At a time when a restructured welfare system is sending more people to charities in search of help, mild weather has cut into usual donations of food and money.
Because people usually think about donating food during the cold holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, most charities schedule major food drives for this time of year and push for donations that fuel them through the spring. This year, donations have been light.
"The people that give, they don't feel the cold, and the realization isn't there to give to somebody else," said Bruce Michalec, executive director of the Anne Arundel County Food Bank, which distributes food and furniture to churches and local groups that help the needy.
"I've got to collect food for January and February and I'm way behind," he said, adding that the food bank has picked up about 300 clients through churches in the last few weeks. "We went out and bought $3,000 worth of food to supplement the food drives."
The food bank's last big effort of the year happens Dec. 3 and 4, when postal workers will collect non-perishable food from mailboxes and post offices.
Food not used in Christmas giveaways go to families throughout the winter, when seasonal jobs typically shut down and the homeless need more help. He hopes to collect 80,000 pounds of food this year, a goal he hasn't reached in four years.
Area organizers say they are seeing an influx of working poor -- people who have jobs but don't make enough money to pay bills and feed themselves, said Christine Poulsen, county Department of Social Services social programs manager.
"This year, we are inundated with people asking for help with food and Christmas clothing," Poulsen said.
The county Social Services Holiday Sharing Program -- in which businesses or individuals buy food and gifts for one family -- usually brings in $1 million worth of holiday donations. That amount feeds about 4,900 families.
Last week, Michalec took a team of volunteers from area churches to Sam's Club in Annapolis, where he purchased 100 pies, some diapers and canned meat with a $1,000 donation from Heritage Harbor Community Center.
Volunteers will pack those pies and meats into holiday baskets for needy families throughout the county. Desserts are often overlooked, Michalec said. People give tuna fish and soup but forget about cake and brownie mixes and frozen treats.
The Anne Arundel County Food Bank accepts frozen and canned nonperishable food items, furniture and money. Information: 410-923-4255.
The Salvation Army in Glen Burnie serves hot lunches three times a week. It needs food, volunteers to prepare and serve meals and trial-size toiletries. Information: 410-768-0477.
The Department of Social Services needs volunteers to adopt families and donate money for its holiday sharing program. Information: 410-269-4462.
Pub Date: 11/26/98