Girl brightens gray Easter with food for the homeless Volunteers spread cheer in Baltimore

April 08, 1996|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

Easter may have been rainy, gray and cold, but Amber Coffman didn't let that deter her from offering a little light and warmth to Baltimore's homeless.

The 14-year-old Glen Burnie resident spent the afternoon providing food, drinks and clothes to the city's less fortunate in front of City Hall, as she's done each Sunday for three years -- even during the Blizzard of '96.

Thanks to three Glen Burnie Girl Scout troops, Miss Coffman had an added treat yesterday: 170 Easter baskets filled with toiletries and fruit for adults, and toys and candy for children.

Rodney Easton, 11, was among those who received a basket prepared by Girl Scout Troops 250, 750 and 1336, which volunteered to prepare the baskets for Miss Coffman's community service group, Happy Helpers for the Homeless.

"I got a lot of neat stuff. This is great," said Rodney. He beamed as he held up his two favorite treats, a bubble blowing set and gum.

"We like Amber," said LeRoy Prince, while he awaited his turn to be handed food by volunteers. "She talks to us, sees how we are doing. Today it was especially good to see her. It's cold and wet. I needed some food."

Order reigned in front of City Hall as Miss Coffman and her helpers -- her mother, Bobbi Coffman, Glen Burnie Girl Scouts, Towson State University students and her Old Mill Middle School pal, Erin LeGere -- handed out donated fruit, sandwiches and soft drinks.

But disorder broke out when the crew began to distribute the baskets. The crowd surrounded the volunteers; a few people grabbed more than one basket and hurried off.

Miss Coffman has seen this aspect of human nature before.

After all, she's been helping the homeless of Baltimore and Glen Burnie since she founded Happy Helpers for the Homeless, a community service group for youths ages 6 to 19, three years ago.

Each Saturday, the group spends about two hours making lunches in her family's Glen Burnie apartment. Businesses in the Glen Burnie area donate much of the food, though Miss Coffman and her mother buy some treats.

On Sundays, Miss Coffman, her mother and other volunteers trek into Baltimore with carloads of food. On many Sundays, the group feeds more than 200 people, Mrs. Coffman said.

"This has become her life," Mrs. Coffman said yesterday.

Miss Coffman's commitment to the project hasn't gone unnoticed. Last spring she met Gov. Parris N. Glendening, this winter she appeared on NBC's Today show, and in November she received a $10,000 community service award from Publisher's Clearinghouse.

She used some of that money, she said, to pay for parties for the homeless and for her Happy Helper volunteers.

As she poured soft drinks outside City Hall yesterday, the Old Mill Middle School eighth-grader said: "I can't think of anything to make you feel better than helping someone else. I couldn't be happier today anywhere else but here."

Pub Date: 4/08/96

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