Schaefer serves the sauerkraut at Goodwill's dinner for 2,000

November 26, 1992|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

Seventy-six-year-old Agnes E. Smith was surprised to see Gov. William Donald Schaefer and other state officials helping to serve a buffet-style Thanksgiving dinner yesterday to about 2,000 poor and homeless people at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Wearing a bright yellow apron, the governor dished out sauerkraut. Members of his Cabinet and staff served cranberry sauce, rolls and mashed potatoes at the annual event sponsored by Goodwill Industries.

"God bless you, Governor Schaefer," Mrs. Smith said after she presented her plate and then recognized her server.

"I didn't think he would humble himself to do a thing like this. A man of his authority and capability -- that is really something," she said later.

The governor and the other state officials were somber for the most part. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, they wished the diners a happy holiday as they put food on each plate.

"The Bible says that the poor will always be with you," Mr. Schaefer said. "Even in good times, there are poor people, but more now because of the recession and other problems."

The governor's appearance came almost two months after he ordered cuts in welfare benefits and eliminated a medical assistance program for disabled poor people to erase a projected $450 million state budget deficit.

A hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court on the constitutionality of the governor's cuts is scheduled for Wednesday.

Also helping to serve dinner was Rosalie S. Abrams, director of the state Office on Aging.

"It is important for us to help other people and to do it throughout our lives," Mrs. Abrams said. "The budget cuts at the federal and state level have hit hard on poor people. A lot of people are not able to make it on the money that they get. There are people who have to choose between food and medicine. It's not a happy world right now."

The Goodwill dinner, an annual event for 37 years, was one of the first free Thanksgiving dinners offered in the area. During the holiday, more than 30,000 meals will be served to the needy by churches, soup kitchens and other groups.

More than 275 volunteers helped out at the three-hour dinner that featured more than 1,600 pounds of roasted turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and 300 pumpkin and apple pies. Clowns entertained children and a band spiritedly played holiday music.

One of the diners, Michelle Wheatley, took her three daughters out of school to attend the event. The family bowed their heads in prayer at their table before they ate.

"We are thankful always to the Good Lord," Ms. Wheatley said. "There are people out here who don't have no food."

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