Monthly Update 1.21.2024: Remembering Tommy Raskin & 2023 in Review

Dear Takoma Park and Silver Spring families and friends,

As we near the end of January, we take the time to reflect on the past year. At our Tommy’s Pantry Annual Board Meeting earlier this month, we looked back on our accomplishments from 2023 as well as ahead toward our goals for 2024. Please read below for highlights from the meeting.

We also take time every January to remember our namesake Tommy Raskin. In this fourth celebration of Tommy’s extraordinary life and light, Tommy’s Pantry will again expand our initial wellness box distribution. When we started our wellness box program in January of 2021, Tommy’s Pantry distributed 300 boxes, full of items that cannot be purchased with SNAP-EBT (food stamps), as a tribute to Tommy and his belief in dignity for all. In January of 2023, with donor and volunteer support, we built on that initial offering to provide wellness boxes to 325 households, and maintained that increased service capacity for every month that year

As part of our celebration and remembrance of Tommy, on January 29th, we will again increase service capacity by packing an additional 25 wellness boxes. This will allow us to serve a record 350 households with vital hygiene, healthcare, and cleaning items on February 3rd. Thank you to all who donated to our Martin Luther King Jr. Toiletries Drive, to help offset the cost of these additional supply purchases. Community support through donating and volunteering continues to propel us forward to new heights, and we can not do this work without you.


Wendy Kent, President

Upcoming Events

  • Park Florist Register Benefit for Tommy’s Pantry: Tommy’s Pantry has been named the “Giving Blossoms” honoree at Park Florist! Any time you purchase the “Vanilla Bean” arrangement during the months of January and February (Valentine’s Day!), a portion of the sale will go to Tommy’s Pantry. Visit the following link to view the classic “Vanilla Bean” arrangement and thank you for your support:
  • Capacity Building Event to Celebrate the Life of Tommy Raskin: At the end of January, volunteers will pack an extra 25 wellness boxes in celebration of Tommy Raskin’s birthday. Tommy was an advocate for dignity and kindness who grew up in Takoma Park, and we invite you to learn more about him on the Namesake page of our website. The extra 25 boxes that are packed will be given out at our February 3rd Wellness Distribution, bumping the total number of households we are able to serve that day up to 350 – a record number of households served in a single day by Tommy’s Pantry. 

MLK Week of Service Drive Recap

  • Our Martin Luther King Jr. Week of Service wellness drive was a success! We are truly humbled by the generosity of our community, which collected more than 129 maxi pad packs, 203 full-size toothpaste, 58 men’s deodorant, 94 women’s deodorant, and 4 packs of toothbrushes. THANK YOU! These products are extremely difficult to procure in large quantities right now – we could not have stocked these things without your help! Items collected will be packed into our wellness boxes for distribution in February. Stay tuned to our News page and social media to learn about other in-person donation opportunities. Special thanks to drive organizer Mark Hines and all of our drop-off location hosts: TPSS Co-Op, People’s Book, Grace Studios, Takoma Park Child Development Center, Piney Branch Elementary School, and East Silver Spring Elementary School.  Our appreciation also goes out to the senders of approximately 42 Amazon wish list donations. 
  • A big THANK YOU also to Lia Salza and The Loft Collective for donating proceeds from their family drop-in storytime and craft session on Martin Luther King Day.

Highlights from our Annual Board Meeting

  • At our Annual Board Meeting on January 14th, we reviewed results from our November recipient survey. Results of the survey revealed that sugar and coffee are our most requested food items to add, while bleach and additional soap are our highest-need wellness items. We also celebrated our biggest 2023 accomplishment: increasing our wellness box capacity to serve 325 households in all 12 months of 2023, an increase of 25 boxes of vital cleaning and healthcare supplies (not covered by SNAP/food stamps) each month. In addition, all of our 2023 board members were re-elected for another term at their same positions. Read on to learn about the election of a brand new board member as well. 
  • Congratulations and welcome to our Student Board Member Joe Newman! Joe is a sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School, where he is involved with the Solid Ground Club, and has been volunteering with Tommy’s Pantry for almost 3 years. Joe was elected at our Annual Meeting on January 14th, and brings excellent Spanish-speaking skills and a new perspective to the board. Joe will serve as a liaison for high school volunteers, as well as assist with other initiatives.

Fundraising Corner

Volunteer Update

  • New volunteer opportunities for February have been added to our volunteer Sign Up! To join us in alleviating food insecurity in our community, visit the Tommy’s Pantry Sign Up page at Students can earn SSL hours. Ages 11 and up, and please accompany your 11-year-old if it will be their first time volunteering with us.
  • Additionally, you can inquire about group volunteer bookings for 2024 by emailing Sarah at 
  • Weekday volunteers with muscle are still needed! If you are available on some Mondays, Wednesdays, and/or Fridays, we could use your help unloading deliveries and picking up our wellness supplies. Please email for more info.
  • High-school ambassadors wanted to assist supervisors with Saturday packing operations! (Looks great on a college application!) Please email for more info if interested. 
  • Special thanks to our recent volunteer group: Grace Studios!

Tommy’s Pantry News & Social Media

Receive Assistance with Food & Wellness Items

  • Family health/wellness and cleaning supplies distribution: Join us on Saturday, February 3rd, at 7:30 am while supplies last. The drive-up distribution location is at the back of Church of the Ascension, across the street from East Silver Spring Elementary (630 Silver Spring Ave, Silver Spring, MD). If you plan to walk up, please email in advance.
  • Shelf-stable food and fresh fruits and vegetables distribution: Food boxes will be offered on Saturday, February 17th, at 7:30 am while supplies last. The drive-up distribution location is at the back of Church of the Ascension, across the street from East Silver Spring Elementary (630 Silver Spring Ave, Silver Spring, MD). If you plan to walk up, please email in advance.
  • 50% off WMATA fares: WMATA’s new Metro Lift program offers 50% off Metrobus and Metrorail trips for DC, Maryland, and Virginia customers enrolled in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). For more information in multiple languages, and to enroll, visit .
  • For the 2023-2024 school year: Families can add funds to student lunch accounts using MySchoolBucks, or payments can be made directly to the cafeteria using cash or a check. Families that qualify for any level of Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS) support will still receive FREE meals. To apply online, visit

Thank you for your continued support of this vital community initiative.

Wendy Kent
Tommy’s Pantry President

Sarah Goupell
Tommy’s Pantry Vice President

Kathleen Bartels
Tommy’s Pantry Treasurer

Sasha Johnson
Tommy’s Pantry Secretary 

Paula Kowalczuk
Tommy’s Pantry Board Member, Chair of Fundraising & Finance Committee

Hannah Raskin
Tommy’s Pantry Board Member, At-large

Adrienne Tilton
Tommy’s Pantry Board Member, At-large

Joe Newman
Tommy’s Pantry Student Board Member

Tommy’s Pantry collaborates with PTA leaders, school counselors, administration and ESOL teachers from each of our schools, Blair school counselors, the City of Takoma Park, and county social workers. With the help of all of these people and organizations, we have quick and direct contact with families who need help. Rest assured that we are reaching far into the community – all across Takoma Park and the folks from the East Silver Spring neighborhood.