In the spirit of President Obama's national day of service on September 11th, multiple local and state officials spent part of Tuesday morning at Gaithersburg's Manna Food Center.
Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney A. Katz and City Council Vice President Ryan Spiegel, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, Del. Craig J. Zucker (D-14) and Montgomery County Board of Education District 2 candidate Rebecca Smondrowski visited Manna where they were led on a tour by new Executive Director Minerva Delgado and helped distribute food to the center's clients.
Manna Food Center is the main food bank in Montgomery County, and nearly every county nonprofit organization relies on Manna to provide essential food to their clients, according to the Manna website.
"You come [to Manna] and you realize that people are in such great need in Montgomery County, MD, where there is some wealth, how much need we still have and do have, Katz said. "But also from the other side of that you realize that people are helping."
The food center's volunteers worked approximately 52,000 hours in 2011, Delgado said, making them a vital part of what makes Manna Food Center work efficiently.
"Without them, we really couldn't do what we do," Delgado said.
Spiegel said the anniversary of September 11th was a big reason why he visited and volunteered, but Delgado, a New York transplant who was in the city on Sept. 11, 2011, said Manna doesn't view the day, or any other holiday, as a special event.
"As far as the day of service, for us here, every day is a day of service," Delgado said. "But we understand the particular importance of this day and we really appreciate our volunteers."
Delgado continued to work in New York City after the attacks. She said her commute each day was like traveling through a "militarized zone" and called it "truly frightening."
But having worked for a helping organization in New York, Delgado is prepared for her potential call to action in Montgomery County.
"Here at Manna, we are a disaster relief organization and if there was a crisis here we would spring into action," Delgado said. "We would take food that was needed, we would help out in any way we can, because that’s what we do, and I hope, as much as we are prepared for that, I hope we never have to do that."
Franchot, also volunteering Tuesday, kicked off his "Economic Truth and Reality Tour." The comptroller said the main reason he selected Manna as his first destination was the fact that there were now 43,000 families utilizing its services, up from 38,000 in 2011.
"The fact that those 5,000 new families coming here are because of recent unemployment or recent underemployment, that’s what I’m focusing on," Franchot told Patch. "That’s not a Republican or a Democratic thing, that’s just a can we get the job done here in Maryland to get the economy moving in a more robust fashion."
Franchot said the tour, which will visit locations throughout Maryland, will focus on many non-profits around the state "because they are directly interacting with the citizens [he] wants to hear stories from."