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Students Energize Community to Donate to Howard County Food Bank

Nearly $10,000 has been raised for the food bank through a project led by a Wilde Lake High School student and a Howard Community College student.

When Rodrigo Futema was considering what project to undertake as a new intern in Howard County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty’s office last fall, he did not have to look far.

Some of Futema's friends had fallen on hard times because their fathers had been laid off from work. 

Concern for those families spurred Futema to consider holding a food drive in the Columbia village of Wilde Lake. He planned to donate his collection to the Howard County Food Bank, whose services his friends’ families sorely needed – and were probably already using.

The Howard County Food Bank is administered by the Community Action Council of Howard County (CAC). And so the senior met with Bita Dayhoff, the CAC's president, to learn about the food bank.

What he discovered was very disturbing.

The need for the food bank’s assistance had more than doubled in a short time period – from serving 6,600 people in 2009 to almost 13,000 in 2010.

Just as Futema did not have to search far to uncover a community need, he easily found a kindred spirit to help with the project he was hatching. 

student Dylan Goldberg had become an intern in Sigaty’s office shortly after Futema. Goldberg was so enthusiastic that he proposed expanding the plan in numerous ways – getting businesses to sponsor the drive through money donations, holding a kickoff concert and enlarging the target area to all of Columbia, instead of just Wilde Lake.

As the project began to take shape, Futema, Goldberg and Sigaty discussed what to call it. Sigaty came up with “Food for Tomorrow,” and the youths thought that name sent the perfect message. 

“If you don’t have a reliable source of food, it affects your school work,” Sigaty said. “We’re collecting food so tomorrow will be a brighter place.”

Project Gets Under Way

A kickoff concert was held on March 12 at in Harper’s Choice Village Center. One of Dylan’s friends, who plays in a band called The Getaways, offered the group's services for free – in addition to merchandise proceeds. Concert tickets were sold for $10 each, and about 75 people attended. 

Dayhoff, Sigaty and Goldberg spoke at the event. After Goldberg told attendees how the Howard County Food Bank’s services had surged, he had no trouble getting 30 volunteers for the next phase of Food for Tomorrow – conducting food and money drives in front of several Columbia village centers on the following three Saturdays.

On the first day of the Saturday drives, volunteers encountered some unexpected help. Several firefighters happened to stop by Kings Contrivance Village Center to shop for the station. 

When they saw volunteers collecting food and money for the food bank, they joined forces.

Food for Tomorrow is being conducted on yet another front. Blue bins to collect food have been placed at all Howard County office buildings, in the Central and East Columbia branches of the Howard County Library, at Howard Community College, in all Columbia village center offices and in .

Several groups and organizations have provided volunteers, and numerous community associations, businesses, groups, organizations and others are helping sponsor Food for Tomorrow.

Fruits of Their Labor

Futema and Goldberg appear to be closing in on their goal of raising $10,000 for the Howard County Food Bank by April 8.  Their cups have overflowed in other areas as well-- collecting food, rallied volunteers and raised awareness of local hunger needs.

“I’ve been surprised we’ve been able to accomplish so much,” Futema said. “I’ve gained lots of skills, including communicating with business people, advertising, and leadership.”

Said Goldberg: “People in Howard County have stepped up to the plate to help.  They have deep pockets and wide arms. I can’t wait to hand the food bank a check.”

To make an online donation to Food for Tomorrow, click here

Checks can be mailed to the Community Action Council of Howard County, MD, Inc., 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, MD 21046. Make sure "Food for Tomorrow" is written on checks.

This article was written by Connie Ballenger, who once worked for the Community Action Council of Howard County and now does volunteer work for the organization. 

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