Four years in, Aje Hill still doesn’t have an office.

When he started the I Believe in Me mentorship and leadership development program in 2016, his primary resources were his personality, his backstory and a 2002, white Dodge Caravan.

“No heat. No radio. The ceiling was falling down. The seats had holes in them,” said Hill, who graduated from Frederick High School in 1999 and overcame his troubled past as a drug dealer. “But it was full of love and laughter inside of that car for the hope we are trying to provide.”

On Thursday afternoon, Hill had another long line of people in need of hope in the parking lot of Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium.

Since the coronavirus pandemic started hammering the economy in March, knocking already at-risk people out of their jobs, Hill has been doing regular food drops at various locations across Frederick through I Believe in Me.

So, the four vehicles that now serve the organization were in full use once again Thursday.

“It’s definitely been a pleasure and an honor to serve the community in different locations and meet the hunger and security needs due to this pandemic,” Hill said while observing his team of volunteers at work to meet Thursday’s need.

Through some recent accounting, Hill learned that I Believe in Me has served 31,226 people with more than 50,000 pounds of food over the past 31 weeks.

Roughly 35 volunteers have worked at 65 no-questions-asked food drops, with 15 to 20 of the volunteers serving consistently.

“We were doing three food drops a week when this first started,” said one of the regular volunteers, Brad Young, who also serves as the president of the Frederick County Board of Education.

Young has been an invaluable member of Hill’s team, helping him to navigate the logistical challenges of acquiring, storing and distributing that much food.

“Through our friendship, Brad told me he had a master’s degree,” Hill said. “I told him we are going to put that master’s degree to work.”

Through its mentorship aspect, I Believe in Me already provided meals to kids in need. But, at the onset of the pandemic, he saw a much greater need. So, he greatly expanded his outreach.

“What about the young man that wakes up that doesn’t have a Pop Tart? That doesn’t have orange juice? Doesn’t have an alarm clock? Doesn’t have a mentor? Doesn’t have those support systems?” Hill said.

“Do we just throw them in the garbage can? Or do we provide hope?”

Hill said he hopes the food drops give people “the items they had in their home before COVID-19.”

After more than 31,000 served, Hill said, “It just assures me that we are serving a purpose. This community is stronger than ever, even through crisis.”

Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek.

(8) comments

TomWheatley

Such a wonderful man and program!

The Scouting for Food will be very different this year with no bags or stickers at the door (It came without ribbons; it came without tags ...). As of the moment, each Scouting unit is being creative, but most will rely on neighborhoods contacts to then have people bring food to a central location to get counted and delivered to the various food banks. The need, sad to say, is very much still out there and more so this year.

Hayduke2

Kudos for this effort on behalf of the Frederick area. Thank you.

bosco

We are still buying several cases of Goya products on each trip to Costco and donating to our local food bank. Seems like the annual Scouting For Food drive should be coming up soon. Might be a good idea to help out there too.

What are you doing to help out?

[ninja]

Hayduke2

Well bosco, if I thought it was any of your business or I somehow needed your approval I would list the ways I help out. But since your intent is to try to shame or put yourself on a pedestal, you can just make up another conspiracy theory to push.

bosco

That's ok, hayduke2, just please remember this when I choose to ignore your questions or remarks.

In the meantime, I hope you do donate to a local food bank.

[ninja]

Hayduke2

Peace out Bosco. You do realize that you already ignore questions and often fail to respond. That’s fine and expected in many of the questions. Hope you had a chance to enjoy today’s wonderful weather and got outdoors.

bosco

I wonder if they would tolerate some marchers with bullhorns at their distribution centers?

[ninja]

MRS M

And I wonder what some have with stepping up to help 31,000 people during a pandemic, and why others have a desperate need to through shade on that? That folks might need a meal? That they might be black or brown? Or that the gentleman in the article has stepped up to make a difference. Head Scratcher. I'm beginning to wonder if Trump supporters are truly losing " it " as they see their intoxicating dream of the return to a 1950's white America going down the drain, accompanied by that giant sucking sound made by loss, ignorance and hatred. It appears some are now mindlessly searching to find anything (anything!) these days to reflect their desperation, their deeply buried racism, and their now obvious realization that being a Trump voter and supporter is the new Amerikan "lost cause" . These ideas have been, and will be, rejected, by the majority of Americans, and their "Grand Old Party" is a failed party of cowards.

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