Thirty-five Severna Park families enjoyed an unexpected Christmas feast this week, courtesy of the local Jaycees.
Jaycees handed out bags of groceries bulging with tomatoes, cucumbers, rolls, bundles of corn, jars of barbecue sauce and dozens of roasting chickens. There was enough food for each needy family to enjoy a gigantic cook-out.
Playing Santa were members of the Severna Park Jaycees, a 70-member civic organization that gives away food every Christmas. Last holiday, the Jaycees raised $3,000 to feed 150 needy families, but had $700 left over, said Doug McGettigan, vice-president of community development.
The Jaycees decided to put another holiday on the calendar. "We're calling it Christmas in July," said Mr. McGettigan.
Under the direction of chairwoman Judi Wood, several members bought food earlier this week and bagged it.
Local businesses helped out. Safeway donated rolls and also gave the Jaycees large discounts on other purchases. Diehl's Produce in Severna Park gave the group a significant discount, and J & H Listman's in Earleigh Heights sold the Jaycees chickens at a reduced rate.
"We shopped so good, and stuff was donated -- we only spent $600 for all this," Mr. McGettigan said, pointing to dozens of filled grocery bags.
At Jaycee headquarters in Kinderpark this week, volunteers bagged groceries. They formed an assembly line over mounds of lettuce, bags of cantaloupe and green beans and rows of dry food. The chickens and gallons of milk were bagged last.
The food was distributed by volunteers at the Severna Park Assistance Network (SPAN), so the recipients could remain anonymous.
The Jaycees Holiday Meals program at Christmas helps needy families all over the county, but for this effort the group tried to help Severna Park residents first.
Most of the 35 families who benefited from "Christmas in July" live in Severna Park, along with a few families from Millersville and Pasadena, Mr. McGettigan said.
Next year, the Severna Park Jaycees hope to expand the summer food giveaway, said state director Anne E. Magrath. "We decided that not many groups pay attention to the fact that people need food all during the year, including summer," she said.
The project isn't unusual for the Jaycees, a leadership training organization for people between the ages of 21 and 39. For example, the Severna park Jaycees have run a holiday meals program for about eight of the group's 30 years of existence.
The Jaycees' theme is "management training," or teaching people management skills by having them run a community project, Ms. Magrath said.
The Severna Park chapter includes a variety of people, from professionals to trade people such as plumbers and carpenters, Ms. Magrath said.
"Anyone who cares about the community and wants to help themselves fits in," she said.