Volunteers were busy filling holiday "baskets" in Rockville Town Center on Saturday for city residents who might otherwise not have a holiday meal this weekend.
Each basket—actually a sturdy cardboard box—received food items such as dinner rolls, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, potatoes, onions and soup. Every family receiving the fixings for a dinner also received a gift card to a grocery store where they could purchase a turkey or other protein item of their choice.
The idea was to be sure that everyone had a meal to sit down to on Thanksgiving Day. For more than 500 families who live within the Rockville city limits, their dinners came via donations. “We are supported 100 percent by donations from individuals and local businesses,” said Carlos Aparicio, a manager with the city's Department of Recreation and Parks Division of Community Services. “Canned food came from local schools like Maryvale Elementary School and Robert Frost Middle School as well as local businesses. We used the cash donations to purchase bread, produce and butter.”
There were about 50 new families who qualified for baskets this year, Aparicio said. Referrals for meals and toys are made by a number or organizations. One such organization, Linkages to Learning, is a school-based collaboration bringing together the resources of the county's Department of Health and Human Services, Montgomery County Public Schools, and nonprofit, community-based service providers. A Wider Circle coordinates requests from the service agencies in the region.
Cynthia Bangali, the city's community service program coordinator, was on hand to make sure the appropriate items were included in each basket. “I’m here because we know that there’s a need," she said. "Part of providing quality service to residents of Rockville is meeting that need.”
Other volunteers ranged from Richard Montgomery High School's Girl Scout Troop 5720 to families like the Chelfs of Rockville.
Asked why the family was volunteering, 10-year old Erin Chelf gave a simple explanation: “We like helping.”
Drivers from the city's Department of Public Works and special events volunteers transported donated items from collection sites at City Hall and city community centers to Saturday's staging area at a strip mall at 12 North Washington Street.
Volunteers from the community filled the boxes with the goods donated by city residents. Other volunteers distributed baskets to families arriving at the staging site or delivered baskets to families unable to come to the site.
The City of Rockville Holiday Drive has been an annual event for nearly 40 years. Besides Thanksgiving meals, the drive also provides toys to children for the December holidays.
Call 240-314-8310 for information about how to participate.