Before the soup kitchen opened at Brooklyn Church of the Nazarene, Robin and Sherry O'Hara dreaded the end of the month, when the food ran out and the food stamps were gone.
The young couple spent days walking from church to church, pushing the youngest of their four children in a stroller, asking if anyone could spare a meal. Some churches helped, but others refused unless the disabled truck driver and his wife joined the parish.
Then, in August, their own church began offering meals after Sunday services at the church on Audrey Avenue on the last two weekends of the month.
"It's one of the best things to happen to Brooklyn Park," said Mrs. O'Hara, 28, who had a fifth child 3 1/2 months ago.
Others seem to think so, too. About 10 people showed up for the first meal, By November, the church fed nearly 60 each Sunday, about half of them children.
And while the program has been successful, it also has left the church, which operates on a tight budget, struggling to feed them all, says the Rev. Dennis Hancock, the pastor.
So far, money for the food has come from members' donations or out of Mr. Hancock's pocket. Mr. O'Hara and others who frequent the kitchen help run it, warming and serving the food, which is cooked elsewhere.
As state services are cut and the numbers of the hungry grow, Mr. Hancock wonders where he'll find enough food or money.
He's come up empty in phone call after phone call, asking for surplus food donations from restaurants and grocery stores. Many already donate to the Maryland Food Bank, to larger Baltimore-area soup kitchens or to Bea Gaddy, the former homeless woman who helps feed and clothe thousands of Baltimore's needy.
Mr. Hancock says he applauds their efforts, but he estimates that hundreds of local families like the O'Haras miss out. Local people could use his services at least once a week, he says.
"There are a lot of poor people in Brooklyn and Brooklyn Park," he says, many of whom can't afford bus fare to get help in Baltimore or Glen Burnie.
"Ninety percent of the people that come are on welfare or disabled or for some reason can't make the money they get stretch. We just don't want these people to go hungry."
The pastor plans the next soup kitchens for Sunday and Dec. 27. So far, the church has just two donated hams to feed the 50 to 75 expected. The pastor says he wants a local business to "adopt" the church to donate food or cash for tax deductions. He asks anyone who can help to call 789-4523.