Patrick Walsh

The COVID-19 pandemic is calling a younger generation to step up. This is our moment.  

Students volunteer often in groups, and internships throughout the year at Catholic Social Services’ Martha’s Choice Marketplace, the largest food pantry in Montgomery County. However, it is about 60 senior citizens — many who receive food themselves — that come faithfully day after day, week after week, year after year, that allow us to provide food for over 1,000 families each month.  

I like to encourage new students to improve their attendance by reminding them it’s a 90-year-old woman who always shows up first on snowy mornings. As sleepy-eyed college students unload trucks, I like to point to all the 80-year-old men hauling cases of food faster than foul-mouthed longshoremen.  


Because of the high fatality rates for senior citizens and people with medical conditions, we have asked most of these amazing volunteers and support staff to stay home. But the need for food in our community is only growing, and currently we are bringing in and distributing more food than ever before. Our aisles where clients and volunteers would shop, talk and joke around, are empty now, for the sake of community safety.

The beauty of our community at Martha’s is our diversity. People come from every walk of life, culture, and age. Our strength has been our multitude of volunteers and a bustling family atmosphere where everyone is welcome.  

But right now we are reorganizing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our most vulnerable. That means we need more young people to step up to the challenge.  

We are completing our first week of operating under the county shutdown, and strategizing about how to meet what seems to be a 100% increase in demand for food. We’ve been bringing in almost 10,000 pounds of food, daily, in the past week.  

The pantry is closed for shopping. But we are bringing boxes of food to people’s cars, and sanitizing all carts and equipment every time they get touched. We are limiting the number of volunteers and staff in our facility to a very small number to provide a safe environment.   

There is a lot of labor involved in unloading massive emergency deliveries, maintaining constant sanitizing procedures and managing social distancing of everyone involved, while filling food orders for clients waiting in their cars.   


We’re looking for heroic action. If you are young and healthy with no underlying medical conditions we desperately need you. Mainly we need help unloading trucks and packing boxes. 

Please consider making the sacrifice of a weekly commitment to potentially save the lives of many of your neighbors struggling to access food at this time. We are asking everyone at home to please pray for us!

If you have been waiting for your moment to be a hero, this is it. If you have been looking for purpose, try finding it by getting food to people most affected by the pandemic. If you have been looking for God, remember he’s inside you and then find him in the faces of your neighbors.  

Give families whose lives have been thrown into chaos the security of knowing they have food for their kids. Give the most inspiring senior citizens I’ve ever known the peace of mind of knowing that our important work will go on.  

You have big shoes to fill. It’s time to put them on.


Patrick Walsh manages Martha’s Choice Marketplace, a choice model food pantry at Catholic Social Services’ Montgomery County Family Service Center. He can be reached at More information about Martha’s Choice, a beneficiary of the Catholic Charities Appeal, can be found at