Helping Vulnerable Families in Maryland Have a Bountiful Thanksgiving

Greater Washington D.C.  | January 11, 2021
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Despite the cold weather outside, a child comes to pick up a bag of free food wearing just a short-sleeved shirt, evidence of the need for charity aid in this community. Photo/Mark Tsai

Written by Chiali Tsai
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

On November 23, 2020, Tzu Chi USA’s Greater Washington D.C. Region held a charity aid distribution at Summit Hall Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Montgomery County, Maryland. It took place intentionally in advance of Thanksgiving, which fell on November 26 that year, ensuring that care recipients would have a more joyful holiday celebration.

At this time of year, the highest daytime temperature averages in the mid- 50°F, while nights occasionally drop below freezing and can feel even colder when combined with strong winds. On the day of the distribution, the weather was chilly with a brisk breeze, yet the event had to proceed outdoors for pandemic safety reasons. 

The volunteers wore coats to stay warm during the hours they would have to be outside. However, a few care recipients who arrived were not as prepared for the cold, which was heartbreaking to see, and confirmed the need for charity aid in some households within this community.

A Little Boy on a Mission

As the distribution was proceeding outside the elementary school in Gaithersburg – Tzu Chi volunteers in thick coats as they gave out bags of food – a child wearing only a short-sleeved shirt appeared on the scene, which caused immediate concern. “Why was the boy alone?” And, “Why was he dressed so inappropriately on such a cold day?” they wondered with worry. Furthermore, his face mask was repaired and shabby, like he had been using it for a long time. 

As the volunteers greeted the child, they asked him why he was here on his own. The little boy replied that his mother and grandparents couldn’t come to the distribution, so they sent him to pick up the food and cash card for the family. The boy’s responsible nature moved the volunteers deeply, and they were incredibly relieved that Tzu Chi’s aid would reach his family in their time of need. 

With the cash card he received, this child’s family will now be capable of purchasing the clothes they lack to stay warm. And, since there were 30 medical masks in each bag, their little boy can confidently replace his old one. Besides the cash card and masks, each household also received an ample supply of assorted food items.

Food Baskets and Essential Goods For Families in Urgent Need

The food packages volunteers handed out contained staples such as cooking oil, rice, noodles, sauce, and corn flour. Due to the pandemic, Manna Food Center, a Montgomery County food bank, had provided some of the supplies given out, hoping to enrich the food baskets. In addition, the grocery bags included noodles and Jing Si Instant Rice from Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Taiwan. 

With Thanksgiving around the corner, all the aid provided would help make the upcoming celebration for the little boy’s family and each care recipient household more cheerful.

Before the start of the distribution at Summit Hall Elementary School, Tzu Chi volunteers pre-pack the bags with food and essential items. Photo/Mark Tsai
It’s cold outside at the end of November, yet some care recipients can’t afford sufficient clothing to keep warm. Photo/Mark Tsai

A total of 30 households urgently requiring aid benefited from this distribution, each one pre-selected by the elementary school’s social workers. One of the social workers attending the event thanked Tzu Chi volunteers for this critical assistance serving the community’s most vulnerable families.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Tzu Chi volunteers give cash cards to those in need. Photo/Mark Tsai
Each interaction between volunteers and care recipients is an opportunity to extend warm wishes and blessings for the Thanksgiving season. Photo/Mark Tsai

The school’s social worker also asked if Tzu Chi could provide even more masks to families in the area since some don’t have enough and must reuse theirs for an extended amount of time. The Tzu Chi volunteer in charge of the event agreed without hesitation and began making arrangements right away. As a result, Tzu Chi USA’s Greater Washington D.C. Region volunteers could deliver the requested masks the very next day. 

Indeed, many had reason to rejoice on this Thanksgiving in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The aid recipient families could enjoy a timely care package and financial assistance. The school’s social workers could feel relieved, having helped critically disadvantaged members of the community. Plus, each Tzu Chi volunteer could feel grateful for having had the opportunity to be of service, providing essential charity assistance, and spreading seeds of loving-kindness along the way. 

To gain more blessings, actively engage in more virtuous activities, and thereby cultivate more blessings in return.

Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen

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