A couple of Easter bunnies hopped out yesterday to prove that the holiday isn't just for people with living rooms and lawns, it's also for those without a place to sleep at night.
At the Antioch Shelter Home in Baltimore, representatives from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) served a vegetarian breakfast while children swarmed the big bunny, almost knocking off his oversized white head with their hearty hugs.
At Baltimore's Carroll Park, another mammoth rabbit presided as more than 100 children from three other area shelters played outdoor games and hunted for 1,000 plastic eggs filled with candy, in an event staged by students at the University of Maryland school of law.
Antioch's breakfast menu dropped the usual bacon, sausage and scrambled eggs. Instead, residents savored scrambled tofu, fruit salad and soybean sausages.
"The food was delicious," said Donna Culver, an Antioch resident and first-time taster of vegetarian cuisine. "I liked the tofu best. Wasn't it called tofu?"
PETA's Robin Walker said her group wants to publicize vegetarian issues.
"Homeless people are Americans and are included in our educational efforts," Ms. Walker said. "They are also needy people, and we felt those two things combined made this visit a perfect choice."
Several businesses donated the items for the breakfast, Ms. Walker said, including the Bagel Place and Bagel City and Takoma Soy in Takoma Park.
At Carroll Park, children 11 years old and younger climbed on students for piggyback rides and played with helium-filled balloons. The event, sponsored by first-year students at the University of Maryland law school, was held to give children a look at positive role models, said Michael Scholl, class president.
"This has been a wonderful Easter for them," said Shelia Matthews, director of the YWCA's Eleanor D. Cornerhouse Shelter in downtown Baltimore.
Ms. Matthews brought 23 children from the shelter, where she says holidays are always a happy time because volunteers have been so eager to help.
"It would be hard if people didn't care and the kids couldn't get out to do things like this," Ms. Matthews said. "But people do care."
When mothers at homeless advocate Bea Gaddy's East Baltimore soup kitchen and shelter said they couldn't come this week because they didn't have money for transportation, Mr. Scholl and classmates bought $100 worth of Mass Transit Administration bus tickets.
"We have a moral obligation to give something back to the community," Mr. Scholl said.
Ms. Matthews said that youngsters from her shelter have attended three similar Easter events already this week, with more scheduled today and tomorrow.
Mr. Galloway of Antioch praised PETA for its meal with a message.
"I think the people here got a sense of family by interacting with others, and a sense of Easter that they probably would not have had if the group had not come in," he said.