DiCarlo aims to eliminate hunger locally
Brenda DiCarlo sometimes wishes her work wasn’t needed.
As the director of the Southern Maryland Food Bank, a program of Catholic Charities of the Archdioceses of Washington, D.C., she would ideally like to see no need for job titles like hers. But in the meantime, while that need exists, she’ll be working and volunteering with the hope to make a dent in the problem.
“I have the personality of a caretaker and I don’t ever really think I’m caring enough,” DiCarlo said of her drive behind her work. “We would all love to be put out of work, but it’s the fact that we can’t not work that brings us back every day.”
DiCarlo, 49, began volunteering with Catholic Charities about 28 years ago and has held multiple positions around the Southern Maryland region since. From running yard sales to social work with the organization, she began overseeing the food bank 12 years ago.
Her goal at the food bank was to become mobile so she could meet clients where they were. She realized that goal when the Meals of Hope Mobile Meal Truck was acquired, what she described as a “four year dream come true.”
“We don’t want to enable [clients] but encourage them to enable themselves,” DiCarlo said of the program that is designed to provide accessible meals to those unable to travel to stationary resources. “A lot of our clients say they feel left behind. Financially, they can’t keep pace with how the world operates now. I think they’re being pushed aside and we’re here to remember they’re there.”
In addition to the mobile meals, the food bank operates Snack Sak and Senior Sak, programs designed to “fill the gap of hunger” among low income children and seniors. The Seeds of Hope Community Learning Garden behind the food bank not only provides produce for the mission but also serves as an educational element for children to learn gardening and philanthropy.
Despite her accomplishments, DiCarlo says she always feels like there’s more work to be done.
“I have insomnia and I don’t sleep well so I’m always thinking about new projects and what else we can be doing. I always think there’s something that’s not being done,” DiCarlo said.
DiCarlo credits her co-workers, Theresa Murphy, outreach coordinator, George Mattingly, warehouse and retail manager, lead volunteer Marcy Murphy – and then there’s Andrew Davis, warehouse assistant and Dexter Thomas, CDL driver — with being able to facilitate the food bank’s various programs and efforts. She credits her father who passed away 11 years ago with inspiring her strong work ethic.
“We’re more than co-workers here, we’re family. We’re all from this area and we know the need here. We all know our roles and can do our work without much failure and that’s a testament to [the staff] going along with me for the ride, literally and figuratively,” DiCarlo said.
“It’s more than a job, it’s what we do,” Theresa Murphy said of her work at the food bank. “We give back and we help others and it’s something we want to do.”
“The day I look at this as a paycheck, as employment and not a lifestyle, is the day I won’t come back,” DiCarlo said.
Theresa Murphy, outreach coordinator for the Southern Maryland Food Bank, hands Director Brenda DiCarlo food to place in a bag ready to hand to clients that come into the food pantry.
Dexter Thomas, CDL driver for the Southern Maryland Food Bank, works in the warehouse of the organization.
Theresa Murphy opens a door to the Meals of Hope Mobile Meal Truck, a service that provides accessible meals to clients unable to travel to the Southern Maryland Food Bank off Irongate Drive in Waldorf.