Hundreds of volunteers were covered in cereal dust, glitter paint, stickers, peanut butter, jelly and mayonnaise Monday afternoon as they worked to help the needy around the county.
Hedieh Mirahmadi, a co-chairperson of the county executive’s Faith Community Working Group, organized an upcounty Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Volunteer Service. Mirahmadi is president of the International Culture Center, a nonprofit organization that opened up its Montgomery Village office space for the event.
For two hours, more than 300 volunteers flooded in, asking how they could help. Middle-school students in green Girl Scout vests and International Culture Center workers with bright yellow T-shirts helped volunteers pack gift bags, make turkey sandwiches and paint prayer flags.
In a small room with a table for six, kids painted prayer flags for an outdoor meditation area for St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Germantown. The Rev. Terri Murphy said the idea for the cotton flags, hung like clothing on a string, is for them to fade away.
“As they deteriorate, the thought or prayer [on the flag] is released again and again, like incense,” she said. Murphy serves as the pastoral associate at St. Nicholas and the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Silver Spring.
The dozens of flags that volunteers painted at the event will join more than 150 flags already hanging at St. Nicholas.
“We want to reflect as many faiths as we can,” Murphy said.
On Feb. 23., Murphy and others plan to dedicate the flags at St. Nicholas with an interfaith feast.
In a large conference room near the prayer flag room, 130 volunteers packed 1,000 sandwiches and cleaned and sliced 150 pounds of vegetables in the culture center’s monthly volunteer event. The food is taken to 12 organizations for the needy around the county, including Caroll House in Silver Spring, Bethesda House, the Wells-Robertson House in Gaithersburg and the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless.
Mehreen Farooq, who took photos as a volunteer at the event, said the turnout was helped by the county holiday.
“The kids are so happy to be out of school,” she said.
Twelve-year-old Eva Quittman of Gaithersburg helped pack cereal into snack bags for Women Who Care Ministries to distribute through a weekend snack program.
“We could fill this entire room with cereal,” she said.
Eva and her mother, Louisa Quittman, regularly contribute their time to the International Culture Center.
“This group gets such a great cross section of our community,” Quittman said.
Each organization that signed up for a space was given a room and access to volunteers for the two-hour event.
Many finished their tasks ahead of time. Dave Silbert of So What Else, which provides programs for at-risk youth in the area in partnership with Nourish Now, said volunteers hit their quota of 200 peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunches about an hour after the event started.
Other groups that participated in the volunteer event were a Boy Scout troop based in Laytonsville, Gaithersburg-based Nourish Now, On Our Own of Montgomery County, and fundraising groups for County Council candidate Beth Daly and District 17 delegate candidate Laurie-Anne Sayles. The candidates’ groups asked volunteers to help pack bags for those in need or decorate cards for residents of Gaithersburg senior community Asbury.