He decided to end hunger -- at age 7

November 17, 1992|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer

Georgios Zervos can't remember the exact moment he found his cause. But about three years ago, he saw the long lines of people at Baltimore's soup kitchens and decided this would be his mission. He would collect canned goods, volunteer his time, do whatever he could to give people food.

He was 7 years old.

"I'm not going to stop until no one is hungry," Georgios said recently, sitting after school in his father's Fells Point bar, which bears the boy's name. "I'm going to end hunger and that's it."

He is, at age 10, a boy with definite ideas about the world and its problems. Picture a young Michael Dukakis, whom Georgios believes far superior to Bill Clinton, even when he puts aside his inherent bias as a son of a Greek immigrant. Georgios is serious, almost solemn. Intense.

He thinks about becoming a politician. On Tuesday, he'll get a chance to practice his public speaking skills with a three-minute talk at the kickoff for the annual Bags of Plenty campaign, a food-and-money drive sponsored by the Maryland Food Committee.

"I'm going to give my ideas," he said. "I'm going to talk about soup kitchens, how it's not enough to have lots of soup kitchens if there's no one to work in them. You know, some people volunteer one day a week, one day a month, and they say they did their part. That's not enough. People are hungry every day."

Georgios is not alone in his philanthropic work. Children in Central Maryland are participating in anti-hunger campaigns in increasing numbers, said William Ewing, the executive director of the Maryland Food Bank.

"We were getting phone calls from children who saw other children going hungry," Mr. Ewing said. "Kids don't like the idea of kids being hungry. It seems essentially unfair to them."

But Georgios is something special, Mr. Ewing admitted.

"He's the type of child who sees the big picture at an early age," he said. "I have a little boy, he's 10 and he's a wonderful child, but he doesn't see what Georgios sees. Then again, most adults don't see the world the way he sees it."

When Georgios first started collecting food, his mother thought it was a phase that would pass. She didn't realize that Georgios' zeal would soon outstrip hers and he would end up motivating her.

"If I lose incentive, he pushes me on," Mrs. Zervos said. "I can't be more proud of my son."

Georgios spoke at six months, his parents said, and began spelling out words at 18 months. Now in sixth grade at Holy Rosary, he plays the violin, watches Maryland Public Television and reads about opera. But he also likes to ride his bike, play Nintendo and watch cartoons.

He canvasses his Hamilton neighborhood for canned goods as often as possible. Often, he sends out notes beforehand, telling neighbors when he will stop by. After three years, some people still don't believe he's giving food away, or they curse him when he comes to the door.

Georgios doesn't care. And he doesn't bother to argue with people who say that poor people are just lazy or undeserving. He just keeps working.

"Sometimes I worry he's trying to grow up too fast," his mother said. "But I can't see where it's wrong for him to think about other people."

In one way, Georgios makes an odd spokesman for Bags of Plenty. He would prefer to see a year-round emphasis on hunger, instead of a seasonal one.

"It's always Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, but people are hungry every day," he said, watching a reporter jot his words down in a notebook. "But I think I told you that before."

MTA RIDERS CAN HELP

Public transit riders can help the needy this Thanksgiving with a donation at any Metro station or at one of three stops on the Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) line. Beginning today, the Mass Transit Administration will accept non-perishable food for Bea Gaddy's Thanksgiving dinner program. Rail commuters can drop their donations at the stops at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Odenton or Pennsylvania Station. Food can be donated today through Friday in Baltimore County at an MTA bus parked at the Giant Food parking lot in the Perring Plaza Shopping Center, on Joppa Road and Perring Parkway. The bus is sponsored by the Maryland Food Committee's "Stuff-A-Bus" program.

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