Happy Helpers mark 4 years of service to the homeless


February 19, 1997|By Bonita Formwalt | Bonita Formwalt,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

GLEN BURNIE'S Happy Helpers for the Homeless celebrated an anniversary recently. For four years, the group has provided food, toiletries and friendship to homeless people in Glen Burnie and Baltimore.

Happy Helpers' founder, ninth-grader Amber Coffman, and her mom, Bobbi, welcome volunteers into their kitchen every Saturday to help prepare bag lunches for distribution to more than 300 needy people.

Last weekend, three teen-age volunteers -- Nicole Russ, Erica Brown and Brandon Renninger -- joined the kitchen crew to help hand out pieces of three large cakes to homeless people in Baltimore. Bobbi Coffman, Cathy Kennedy and Julie Brown provided the adult supervision and ride.

The celebration brought a warm response from the group's "regulars," who have partaken of the Happy Helpers' hospitality since the beginning.

"They were clapping and smiling. They couldn't believe it has been so long that we've been going" to Baltimore, said Amber.

Amber, an honor student at the Severn School, notes that not a single weekend delivery has been missed in four years, no matter how inclement the weather.

Bobbi Coffman estimates that more than 100,000 sandwiches have been distributed since the organization began with money from the Coffmans. Today there are also Happy Helper chapters in Pioneer City and Brooklyn Heights. A fourth chapter is scheduled to start in March at the Gibson Island Country School.

The work has turned Amber into an accomplished speaker as she shares her vision of Happy Helper chapters nationwide. She donates speaking honorariums to the organization.

Lauded by several charitable organizations, including the Children's Defense Fund, Amber's accomplishments have reached the World Wide Web. In 1995 she was spotlighted in a series of public service announcements on the cable network Nickelodeon. Last summer she was selected to carry the Olympic torch through Glen Burnie, and in December her work with Happy Helpers was the subject of "Heroes in America" on the USA cable network.

Amber hopes to visit her role model, Mother Theresa, in India in the fall, which would fulfill a lifelong goal.

Happy Helpers plans seven events a year to promote understanding of the homeless. On March 8, Amber will celebrate her 15th birthday with a party for the homeless men and women from Glen Burnie.

"She does this every year," her mother said. "She finds out what they need and then she gives them gifts. She doesn't get anything. They don't even sing 'Happy Birthday' to her."

Her guests are asked beforehand what they need. This year's gift list includes shoes, watches and tote bags.

Other scheduled events include an April 15 visit by 50 Baltimore children and their parents to Krazy Maze in the Glen Burnie Mall.

Volunteers and donations are always needed. Regular volunteer work with the organization can be applied to high school students' service learning requirement.

For information on volunteering or making a donation, call 766-4973.

Orientation for ninth-graders

Hoping to ease the transition from middle to high school, counselors at Glen Burnie High will welcome incoming ninth-graders and their families to a registration orientation at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria.

Members of the Class of 2001 will be presented with information on requirements for graduation and academic options. A question-and-answer period will follow.

Glen Burnie staff members have already visited eighth-graders at Marley Middle and will meet Corkran Middle students tomorrow.

Glen Burnie Senior High is at 7550 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd.

For information, call the school office, 761-8950.

Spring craft show planned

Arthur Slade Regional Catholic School is seeking crafts people for its second annual "Spring Splendor" craft show, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday March 8.

The show will feature 100 juried crafts people.

Spaces, including a 6-foot table, are available for $30.

For information, call Mary Alice Clark, 768-0250.

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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