Neighbors In Need Gives Joy To Otherwise Bleak Holidays

December 16, 1990|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

Eric wants trucks and Heather wants dolls, but their mother can't afford to buy many presents this year.

Those lines summing up the Christmas lists of two Carroll children were submitted by their mother to the Neighbors in Need program, run by Human Services Programs Inc. The 4-year-old program is supported by area charities, churches, businesses and individuals playing Santa for 670 county families who asked for help this year.

More donations are needed, especially of basic needs such as new underwear and bedding, and presents suitable for teens. Most donors seem to feel more empathy for smaller children than for teens, said Lynda Gainor, deputy director of HSP.

Donations can be taken through Tuesday evening to the first floor of 10 Distillery Drive, where families will go Wednesday to pick up the gift boxes, she said.

While teens may be getting short shrift from donors, one group of 14- to 15-year-olds in the county donated time and energy to host a holiday party for homeless children Thursday at the Distillery Drive office.

"We're in a bad way this year, and I thought this would be a way to cheer Mary Elizabeth up," said Mary Margaret Tucker, who, with her 11-year-old daughter, has been living in HSP's shelter for women and children since returning to Carroll a month ago.

Tucker's daughter needed some coaxing before she joined the game that was already in progress when she arrived at the party.

"She's shy," Tucker said of her daughter, who finally joined when she was asked to help run the games for smaller children.

"We just moved back up here from North Carolina, and it seems everything is against us," Tucker said. "We didn't have the money to find a home."

The five freshmen and one sophomore in Sherry Pyles' class at Liberty High School conducted the party Thursday afternoon for 14 children who have lived in HSP's shelters this fall.

"When I get older, I want to work with the homeless. I thought it would be good to see what it's like," said Chris Michael, 14, of Sykesville, who originated the idea for the class project.

Pyles' class is part of the Maryland's Tomorrow program, designed for students who show signs of losing interest in school. When Pyles first asked her students last fall whether they wanted to perform a community service, Chris suggested doing something for the homeless.

"Chris wants to shelter the homeless and feed the hungry," Pyles said. "He's just very conscious of other people who are in need."

Chris said he decided he wanted to volunteer to help the needy during a family trip to Washington on Thanksgiving Day three years ago.

"I saw people on the streets giving out food for the homeless," Chris said. "I thought it was a real nice, kind thing to do. I though I would enjoy doing something like that."

Thursday's party was the first chance he has had to fulfill his mission, but others in the class are veteran volunteers, doing things such as visiting nursing-home residents and helping at day-care centers and shelters.

The others in the class are Trisha Goad, Billy Martin, Tasha Dorsey, Christopher Masaberg and Matthew Mason.

At Thursday's party, the ninth-graders organized games, and Billy and Trisha dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus to hand out mittens donated by the Sykesville Elementary School students. They served punch and cookies they spent several days making in the home economics kitchen.

Darcel Harris of Westminster, who recently moved out of a shelter and into an apartment, brought her 11-month-old daughter, Martha, who was all smiles at the party even if she couldn't play the games such as pin-the-nose-on-Santa and duck-duck-goose.

Harris said Martha may not be old enough to play the games, but is still getting a great experience by playing with other children at the Christmas party.

"Socializing with other children is very important," Harris said.

While the party progressed in one section of the vast first floor, the rest of the room was taken up with hundreds of boxes, toys, gifts and food to be distributed to families Wednesday. Volunteers have been working to fill the boxes with donated food and gifts.

In addition to toys, underwear is leading the list of requests by children and their parents, Gainor said. Families are asking for such simple things as socks, sheets and blankets. One mother's request for her own gift was knee-high hose.

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