Requests soar at Arundel food banks Layoffs blamed for increase

November 25, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Beverly, who recently lost her job as a waitress at the Inner Harbor, was one of the lucky ones. She got a turkey yesterday from the Severna Park Assistance Network.

"It looks like we're going to have Thanksgiving after all," she told her 14-year-old daughter.

But local charities, which annually provide thousands of area residents with turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, say they are strapped for food as demands have fTC increased and resources shrunk.

"It's getting worse," said Henry Jones, executive director of Helping Hand, an Annapolis agency that provides food, clothing, furniture, shelter and financial assistance to needy families.

Barbara Birkenheuer, director of SPAN, which is sponsored by 10 Severna Park-area churches, said her organization has been busier in the past three months than in any other time in the previous 2 1/2 years. "More people need help because of layoffs," she said.

Families seem more desperate this year than they have in the past, added Bruce Michalec, director of the Anne Arundel County Food Bank.

In previous years, families used food from the bank to supplement their budgets, but many now say they rely strictly on the food banks.

"The donations have been good, but we need more than we have in the past," Mr. Michalec said.

And while some organizations are scrambling to meet the needs this holiday season, the shortages were even greater last summer.

"People always think of helping during the holidays, but the need isn't greater," said Christine Paulsen, volunteer coordinator with Holiday Sharing, which helped 4,000 families in Anne Arundel last year.

"I would rather see help throughout the year," Mr. Jones said.

At the North County Emergency Outreach Network, volunteers are swamped with food donations. "Demand meets supply during the holidays, but after January, we start to be a little low on food," said Melba Reeder, president of the organization.

Although the agency's food donations are comparable to last year, she said money donations are down by about 25 percent.

Mr. Michalec said that the food bank normally has a stock of food at the beginning of the holiday season, but not this year. When the bank ran low of food in August, it had to initiate a special food drive among area businesses.

Now Mr. Michalec said he is distributing donations to food pantries and shelters as fast as he can collect them.

Although more people give to the bank during the holiday season, that food must last at least until February, when other organizations hold food drives. "If we don't get by January, we're in trouble," Mr. Michalec said.

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