Local Diakonia Benefits Planned

WEST OCEAN CITY — With the holiday season approaching, Diakonia is planning several events, both new and traditional, to help raise funds and awareness about the organization.

Offering a food pantry, emergency housing and transitional housing, Diakonia has been a staple of the county for almost four decades. Providing food and shelter to county residents in need, however, is just part of what Diakonia does, according to Executive Director Claudia Nagle.

“It’s more than just three hots and a cot,” she said.

Diakonia also offers life management classes and similar services, all on a shoestring budget from the state and federal levels. Nagle revealed that it’s the funding and support provided at the local level that keeps the agency afloat.

“We really rely on the community,” she said.

Nagle glowed about the partnerships the organization currently has with local government, businesses and private individuals, several of which will be running fundraisers for Diakonia this autumn and winter. Many of the fundraisers share a similar theme, where businesses accept non-perishable food partially or entirely instead of money and then donate that food to Diakonia.

From Nov. 6-10, Ripley’s on the Boardwalk will offer reduced ticket prices for customers who bring in five or more canned food items. From Nov. 7-11 and 14-18, the Casino at Ocean Downs will give visitors who bring in canned food chances to win casino bucks.

On Nov. 16, Greene Turtle North restaurant will once again donate 10 percent of the revenue generated that day to Diakonia. Last year the drive was conducted on Super Bowl Sunday and was considered a success. This year, the restaurant aims to top its last effort.

“They’re hoping to raise more money this time,” said Nagle.

Next month will include a food drive at Stephen Decatur High School Dec. 5-9 and a “Breakfast with Santa” at Lighthouse Sound on Dec. 10.

“It’s a really nice morning,” said Nagle of the breakfast, which she explained gives guests of Diakonia a chance to engage in a special holiday celebration.

Tickets for adults will cost $10, while children over 5 will cost $5. The breakfast will last from 7-11 a.m. Tickets are available at the Taylor Bank in Berlin. With roughly a third of Diakonia guests usually 12-years-old or under, the event is especially important.

An additional food drive sponsored by Crazy Ladyz in Ocean City will last through the end of the year. All of the events help contribute towards local support of Diakonia, something Nagle reiterated is crucial.

Money received from the federal government for food is only about $3,000 per year, she explained, while the food pantry served 58,000 meals and handed out 12,000 bags of food last year. With only federal funding, said Nagle, Diakonia simply would not be able to keep up.

Diakonia couldn’t afford to operate without community support, she added. Though the organization has developed a number of partnerships since first opening its doors in 1972, Nagle revealed the weak economy is putting an unprecedented strain on Diakonia, with more people asking for housing and food assistance while funding is simultaneously drying up.

“Requests for assistance are outstripping regular resources,” Nagle said.

Nagle is urging locals to do as much as they can to pick up the slack the state and federal government has left, whether that means donating a few cans of food or orchestrating their own fundraiser.

“It is the community that makes what we do possible,” said Nagle.