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Photos by LAURA FRIESSCub Scout Pack 1799 surveys the 180 bags of groceries collected from La Plata residents Saturday morning.
Charles County Scouts fanned out across area neighborhoods Saturday collecting groceries for a much-needed restock of area food banks and holiday dinners for a few individual families.
In La Plata, Cub Scout Packs 1788 and 1799 collected more than a ton of food for needy families at Mary H. Matula Elementary School and the Mary's Pantry Food Bank at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
The Cub Scout boys, 7 to 10, distributed plastic bags in La Plata neighborhoods the previous week with notes asking for donations. This week, they came to collect donations.
But collecting is the easy part.
After picking up the donations, the Scouts returned to the parking lot of Sacred Heart to weigh and sort the bounty. Trucks and vans full of food began streaming into the lot just after 10 a.m.
"This is just the start of it," said Joan Landicho, a Pack 1788 den leader, watching as the Scouts unloaded and sorted scores of plastic bags.
Karl Prigge, another Pack 1788 den leader, began weighing boxes full of food by standing on a bathroom scale and subtracting his own weight.
"I'm not sure I trust your scale!" Prigge protested jokingly to another den leader. "How did I get volunteered for this?"
By 10:30 a.m. the count reached 655 pounds, but the older Webelos boys hadn't even arrived yet.
"We'll probably hit 1,000 pounds," Prigge estimated.
One of the vans arriving in the second wave just after 10:30 a.m. contained Ryan Tzafaroglou and Alex Landicho, both 7, who collected a total of 435 pounds in their collection sweep.
"It's going to be more harder unloading all of this stuff," Ryan sighed.
With Ryan's and Alex's help, Pack 1788 brought its total to 1,465 pounds.
And then Pack 1799 arrived. The pack had already sorted its load at the home of leader Tom James and backed straight into the back door of the Sacred Heard food bank, Mary's Pantry.
"We have 180 bags!" James declared, beaming. He explained that the 30-boy pack swept three neighborhoods. The pack also donated 30 bags to Matula to give several anonymous needy families a Thanksgiving holiday meal.
"They really have done a great job," said Regina Rison of Mary's Pantry, addressing Pack 1799. "You all have helped so much."
Rison explained that Mary's Pantry does not open every week like other food banks. The pantry just opened this year and hopes to provide holiday dinners for needy families.
"Based on this, we will definitely have enough for Thanksgiving," Rison said.
The Cub Scouts' efforts put Mary's Pantry in a better spot than most food banks in the area, according to Brenda DiCarlo, program manager for the Southern Maryland Food Bank in Hughesville. Her program supplies 30 food banks and eight shelters in Southern Maryland.
The bank opens its doors every Monday if it can.
"I opened with a partial supply this morning, and I'm empty again," DiCarlo said Monday. She said she had seven large mail bins and six shipping pallets worth of food that disappeared in 35 minutes. "As quickly as I get it, it goes back out. … The need is just so astounding."
DiCarlo said the bank's "downward spiral" started in May, when gas prices rose sharply. She said that middle-class families who used to donate to the local banks are now lining up for donations as the economy continues to slow.
According to Rison, these families are not taking the goodwill for granted. When Mary's Pantry opened its doors last month, Rison said the customers were full of gratitude.
"They were so nice," Rison said. "They were so appreciative."