By Aanisah Husain

Sept. 18 marked the College Park Community Food Bank’s (CPCFB) first benefit recital, which was presented by the University of Maryland’s School of Music and held at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Graduate fellowship ensembles from the school, including Terrapin Brass, Thalea String Quartet and the IGNIS Woodwind Quintet, participated in the benefit. 

Terrapin Brass members Emerson Paul Miller (left) and Eusung Choe perform at the benefit recital on Sept. 18.
Credit: Aanisah Husain

Mark Garrett, CPCFB president, welcomed the audience. “You’re here. You obviously care about this community — and listening to good music as well,” he said.

Nathaniel Wolff, oboist with the IGNIS Woodwind Quintet, appreciated the opportunity to perform and support the food bank.

“[The recital] seemed like a project that really [aligned with] our values and our mission statements of wanting to use music to give back to the community and increase access to music,” he said.

“Music is a form of community building and building a community between those two audiences was really rewarding,” he added, noting that the audience included individuals who came to support the food bank and others who came for the classical music.

CPCFB, which started in 2008 as a ministry of the College Park Church of the Nazarene, became an independent nonprofit in 2021. 

“As a ministry of the church and even as an independent nonprofit, it has always been our mission to be a community food bank, not just be something that’s run by a church,” Garrett said.

With the urging of both the city and county, the food bank stepped up from monthly to weekly distributions during the pandemic to address the community’s increased needs. The food bank now serves an average of 300 families every week. 

CPCFB is a donation-funded nonprofit, and events like the benefit recital have an important place in the organization’s ability to serve the community.  

 “What this benefit concert will do is it allows us to continue to fund a mission that we care very, very dearly about — feeding people, helping people,” Garrett said. “They can pay their bills, have enough gas to get back and forth to school and to work, wherever else, but they need just a little bit extra when it comes to the end of the month or helping them have a little bit more stability.”

In his speech, Garrett talked about the poverty rate in College Park; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the rate is just above 25%, whereas the rate for the state is just under 10%. Garrett emphasized that “[ statistics] are more than numbers; they’re people.”

Garrett shared an anecdote of a 77-year-old Haitian woman who uses her food bank groceries to provide meals to her neighborhood. According to Garrett , the woman said her house is full every Saturday because of the initiative she has taken to help her community. She believes that “if all of us were more generous, we could make this world a better place.”

“We are very grateful for the community that has partnered with us and continues to partner with us to keep this mission of ours moving forward,” said Garrett. 

Garrett added that he hopes to continue helping the local College Park community. “Hunger is not just an individual problem; it’s a community problem.”

A number of other city initiatives, including Giving Tuesday and Good Neighbor Day, support the food bank, too. This year, Good Neighbor Day will take place on Nov. 12. To donate directly to the food bank, go to collegeparkfoodbank.com/donate.