Food on the 15th charity enlists students to help the elderly

Seven years ago, Pamela Cohn said she came to a startling realization. Because her children’s grandparents lived out of state, they spent no time with senior citizens — something that was important to her.

So when her daughter entered the Maryland public school system in the 9th grade and needed fulfill a graduation requirement by providing 72 hours of community service, she resolved to address the two problems by volunteering at Food on the 15th, a charity that allows children to deliver bags stuffed with toiletries and food to senior citizens with limited incomes.

This operation has existed since 2006 and has given passed out more than 40,000 bags with no overhead, according to Julie Rosenthal, the charity’s founder.

The charity relies on donations from residents and delivers items to “economically challenged older adults at Morningside Park Apartments in Jessup, Maryland, the Tiber Hudson building in Ellicott City, Maryland and Parkview Snowden, Columbia, Maryland,” according to the group’s website.

Cohn said it is good that her children are so involved in this operation, which is named for the middle of the month when food is distributed.

“Kids in Howard don’t understand hunger,” Cohn said. “This is important and [the charity] really appealed to me because kids in Howard take a lot for granted.”

Though lending her time to the charity five years ago was primarily to help her daughter, her then-4th grade son Harrison Cohen, tagged along.

The 9th grader now attends Atholton High in Columbia.

“When I first started, I was just there helping,” he said. Now, he finds it rewarding.

“Seeing the smiles on the faces and learning about their lives when you talk to people you don’t know what they’ve been through,” Cohn said.

Harrison Cohn has built a special relationship with Brenda, a senior he has delivered groceries to since he joined 7 years ago.

“She would always choose him to help her carry their stuff,” he said. “She’s just seen me grow up.”

He comes face to face with the people donating food and toiletries, setting up groceries and carrying food to apartments.

This continuity, for his mother, is important and teaches her son the value in helping others.

“They’re an amazing group of folks,” she said. “We love doing it.”

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