A Thanksgiving Food Drive Brings Help and Hope in Maryland

Greater Washington D.C.  | December 14, 2020
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Families receive food supplies a week in advance of Thanksgiving, which will help them celebrate during this difficult pandemic year. Photos/Courtesy of Tzu Chi USA Greater Washington D.C. Region Volunteers

Written by Siang-Ying Goh and Susan Chen  
Translated by Pick-wei Lau
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

November, when people celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, is always the select month to express gratitude for all the blessings that we’ve had for the whole year. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world in 2020, it has been tough to be thankful for this extraordinarily challenging year.

Nevertheless, for most of us who managed to stay safe and maintain good health, there are still plenty of reasons to be grateful in 2020. That is especially true for the team of volunteers who participated in a Thanksgiving food drive in Maryland, to provide essential assistance to those in need in their community.

For the staff and volunteers at Tzu Chi Academy Washington D.C., located in Bethesda, Maryland, their annual Thanksgiving food drive is a cherished community event. Volunteers will collect and package the donated food first, then distribute the supplies in advance of the Thanksgiving Holiday, assuring care recipients will be able to feed their families well as they celebrate on that day.

Collecting and Packaging the Donated Food Supplies Is a Labor of Love

This year, food collection and packaging, which took place on November 15, proceeded somewhat differently. To protect everyone’s safety, volunteers did their work of organizing the donated food items and dividing them into care packages outdoors, in the parking lot of Walt Whitman High School, a few blocks from Tzu Chi Academy.

Families receive food supplies a week in advance of Thanksgiving, which will help them celebrate during this difficult pandemic year. Photos/Courtesy of Tzu Chi USA Greater Washington D.C. Region Volunteers

Tzu Chi USA Greater Washington D.C. Region volunteers, alongside the families of students, staff, and volunteers at Tzu Chi Academy, took part in this venture of love and began by donating food for distribution to those in need. The items they brought for packaging that day comprised foods of all kinds, including staples such as rice, beans, cereal, cooking oil, etc.

Once they had categorized the food supplies, the families started to fill each shopping bag with various individual food items. It was a touching sight to see everyone working together. Older students were paired with younger ones, helping them carry the bags of increasing weight while explaining to them the importance of the food drive. Before long, they had prepared many grocery bags filled with various food items, each one weighing over 20 pounds.

Although everyone stayed focused on the task at hand, there was a sense of camaraderie and joy, with lots of laughter and giggles to be heard. It was a heartfelt moment as everyone could reconnect with friends in person after only seeing each other on computer screens during the last eight months. Even hard work can be fun and fulfilling when you know it will help someone suffering or in need.

If you can activate your true nature and sense of responsibility, then you will naturally be able to do all things easily and without complaint.

Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen

From Our Hearts Into Their Hands

To complete Tzu Chi Academy’s food drive, all the packaged food bags needed to arrive in the hands of those who need them most. On November 19, a team of volunteers set out for JoAnn Leleck Elementary School at Broad Acres, in Silver Spring, where families in need were waiting for them that afternoon.

Families receive food supplies a week in advance of Thanksgiving, which will help them celebrate during this difficult pandemic year. Photos/Courtesy of Tzu Chi USA Greater Washington D.C. Region Volunteers

Frank Chen, the Executive Director of Tzu Chi USA’s Greater Washington D.C. Region, also joined the team and brought along even more items to share with the families, including gift cards and packages of Tzu Chi’s noodles and Jing Si Rice. Several local volunteers came to assist during the distribution as well, helping with Spanish translation.

By the end of the event, the volunteers had distributed all the bags of food with love and care, bringing relief and cheer to each family during this year’s challenging holiday season. The most heartwarming moment for the team was to see these families with a gleam of gratitude and hope in their eyes, strung together with the constant “gracias” that they exclaimed joyfully.

“I was most happy when I saw how happy these families were!” Those were the words of T.J. Lau, the nine-year-old son of one of the volunteers helping out at the food drive. This child’s enthusiastic response to the experience of giving, especially during this pandemic, sums up the joy of service.

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