Dundalk puts stamp of generosity on drive Food: Letter carriers in Central and Western Maryland begin collecting donations today for Harvest for the Hungry.

March 14, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Carl J. Sefa and his 86 letter carriers are bracing today for Dundalk's annual weeklong outpouring of canned goods and pasta for Harvest for the Hungry.

"It's unbelievable," said Sefa, U.S. Postal Service branch manager in Dundalk. "Seventy percent of our 28,000 customers give. Not just one or two cans; they give five or 10. For the next week, the carriers will go back out to bring in piles of groceries they can't carry."

Carriers including Michele Capecci, walking four or five hours and driving mail trucks, are at the heart of the effort to collect donations from postal customers.

"We did real well last year," said Capecci. "Hundreds and hundreds of cans. I love this job because people here are so friendly. They fill up our gurneys."

Officials of the Baltimore Postal District, which stretches from Harford County to Garrett County, describe the Baltimore County community as one of the district's most generous in leaving food at mailboxes for hungry Marylanders.

"For nine years, Dundalk is consistently a leader in giving," said Patricia Mank, the district's customer relations coordinator.

Larry Adam Jr., founder of Harvest for the Hungry, said, "Dundalk gives more per resident than any other community."

Susan Butzner, a lifelong resident of Dundalk, said she knows why: "We're working-class people. People have been out of work. We understand need."

Butzner, who handles customer relations at the Dundalk station, on Shipping Place, said its workers "do some kind of collection every two weeks. Someone is burned out by fire, people are sick, car accidents are standard."

Dundalk was the site of one mix-up that food workers still smile about. A woman set outside an appetizing soup that she intended for her family's use. A carrier took it away as a donation. It wasn't. The woman pleaded with authorities to return the soup and tureen. Neither was found.

The Central and Western Maryland food drive ends Saturday. Canned goods and nonperishable items are distributed in the county where they are donated.

It is part of the year-round Harvest for the Hungry, which has collected 12.6 million pounds of food since it began 12 years ago.

This year's letter carrier goal is 500,000 pounds. Last year, letter carriers picked up 273,590 pounds of nonperishable food for the Maryland Food Bank to be distributed to some of that organization's 900 client shelters, soup kitchens and pantries. The 1,669 carriers in the Baltimore District have been donating food themselves for the past week.

"Our battle cry is that people get hungry all year, not just Thanksgiving and Christmas, not only when it's cold," said Adam.

"I don't play golf, I do this," said Adam, who was raised in East Baltimore and is senior vice president for investments at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. He said he decided in midlife to volunteer.

"I focused on hunger because there's nothing more basic than hunger and shelter. The letter carriers make it easy for people. Just put the food by your mailbox."

Adam's next Harvest campaign is the April 4 Walk-A-Thon, when volunteers seek pledges by walking at eight Maryland locations. Entry forms are at Giant food stores and post office branches.

Bill Ewing, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank, said the collection by the "remarkable" carriers helps growing numbers of Marylanders who "have no discretionary income. Some have to decide not whether to go to the movies, but whether to pay for rent or for food."

"Hunger: The Faces and Facts", a national survey of 28,000 people, including 395 Marylanders, picked at random from those using emergency food outlets, was released this week by the Food Bank and Second Harvest, a national food bank network.

About 29 percent of the Marylanders surveyed were employed; 14 percent depended on Social Security as their primary income; 14 percent were on Supplemental Social Security income. Other income sources included Aid to Families with Dependent Children, relatives, child support, pensions, disability and workman's compensation. Fifty-one percent reported no income was reported by 51 percent.

At a news conference Tuesday, many of the 25 providers and consumers of emergency food present nodded or said they agreed with statements that the working poor have increasing difficulty making ends meet and that groceries from the Food Bank and its street-level providers was essential.

Elizabeth McAlister of Jonah House, whose West Baltimore services include emergency food, said, "What we see mostly are people who try to make it as day laborers. You can't make it for your family as a day laborer. I don't see those people making it in our kindlier, gentler society except in a loving community" of the kind some nonprofits offer.

Joyce Potts, a West Baltimore grandmother of four whose daughter receives food at St. Ambrose Family Outreach Center, on Park Heights Ave., said, "Thank God they're there. We need their help every month."

Thomas Franklin, a self-described former drug addict who lives in the suburbs and directs Helping Hurting People in Baltimore's inner city, said, "When 300 line up at 4 p.m. every Sunday at Gay and Fayette Streets, they are given hope as well as food. People need both."

Food drive

A U.S. Postal Service food drive begins today. Donations of nonperishable food items may be placed at mailboxes for pickup by letter carriers in Central and Western Maryland through March 21.

Pub Date: 3/14/98

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