Local resident collecting for those in need
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 12:13

Belcastro seeks distribution space for goods

by Nicole Rodman

    Yeardley Road resident Laura Belcastro knows what it is like to fall on hard times.
    Belcastro’s husband was one of the steelworkers put out of work when the Sparrows Point steel mill closed its doors for good last June.
    Seeing the ripple effect that the mill closing left on the community, Belcastro decided to do something about it.
    Beginning last June, Belcastro began collecting donations of clothing, toys and food to distribute to unemployed steelworkers and other people in need across the community.
    “I got started because my husband was one of the employees who lost his job,” Belcastro recalled last week.
    “So many people were devastated and all of a sudden were in need, so my family began donating things.”
    As word of her venture spread, Belcastro began receiving calls — both from those in need and those wanting to help.
    Since June, Belcastro’s efforts have blossomed into what she has dubbed The Helping Hands Donation Center and Store.
    Despite the name, items are given away. The project is partly named after the thrift store Belcastro hopes one day to open.

As Belcastro notes on her Facebook page (search “The Helping Hands Thrift Store” on Facebook), “We operate without income requirements, address restrictions, or other limitations that we have observed other organizations impose on the public.”
    She adds, “We also understand the ‘embarrassment’ of having to ask for help. We respect everybody’s pride. What is provided is a hand up, not a hand out.”
    As the months have passed, Belcastro’s efforts have gained steam.
    She is working with Yesterday’s Bread, a Baltimore food bank, as well as CCBC Essex.
    Belcastro is also seeking mental health professionals to assist her efforts. She hopes to offer some type of counseling to those suffering from the devastating effects of job loss and financial turmoil.
    “People are depressed, lost everything, lost their pride and dignity because they now have to either leave the state for work or take jobs they do not like in order to survive,” Belcastro explained, adding, “We need to look at the people and how they are handling this situation.”
    Belcastro also accepts monetary donations, which are used to purchase clothing and food for those in need.
    As Belcastro’s project has grown, and taken on a name, she has attracted the attention of her landlord, who sees Belcastro’s project as a business being run out of the house.
    Facing eviction, Belcastro will go to court in February in an effort to remain in her home.
    In the meantime, Belcastro is not giving up on her efforts to help the needy around the community.
    She is currently seeking a storage and distribution space, in a church or other local building, so that she can avoid being evicted for  running the project out of her home.
    While she seeks a new location for her efforts, Belcastro remains committed to helping those who need assistance.
    “My ultimate dream that I am working towards is a store of my own but bureaucracy makes it hard to do. So for now I will continue my charity work; I love it and I love helping people,” she explained.
    Currently, The Helping Hands Donation Center is most in need of infant boy clothing, men’s clothing and husky children’s clothing.
    To get in touch with Laura Belcastro, either to donate or to receive, call 443-376-5891 or visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/343992915689386/.