By Stefanie Jackson – When Katherine Walsh was a student at Boston College in Massachusetts, her volunteer experiences brought her to the Eastern Shore, where the people she met became like family.
Now she’s returning the love to the Shore by fundraising for a historic local business that was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Do Drop Inn, in Weirwood, is a Black-owned business, a restaurant and lounge that was opened in 1967 by Lloyd and Annie Giddens.
The late Lloyd and Annie Giddens were the parents of the Do Drop Inn’s current owner and operator, the youngest of seven children, Jane Cabarrus, aka “Mama Jane.”
Lloyd Giddens was a people person, and it didn’t matter if the people were Black or White, they were welcome at the Do Drop Inn.
His daughter has followed in his footsteps and welcomed people of all walks of life to the Do Drop Inn, and it hasn’t been just for the food, drink, music, and dancing – Cabarrus also has a long history of giving back to the community.
One of the ways she did that was by opening the doors of the Do Drop Inn during spring and summer breaks for more than 25 years, hosting student volunteers from Boston College, who served the community wherever help was needed.
Their group was called the Appalachia Volunteers of Boston College, and Katherine Walsh was a member when she was a student of the college from 2004 to 2008.
Members traveled all over the East Coast to volunteer, as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as Georgia. (A group also volunteered in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Walsh said.)
On the Eastern Shore of Virginia, volunteer groups were sent to Cape Charles, Weirwood, Exmore and the New Road community, and Cats Bridge (in lower Accomack County, near Exmore).
The Appalachia Volunteers of Boston College had about 400 to 500 members who competed for the chance to go to Weirwood, which was the most popular volunteer location because it felt like “we’re going to visit family,” Walsh said.
Her first volunteer experience on the Shore was in Cape Charles. The first time she went to Weirwood, she knew right away she wanted to return. Walsh “never looked back and became very close” with Mama Jane and the Weirwood community.
The college students did “whatever the community needed.” For example, in Exmore, the volunteers helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity.
In Weirwood, sometimes Mama Jane would find out what needed doing in the community, such as minor repairs or cleanup at the homes of older residents.
The volunteers spent most of their time at the Do Drop Inn in 2006, when work was being done on the roof.
The college students also ran a summer camp at nearby Bethel Baptist Church, in Franktown, where they helped provide meals to the kids and did activities with them such as playing basketball or having a field day.
Mama Jane left an impression “the way she opened up her house to anyone.” She was completely trusting of the student volunteers, Walsh said.
But it wasn’t just Cabarrus who made an impression – it was felt throughout the Weirwood community.
Walsh remembers every time the volunteers visited Weirwood, the owner of Campbell Field Airport, on Bayford Road, hosted a bonfire for the college students.
They also grew close to the neighborhood kids and kept in touch with some of them by phone after they returned to college. One of the kids became like a younger brother to Walsh, who was an only child.
She has visited Weirwood nine times, mostly with the volunteer group, but in June 2007 she made the long trip for the high school graduation of her “little brother,” Kenny Webb. She even helped him move when he went to college in New York.
Cabarrus also has been to Boston twice to speak at the college. The volunteer program paid for her flight and she stayed in Walsh’s dorm room, Walsh said.
Now it’s time for giving back.
Walsh has started a GoFundMe with the goal of raising $250,000 for the Do Drop Inn “to ensure a healthy and safe recovery post-pandemic, and to preserve an important historical landmark and gathering place on the ESVA,” she wrote.
The money will be used to upgrade the kitchen, electrical system, HVAC system, and bathrooms; replace the floors, roof, and windows; install a new well; and improve the outdoor space, landscaping, and parking.
More than $16,000 has been raised as of March 23. To learn more or to donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/do-drop-inn-weirwood
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