Helping One Another During Trying Times

How Some Howard County Residents are Coming Together to Help the Less Fortunate


Paul Jo, Staff Writer

Ever since the pandemic involving COVID-19 has altered life as we know it, people who are less fortunate have had a hard time adjusting to the new “norm”. I’ve been in situations where I struggled to get basic needs such as groceries and hygiene products, so I can totally relate. With stores having limited products, limited availability of public transportation and many families losing their income, the need for organizations to help the less fortunate has dramatically increased. Fortunately, we live in a county that is financially wealthier and more culturally diverse than most in the country.

There are several organizations that help fellow Howard County residents who are in need. I first spoke with Amy Kowalczyk, who volunteers with Columbia Community Care (CCC) as a coordinator. CCC’s mission is to support and uplift our community members who are facing mental, emotional and economic hardship in this unprecedented time of need. As of today, they have delivered groceries to more than 400 families. When asked why she started to volunteer, Kowalczyk said, “I volunteer because I want to give back to this community, where I have raised my children.  Further, I want to help lessen the overwhelming burden that the COVID-19 related closures have had on our community.” Another person I spoke with is Greta Luhar, who started a charitable organization called The Kindness Pantry. The Kindness Pantry, which helps children in Howard County who can’t afford school supplies or snacks, works closely with school principals and counselors to determine students’ needs.  All physical donations are sent directly from Amazon to the school. Luhar stated, “Currently, we are set up at 20 of our Howard County schools and will expand once schools reopen. Right now, during school closures, we have come together with our community to raise funds and collect school supplies to distribute to children all over Howard County who need them the most to continue learning from home.”

I’ve been blessed to be a part of Grassroots Crisis Center here in Columbia. Grassroots is a 24-hour resource to individuals and families in need of immediate assistance with a personal, mental health, family, or shelter crisis. They are still serving the community during these trying times. During Covid-19 pandemic the building is closed but their hotlines and resource donations are still available. “In the midst of the current public health emergency, Grassroots continues to provide vital services such as telephone crisis intervention counseling and shelter services, while using every measure necessary to ensure the safety of its residents and staff members,” said Executive Director Ayesha Holmes.

How can I receive the services?

For Columbia Community Care, people who need services can come to the sites from 11:30 am-1:30 pm Mon-Sat at one of their five sites: Oakland Mills Middle School, Wilde Lake Middle School, Swansfield Elementary School, or Howard High School.

The Kindness Pantry has chosen several schools where they will drop off the pouches of school supplies and snacks. These are elementary schools they have helped this past school year. Luhar stated, “From working with them, we have an understanding that there are many students from these schools who could use some school supplies at home.” The school official will then go ahead and distribute the supplies and snacks to the ones in need.

Grassroots Crisis Center aims to help anyone possible. They do not have any requirements with residency, income, and others that most organizations require. Anyone can call the center to receive the resources. If the person is in need of additional services or services not provided by Grassroots, they will refer them to the best services possible.

How Can I help?

People can help by donating to Columbia Community Care via Venmo (@SraChav); CashApp ($SraChav); and PayPal ([email protected]), or drop cash off at any of their sites. As of June 11th, all donations are tax-deductible. All who donate will receive a thank you letter with the tax-ID information included.  Another option is the Walmart Registry or Amazon wish list. If monetary donation is not an option, you can also can shop and deliver groceries and can organize local collections in their individual neighborhoods. Perhaps they can donate a bike or kids’ clothing. They do a lot of ‘porch pick-ups; if you can’t get to them, they will come to you. Volunteering at the give-away sites can also be a way to help out. Information can be found on their public FB page, Columbia Community Care, or on their new website.

Luhar from The Kindness Pantry stated, “We are currently asking for donations to provide kids with school supplies while they are at home. For anyone who wants to help support students, he or she can visit our Facebook page (The Kindness Pantry) or our website to either donate funds or school supplies.”

According to Holmes from Grassroots Crisis Center, here are some ways community members can make a difference: “Grassroots finds itself short of suddenly essential items, like disposable gloves, bleach, hand sanitizers, anti-bacterial wipes, paper towels and other cleaning-related products. A financial contribution is the most flexible gift you can make at this time. The Grassroots Day Resource Center is continuing to distribute food to people in need. Canned meat, fruit, soup (Chunky or Progresso), and meals (Chef Boy’r Dee, chili, beef stew), and 16-20 oz bottles of water are being collected. Plastic bags, reusable grocery bags and office boxes with handles are needed as containers. The staff will receive food donations at the Day Resource Center, 10390 Guildford Road in Jessup, on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and Saturdays, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m”  Check out for ways to help out.

Sharing the news and letting people be aware of these amazing organizations can be an easy way to help others during these uncertain times.


Article updated to include tax-deductible information about Columbia Community Care on June 12, 2020

Article updated to correct typo — ‘Columbia Community Care’ was misnamed as ‘Columbia Community Cares’ — on June 22nd, 2020