By: Humans of Calvert County, Sarah Merranko & Anita Santoyo
Calvert County, MD- “So, our pantry was having a large amount of food being delivered, just like we do every third week, but on this particular week, we didn’t have any signage or any other way to let everyone know about it. We knew we had to get the word out there. It was at that point when someone said they could make a sign and then someone else said they had a panda head. Random, right? That’s when all the heads turned with everyone looking over at me….and that was the moment when the Pantry Panda was born.
I couldn’t believe the reactions of people driving by and all of the attention the pantry gained. People were happy. I mean, how can you not smile when a big panda is waving at you?
I enjoy being the panda bc its a way to reach people and get them happy and excited to go to the pantry instead of being sad and dreading it. A lot of people dread going to the pantry and asking for help, but when I’m there and able to wave my sign, wave at people, and dance…just act goofy, have fun, and just enjoy it…people get excited. They honk and wave. They even stop sometimes and talk to me. It’s just a way to reach out to people and a way to make people happy and excited about volunteering, other times looking into volunteering, or picking up their food. You know, a lot of people don’t like asking for help and they can be scared to ask for help.
I mean, we have new people every week I’m out there coming into the pantry who have never been there before and they’re like, “Hey, how does this work? I need help.” It’s really cool to draw people in who normally wouldn’t come in. Not to mention, a lot of people have children and their kids get really excited for the simple thing of waving to a panda and high giving them…and on top of that, they get a nice hot meal and food for their week…and that’s really, really important. I feel like everybody needs that little bit of happiness.
It’s not just the kids, it’s the parents too…and the adults in general…they just get really excited and they’re just like, “You’re the guy out there~dressed as the Panda dancing on the side of the road! That’s insanely awesome!” That’s just who I am, though; I’m a really goofy and outgoing guy, but at the same time I can be serious and that’s my way of combining both of those worlds and most of all, being able to help others. That’s really what I like to do; I enjoy helping people more than anything.”