Fierce Chicks Rock raises funds to help provide 8,000 meals a week
Photos courtesy of Shanna Dell
Eighteen years ago, Johns Hopkins nurse practitioner Lisa Scotti saw how much Moveable Feast supported the patients with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) whom she cared for. Scotti says Moveable Feast’s medically catered, home-delivered meals were saving people’s lives. She wanted to help the organization.
Scotti formed a Johns Hopkins Medicine cycling team, Fierce Chicks Rock, to participate in Moveable Feast’s Ride for the Feast fundraiser. Thousands of miles and two decades later, Fierce Chicks Rock has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the organization.
Before the pandemic, cyclists rode 140 miles over two days, representing how far Moveable Feast travels to feed people. Since the pandemic, the fundraiser has become a one-day event, and cyclists choose how much they’d like to ride. This year’s event will be held on May 21.
“I love it,” Scotti says. “All proceeds go to Moveable Feast. We, as a team, get to know one another. It’s my favorite thing to do all year.”
Scotti, who was on the organization’s board of directors from 2010 to 2015, says Fierce Chicks Rock has also been doing a yard sale outside her house for years, with proceeds going toward their fundraising.
Angie Kelley, Moveable Feast’s community engagement manager, says Fierce Chicks Rock has a passion for volunteering and a love for the work of Moveable Feast.
“They not only ride,” Kelley says. “They volunteer in our kitchen to help make meals, do delivery driving, serve on committees and leverage their Baltimore community for support of our work.”
Kelley says Moveable Feast’s mission is to home deliver medically tailored meals to clients living at the intersection of chronic illness and food insecurity. The organization makes and delivers about 8,000 meals a week. Each client receives about a week’s worth of meals at a time, six lunches and six dinners.
“We treat food as medicine,” Kelley says. “If people don’t have access to healthy, nutritious food, it can negatively affect their ability to manage their illness. We want them to know we are a place that’s here to support them.”
Kelley says volunteers are a critical part of Moveable Feast’s infrastructure.
“These folks are sharing their most precious commodity: time,” Kelley says.
Barbara Wilgus, a nurse practitioner and program administrator with the STD/HIV Prevention Training Center at Johns Hopkins, has volunteered with Moveable Feast for over a decade. Wilgus says in addition to raising money with Fierce Chicks Rock, she also likes to volunteer in Moveable Feast’s kitchen and wrap Christmas presents.
“I see their work’s direct impact on the people I serve,” Wilgus says. “It is lifesaving for many of my patients with HIV. There are dietitians on staff who work with patients on what food they need to stay healthy.”
Many of Wilgus’ patients who use Moveable Feast’s services are homebound, and do not have many interactions with people.
“It can be demoralizing,” she says. “It can take away the reason for living. Just having a friendly face at your door is an impactful thing when you have no connection. Volunteers sit with them and socialize. They bring human connection directly to people’s doorsteps.”
Wilgus has also organized volunteer days for the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
“Putting together prepared meals as a team is a good way for people to come together,” Wilgus says. “It makes you depend on each other to get a result. We all had different tasks and jobs, and learned a lot about each other. We also learned about the immediate impact of even the smallest of actions. Spending two hours putting together some meals is helping hundreds of people survive. It’s a very little thing on my end, but brings great things to people who need it.”
Cynthia L. Sears, M.D., a professor of medicine and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has been riding with Fierce Chicks Rock for 17 years. She recalls that she rented a hybrid bike the first year, and did the ride when winds were more than 20 miles per hour.
“It took all day, and it was so difficult,” she says. “But it was quite an adventure and a ton of fun. Our team is like a family. We support each other. We’ve been friends for well over a decade.”
Sears, who served as president of the board from 2014 to 2016, says she also delivers meals and sometimes works in the kitchen.
“You can see the relief and the happiness when you’re bringing the meals. You are part of a support system,” Sears says. “None of us are healthy if we don’t eat well. Getting to the grocery store can be a huge challenge. Moveable Feast embraces all individuals who have chronic illnesses.”
“You always pack way more meals than you thought you would,” Dell says. “You get to see what the clients are eating and what goes into it. I’m in awe of the work Moveable Feast puts in every day.”
Before nursing school, Jennifer Gaver worked for Johns Hopkins Medicine as a research program coordinator investigating HIV/STI behavioral interventions. She spent two years as an HIV community outreach worker, and is now a nurse in the adult emergency department at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“Many of my patients were Moveable Feast clients, and often spoke fondly of the organization’s services,” she says. “I joined Fierce Chicks to raise money for Moveable Feast, knowing that the money raised goes directly toward feeding members of the Baltimore community.”
The first year Gaver participated in Ride for the Feast, the ride sponsors realized they had lost a rider along the course – Gaver.
“Fortunately for me, they sent the motorcycle team out to guide me in,” Gaver says. “It was a pretty epic feeling riding the last 30 miles of the ride flanked by three motorcycles!”
For Gaver, the ride has become symbolic.
“Riding a bicycle for 100 miles reminds me that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to. You make the decision, train hard, jump on the bike and go. It directly translates into life,” she says. “In terms of the fundraising, it is a testament to what a group of people can do when they set their minds to it. So, come and ride with us!”
Fierce Chicks Rock team members also include Meredith Zoltick, Margaret Hart, Jean Anderson (retired), Geetanjali Chander, Deborah Michelle (retired), Drew Pardoll, Norberth (Bud) Stracker, Joyce Jones, Elizabeth Gilliams, Amy Burrell, Chris Snow, Lindsey Gnazzo, Sarah Frank and Jill Crank.