Donations show good will emerging from evil

September 19, 2001|By Rob Kasper

A chocolate cake intended to be enjoyed by the clients of a downtown law firm ended up as dessert for the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter.

Roast-beef sandwiches destined to feed conventioneers were rerouted to city police pulling extra duty.

Five-foot-long subs that were supposed to go to a University of Maryland law seminar ended up instead as lunch fare at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen downtown.

These slight shifts in the details of Baltimore's daily life were brought about by last Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. An odd, unintended effect of the terror and subsequent closings was the flow of food to local charitable organizations, to the police and to volunteers.

I stumbled across these details last week as I joined the legions of reporters who fanned out across the city gathering local reaction to the devastation in New York and Washington. In comparison to the gravity and grief of last week's events, these accounts of rerouted food were small stuff. But to me at least, they were reminders of community good will, of how a few good deeds can emerge from much evil.

While most members of the food-service industry have contingency plans for coping with leftover food caused by weather cancellations, last week was different. "With snow, you have a forecast to tell when it is going to fall and you know that eventually it melts," Jerry Edwards of Chef's Expressions caterers in Timonium told me. But last week, there was no warning for the sudden cancellation of events and the virtual evacuation of downtown Baltimore buildings.

Moreover, there was also the complicating factor that the nation's airports were closed. This meant that many groups scheduled to fly into Baltimore and dine in its restaurants and banquet halls couldn't get off the ground.

When a company picnic catered by the Brass Elephant was canceled, restaurant owner Jack Elsby packed up food - mainly hamburgers, hot dogs and brownies - from the canceled event and had it delivered to the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter. The burgers and hot dogs became featured fare for weekend meals.

According to Tim Williams, director of the shelter, the hot dogs and burgers "are always popular" with the men eating at the shelter. Williams said another culinary highlight of the week was the arrival of a large chocolate sheet cake left over from an event given by the law firm of Ober Kaler Grimes & Shriver.

Late Tuesday morning, hundreds of roast-beef sandwiches prepared by Baltimore Convention Center executive chef Majid Ftouh and his staff were waiting to be served as box lunches to 225 conventioneers in town for a technology show. But then the convention center, like many public buildings, was closed. The food was in the building, but the eaters were not. The lunches were given to a group whose members were highly visible in Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon, members of the Baltimore City police force. Around midday, the roast-beef sandwiches, along with ham and cheese, turkey and a few grilled vegetable offerings, were escorted by police from the convention center to downtown police headquarters.

Across town when a University of Maryland Law School seminar was called off, the three 5-foot-long submarine sandwiches from Barron's Delicatessen in Lexington Market were transferred to Our Daily Bread on West Franklin Street. Lunch had already been served at the soup kitchen, but the subs - one chicken salad, one tuna salad and one grilled vegetable - were polished off the following day.

Later in the week, as people lined up at Red Cross centers to donate blood, several area caterers sent free food.

When a group canceled a bus trip to Washington, Chef's Expressions sent the group's box lunches - grilled chicken on croissant, fruit salad and cookies - to the volunteers working at the Red Cross center on Mount Hope Drive. And when Eddie Dopkin's cousin, who works at that Red Cross center, rang him up at Classic Catering People and asked for food for the blood donors, Dopkin sent over midday meals for 300. The first day he sent sandwiches and cold pasta. The second day was hot pasta. He also sent a few staff members to serve the food.

As for Dopkin, he said the meal he enjoyed the most last week was the one he shared with his sister, Anna.

His sister, an analyst for T. Rowe Price, was in New York, working in the shadow of the World Trade Center on the day it was destroyed. It had taken Dopkin a few frantic hours, trying by beeper, e-mail and phone, to confirm that his sister was safe. A day later, when Anna was back in Baltimore, family members got together for a dinner to celebrate their good fortune.

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