Columbia Community Care’s Founding Members Build Wide-Reaching Non-Profit From Humble Beginnings

Meg Feroli (left), Erika Chavarria (middle), and Makenna Burns (right) working at one of the Ellicott City donation and distribution sites, December 2020

Zoe MacDiarmid

Meg Feroli (left), Erika Chavarria (middle), and Makenna Burns (right) working at one of the Ellicott City donation and distribution sites, December 2020


Columbia Community Care’s (CCC) founding members– Erika Chavarria, Meg Feroli, and Makenna Burns– have built a non-profit organization during the COVID-19 crisis from the ground up. Today, hundreds of volunteers are serving over 700 recipients a week with hot meals and groceries. The group also offers free translation and grocery delivery services.

Meg Feroli, Oakland Mills substitute teacher, December 2020

According to Wilde Lake High School Spanish teacher Ms. Chavarria, CCC has served over 50,000 people in-person and completed 8,000 home deliveries. They’re currently operating with three sites, have around 600 volunteers, and have established numerous business affiliations– all within the community. Now, CCC is petitioning to open a community center that will permanently serve Howard County. 

The idea of a new organization to help the community originated from discussions in Ms. Chavarria’s Spanish class weeks before schools closed due to COVID-19. “[My students] were worried that with the pandemic their situation was going to worsen,” she said. Ms. Chavarria reached out for help on Facebook. Almost immediately, 40 people offered their services. By the time schools closed, Ms. Chavarria had gathered a group of dedicated volunteers.

A collection of toy donations that were distributed for the holiday toy drive, December 2020

CCC started by supporting the schools’ free food programs with groceries and other various household necessities. “We wanted to supplement the schools’ food services with grocery items,” Ms. Chavarria says. While supporting the schools helped, the community needed more. 

Taking CCC from an idea to a small start-up to a fully-functioning organization involved extensive planning. Luckily, one of the respondents of Ms. Chavarria’s Facebook post, Oakland Mills substitute teacher Meg Feroli, was able to help. With her background in event planning, Ms. Feroli says, “I was able to look at some of the things they were doing and make it more efficient.”

Initially, recipients would have to sort through piles of donations to find the items they needed. Ms. Feroli proposed a new organizational style that aligned with social distancing guidelines. She began sorting donations by product and category and spacing them out accordingly. Ms. Feroli began coordinating shipments and suppliers, working alongside 19-year-old Makenna Burns.

Makenna Burns, business administration student, December 2020

Ms. Burns is a business administration student at Clark Atlanta University. After being sent home in April due to COVID-19, she began volunteering at CCC and has since taken the lead in business operations and community outreach.

Only months since its founding, CCC has obtained numerous sponsorships from businesses all across Howard County. They’re currently affiliated with several minority-owned small businesses: Anegada Delights, Bonheur Patisserie & Deli, The Common Kitchen, Blowfish Poke, Foodfricana, Koshary, and Tasty Empanadas. They work with local farms as well: Breezy Willow, Jenny’s Market, and Freetown Farm. Their small business initiative perpetuates the notion the organization was built on: mutual aid. “The focus is on helping each other,” says Ms. Burns.

A collection of food donations ready to be distributed, December 2020

CCC will not end after the pandemic, according to Ms. Chavarria. The three are working toward opening the Columbia Community Care Peace and Justice Center. The proposed establishment would undertake all that CCC is currently doing and more, aiming to serve the community permanently. 

What started as concerned classroom discourse has evolved into a vast non-profit with three sites, hundreds of volunteers, business sponsorships, and more in the works. “I think that this has allowed me to see the true spirit of Columbia and how our community can come together in times of need, and I think that’s the truth of Columbia,” says Ms. Chavarria. “We do care for one another. It has restored my faith in humanity.”