Thanksgiving's a week away, and human service organizations and community groups are working hard to make sure no one will go without a holiday dinner.
The Howard County chapter of the Salvation Army, which expects to serve 450 families through its holiday clearinghouse this year, will accept applications for help until noon on Thanksgiving eve.
"Have you heard of the one-armed paperhanger with fleas?" said Maj. Paula Meehan, describing her work as coordinator of the Salvation Army's holiday effort.
Through its adopt-a-family program, the Salvation Army has paired needy families with churches, schools, individual families and businesses who will provide the families with the makings for Thanksgiving dinner.
Ms. Meehan will give vouchers to purchase food to families who weren't matched with a group and to those who wait until the last minute to ask for help.
"Families hope against hope they're going to get some other help until the last minute," Ms. Meehan said. "When it doesn't happen, they realize they're going to have to do something."
Aside from the Salvation Army, the largest effort to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to the disadvantaged in the county is sponsored by the Columbia Patuxent Rotary Club.
The group will serve dinner to about 300 people at their third annual Thanksgiving feast on Sunday at the Columbia Hilton.
About 200 seniors who attend the Florence Bain Senior Center and lunch programs run by the county Office on Aging are invited to the dinner. Also on the guest list are residents of the Grassroots homeless shelter, women and children from the Domestic Violence Center's shelters, clients of Wintergrowth, an adult day-care center and residents of Vantage Place, which runs residential programs for developmentally disabled persons.
Rotary Club members, their families and Columbia Cub Scout Troop No. 838 will cook and serve the dinner. All the food for the event was donated by local wholesalers, Rotary Club President Bob Wood Jr said.
"The seniors love it," said Judy Bard, an assistant with the Office on Aging's nutrition program. "It's just the most wonderful event."
After the dinner, the Lions Club of Clarksville will distribute winter coats to dinner guests who can use them.
The group collected and dry cleaned coats for men, women and children.
"We think it's a pretty neat opportunity for service clubs to show that their basic interest is in supporting the community," Mr. Wood said of the dinner.
For the fifth year, students in the culinary arts program at Howard County Vocational and Technical School will cook a Thanksgiving dinner for seniors Tuesday at the school.
At Grassroots homeless shelter in Columbia, St. John's Roman Catholic Church is cooking Thanksgiving dinner for about 20 residents. Other area churches are bringing desserts.
Kathie DiNoto, coordinator at Grassroots, said the shelter has received so many offers of food that it can't accept them all.
Anyone needing help putting together a Thanksgiving dinner may call the Salvation Army at 465-0588.