Last-minute donations help the needy Churches scramble to get food to more families

November 26, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

The young mother was expecting good news -- that she would get a turkey to cook today for her family.

The mother, Cherie Brown, was just finishing an early Thanksgiving dinner yesterday at the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen operated by area churches.

She was to talk to Judy McPherson, the social services coordinator at St. John Catholic Church, about whether she could really get her own turkey.

"I've never cooked Thanksgiving before," said Ms. Brown, 23, of Westminster. In recent years, the holidays took a back seat to more serious concerns, such as getting off drugs and taking responsibility for her two children, ages 3 and 10 months.

"Thanksgiving really didn't mean anything to me then," she said.

This year came with some bad luck: Her apartment burned three weeks ago. With help from the American Red Cross, she stayed in hotels until she found another apartment last week on Center Street.

Ms. Brown was one of more than 100 families who signed up for but did not get "adopted" through the Neighbors In Need community charity.

The program is a clearinghouse for agencies, offices and individuals who want to donate at holiday time, and is administered by Human Services Programs Inc.

For Thanksgiving, families or groups of co-workers "adopt" a family and provide a food basket for them.

Lynda Gainor, deputy director of Human Services, said the program had to turn away some families for Thanksgiving, but will have enough food and gifts to help anyone who needs it at Christmas.

Some last-minute help poured in yesterday, though, Mrs. McPherson said. That made it likely that Ms. Brown would not go home empty-handed.

After barely getting a chance to eat lunch beside the other patrons of the soup kitchen, Mrs. McPherson was trying to coordinate a new batch of 30 turkeys and other canned goods donated by employees at English American Tailors.

"There's plenty of food, but people are giving it late," she said. "I think that a lot of people are feeling the pinch this year." But as Thanksgiving got closer, many of those families may have felt compelled to donate, she said.

"They say, 'Well, I'm doing better than so-and-so down the street,' " Mrs. McPherson said.

One small organization has decided to make its food drive a year-around effort and is encouraging other groups do do the same.

LTC "People are hungry the rest of the year -- not just on the holidays," said Roy Gray of Manchester, president of the newly formed Carroll County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association of America.

The chapter received its charter last month, and the 30 members collected 52 cans of food among them. Mr. Gray said he took the food to Carroll County Food Sunday yesterday with a promise to bring more.

Those who ate at Loaves and Fishes yesterday got to take home leftovers of turkey, stuffing, green beans, sauerkraut and cranberry sauce.

The mobile soup kitchen alternates among three churches in Westminster four days a week.

Yesterday, as any other Wednesday, it was St. John Catholic Church's turn, although the church volunteers served the meals at Ascension Episcopal Church on Court Street.

An extra three tables were set up with the usual 10, and an estimated 130 people showed up for the noontime feast.

So far as Mrs. McPherson knew, all of the visitors have a home to stay in over the holidays except for one, and she was working on finding him a place.

Meanwhile, another man who eats at the soup kitchen came up to show her his corduroy winter coat.

"One of the ladies in the kitchen gave it to me," he said, opening it to reveal the warm, pile lining.

"That coat fits you to a T," Mrs. McPherson told him.

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