Arundel churches offer holiday feasts for needy

November 24, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

A few days before Thanksgiving, Bernice Carden was missing the ingredients needed for a warm Thanksgiving feast.

"I had no [Thanksgiving] dinner," the 33-year-old Pasadena resident said. "My husband walked out on me and my son. I don't have any family in the area."

Low on money, she turned to the Severna Park Assistance Network for help. She came away with a Thanksgiving basket complete with turkey, fresh fruit, potatoes, stuffing and juice.

"Now my son can have a nice dinner," Ms. Carden said.

This year, as in years before, many families are relying on friends and neighbors in the Pasadena and central county areas for help with food, clothing, and gifts during the holiday season.

As the families turn to nonprofit organizations like SPAN or to local churches for help, the groups respond with cooked dinners, food baskets and gift certificates from local supermarkets.

Some adopt families for the holidays.

SPAN has been helping needy families since 1989. This year, the group packed Thanksgiving dinners for 74 families; 61 families received Thanksgiving dinners last year. SPAN expects to prepare even more dinners during Christmas. Last Christmas, it fed 112 families.

"Our clients are the working poor," said Director Barbara Birkenheuer. "These people usually have to pay for day care. They don't get food stamps, and they aren't eligible for subsidized housing.

"A lot of my clients say, 'You know, it'd just be easier if I quit and went on welfare.' "

SPAN is sponsored by 12 local churches that donate money and food.

Baldwin Memorial United Methodist Church in Millersville will become one of SPAN's sponsoring churches in January. Until then, Baldwin Memorial will be reaching out with its own holiday program.

This year, the church adopted 11 families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, some of them families of Millersville Elementary School students.

The families received $25 gift certificates to a local grocery store and five to six bags of food that will provide a Thanksgiving feast and food for six days.

But Baldwin Memorial's members don't just stop with giving milk, coffee, spaghetti and fruits and vegetables; they also give the families toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper and paper towels.

For Christmas, the same families will get more groceries, and church volunteers will buy a present for each family member.

Across Ritchie Highway in Pasadena, St. Andrews Episcopal Church is responding to people's needs with a free, fully cooked Thanksgiving dinner that will be served from noon to 2 p.m. today.

Last year, when the church first opened its doors to feed families on Thanksgiving, about 66 people were served. This year, the dinner's popularity has grown.

"About 100 have registered and there's room for 100 more," said Linda Coffman, a church volunteer.

Those attending the meal include needy families, single people who simply don't want to cook, and church members who wish to join in the fellowship.

Church members will be cooking all morning to prepare a dinner that will include turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, candied yams and cranberry sauce. They'll even provide transportation.

Severna Park's Saint Martin's in the Field Episcopal Church, another SPAN sponsor, will feed six families and two seniors this year by giving Thanksgiving baskets and additional groceries to the families. These same families will receive dinner, clothes, toys, and groceries for Christmas.

Although the central county area seems to have its share of good Samaritans, Ms. Birkenheuer said other areas are lacking these services.

"We need to see more SPAN-like agencies in south county, west county, Odenton and Severn," she said.

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