Community Assistance Network (CAN) has been helping families and individuals in Baltimore County for over 55 years.  During the pandemic CAN has been working tirelessly to continue people with the resources they need most like food, shelter, and a safe place for students to access remote schooling, which is why they are our 2021 Cornerstone winner this year.   

The pandemic increased a need for food and other services. CAN was able to rise to the occasion and continue serving the community by adapting the way they distributed food and resources to be safer for staff, clients and volunteers.  “Our service delivery amped up more during COVID, we haven’t skipped a beat,” according to Megan Goffney, Deputy Director. CAN added more food pantry staff and hired an academic tutor to help students learn better at the Fontana Village location while remote. 

“COVID 19 is thought of as a health care crisis, but not as much thought is given to folks helping people survive the economic trauma of this crisis—that’s what we do at CAN.” Mitch Posner, Executive Director said in a Zoom interview.  

Perhaps the most creative resource CAN’s provided during the pandemic is their daytime virtual learning facility offered at their Fontana Village location.   Often families don’t have enough space for their children to be able to spread out enough to learn or don’t have a strong internet connection.  That’s where Fontana Village comes in.  Three days a week students have access to space, reliable internet, and a tutor who can help them with their digital learning and ensure work is getting done.  This is one of several ways CAN seeks to help stabilize families in the whole family two generation approach.    

“We are working with a family of ten with five school aged children who were falling behind.  A lot was being missed with digital learning in their home, and now their grades have turned around. They get very close one on one attention with our academic tutor.” Megan Goffney explained, “Then we were able to connect their dad with an ESOL class to help him improve his English and to job resources.”  

Since the start of the pandemic, CAN has been receiving about 35 calls a day about eviction, which has translated into a lot of eviction prevention work and counseling. CAN has helped prevent 303 evictions, feed 6,000 households, and placed 139 families into permanent housing during the pandemic.  

CAN hopes to expand their food pantry services in the next year to include more client choice, allowing families to bring home the foods they enjoy.   This model would require an upgrade to their warehouse to allow clients to be able to do the physical shopping necessary. The upgrade would also provide more storage space, additional waiting rooms and intake areas. The goal of the renovations is to provide a dignified and respectful space for households receiving CAN’s services.  Dundalk Renaissance tips its hat to the tremendous support of CAN in our community.