Year-long project helps the hungry

NEIGHBORS

January 05, 1995|By JUDY REILLY

In this early part of the new year, a time when we make resolutions and decide to do better, it's encouraging to know someone who made last year's goals come true.

Jo Israelson made good on her new year's resolution, not only for herself, but for an entire community. A year ago, Ms. Israelson, an artist in Union Bridge, decided to devote a year of her talent, time and energy to increasing the public's awareness of hunger in Maryland.

The inspiration for her project, "Seeds of Change," came from trips to Malta and Italy. In Malta, she studied a neolithic culture of women, nonviolence and agriculture. In Italy, she sculpted the figure of a Roman goddess out of a one-ton piece of marble.

Ms. Israelson's personal journey became a community endeavor.

"There's really a sense of community here," said Ms. Israelson, a Union Bridge resident for five years. "The churches are strong. The fire halls are strong. There's really a sense of doing for others. I don't think I could have done this project anywhere else."

She brought her sculpture from Italy. The five-foot-long reclining female form became the centerpiece of a wheat field behind the Union Bridge Community Center, 4770 Ladiesburg Road. There, 100 pounds of wheat seed was grown that is being ground into 2,500 pounds of buckwheat flour. The flour will be distributed to food banks in Carroll County, five surrounding western counties, and Baltimore.

The project drew help from:

* Jim Lease of Leaseway Farm, who donated four acres of land, then planted and harvested the wheat.

* Southern States, which donated 100 pounds of buckwheat seed.

* Arentz Hay and Straw of Littlestown, which cleared the grain.

pTC * Finch Services, which provided transportation to events on top of the windy hill in Union Bridge.

* Lehigh Cement, which donated stones for the wall that surrounds the sculpture (plus front loaders and crew for a day).

* Jones Equipment and Sales, which stored the buckwheat.

* And volunteers too numerous to mention, who will bag the flour as it arrives from a mill in Pittsburgh.

"It's been an adventure," Ms. Israelson says, who gave up her job at the General Accounting Office in Washington to pursue her goal.

"This was the biggest risk I've ever taken in my life. Yet, I did not have a choice -- I had to do it. It combines everything that is me."

What will this year bring for this artist and hunger awareness advocate? First, the completion of a documentary about her year's work, in cooperation with Cable Channel 19. Then, she says, "I have to get a job."

*

Almost every family I know dreams of an old-fashioned holiday -- the kind in which parents and children pull together for a renewed bond of love and joy, hope and confidence. But usually the holidays are so crammed full of activities and visits, last-minute shopping and baking that the holiday turns into one that is so hectic and rushed it passes in a blur.

Yet, for one magical morning, on Christmas, and another magical night this past week, on New Year's Eve, our family had the kind of quiet, Walton-inspired family celebrations we had always hoped for.

Christmas Day came early, with the kids up before the sun. For their gifts, we sent them on a treasure hunt throughout the house. Each present became a much-anticipated surprise at the end of the search, and hunting for and unwrapping the simple gifts lasted all morning.

The children declared it the best Christmas ever. In truth, we spent less money on them this year than in years past. It was the adventure that made it memorable.

Then, on New Year's Eve, after a grueling trip from the Midwest visiting relatives, we came home to a house that was as cold as a snow drift. The furnace had failed during the week we were gone.

The African violets had died, the cats were shivering and our words turned to frost as we spoke. As we waited for the good people of Modern Comfort Systems to come to our rescue and fix the furnace, we made a fire in the fireplace and huddled around it.

No one rushed off to play a video game or retreat to the privacy of his own room; we were in this together. As we sat around the fire we talked about the past year, its highlights and low points, and made predictions for the year ahead.

The repairmen arrived about 10 p.m. and house warmed up around midnight, in time for us to turn on the television and watch the ball drop on Times Square. And to wish each other a very happy new year.

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