COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — Almost a year ago when the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic was still unknown, a Spanish teacher at Wilde Lake High School started asking her students what they would need if they didn’t go back into the building.

Many students said they needed food, not only for themselves but also for their families.

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“A lot of them only receive meals at school and that’s all they get all day and so they were really concerned with schools closing about how they were going to sustain themselves, sustain their families,” Erika Strauss Chavarria said.

Chavarria is the teacher who started Columbia Community Care.

After the students said they needed food, Chavarria decided to ask for help on Facebook, and what happened next blew her mind.

“We started a collection of donations, originally they were in my kitchen, and since then has grown to over 7000 Facebook members, we have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers,” Chavarria said.

Volunteers include teachers, and even a former Howard County student, who is now a sophomore at Clark Atlanta University. That student is now helping run the day-to-day operations.

“I manage all the bulk ordering, I kind of take care of our accounts, I look at the numbers every day, I manage a small business initiative,” Mackenna Burns, who is majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing at Clark Atlanta University, said.

Organizers believe they’ve fed 90,000 to 100,000 people since last March.

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There are two pantries, and three distribution centers in Howard County, where people can go pick up the food they need for free.


In instances where a family doesn’t have a car, volunteers will do home deliveries.

“We have folks that have said to us they don’t know what they would do without us,” Chavarria said.

The group also collaborated with local businesses, to help keep those small companies open during the pandemic.

The organization’s expansion means they are now looking to open up their own facility.

If you’d like to help with this cause through a financial donation or by providing supplies, you may visit this website.

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Ava-joye Burnett