Some are young mothers who softly ask for a little food to tide themover another month.
Others are newly laid-off workers struggling to pay their mortgage and car insurance bills.
They're often embarrassed to have to ask for anything. But many of the people who walk through the Salvation Army's doors each day need much more than a square meal. They need a job.
With the help of computer technology, the North County Salvation Army, at 7483 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., is expanding its traditional services. Instead ofoffering just hot meals, emergency baskets and referrals, the GlenBurnie office plans to give unemployed and low-income families a chanceto start over again.
"We need to empower people so they can become self-sufficient," said Peggy Vick, director of the North County branch. "We want to help them take charge of their lives -- to find workand learn basic skills, so if problems hit, they're not decimated."
Today, the Salvation Army is introducing a computerized job bank to offer clients the opportunity to tap into a better future. The Chesapeake Job Bank System Inc. lists openings at industries, schools, private companies and government offices throughout the Baltimore metropolitan region.
Representatives for Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and Gov. William Donald Schaefer will joinother state and county dignitaries in officially unveiling the job bank.
Although the ceremonytook a few weeks to arrange, the computer was installed a few weeks ago. Walk-in clients have been fascinated, pushing the giant buttons to check what jobs and services are available, Vick said.
The brainchild of Bryan Groff, a 42-year-old Glen Burnie native, the job banklists openings by employment categories and geographic areas. Most of the work opportunities, which range from entry-level service jobs to medical positions, are provided by the Maryland Job Service. The state job-placement agency counsels workers and keeps a statewide listing of openings filed by employers.
The Salvation Army workedwith Groff to include other community resources in the computer network. Clients also can locate the nearest health center or figure out if theyqualify for WIC, the federal Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children.
More than twice as many county workersfiled for unemployment benefits in January and February than did so last winter. During the first week of February, when Anne Arundel's unemployment rate rose to 5.2 percent, 5,763 sought state assistance. Only 2,792 filed claims during the same week in 1990.
The sharp increase has taxed many social service agencies. Long lines form each day at the Department of Social Services, food pantries and charitablegroups like theSalvation Army.
Groff and Vick emphasize that the job bank offers anonymity to newly poor families. Many unemployed workers are ashamed to seek help "if they've never been in a financial bind before," Vick said.
Tucked in the corner of the front lobby, the computer at the Glen Burnie office is easy to miss. But the receptionist is ready to steer anyone, from college students to single mothers, to the free service.
The computer is a linchpin in the North Arundel branch's expansion effort. Vick also is starting a Super Pantry in May, an umbrella program to teach single mothers "basic life skills."
"We were giving a lot of people a box of food, but you could tell they needed more than that," Vick said.