We Care and Friends to hold ninth Thanksgiving dinner for needy


November 15, 1999|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"ALL I WANT to do," says Larry Griffin, "is help all these people who've fallen through the cracks." Toward that end, Larry and his We Care and Friends group will serve about 4,000 meals Nov. 22 at their ninth Thanksgiving Dinner for the Needy. The monster feed will take place from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Cook-Pinkney American Legion post at 1707 Forest Drive in Annapolis.

Larry is good at this sort of caring thing because he, too, fell through the cracks once. He was a drug addict for the better part of two decades and got so low that he lived for months in an abandoned cargo container.

"I got tired of being tired," he said, "tired of not having my life." He went into a detoxification program and worked on his "personal inventory for two years."

We Care and Friends

He saw friends on drugs or in the prison pipeline, homeless folks, and working poor scraping by. "God told me to go help these people," he said.

So, he founded We Care and Friends in 1991. The Thanksgiving dinner is one of the group's many projects.

It is a marvel of organization involving more than 40 restaurants and caterers and about 175 volunteers. Even taxi drivers check in to help deliver meals to the disabled and elderly.

Because he has worked in several kitchens in town and is the percussionist in the popular Mama Jama band, Larry is known in the restaurant community, which answers his call for help quite willingly.

Two of his major operatives are in the trade -- Jody Dalton is a caterer, Mike Flanagan, a bartender.

We Care will collect toys for about 500 families at Christmas, and a senior picnic is in the works. On a recent weekend, Larry drove a truck filled with cleaning supplies, disinfectant and hygiene items to victims of Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina.

Rap sessions may reopen

He hopes to restart his We Care rap sessions soon. These gatherings had people sitting down to talk -- not holler -- across the city's racial divide.

Communicating is a big deal to Larry. He wants volunteers to show up Nov. 22 even if there is no work for them in the food line or kitchen.

"There's always work to be done," he said, "mentally or physically."

"By mentally, I mean sitting down with someone and just talking to them, listening to them, and maybe getting a different perspective," he said. "Communication is the richest thing in the world."

Two years ago, Larry learned he had a rare form of gland cancer -- "I can't spell it. I can't even pronounce it."

The restaurant crowd gathered around him quickly and staged a fund-raiser at Maryland Hall. Hundreds showed up to chip in. If you ask him how he's doing, he invariably will say just fine, although he has his bad patches. "Larry has a will and determination that amazes me," said Dalton.

Volunteers are welcome for Nov. 22's do. Desserts are in demand, so drop off a pie if you can't stay a spell.

Call Larry at 410-269-0578, Dalton at 410-267-0465 or Flanagan at 410-280-2587.

If you think feeding 4,000 people or bridging racial gaps are near-impossible undertakings, listen to Larry Griffin: "I'm the kind of person who can't stand to hear the word `no.' "

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