'Even working guys' need a little free food Staples distributed at the armory

March 25, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

As construction workers, Bob and John Wilcox know that steady work is hard to find in winter weather. But the two West Friendship residents haven't had jobs for the past few months and finally had to go on unemployment.

The two brothers, each of whom has a wife and children, got some additional help yesterday at the Ellicott City National Guard Armory, the site of a federally funded emergency food distribution.

The armory's cavernous gym became a makeshift grocery store as hundreds of county residents lined up to get potatoes, canned pork, butter, flour, cornmeal, beans and other foods.

"Times are getting so tough that even the working guys like us who've been doing construction all our lives need a little helping hand," said Bob Wilcox, 34. "I just hope things get better with the new [presidential] administration."

People out of work, the working poor, the elderly and disabled, families on public assistance -- they came to the Ellicott City National Guard Armory for the first of four food distribution days this year.

The food was made available through the $163 million federal Emergency Food Assistance Program, which each year provides food to state governments which contract with local agencies that distribute it.

In Maryland last year the program provided food to 341,300 households statewide, said Mel Ginsberg, administrator of the program for the state Department of Human Resources.

In Howard County, the emergency food program is run by Community Action Council, a private nonprofit agency that offers a variety of human service programs.

Dottie Moore, the director of Community Action Council, said that yesterday's distribution provided food to about 1,000 county households. The program serves approximately 4,400 local households annually.

Mrs. Moore toiled for a month to make sure that yesterday's distribution went off smoothly. A big part of her job was to enlist volunteers to unload, bag and distribute the food. Because of cuts to the administrative side of the emergency food program, Mrs. Moore relied on volunteers more this year than previously.

The night before the distribution, members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity placed 6,000 pounds of potatoes into 5-pound bags. Employees from Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. worked at the distribution, verifying the eligibility of households. Covenant Church made lunch for the volunteers.

Members of the Howard Baptist Association took a survey of people who had received food to determine what they thought of the program.

When the distribution began at 10 a.m., volunteers stood ready at tables piled high with food. As recipients filed by, the volunteers filled their bags or shopping carts.

"I think it's wonderful, especially for the elderly," said an 83-year-old Ellicott City woman who came to the distribution to supplement her $730 monthly Social Security check.

Karen Preisinger, an Ellicott City mother of three who came to the food giveaway, says it's a struggle to feed a family of four on the $359 in welfare benefits and $267 in food stamps she receives each month.

"A lot of people think that if you have food stamps you've got it made," she said. "It's not enough to cover expenses."

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