More than 50 years ago, Brenda Walsh and Willa Bickham opened Viva House on South Mount Street in Sowebo (Southwest Baltimore) — a “simple Catholic Worker house of hospitality and resistance,” as they called it. Founded as a place dedicated to people, Viva House has provided hot meals; served as a temporary home to women, children, and men; and distributed over 375 tons of food to neighborhood families. Brenda and Willa opened their home and their hearts to the community.
Park School’s relationship with the soup kitchen goes back 30 years. Lou and Bonnie Rosenblatt, former Park faculty members, knew Brendan and Willa and volunteered at Viva House. The school’s involvement started as a completely faculty-driven grassroots effort. Over the years, the partnership between Viva House and Park continued to flourish. While always a Lower School initiative (with contributions from Middle and Upper School service clubs), its management has shifted, now resting squarely with the fourth grade. Every school year, Park makes six deliveries of expertly packed food bags filled with ingredients chosen by Brendan and Willa to best serve the needs of their neighbors struggling with food insecurity. Each fourth grade class also visits Viva House and the surrounding neighborhood early in the school year, so that students have a better understanding of why community members rely on the food bags that they pack.
“I think fourth grade is a magical year when they really start to think about other people and it’s the perfect time for them to work on a community service project that’s so meaningful,” fourth grade teacher Jenny Harbold said. She has been partnering with Viva House and helping the fourth graders lead the program since she started working at Park 26 years ago.
Just before winter break, Park’s fourth grade received the Chick-fil-A Everyday Heroes Award in recognition of their work with Viva House. The story was featured on WMAR news on December 22.
Our fourth graders accept donations throughout the school year. We welcome anything from this list — from one item to a fully loaded bag. The program also happily accepts monetary donations to help us fill bags. Thank you for your support!Back to The Latest
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