In the face of unprecedented challenge, Maryland Smith alumni responded, with unprecedented compassion and fearless leadership.
In April, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan attended a news conference wearing a bold new accessory for these times: a red surgical-style mask bearing the message “Maryland Strong.”
It was a new creation from Route One Apparel, a retailer specializing in state pride products founded by Ali von Paris ’12. Amid the pandemic, its daily production pivoted from T-shirts and bikinis to Maryland-themed masks. For each mask ordered, Route One donated another to health-care workers.
“It’s another shining example of the very spirit of our Maryland Unites initiative,” Hogan said.
The company’s flag-themed fanny pack meanwhile became a staple in medical offices across Maryland, after Route One donated its entire supply to healthcare workers. “Whenever we can help keep those on the front line – our dear customers – safe,” said von Paris, “it’s a win-win.”
Amid the pandemic, Evan Lutz’s business was booming. His Baltimore-based Hungry Harvest rescues misshapen, ugly produce and delivers them to customers at a discount – a service that became more attractive than ever during stay-at-home orders.
They added employees while ramping up the other half of the company’s mission: fighting hunger. Hunger, too, was seeing a surge.
Hungry Harvest more than doubled its charitable giving, giving thousands of pounds of produce a week to those who needed it most. It also connected with community organizations, offering a new Emergency Food Box at very low cost to be distributed free.
“It’s been wonderful to see this community of people that we typically work with come together and rally around the cause to get people food,” said Lutz ’14.
As Busboys and Poets founder Andy Shallal, MBA ’19, fixed a shattered window from a break-in at his restaurant chain’s Anacostia location, he saw an opportunity to turn misfortune into inspiration.
He picked up his brushes, and painted the words “Busboys [heart] Anacostia” across the black plywood.
What came next surprised him – an outpouring of support from the community. He realized he could spread positivity wider, so he painted the windows of his 14th Street D.C. location with the message, “In Dark Times, Shine Your Light Brighter.” And the idea caught on from there.
“Instead of people walking around having their heads down and feeling isolated from one another,” he said, “why not spread some positive messages and help people feel connected with their humanity?”
Jason Hershman ’11 was running more than ever in hopes of setting a personal record at the 2020 Boston Marathon. But the event was cancelled because of COVID-19.
Hershman didn’t let that break his stride. He decided to host a “virtual marathon,” to raise money for the CDC Foundation’s Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund.
“I felt I needed to do something or contribute in some way.”
On May 1, 2020, participants in his Coronavirus Relief Virtual Run stepped outside to walk or run – at least six feet apart. His goal was to raise $1,000 for the response fund, which would deploy emergency staffing to public health agencies and provide food and medical supplies to quarantined people. He more than doubled his goal – a testament, he said, to his sport and its community.
Rahul Vinod ’11 and Sahil Rahman ’12 knew when they first opened the doors to RASA that they wanted it to be more than a successful fine, casual Indian restaurant. They wanted it to be connected to its community in D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood.
In the pandemic, it flexed that connectivity and made a difference in people’s lives.
RASA closed its doors to in-dining business, but provided free takeout meals for all hospital workers, schoolchildren and RASA’s own team members and their families. For all they did and for making such a difference, Vinod and Rahman earned the Rising Terp Award as part of UMD's Alumni Association Alumni Excellence Awards.
“Community and connection have always been at the heart of what we do at RASA,” Vinod said. “The least we can do is offer our front-line hospital workers free meals.”
With the fight to treat COVID-19 patients in full force at hospitals, Mike Weber ’14 wanted to help. He watched as his wife and her colleagues at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital worked long, intense shifts in the ICU.
As the co-founder of fruit-based ice cream company Frutero, Weber didn’t have face masks or PPE to donate. But he and business partner Vedant Saboo realized there was something they could do. They started dropping off ice cream to hospital staff as a thank you for their dedication.
In less than two weeks, they had delivered more than 1,000 ice creams to staff at seven Philadelphia-area hospitals. And, they launched an online order business to expand their ability to donate more. For each ice cream a customer ordered online, the co-founders donate one to hospital staff.
“We’ll just continue doing this until this coronavirus is over,” said Weber.