The students who go to Columbia Association’s Youth and Teen Center don’t just benefit from having a fun, safe place to be with their friends while not in school. The options there go well beyond games and various recreational activities, to include leadership opportunities and mentoring programs that help steer the participants toward success as they grow into young adults.

In recent years, these young individuals have seized these opportunities, particularly through youth-run committees that have been set up to organize activities, events and community service projects. They are regularly involved in technology tutorials, traveling to the East Columbia 50+ Center to teach older adults how to use iPads and other devices. Perhaps their greatest contribution to the community this year is the annual clothing donation drive that began in October and continues through November.

The clothing drive was created by CA’s Teen Outreach Committee and is entering its seventh year. It is a growth experience, helping to prepare them for the real world as they work together and with adults to manage and contribute to a project from start to finish. The clothing drive itself stresses the importance of giving back, especially to those individuals and families in the community who need help. Last year, the community responded by donating more than 20,000 items, which in turn went to more than 1,000 families and individuals in need.

The need remains. Once again, students and other volunteers are calling for your assistance in helping others.

Collection boxes are stationed at all 10 village community association buildings; Columbia Art Center (6100 Foreland Garth in the Long Reach Village Center); the Youth and Teen Center at The Barn (5853 Robert Oliver Place in the Oakland Mills Village Center); and Eggspectation restaurant (6010 University Blvd., Ellicott City).

Those donating can bring in new and gently used clothes, shoes and accessories, including but not limited to ties, belts, hosiery, hats, gloves, pocketbooks and jewelry. Also important are coats and socks, children’s clothes, and career clothes for both men and women.

The distribution days will be on Saturday, Jan. 16, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 17, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

This is a great effort all-around. I applaud and thank all involved, from those who donate their time and efforts to those who donate clothing and other items. No matter how you are involved, your participation will make a difference in the lives of residents of the community.