Hundreds of volunteers flocked to the Maryland Food Bank's Halethorpe, Salisbury and Hagerstown locations Thursday to pack a total of 18,000 boxes of holiday food for those in need.
"It's going to help 18,000 people feel normal for a day," said Deborah Flateman, president and CEO of the Maryland Food Bank. "That is particularly compelling to us."
She said 12,000 of those boxes were packed at the Halethorpe facility, where the event has grown from about 4,500 boxes at its start five years ago to this year's massive effort.
"I think that hunger is on everybody's radar at this time of year," Flateman said.
This year, corporate sponsors raised $268,000 for the event.
Next year, the event will adopt a new format, similar to events like the Polar Plunge or Walk For the Cure in which participants pledge to raise a certain amount of money prior to the day of packing.
"Like a walk-a-thon, it's a pack-a-thon," Flateman said. "We'll make it an all day and all night thing."
The best time of year to give back
Though a number of individuals volunteer, most Thursday's event featured teams of corporate volunteers.
Ernst and Young, a Baltimore accounting firm, had a team of 15 volunteers at the event.
David Schenck said it was his second year attending the holiday food-packing event with the company.
"Each year, Ernst and Young does an EY connect day," the 37-year-old Towson resident said, citing the company's effort to give back to the community.
Like the other teams, Schenck said he and his coworkers manned an assembly line packing boxes with canned corn, stuffing, cranberry sauce, boxed mashed potato mix, brownies and other traditional Thanksgiving foods.
"You're putting about 15 items in a box," he said. "The last group, where I was, you're counting the items...because quality is important."
Lindsey Norris attended the event for the first time after another member of the Ernst and Young team dropped out at the last minute.
"They just told me yesterday that I could come," said Norris, a 23-year-old Ellicott City resident. "It was so fun."
She said she really wanted to participate as a way to give back, especially at this time of year.
"I think it's important to give back during the entire year, but I think everybody feels it a little more during the holidays," Norris said.
"It's so important to be with family," she said. "And a meal is such a great setting to come together."