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On a blistering July morning, 165 Montgomery College students queued up in their cars and waited for their turn to collect fresh produce and bags of hygiene items at an event held at all three MC campuses. Volunteer faculty and staff, dressed in masks, gloves, and plastic aprons, loaded items into the trunks and back seats of their cars.

Hygiene Curbside Pickup
Faculty volunteers Greg Sember (left) and Roberta Buckberg (right) distributing food and hygiene items at the Rockville Campus

For the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the College’s SHaW Center (Student Health and Wellness Center for Success) was able to hold a distribution event. This one, however, had a different feel due to safety measures that kept recipients inside their vehicles, and the personal hygiene items, a new addition.

“This is part of our health and safety campaign as we respond to COVID-19,” said Carmen Poston Travis, director of student affairs. “We had one student comment that they appreciated the food but really appreciated the hygiene products. They can be pretty expensive.”

The best way to help is to become a donor or sponsor through the Montgomery College Foundation. To learn more about the SHaW Center visit their webpage and follow their social media accounts listed there to learn about upcoming distribution events.

Enter Carol Freitas, a Gaithersburg resident who knows firsthand the financial strains many families are facing today. Most personal hygiene products are not covered by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Freitas is founder of the nonprofit Personal Care Foundation, which donated 113 of the toiletry kits to the Montgomery College Foundation.

There was a time in her life when Freitas herself experienced financial difficulties. A mother of two, she recalled the difficult choices she had to make at the grocery store—forced to choose between buying groceries or hygiene products like soaps and laundry detergent—essentials for keeping parents and kids healthy.

“It’s absurd, and as a parent, I shouldn’t have to choose between keeping my children clean or fed,” she says. “I know there is help for rent, food, and clothing through government programs and nonprofits, but there is nothing for hygiene.”

She made a promise to herself that when she “got out of that hole,” that she was going to do something to help others in the same difficult circumstances. And, she says proudly, “I did it!”

Students registered online prior to the pick-up date and were treated to freshly picked blueberries, peaches, corn, squash, and zucchini from Lewis Orchards in Dickerson, Md. The toiletry kits included shampoo, hair conditioner, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and bar soap. The SHaW center provided the pocket-sized hand sanitizer, hand wipes, and disposable face masks.

What we want to do is decrease the gap as best we can

Freitas created the Personal Care Foundation a year ago. She receives no salary from the foundation at this point and supports herself and her children with her educator income. Freitas donated the kits to the SHaW Center through the Montgomery College Foundation. The SHaW Center purchased the remaining kits and internally partnered with the College’s Offices of Student Life to purchase the produce directly from the orchard at a discounted price.

Products for Hygiene Curb side Pickup
The Personal Care Foundation donated 113 kits to MC for distribution among students

In August, mobile markets will continue distributing produce to pre-registered students and community members.

The markets, held in partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank, were a monthly happening on the three main campuses until social distancing measures were put in place in the spring. Due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 54 million people may experience food insecurity in 2020 in the United States, including a potential 18 million children, according to Feeding America.

“What we want to do is decrease the gap as best we can,” Poston Travis said. “So the more we partner, the more that people donate, the more we’ll be able to do that. If a student is hungry, they may also be suffering from anxiety. We not only need money for food, but also to support students’ mental health and wellness.”

Indian-American doctors donate 50 laptops to MC students
The Greater Washington Association of Physicians of Indian-Origin and the leading Maryland gurdwara – Guru Nanak Foundation of America – have been coming to the aid of families and community members affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Montgomery College students have also benefitted from the association’s philanthropy. The association was made aware that many MC students faced difficulties in the spring semester due to lack of access to laptops as the College went to entirely remote learning due to the pandemic. The doctors decided to donate more than 50 laptops to the students in need. Other help came from Astrazeneca during the spring semester. Representatives from Astrazeneca delivered 70 laptops to the College as the pandemic created an immediate need for students who were studying completely online.

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