Elkridge resident helps where he can


July 12, 1999|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HERMAN PREHN, 69, is made of sturdy stuff. In the blazing heat of July 4, the Elkridge resident cooked hot dogs for volunteers who directed parking for the Columbia fireworks display.

The display is organized by the Kiwanis Club of Columbia, and members of other service clubs help out. Prehn has been a member of the Elkridge Kiwanis Club for more than 35 years.

Prehn and his wife, Marge, sat in the sun on the top deck of a parking lot next to the Merrill Lynch Building, near The Mall of Columbia.

A warm bear of a man, Prehn cannot stand for long periods of time. He suffers from a condition in his feet that he describes as "walking on raw nerves."

"Half the people in the country complain that their feet hurt and half think that their feet should hurt," he says, but that doesn't stop him.

He brought his own bar-height metal chair, and turned and served hot dogs with metal salad tongs from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

"It's something I can do," he said. Prehn spoke warmly to everyone who spoke to him. Occasionally, he chuckled as he shared a story with neighbors or friends.

Prehn and his wife have been serving hot dogs for volunteers at the fireworks for six years.

Prehn, who is retired, helps his son Bill with his construction business and runs the Elkridge Food Pantry.

The pantry gives away 1,000 pounds of food to 20 to 30 local families on the second and fourth Friday evenings of each month. It was started by the Elkridge Kiwanis Club 13 years ago. About 11 years ago, Prehn took over and has run the pantry independently since.

Phil Lewellen, a parishioner at St. Augustine's Church in Elkridge, helps Prehn pack the food and Prehn says he may also "grab a grandson or two" to help.

Boy Scout troops collect food in the spring, and many give after Thanksgiving, Prehn says, but summer is the slowest time for donations. He attends St. Augustine's, which holds a monthly food drive.

Recently, four young members of the church -- Corrine Purcell and Juliana Carlin, both age 6, and Shae-li Liang, 8, and Kai-li Liang, 5, daughter and son of Li-fang and Linda Liang -- sold lemonade and cookies at two little stands in front of their homes in Elkridge to raise money for the food pantry.

Prehn says he always needs to buy more pancake mix, syrup, peanut butter and jelly.

The people of Elkridge support the pantry, Prehn says. They donate about $3,000 a year. The Elkridge Food Panty is in a two-room building next to Melville Methodist Church on Furnace Avenue.

Information: 410-796-1456.

Now an author

Former state Sen. James Clark Jr., a gentleman and a farmer, has written a book.

Clark presented copies of his recently published memoirs to the Howard County Public Library at a ceremony Wednesday at the Miller Branch Library.

His daughter, Martha Clark Crist, and her children Nora, 11, and Nathan, 9, attended the ceremony.

Crist typed her father's memoirs from a manuscript in his "atrocious handwriting," she says, but she tried not to edit too much. She wanted the book to convey his distinctive voice.

His voice is well known around here. Many have seen him rise from his chair at a meeting and begin his comments in a slow, deliberate and self-assured way with, "Mr. Chairman," or "Mr. President."

Many have heard him share stories about farm life in Howard County years ago.

In his book, "Jim Clark: Soldier, Farmer, Legislator," Clark tells stories about how his mother and grandmother helped those around them, Crist says. But he does not tell about his own generosity to his neighbors.

Those stories are told by others.

Leola Dorsey, an African-American community leader of Clark's generation, often tells of how she traveled to Annapolis with a local pastor, the Rev. Arter, on a hot summer day in the early 1960s.

They went there as advocates for racial integration in Howard County. They were thirsty and hot, but the water fountains were for whites only.

Clark, then a state senator, offered to get them cold drinks.

Dorsey says that small gesture made a lasting impression.

When newlyweds moved in as caretakers for Mount Pleasant, the old Brown farm that was deeded to Howard County Conservancy Inc., Clark, who was a board member of the conservancy, brought them a housewarming present. He showed up at the door in his old white Chevrolet farm truck with a dozen ears of corn.

"He loves farming -- that's what anchors him," says Crist. Clark's son Mark, 48, farms in Georgia, and Crist maintains a farm next door to her father's on Route 108 with her husband, Doug. The Crists also run and own Farm and Home Service Inc., a Southern States store on Frederick Road.

Nora and Nathan Crist have planted an acre of potatoes to sell at their grandfather's stand this year. It will be the first year that they have grown their own crops for sale, though they have enjoyed helping their grandparents, Jim and his wife, Lillian, at the farm stand, Crist says.

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