A coalition of non-profit, independent human service agencies has launched an effort to bridge the gap between the growing number of needy in Carroll and government's diminishing ability to provide assistance.
"Carroll's Circle of Caring" includes seven civic and ecumenical groups that provide food, clothing, shelter, fuel, health and other assistance to the impoverished and those suddenly losing jobs and struggling to make ends meet.
Like government, the non-profits' resources have been depleted more quickly than usual because of the increased demand for help, organizers say. Shelters have been packed; more emergency meals are being distributed; emergency medical care is up.
The county commissioners, who are supporting the coalition, and other volunteers encouraged support from area businesses, churches, civic groups and the community at-large at a Thursday conference announcing the drive.
"There are a tremendous number of people in Carroll County in need," said Jolene G. Sullivan, Department of Citizen Services director, adding the recession has broadened the population segment typically considered as "needy."
"These are people in the work force for years and yearswho are now facing homelessness and hunger," she said.
The Rev. Arthur Mentzer, representing Taneytown Sharing & Caring, said he hopesthe coalition promotes "a new appreciation of need that we so gliblytook for granted in the past."
Sullivan characterized the effort as "neighbor helping neighbor," adding that Carroll residents traditionally have been recognized for helping each other.
The participating organizations are: Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., which contracts with county government to provide services; the Salvation Army; Shepherd's Staff; Taneytown Caring & Sharing; ESCAPE; Northeast Social Action Program; and Carroll County Food Sunday.
G. Melvin Mills, owner of Mills' Communications Inc. in Westminster, is the coalition's business representative. Joseph Brown, member of the Roaring Run Lions Club in Finksburg, is representing service clubs. Angie Bowersox, a human resources employee, is county government's liaison.
In an open letter to Carroll residents, the commissioners say the coalition was created to "share the work load efficiently and to prevent duplication of services" for the approximately 14,000 residents living below the poverty level. They made a plea for monetary and material contributions and for volunteers to donate time and in-kind services, such as car repairs.
Sullivan compared the current level of poverty in the county and nationwide to the Great Depression 60years ago.
Dell, 66, who grew up in Westminster, said he remembers those days as "a shameful period for upstanding people in our community who had lost jobs."
The commissioners complimented longtime volunteers, stressing their assistance is needed now more than ever to"bring succor to the needy." The effort is indefinite.
Volunteersof time or services can contact HSP at 857-2999. Checks can be made payable to any of the organizations and should note "Circle of Caring" on the memo line. Mail checks to: Carroll's Circle of Caring, 10 Distillery Drive, Westminster, Md., 21157.