Darrick Adams, an Oakland Mills Middle School sixth grader, is among those sorting clothes Monday afternoon in preparation for a distribution event. The Columbia Association's Youth and Teen Center and its Teen Outreach Committee will be distributing free clothing to those in need on January 16 and 17 at the Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center.
Darrick Adams, an Oakland Mills Middle School sixth grader, is among those sorting clothes Monday afternoon in preparation for a distribution event. The Columbia Association's Youth and Teen Center and its Teen Outreach Committee will be distributing free clothing to those in need on January 16 and 17 at the Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Walking through the double doors of The Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center, high school junior Feyi Orisadipe ventures toward the back room, where dozens of black garbage bags cover the floor and several tables. Each bag, stuffed to the brim, holds different articles of clothing that have been donated by Howard County residents for the Columbia Association's Teen Outreach Committee's seventh annual clothing drive.

"The Teen Outreach Committee's main focus is community service projects that really impact the community in a profound way," said Youth and Teen Program Coordinator Safire Windley. "It's giving through kindness [and] just going that extra mile to inspire change and hope in our community."

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Upstairs in the recreation room, Feyi joins other teenagers as they place the bags near the designated tables — organized by size, age and gender — and neatly unload the mountains of men's, women's, teen's, children's and infant's clothing. Shirts, dresses, pants, shoes, coats, hats, dress clothes and socks are among this year's donations, all of which will be free for the taking at the Jan. 16 and 17 event.

Ellicott City family sends 18-wheeler of donated goods to small West Virginia town

For the past 18 years, the Ciniero family of Ellicott City has collected enough furniture, clothing and toys from the community to fill an 18-wheeler truck and send it to Crum, West Virginia, where 20 percent of residents live below federal poverty levels.

Feyi said she first joined the committee as a freshman at Oakland Mills High after her brother brought her to The Barn and introduced her to the program.

"But when I came last year, I knew I wanted to keep on doing it," she said. "It feels really good to help people."

Windley said the project began after some committee members overheard a mother tell her young son that she could not afford to buy him a winter coat. A "lightening bolt" of inspiration then struck the teens, she said, as they immediately organized a clothing drive and set up collection sites in each of Columbia's 10 community centers.

"It's been a really satisfying and amazing event," Windley said. "You're running into all types of folks — those who are homeless, those who are working and those who are returning to society from incarceration. You're reaching a very wide range of folks, which ultimately is made up of our community. That's what I love because it affects everybody."

Although she isn't a committee member, 16-year-old Nuakita Johnson said she started volunteering with the group about two weeks ago, folding, bagging and sorting the clothes. Johnson said she frequently hangs out at The Barn with friends, playing Nintendo Wii video games or Monopoly.

Howard youth volunteers help people in need, learn their stories

Living in Howard County, one could easily forget that there are people nearby and around the world who do not have a home to rest in at the end of a long day, or a warm meal to eat. But after he and his family traveled to India, Sohum Thakkar could not forget. The River Hill High School senior and a few of his friends recently formed a youth-run volunteer organization to help people in need.

"If I see somebody that needs help, I just help them," Nuakita said. "Some people aren't blessed like other people. I think I'm blessed because I have a house [and] I have family that loves me, but then, there are homeless people out there who really don't have that much."

Seeing joy in families' faces warms her heart, Feyi said.

It's important for the younger generations "to be grateful for what they have and that [life's] not as easy as they think it is," she said.

"Sometimes, we take what we have for granted," she added. "It's great to see that other people could be so happy for what little they have, where I could just go in my closet and put something on. …They're just so happy that the teens are able to help them."

Clothing and other items will be available for those in need on Saturday, Jan. 16 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Barn, 5853 Robert Oliver Place in the Oakland Mills Village Center. There is a limit on shoes and coats; attendees are asked to bring their own bags.

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