- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Mike Schwartz is angry.
Schwartz is the owner of Mike’s Bikes on Great Mills Road. He is also the organizer of Mike’s Food Fund, which is an annual Herculean effort he started 30 years ago aiming to make sure no one in St. Mary’s County goes without a special meal at Christmas.
But what is uppermost in his mind right now, is the variety of circumstances that are hindering his efforts in business and the dinner project. And he’s angry about it.
He’s angry because earlier this year, the main gate to Patuxent River Naval Air Station (the one that is open 24 hours a day) was moved from Gate 2 to Gate 1. He believes this harms the businesses on Great Mills Road like his own because it diverts traffic to and from the base to a point farther north.
“It’s harder to make a living than ever,” Schwartz said last week from his store, as he furiously pumped up a bicycle tire.
He is angry because his car is in the shop and they’ve just called to say they’ve found another major problem that needs to be fixed.
He’s angry because he has been receiving calls with questions about getting Mike’s Food Fund Christmas dinner deliveries since September. He’s frustrated because every year people forget that he deals with Christmas dinners, not Thanksgiving dinners. He also says that he has been receiving requests earlier than normal, and he’s thinking that the need for the dinners will be greater than ever this year.
But right now, the thing that makes him the most angry — the most frustrated — is that it is illegal for him to drive the big green bus sitting in the parking lot in front of his business. It’s a bus he has been driving for 10 years up and down the East Coast as he ferries BMX riders whom he sponsors to competitions.
The bus is also integral to the collection, storage and distribution process for Mike’s Food Fund’s Christmas dinner effort.
Several weeks ago, Schwartz was driving his bus and a state trooper pulled him over and told him he didn’t have the right kind of license.
The timing could hardly have been worse to be taken off the road. His BMX racers missed several races after that and now he is heading straight into the busy weeks leading up to his Christmas meals delivery for Mike’s Food Fund. He throws a bolt to the floor in frustration as he describes the situation.
“It just aggravates me,” he said. “You try to help people, and the state of Maryland tries to stab you in the back.”
Schwartz says there isn’t enough time for him to get a different driver’s license before Mike’s Food Fund needs to be in full swing. “It’s not right ... One state trooper interprets the rules differently, and I’ve got this huge hassle on my hands.”
During the past three decades, Schwartz has helped thousands of people have something with which to celebrate the season. Last year alone, he and his army of volunteers put together and delivered 1,850 meals in the county.
Now, Schwartz needs people to help him. It’s not a position with which he is very comfortable, he said.
“What do I need? I need bus drivers!” he said loudly. In addition to the volunteers and financial donations (approximately $30,000 altogether) that he needs every year in order to put together and deliver the dinners, now Schwartz needs bus drivers for hours each evening from roughly 4 to 8 p.m. or later from Dec. 14 to 24. All he needs are licensed drivers. He will supply the bus.
“It was so much easier when I could just drive the bus,” he said to himself.
“Mike is phenomenal,” said the Rev. Kenneth Moore, senior pastor at Zion United Methodist Church, a longtime partner in the Mike’s Food Fund project. The church serves as a staging point for dinner for part of the time leading up to Christmas. And many members of the church have been involved in the effort for years, Moore said.
“It’s a mandate that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper,” Moore said Tuesday, explaining his church’s support for Mike’s Food Fund. “There are so many people that are marginalized and in need. It’s a chance to give back to the community.”
Moore noted that the effort requires a huge number of volunteers and that new volunteers can easily get involved. “Anyone who wants to come out is welcome,” he said.
Especially bus drivers.
Mike’s Food Fund needs financial donations and volunteers to help assemble and deliver ingredients for close to 1,900 Christmas dinners between Dec. 14 and 24. Volunteers with a bus driver’s license are particularly needed this year. Financial donations can be dropped by Mike’s Bikes on Great Mills Road during business hours or can be made out to Mike’s Food Fund and mailed to Mike’s Bikes, 21310C Great Mills Road, Lexington Park, MD 20653.
For more information, call 301-863-7887.