Neighbors aid resident’s donation efforts to aid homeless
Caroline Touchton is affectionately known among her neighbors as the “caring bag lady.”
When she opens the door to her apartment or walks to her car in the garage at Ingleside at King Farm in Rockville, she almost always finds a bag or box filled with donations for her to deliver to Interfaith Works, a charity that works to meet the needs of the poor and homeless in Montgomery County.
Touchton, who did not want to share her age, is a retired Montgomery County Public Schools special education teacher who worked at several area high schools. She was one of the first residents of Ingleside at King Farm, a continuing care retirement community, when it opened in 2009. She started taking other residents’ leftovers almost immediately.
“I help people who have eaten [Ingleside’s] good food and no longer fit in their clothes or are tired of them or just bought too many,” Touchton said.
She also helps those without enough get what they need, said Monica Young, who oversees Interfaith Works’ Clothing Center in Rockville.
“I don’t think one week goes by that she doesn’t bring us something,” Young said.
Touchton said she doesn’t take only bags of clothes — she also accepts lamps, kitchen utensils, small tables and anything that will fit into her Toyota Camry.
If someone drops off an item she cannot take to the Clothing Center, or calls her to see if she can take larger items, Touchton said, she will find a charity that will accept them.
“My proudest achievement was when I got rid of two brand-new breast prostheses from Nordstrom, still in the box,” she said. “I asked a woman who had breast cancer and she put me in touch with an organization that could use them.”
Large items often go to A Wider Circle in Silver Spring or Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Gaithersburg, while computers go to Project Reboot in Rockville, Touchton said.
“They will pick up [the items] if I call them early enough,” she said.
Touchton said she doesn’t know when she developed her heart for others, but can remember being a young child, in kindergarten or first grade in Georgia, and a classmate was being teased for having a hole in her pants.
“I don’t want any kids with holes in their pants,” she said.
In addition to her “delivery service,” she works with Interfaith Works in its Friends in Action Program, a family mentoring service also headed up by Young.
“She is making a difference for us,” Young said. “A lot of our programs are volunteer based and without people like Caroline, we couldn’t do it. She has really taken ownership of this and no one asked her to do it.”
Marilyn Leist, executive director of Ingleside at King Farm, said most of the community’s 375 residents know Touchton, and many even know that her parking space is No. 76.
“She sings ’76 Trombones’ [from ‘The Music Man’] so people will remember the number,” Leist said.
Social accountability is a part of the Ingleside community, Leist said.
“When you are reaching out to help someone else … you receive something in return,” she said.