Maybe you were there for the rum tastings, fresh cigars, and dancing. Maybe you were attracted by the incredible food from some of Maryland’s best restaurants and chefs. Or perhaps you just enjoy a lively round of heads-or-tails 50/50. Whatever the reason, if you came to the 28th Annual Taste of Maryland to benefit Our Daily Bread Employment Center, you had one of the best nights of the year.

And if you weren’t there, then you missed one of them.

The energy at the American Visionary Arts Museum’s Jim Rouse Visionary Center was vibrant from the 6:30 p.m. start all the way past closing time. About 400 guests sampled delicious offerings from restaurants like Café Gia, Classic Catering, Di Pasquale’s, Faidley’s Seafood, Gertrude’s, Il Basilico, Pierpoint, and more. Clement’s Pastry Shop and Prigel Family Creamery supplied amazing sweets. All the while, guests savored rums, swirled glasses of wine, and sampled beer from Guinness, Heavy Seas and RavenBeer.

Couldn’t come to the 2019 Taste of Maryland? Click to see photos of what you missed!

Through sponsorships, ticket sales, a silent auction, and a live auction led by Jonathan Melnick, the evening raised more than $282,000 to support the paths to self-sufficiency that so many guests of Our Daily Bread Employment Center find when they walk through its doors.

More than a meal

When it first opened in 1981, Our Daily Bread offered 600 – 700 meals per week to those in need. Today, it serves more than 6,000 in that time. 

But, as shared frequently during the Taste of Maryland, Our Daily Bread Employment Center is more than a meal. Guests can eat and leave, or they can walk down the hall and find a path to self-sufficiency through client services, Maryland EarnBenefits, substance use education and recovery support, legal aid, job training and placement services, parole and probation services, health screenings and more.

Click to hear WYPR’s “Out of the Blocks” podcast featuring Our Daily Bread Employment Center and Christopher Place Employment Academy

“When we support the women and men who come to Our Daily Bread Employment Center, we enable them to taste a nourishing meal, and savor an atmosphere where their human dignity is affirmed,” Archbishop William E. Lori told the crowd. “[We enable them] to enjoy the benefits of a good job, to experience what it means to be free of drugs, to be on the right side of the law, to have the prospect of a much brighter future.”

Personal paths to self-sufficiency

In the only quiet moments of the night, two men who found their path through Our Daily Bread Employment Center shared their stories in a brief video. Victor Primera is in recovery after a lifetime of substance use that began at age 8, when an abuser used drugs and alcohol to subdue him. Dwayne Williams shared that unemployment and depression had left him suicidal. Both men shared how their time at Christopher Place Employment Academy, an intensive residential program at Our Daily Bread for men transitioning from homelessness, made a difference. Now, they are both employed and have their own homes. Primera will celebrate five years drug-free on April 29.

“I still come back to Christopher Place to talk to the new guys and show that there is a new way of life,” Primera said. “One day at a time, things do get better.”

When the video ended, the room rose in an ovation to acknowledge Primera’s and Williams’ profound personal successes.

Making powerful programs better

Our Daily Bread Employment Center Director Lee Martin said funds raised through the evening will help the program add and expand services, like case management and substance use education initiatives. It will also help support the men who participate in Christopher Place Employment Academy. In addition to resources, for example, it can provide the men with clothing and shoes for interviews and work.

“We cannot do this without the support of those who contribute,” Martin said, “and especially those who come to A Taste of Maryland.”

If you missed the event, you can still support Our Daily Bread Employment Center with a donation or by volunteering.