Tom Cuthbertson of Ashburn handed the plastic grocery bag full of food to his son, T.J. Cuthbertson, a 16-year-old Boy Scout, who placed it in a metal cart.
A number of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, including many father and son teams, formed human chains Saturday, passing provisions from vehicles to carts during the scouts’ annual food drive for the needy. They gathered at the Holiday Coalition warehouse, where food is separated into categories, such as soups or vegetables, and given to the needy for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. The Community Holiday Coalition’s continuous appeals for a temporary space for the event came to fruition just in time when the Lerner Company donated 20,000 square feet of space at the Vintage Park One Office Complex in Sterling.
T. J. Cuthbertson said he has participated in the food drive for the past four or five years. “We’ve been getting a lot more food,” he said. “It’s great. If everyone pitches in once in a while, it helps out and makes the world a better place.”
The scouts called their 16th annual food drive a “Good Turn for America Scout Service Project.”
Brian Shiflett, the event’s coordinator for the past three years, said their goal was to exceed last year’s contribution of 42,000 pounds of food. The scouts handed out more than 64,000 plastic bags the weekend prior to the collection and erected hand-made poster signs reminding the community to give. “Loudoun County is growing and we have more Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts,” he said. “And we’ve really tried to organize our efforts, map out the entire county, assigning Boy Scouts to different neighborhoods. We’re drawn more Boy Scouts for the food drive as a result.”
Last year, the scouts distributed food to the Community Holiday Coalition, which provides food, coats, and presents for the needy, and LINK, a coalition of 14 churches that provide food year round on an emergency basis and during the holidays. This year, they added the Messiah Market, a food bank run by the Community Church in Sterling.
They raised a total of 78,800 pounds of food, giving 57,700 to the Community Holiday Coalition, 16,800 to LINK and 4,300 to the Messiah Market.
Karen Velez, coordinator of the Holiday Coalition, said she would be hard pressed to help families without the scouts. As for Saturday’s event, she applauded the Boy Scouts’ and Cub Scouts’ efforts. “I love them,” she said. “They bring in so much food. … They are expecting more this year. That’s good, because our numbers (of needy families) are going to rise.” The coalition assisted more than 1,000 families last year.
The Girl Scouts run a food drive just before Christmas.
Shiflett said it is “just incredible” how much food comes in. “Mountains of donations,” he said. “I’m so amazed.”
Matt Jones, a 15-year-old high school sophomore from Leesburg, said he has been helping with the food drive since fifth grade. Jones is a senior patrol leader with Ashburn Boy Scout Troop 997. “It’s fun getting to do things for the community. It’s important,” he said. “I’ve had so much fun being in Boy Scouts. I don’t know what I would do without it.”
Shiflett said community service is a mainstay of scouting. “If you can ingrain that value in them, it just becomes something you do,” he said. “If you do that enough times with them and try to show them and teach them what good it does for the community, they get it.”
Gregory Ludlow, 9, of Ashburn Village, said Saturday marked his second food drive. He said he will continue to give to the needy when he becomes an adult. “Because it’s good to do and it helps,” he said. “We do it for the poor so they can have food.”