Holiday Sharing project expects bounty to flow despite stingy economy 900 donors help poor families feast ANNE ARUNDEL BUSINESS

September 23, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

The joy of the holiday season. A turkey on the Thanksgiving table. A toy in a child's Christmas stocking.

The folks behind the "Holiday Sharing" program started sending out letters last week to local businesses and other groups, asking for donations to help make the holidays memorable for needy families in Anne Arundel County.

Books, crayons and toys for Crystal, 6, and her brother Michael, 4, filled the Reichert household in Glen Burnie last Christmas, thanks to the program.

"Tears just came to my eyes," said their grandmother, Eileen Reichert, 59, who cares for her grandchildren alone since her husband died two years ago. "We had so much come in. I've never seen so much in all my life."

The 13-year-old Holiday Sharing project, which relies on volunteers and survives off donations, is a joint effort between the county Department of Social Services and the Medical Alliance Society of Anne Arundel County.

Despite the sluggish economy, officials of the program don't think local organizations will become grinches when it comes to helping this year.

"I think when you let people know a need is there, they come through, even if it takes a little sacrifice," said Imelda C. Herzinger, chairwoman of the Medical Society Alliance of Anne Arundel County.

Each year the program helps 4,000 needy families with the contributions of businesses, civic organizations, churches and schools. Each group is matched with a family. Contributors can help one or both holidays, by purchasing items themselves or by sending a tax-deductible contribution to the program and having the goods bought and delivered on their behalf.

Half of the program's 900 contributors are individuals, but businesses, churches, service organizations and schools also help, Ms. Herzinger said.

During Thanksgiving, food contributions are sought. During Christmas, food, clothing and toys are needed.

In the past, the program most often helped single mothers. But over the years, the program has shifted to include white-collar and blue-collar workers who have found themselves jobless in the poor economy, said Mrs. Herzinger.

The program usually pulls in about 130 businesses. One past participant is Nevamar, a plastic laminates company in Odenton. With 800 employees, the company is one of the largest employers in the county.

The company, which has participated in the program more than six years, often adopts more than one family, senior personnel assistant Elaine Webber said. She coordinates the collection and purchase of goods for the needy families.

Employees volunteer their time to buy goods. They also help wrap Christmas gifts and deliver them to the families, Ms. Webber said.

"It's kind of heart-wrenching when you walk into some of these places and see the conditions some of the people live in," she said.

For more information about Holiday Sharing, phone 974-8711.

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