Depleted pantry can't feed the hungry CENTRAL COUNTY -- Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

September 09, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff writer

A church-run pantry in the Severna Park area has nearly run out of food to help the needy.

Food donations to the Severna Park Assistance Network, or SPAN, a pantry run by 11 churches, have steadily dwindled during the last three months, said Director Barbara Birkenheuer.

Now the charity is turning people away.

"The pantry is almost bare. We're desperately in need of food," Ms. Birkenheuer said.

SPAN has had to refuse help to more than 75 people during the late summer, the director said.

"Unfortunately, the need for food doesn't decrease during the warmer months, but people think it does and don't contribute to SPAN," she explained.

To meet the need, SPAN is participating in a 10-kilometer walk to fight hunger Oct. 10. The annual CROPWALK is sponsored by the Church World Service of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., with 25 percent of the money raised going to SPAN. Last year, SPAN received $1,000 from the effort.

Ms. Birkenheuer is also hoping that private donations will increase as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

"Usually, [donations] start to pick up then, but we still have all of September and October to go," she said. "The pantry is empty, and now we're running also out of money."

SPAN is financed by pledges of support from churches and donations of food and money from individuals and community organizations. The assistance network was initially organized by six churches in April 1990. Now behind Our Shepherd Lutheran Church on Benfield Boulevard, SPAN has more than 50 volunteers.

But the organization's growth has barely kept pace with the need.

Last September, the number of people coming to SPAN for help increased sharply and continued to rise throughout the winter to unprecedented levels, Ms. Birkenheuer said. Since then, requests from homeless and needy people have stabilized, but the requests haven't returned to previous levels, Ms. Birkenheuer said.

SPAN helps client families with money for fuel and electric bills and rent money to prevent eviction, as well as food.

Because Severna Park is one of the wealthier neighborhoods in the county, people often assume that there are no poor families, Ms. Birkenheuer said. However, many of the needy come from the poorer sections of Severna Park, Pasadena and Millersville. SPAN also services poverty pockets in Odenton and Severn, she said.

The director said the charity hopes the public will join the CROPWALK, which begins and ends at Jones Elementary School, at Old County Road and Hoyle Lane. Seven area churches have signed up to participate, but every Severna Park resident is welcome, she said.

Walkers must recruit sponsors to earn money and may pick up sponsor envelopes at most Severna Park churches. The SPAN office also has the forms.

For more information about the walk or about SPAN, call the office at 647-0889.

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