Mount Airy network will help needy in 4 counties SOUTHWEST -- Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield

February 05, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

The Rev. Robert Herzog sees Mount Airy as a community of goodwill -- waiting to be tapped for the needy in the four counties surrounding the town.

"[Our help] really is needed," said Mr. Herzog, who serves as pastor at St. James Episcopal Church. "And the one thing I keep finding is that the need is surprisingly geographical. I think the counties themselves would like to have an anchor in Mount Airy, where services could be delivered on more of a mutual basis."

Tom Mitchell, program director at Calvary United Methodist Church, said the group was formed in response to requests to the churches for food and assistance.

"It's difficult to put a number on this," Mr. Mitchell said. "We haven't had an organization like this in several years [but] there are substantial requests for help."

With that in mind, Mount Airy's Ministerium has formed Mount Airy Net, a consortium to provide a social services network for the needy.

The organization is comprised of area service organizations, churches, businesses and individual volunteers, such as Gail Costello, who serves as its director.

Mount Airy Net derives its name from providing "a safety net" for the needy.

The group's short-term mission is to provide emergency food, clothing and shelter for the disadvantaged. Its long-term goals are to serve as a central network to match the need with appropriate services.

"There seems to be a real problem with communication among the counties," she said. "Many times people don't know where to go. We're far away from the center of action in all of those counties."

"I think it's something that's definitely needed in Mount Airy," said Ms. Costello, a member of Calvary United Methodist Church. "There's a tremendous amount of growth projected for this area. Mount Airy seems to have real community spirit. The time is right for Mount Airy Net."

The group is modeled after an outreach program that dissolved a few years ago. Mount Airy Net hopes to serve a larger area than the previous group.

Mount Airy straddles the Frederick-Carroll county line and borders Howard and Montgomery counties.

Carroll's social service officials welcome the group's efforts.

"That has always been an area with a real deficit," said Alex Jones, director of Carroll's Department of Social Services. "Any time I hear of an organization trying to provide help, I welcome it."

Mr. Jones said such groups help people before they become destitute and, by doing so, steer them away from welfare. Only 1.26 percent of Carroll's population receives Aid to Families with Dependent Children, he said.

"I think Carroll has a real good network of private and public groups helping people," he said. "They help people before they become so destitute that they qualify for programs. That's one of the reasons we have so few people on AFDC."

The churches in the ministerium plan to consolidate their charitable efforts, Ms. Costello said, to "distribute resources that we have more equitably."

Mount Airy Net hopes to begin a pilot operation next month and then "be up and running by mid- to late June," she said. Volunteers will staff an office a few days a week.

Mr. Herzog sees the town's centennial celebration as an appropriate time to initiate Mount Airy Net.

"It seems to me that if we want to celebrate 100 years and what we do, we should celebrate the fact that we care a lot about each other," he said.

"One thing we all have is the gift of time" to give, he said.

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