Helping feed the hungry uplifting for stockbroker

Q&A

February 15, 1994|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Sun Staff Writer

Hunger never takes a holiday, says Larry Adam. And neither does he.

Eight years ago, he founded Harvest for the Hungry, a food collection and distribution program designed to hold back the rising tide of hunger in Maryland. Mr. Adam says he keeps developing his network, largely via telephone after work, 365 days a year.

A stockbroker and salesman, he is senior vice president for investment at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. in Baltimore.

The 52-year-old Fallston resident and father of three says he's not sure, after all this time, exactly why or how he got from sophisticated money matters to a volunteer poverty program. "It dawned on me that, in my job, I was always talking about the haves. What about the people that don't have?" he said.

Q: What does Harvest for the Hungry do?

A: We create a link between those who want to help and those who need help. We're a conduit. Our program provides food, but it also gets people and corporations involved in something that benefits their communities.

Q: You say your primary role is being a salesman for your program. What is your pitch?

A: I say we've got to stop talking about hunger and do something about it. I say, "Get involved. Make a commitment. If you give on Monday, do it again on Friday."

Q: Do you feel as if you are making any headway?

A: Harvest for the Hungry is getting bigger and better. We have more participants and more experience. Unfortunately, hunger has gotten worse. Now it's families -- men, women and children.

Q: What organizations are involved so far?

A: The U.S. Postal Service in Maryland and the District of Columbia; the Internal Revenue Service; the Social Security Administration; the Girl Scouts; the Steelworkers unions; an array of businesses, including Pillsbury and Allstate Insurance; and more than 200 public schools.

The Girl Scouts are earning Harvest for the Hungry patches with their collection activities. And the Postal Service campaign is under way this week. A total of 18,000 postal employees in Maryland and the District of Columbia are collecting canned food and making sure it gets to food banks.

"Kids Helping Kids" will do their campaign in October. The idea is to have things kicking in all through the year.

Q: Aren't you giving people in participating organizations extra work? The letter carriers, for example, have to lug groceries along with their mail.

A: They have tremendous enthusiasm for this. It's extra work for them, but they believe in what they're doing. (If the loads get too large, postal managers will send out trucks to pick up what has been collected.)

Q: Do you have any administrative costs?

A: Zero. We're strictly a volunteer organization. And Marylanders have done extraordinary things.

One man, Gary Rankin, owner of Chesapeake Printing and Mailing, has printed 4.5 million fliers advertising the program at no charge. He was looking for a way to contribute to the community when Pat Phillips, a member of the Harvest for the Hungry committee in the Postal Service, was canvassing the local printing industry in search of assistance.

She believes Mr. Rankin has saved the program as much as $100,000.

Q: Does government play any role?

A: We cannot wait for the government in Washington. I'm sure they've got enough to do. I'm sure they're doing their best.

The state government and Governor Schaefer do help us. The governor's been our honorary chairman for several years.

In contrast with Washington, he says, I can see the problem. I can pick up the phone and get things done right away.

Q: How do you sell businesses on the value of your program?

A: I tell them participation is the proper thing to do. They're making money off people in the community. It's good corporate responsibility.

I would think their consumers would like them to do it, so it's good public relations.

Q: Don't we need some longer-range solutions?

A: Certainly, jobs are part of the long-range answer. But in the meantime, what do we do? Kids don't ask to be born. The elderly can't help it when they are older and in need.

Q: How does someone become part of what you're doing?

A: If they contact me, I'll figure out a way that their company can get involved. My phone number is (410) 879-7015.

Q: Why shouldn't companies just collect a truckload of food and drive it to their local food bank? Why do they need a middleman?

A: Any way you do it is very commendable, of course. But since we've been doing this eight years, we might be able to think about doing it differently, develop the public relations aspects, for example.

We also help them get their customers and employees involved and that delivers a more powerful message. Finally, we want an ongoing commitment. Just a single truckload, independent of us, may not have the same human dimension.

You don't get a feel of being a part of it as much.

Q: What's your next objective?

A: I'd really like to see it go national. This year we have the District of Columbia involved in the post office program. And we have affiliates working in Alaska, Florida and Oregon.

My goal is to collect $100 million worth of food. . . . If I don't make it, I hope my son will take over.

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