Sending “A Ray of Hope”

August 31, 2020 by Kristin Hanson

Retired faculty support Henderson-Hopkins School’s neighborhood grocery drive

When the Henderson-Hopkins School began hosting a weekly food distribution for its East Baltimore community in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ginny Corson took notice. A retired associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics, Corson is the volunteering committee co-chair of The Academy at Johns Hopkins. The organization was founded in 2018 to support and engage retired faculty of the schools of Medicine and Nursing, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

A man wearing a mask and plastic gloves pulls a black cart laden with bags of groceries past the entrance of the Henderson Hopkins School.
“In this really challenging moment in our city and our country, this is really a ray of hope,” Henderson-Hopkins Principal Peter Kannam says of the school’s food distribution program.

“Ginny came back from visiting a Friday food distribution and said, ‘This looks like a real opportunity for us to get directly involved,’” says Dotty Rosenthal, Corson’s co-chair and a professor emerita of pathology and cytopathology.

After a discussion within the community volunteering committee, Corson and Rosenthal consulted with Henderson-Hopkins Assistant Principal J.D. Merrill, MS (Edu ’15), on how best to help. They determined that because the Academy members are largely within the age group considered to be at an elevated risk for poor COVID-19 outcomes, volunteering in-person wouldn’t be feasible, but providing financial support could be.

Since its opening in 2014 as the newest school to be built in Baltimore in 20 years, the school ― formally known as Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School ― has become an anchor for the neighborhood north of Johns Hopkins Hospital. The school emphasizes supporting the whole child and their family inside and outside the classroom, including through nutrition, to produce the best possible educational outcomes. When the school had to close its doors and many students’ caregivers lost jobs because of COVID-19 in March 2020, Merrill and Henderson-Hopkins Principal Peter Kannam, MS (Edu ’99), sprang into action to ensure these families could still put food on their tables.

Johns Hopkins leadership committed to funding the school’s weekly food distribution for 10 weeks. Another grant extended the program through mid-July. By that point, the program had given away nearly 125,000 pounds of food to more than 4,000 families in East Baltimore. But as the economic toll of the pandemic deepened, coupled with the realization that Henderson-Hopkins would not be reopening for in-person instruction anytime soon, it became clear that additional funds would be needed to keep the food drive going.

So the Academy stepped up. With gifts from nearly 40 percent of its 117 members, the Academy raised more than $25,000 for the Henderson-Hopkins Emergency Programming Fund.

A man wearing a hat and gloves stands on a curb while holding out a bag of groceries. A person in an idling car reaches out to take the bag.
The weekly Henderson-Hopkins Schools food distribution program benefits not only its students’ families but also others in the East Baltimore area.

“We had no idea how people would respond, but we’re delighted with the number of people who did,” Corson says. “I think this was so appealing because it’s related to education, it’s near the [Johns Hopkins] medical campus, it’s all of those things ― and the urgency of the need.”

“The predicament these families are in is unconscionable,” Rosenthal says. “This is one thing we can do locally to change people’s lives and let them know they’re not forgotten. This is a very important time in everyone’s lives.”

In a thank-you video, Kannam underscored both the practical and inspirational impact Academy donors made on the Henderson-Hopkins staff and the families they’re serving.

“We could not do this without you,” he said. “In this really challenging moment in our city and our country, this is really a ray of hope.”

If you would like to join the Academy in supporting the Henderson-Hopkins food distribution effort through the fall, please visit the School of Education’s website and select “Henderson Hopkins Emergency Programming Fund” from the designation drop-down menu.

Topics: Faculty and Staff, Johns Hopkins Medicine, School of Education, Strengthening Partnerships