Samantha Barnhart, a Howard High freshman, carries a box of donated items in the Swansfield Elementary School parking lot as she’s joined by her mother Traci Barnhart, left, and other volunteers with Columbia Community Care to distribute the items at various locations at Columbia/Ellicott City schools on Thursday, March 26.

After a difficult year filled with loss, Columbia Community Care leaders are focused on creating a community for Columbia-area residents as they continue their search for a physical location for the Columbia Community Care Peace and Justice Center and announce a detailed plan for the center’s structure.

Columbia Community Care, a nonprofit founded in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to assist with collecting and distributing needed food and personal items in Howard County, announced its plans to expand the organization to a community center in November.

Especially after two of her students died this past school year, Columbia Community Care founder Erika Strauss Chavarria, a community activist and Spanish teacher at Wilde Lake High School, said she’s determined to find and acquire a physical space for the center as soon as possible.

“It has been a year of youth death. We know the community center will make the difference between life and death for our community,” said Strauss Chavarria, 39. “If there’s anything we learned in the pandemic, it’s that Howard County is not immune to the problems of inequity.”

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