It's back-to-school time and for one local resident that means one thing: time to start fundraising for cancer.

Matthew Beck, a 2010 graduate of River Hill High School, started a special fundraiser, "Cookies for Cancer" back in 2007. With the help of his mother, Marleen Beck, Matt baked cookies, and more cookies, and more cookies, and … well you get the picture. He did this all in an effort to gather donations for the American Cancer Society. Over the course of several years, "Cookies for Cancer" was able to raise more than $40,000 for the American Cancer Society, helping to better the lives of cancer patients in our community, promote awareness of the disease, and hoping to ultimately find a cure.

Now that Matt has started his sophomore year at Harvard University, it is a bit difficult for him to continue the "Cookies for Cancer" project, however he still would like to continue his philanthropic pursuits, helping those in need in Howard County.

Started last year, Matt has a new fundraising campaign for the American Cancer Society called, "Quilts for Cancer." He has enlisted the help of a family friend to make school-spirited quilts to be raffled off at several local back-to-school nights. It is Matt's hope that "Quilts for Cancer" will continue the legacy started by "Cookies for Cancer" and that through the sale of tickets (one for $5, three for $10 or seven for $20) and distribution of cancer awareness literature, students of all ages will continue to learn the importance of community service.


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If you are interested in supporting Matt's cause and would like to purchase a ticket, stop by the "Quilts for Cancer" table at a local back-to-school night – Glenelg High School's is Sept. 15 or West Friendship Elementary's is Sept. 20 — to view the school-themed quilt and purchase a ticket. Winners will be drawn at the end of each evening. Quilt raffles also were held at Marriotts Ridge High School and Folly Quarter Middle School.

Speaking of community service, I learned of another student effort over the summer.

This award winning program is called "Food on the 15th" and is overseen by the Coalition of Geriatric Services. The program has been around for five years and during that time, it has delivered more than 5,500 free bags of groceries and toiletries to economically disadvantaged seniors in Howard County (located at the Morningside Park Apartments, in Jessup, and the Tiber Hudson building, in Ellicott City).

Food on the 15th was created because there are literally hundreds of hungry, economically disadvantaged seniors in Howard County. A major lack of financial resources occurs around the third week of each month for these individuals, when one social security check runs out and before the new one arrives. Many of these seniors are choosing between buying food and purchasing prescription drugs. No one should have to make such a choice! The program generally serves between 75 and 80 residents each month, many of whom live on just $9,000 per year. Transportation and physical limitations also make it difficult for seniors to get to food banks.

As a result, around the 15th of each month, Food on the 15th brings in healthy, nutritious, non-perishable regular and diabetic foods for economically challenged seniors living in Howard County. Food on the 15th will sort, bag and deliver the bags of groceries directly to the seniors' residences around the third week of each month.

Food on the 15th has shown students that they can make a difference in our community. Parents and children work together on this project, creating more family time and getting the family involved with an objective of exposing children to philanthropy and community service at a young age. The hope is that they will continue philanthropic endeavors when they are adults and, in turn, teach their children about giving. It's wonderful to be able to donate money to organizations, but it is also an incredible feeling to be able to volunteer your time, energy and creativity to a project – especially when it's a team effort.

The program runs on zero overhead as all food is donated and parents and children volunteer their time to make the free food deliveries. All of monetary donations go to purchase $10 gift cards to a local grocery store so that seniors can purchase fresh meat, produce and dairy products.

Tax deductible donations (please be sure to write "Food on the 15th" on your check) can be made out to The Coalition of Geriatric Services and mailed to: The Coalition of Geriatric Services, P.O. Box 2131, Ellicott City, MD 21041.

Students from Pointers Run Elementary and Clarksville Middle School, along with students at Atholton High School and members of New Hope Seventh Day Adventist Church, all help to collect, bag and deliver donations each month.

In addition the following businesses work as in-kind sponsors, helping to donate food and monetary support for the program: Roots Market and the Creig Northrop Team, in Clarksville; Great Harvest Bread Co., in Columbia; Bloom, in Laurel; Dunkin Donuts, in Laurel and Scaggsville; and Volleyball House and Soccer Arena, in Elkridge.