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Lutherville family organizes car wash with a purpose

Lutherville sisters Carly, 8, and Ella, 9, Mitchell will hold a car wash with their mom, Melanie, and dad, Reid, to raise money for the Assistance Center for Towson Churches, a nonprofit food bank, on Aug. 29 at the Exxon Mobil Gas Station at York and Seminary roads.
Lutherville sisters Carly, 8, and Ella, 9, Mitchell will hold a car wash with their mom, Melanie, and dad, Reid, to raise money for the Assistance Center for Towson Churches, a nonprofit food bank, on Aug. 29 at the Exxon Mobil Gas Station at York and Seminary roads. (Submitted photo courtesy of Melanie Mitchell)

The girls will wash and dry your car. There will be no waxing or detailing.

"I don't think a lot of people want an 8-year-old and a 9-year-old detailing their car," Melanie Mitchell said of her daughters, Carly, 8, and Ella, 9.

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Then, a thought struck. "They might do a great job" after all, said Mitchell, a Lutherville stay-at-home mother.

On Saturday Aug. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Carly, Ella, their mom and dad, Reid Mitchell, an account manager, and 16 family, friends and neighbors will hold a car wash at the Exxon Mobil Gas Station, 1420 York Road at the corner of Seminary Road, in Lutherville.

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Proceeds will go to Assistance Center for Towson Churches (ACTC), a nonprofit food bank located in downtown Towson. In the summer, donations to its pantry drop, although the need is still there.

There is no set fee for the car wash. "I trust people to give what they can," Mitchell said.

The family is active in Hunt Valley Church. Mitchell reinforces its messages through acts of volunteering with her daughters.

That was the impetus for the car wash. Earlier this summer, Carly, a third-grader, and Ella, a fourth-grader at Hampton Elementary School, volunteered at ACTC with their mother. They'd volunteered before, at a homeless shelter, but the hours at ACTC had an immediate impact.

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"They stacked cans and boxes in bags. They enjoyed it and ACTC clients were there, so they could see the people taking the bags," Mitchell said.

"It was tangible. They could see a correlation in their volunteering," she said.

The girls wanted to do something else for ACTC. A brainstorming session resulted in a few ideas—doing chores for money, canvassing the neighborhood for food items.

The car wash won out. It was doable –"They can wash a car," said Mitchell – and the Exxon Station near them was receptive.

"It's not unusual for that station to have car washes for charity," she said. The station will provide space and water; she's bringing hoses, soap and other equipment.

ACTC was formed in 1985 by a group of 14 Towson churches. The idea was to provide efforts on behalf of the area's needy and homeless in a central location. ACTC is located in the alley next to Calvary Baptist Church, 120 West Pennsylvania Ave., which donated the building for its use.

"The name never changed, but it doesn't reflect the area we serve," said Larry Fresh, treasurer and a board member of ACTC, now an ecumenical consortium of 49 churches.

ACTC serves central Baltimore County, 21 different zip codes from north of the Baltimore City line to the Pennsylvania border. In 2014, Fresh said, ACTC served over 26,000 people, among them 6,700 homeless. It distributed $365,000 worth of food.

Church members collect non-perishable food from their congregants twice a year and provide volunteers and financial assistance. ACTC also receives money from the business community and from activities such as the Mitchell's car wash. The Fresh Market on York Road donates perishable items that are given out daily.

ACTC also has grown in the services it offers, Fresh said. A nurse from Greater Baltimore Medical Center provides rudimentary health care. Gift certificates for families, cash for emergencies, such as eviction and utility cut-off, and referrals to other panties and agencies are available.

As for Mitchell's car wash, you can't miss it. The entrance to the site, by the side of the station, will be festooned with signs and balloons, not to mention two girls, plus others, with buckets, sponges and rags.

"This is our own initiative," she said. "We wanted to instill the 'love your neighbor' message and this is one way to do it."

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