Frederick Community Competes to Pack Blessings in a Backpack Food for Children

Frederick Community Competes to Pack Blessings in a Backpack Food for Children

Story and photos by Gabrielle Lewis,

Inside Frederick Community College’s student center on Saturday, community members stood eagerly in front of tables with large boxes of food items, plastic bags in hand.

When Angela Abrishami, the managing director for the Frederick chapter of the nonprofit Blessings in a Backpack, said “Go,” teams rushed forward and began packing as many bags as possible, trying to fill 100 bags first.

Blessings in a Backpack held its third annual “Race to Feed Frederick” tournament on Saturday. The event is a bracket-style event, with teams competing against each other to see which can fill 100 bags first to win each round.

This year, there were seven teams from local organizations and businesses, as well as volunteers with Blessings in a Backpack. The teams had to go down the tables and pack snacks like apple sauce, meat sticks, oatmeal, pretzels and cereal bowls into their plastic bags.

Abrishami said the event usually reaps 1,800 to 2,000 bags of food, which the nonprofit will then deliver to guidance offices at 30 schools in Frederick County. From there, the school staffs identify children in need of food to eat on the weekends and give out the meals every Friday.

The Frederick chapter serves about 4,300 children, according to its website.

Race to Feed Frederick 2024 student volunteers
Race to Feed Frederick 2024 volunteers racing to pack food
Race to Feed Frederick 2024 Angela Abrishami

Abrishami said the “Race to Feed” event originally started with the Chicago chapter of Blessings in a Backpack, and the Frederick chapter is the second within the national organization to host it.

“You find yourself reflecting on your community and how there’s so much more that can be done. That’s the goal,” Abrishami said. “Yes, we want to feed the kids here … but we also want to encourage people to be involved in their community however they see fit.”

For some participants, this wasn’t their first time competing.

Jim Keating and Leslie Barnes-Keating, the co-owners of Keating Group of Keller Williams Realty Centre, were competing for the second time alongside Keating Group staff members and friends.

Barnes-Keating said the Keating Group has a long history of volunteering with Blessings in a Backpack prior to “Race to Feed Frederick.” Their team won their first heat against a team of Blessings in a Backpack volunteers.

“It’s exciting and fun, but better than that is bringing out our friends, our team members, and being able to participate in something that matter so much for kids in Frederick County,” she said.

Another team who competed was made up of staff members from the life insurance company Legal and General America’s Urbana office. Although the team lost its first heat, the group stayed to support the others still in the bracket.

For both Kati Hoffman and Sunny Estrada, this was their first time participating in this specific event. Hoffman is part of a diversity, equity and inclusion committee at her office, which publicized this event for its staff.

“Our mission at Legal and General America is protect more American families,” Hoffman said. “By helping the community, we’re backing that. We’re not just doing our business of life insurance to protect American families, but we’re following that with community involvement.”