Salute to the Burkhardts of Elkridge HOWARD COUNTY

December 24, 1992

Beulah Burkhardt is ill. Cancer has cost her a breast and sh is currently at home and undergoing chemotherapy.

This is sad news under any circumstances. It is even more so because Beulah Burkhardt, along with her husband, Tom, is a giver.

More than a year ago, faced with the possibility of losing their county government jobs, the Burkhardts pledged to do something for the needy if they could only hold on to their own livelihoods. Their wish came true -- they didn't lose their jobs to county cuts -- and they delivered on their promise in a big way.

Every Sunday, the Burkhardts and a small group of volunteers make their way to Baltimore City Hall, where they stand out front and distribute free meals and clothing to the poor and homeless. They have served about 13,300 meals in a little more than a year.

They do it all without public aid, only the help of a handful of people who supply the bread, hot dogs and drinks that they serve.

The Burkhardts are simple people, living in Elkridge. He is a water meter repairman. She is an administrative aid. Their salaries are meager. Their hearts are enormous and giving.

Even when Mrs. Burkhardt was diagnosed with cancer last July, they continued to give to those they considered less fortunate, who line up by the hundreds each week for sustenance.

"It's a shame more people don't do this," Mrs. Burkhardt said. "It's a shame we have to do it at all."

We agree. As Bea Gaddy, Baltimore's best-known care giver, said, "We couldn't overlap if we had 50 people giving away food."

Unfortunately, there are not enough people like the Burkhardts and Bea Gaddy. Yes, most of us who are free from want donate old clothes and canned goods occasionally. But it takes a much greater sacrifice of time and energy to work the front lines, the soup kitchens and streets of the city. That's where the real impact is made, on a cold Sunday morning, stuffing frankfurter rolls and passing out plates.

During this holiday season, we rightly salute all of the people who, like Tom and Beulah Burkhardt, work the front lines in the war against hunger. Perhaps in the New Year, more of us will consider doing the same.

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