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The Charles County Children’s Aid Society distributed 270 Thanksgiving baskets to families from the Waldorf and White Plains area Tuesday at the Huntington Community Center.

For the families who received one, the baskets contain all the elements of a Thanksgiving meal — a turkey, canned vegetables, stuffing, coffee, mashed potatoes, dessert, bread and more.

“This year [it means] a lot,” Jenny Kotvis of Waldorf said, adding that her two older boys, 6 and 3, are ill right now. Kotvis, a stay-at-home mom, had her third son four months ago. Her husband is a manager at an automobile service center.

Kotvis said this was the second year her family has received a Thanksgiving basket from the Children’s Aid Society. She also received a basket in 2011, and her sons have received bookbags of school supplies at the organization’s annual back-to-school event.

“This is our Thanksgiving this year,” Kotvis said. “It’s a blessing this year.”

Stacey Dent of Waldorf received a basket for the third year. Dent has two children, Sinia, 12, and Kwamaine, 15. This year it was particularly important for Dent’s family to receive a basket because, she said, her hours were cut at her job at a nursing agency in Washington, D.C.

“This is helping me out a whole lot, and I do appreciate this from the Children’s Aid,” Dent said. “[It is] definitely a blessing.”

Maria Bryan, executive director of the Charles County Children’s Aid Society, said that the organization compares lists of families in need with other community organizations that are distributing baskets to ensure no one is on more than one list. Families with minor children who live in the Waldorf and White Plains region must provide documentation of where they live, such as Maryland Vehicle Administration information or U.S. mail, and documentation of their children, such as an insurance card or report card.

The nonprofit also keeps the lists of basket recipients from previous years. Residents who come but do not have children are referred to local churches or other organizations for assistance. For example, Bryan said a resident from La Plata would be referred to LifeStyles of Maryland if she did not have a minor child.

Pamela Vahle, chairwoman of the board of directors of the Children’s Aid Society, said all of the food was collected from donations for the 250 families who signed up before Tuesday. More than 30 families were put on a waiting list to receive baskets after Tuesday but received baskets when several families that signed up did not pick up their baskets.

Vahle said 71 volunteers, including 51 from Joint Base Andrews, 10 employees of Best Buy and other volunteers, helped load the Thanksgiving baskets the Sunday prior to the event. Twenty-seven volunteers were available Tuesday to help families collect their baskets and carry food to their vehicles in the rain.

Carolyn Dempsey of Pomfret volunteered at this year’s event with her three children, 8, 5 and 2. The Dempseys helped families collect their Thanksgiving baskets in yellow cloth bags with the Children’s Aid Society logo on the front.

“I always want to do stuff like this with [my children] and show them the importance of giving to those in need,” said Dempsey, whose husband is in the U.S. Air Force. Dempsey said the fact she was encouraged to bring her family to volunteer with her Tuesday also brought her to the event.

If a family purchased the items in a Thanksgiving basket from the Children’s Aid Society, Vahle said it would cost about $50. Donations of food were received from Giant Food and McKay’s Food & Drug, Vahle said.

Bryan said 100 turkeys were donated by the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Southern Maryland Chapter, 100 by Genevie Plumbing of Waldorf and 50 by the Salvation Army.

“This is just one of the things we do to give back to the communities all over the state,” said Bobby Boarman, president of the federation’s Maryland State Chapter. Boarman has been a member of the Southern Maryland chapter of the federation for more than 20 years and said this was the third year the federation has helped the Children’s Aid Society with Thanksgiving baskets.

Paul Genevie, owner of Genevie Plumbing and a member of the federation’s Southern Maryland chapter, said he helps out because “why not [get involved]?”

Several volunteers at the basket giveaway were from Spirit of Faith Christian Center, with ministries in Temple Hills, Brandywine and Ellicott City. Spirit of Faith recently donated food to the Children’s Aid Society’s food pantry, said Karen Wooten, a minister with the organization. Spirit of Faith also donated the gravy, stuffing, rice and vegetables in the Thanksgiving baskets distributed by Children’s Aid Society.

Vahle said aside from food donations, other food was purchased for the basket event with $2,000 from a Darden’s Restaurant community grant received by Children’s Aid. She said the restaurant grant program enables restaurants, such as Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster, to donate to a local nonprofit of their choice.



Christmas donations being accepted

In the spirit of the season, the Charles County Children’s Aid Society is beginning its annual Christmas Connection.

Donations are welcome at designated area businesses of new toys and bicycles for infants to age 17. The greatest need is for infants and older teenagers.

A complete list of area businesses will be available on the Children’s Aid Society’s Facebook page. Volunteers also are needed. For more information on how to help, call 301-645-1561.



rbarnabi@somdnews.com