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Helping to feed Baltimore’s homeless

Oak Crest residents donate 1,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each month to Helping Up Mission

Created date

August 25th, 2017
(From left) Iris Valt, Dottie O’Rourke, and Anna Stoll make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to donate to Helping Up Mission in Baltimore City.

(From left) Iris Valt, Dottie O’Rourke, and Anna Stoll make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to donate to Helping Up Mission in Baltimore City.


Americans love peanut butter. Every year we eat a collective 700 million pounds of the sweet stuff. The average American child will eat 1,500 peanut butter sandwiches by the time he or she graduates from high school. And now, people who live at Oak Crest, an Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md., use peanut butter to help feed those in need.   

Volunteers from Oak Crest go through 30 to 40 jars of peanut butter each month to make 1,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Helping Up Mission, a faith-based homeless shelter in Baltimore City for men fighting addiction, poverty, and homelessness. 

The art of PB&J

“It’s a huge team effort involving Oak Crest residents, staff, area students, and youth organizations,” says Nadine Wellington, Oak Crest’s community resources manager. 

The peanut butter and jelly initiative began in 2008 as an opportunity for residents of Oak Crest’s continuing care health services neighborhood to participate in an outreach program. They set a goal at the time of 90 sandwiches. Today, volunteers donate ten times that amount. 

“Once everything is set up, it only takes about 45 minutes to finish all of the sandwiches,” says Wellington. “The volunteers sit at tables in groups of four to six. Everyone gets a bowl of peanut butter and a bowl of grape jelly. When your bowl is empty, we have runners that come by and fill them back up.” 

According to Wellington, there’s a science to making the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“The key is to put peanut butter on each slice of bread with a dollop of jelly in the middle. The peanut butter acts as a sealant so the bread doesn’t get soggy,” says Wellington. “Once the sandwiches are assembled, they are put in plastic sandwich bags, boxed, labeled, and refrigerated until the mission picks them up the next day.”

Jars of peanut butter and jelly are donated by Oak Crest residents, and the bread is provided for free, courtesy of H&S Bakery. 

Organizations, such as the resident-run Oak Crest Concert Committee, help raise money and supplies for the Helping Up Mission project by holding concerts where the cost of admission is a jar of peanut butter and jelly.  

Spreading the love

Oak Crest resident Donald Webb began helping with the initiative four years ago.

“My job is to get the leftover peanut butter out of the jars using a spatula,” says Donald. “It’s surprising how much is left in the jars. I’m able to salvage enough peanut butter to make 40 or 50 sandwiches, which otherwise would have been tossed out.” 

Another volunteer, Margaret Sandifer, started making sandwiches six years ago after she learned about the program from a friend. 

“It’s a wonderful program. Volunteering is not only fun, but you get to meet new people, and most importantly you’re helping others who are less fortunate,” says Margaret. 

Volunteering comes naturally for Margaret, who, before moving to Oak Crest, volunteered dispersing medical equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers for the Maryland Department of Aging. There she also organized volunteer ushers for events at the Community College of Baltimore County’s Dundalk and Essex campuses. 

Both Margaret and Donald have visited Helping Up Mission, located on East Baltimore Street, just ten minutes from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, to see first-hand how their donations are helping. 

“The whole center is fabulous. Their facilities are wonderful. The programs they have for the men are very organized, and they maintain them very well,” says Margaret. 

“It’s inspiring to see how the Mission is helping people change their lives,” adds Donald. 

Oak Crest community members Ernest and Elizabeth (Betty) Rehmeyer enjoy knowing they are doing something worthwhile. 

“It’s fun,” says Ernest. “We get kids from neighboring schools that come and fulfill their community service requirements. In fact, I’ve got a granddaughter who goes to Catholic High, and she volunteers.” 

But Ernest admits one downside: “I used to love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but after doing this I don’t eat them anymore.” 

For more information on volunteering or making a donation, please contact Oak Crest Volunteer Coordinator Dana Huntington-Smith at 410-513-2210.