick up products for their families. “We are especially proud of the young leaders who turn out each week", says Love. “They have compassion, empathy and lots of energy – I call them the jewels of Annapolis.”
How You Can Help WAPP
Many local families are receiving critical help from WAPP. Love estimates that she devotes 40-60 hours a week to managing the different facets of the operation. However, flexibility is essential. “It’s definitely a full-time job - one that requires constant pivoting,” says Love. “I speak with our core group of 120 families multiple times each week – I know their problems, their needs. I come across women who can’t read, and we laugh because I don’t speak Spanish well…but we make it through and I love that,”
Donations pour in from local produce vendors for WAPP's food pantry. The support has been overwhelming, but they are still an organization in need. Photo courtesy of WAPP.
So I ask the same question of Love and of Marshall. “How much longer can you keep doing what you’re doing?” Neither of them has a firm answer. “Through the New Year, at the minimum,” Love responds. “As long as we can,” muses Marshall.
Truly inspiring! To volunteer or donate please follow them on Facebook.
(The Face Behind the Mask: is a series of blogs dedicated to those making a difference in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County during the COVID-19 Pandemic.) For more articles like this, click here.