AARP member leads effort to give soap to needy


January 21, 2001|By Rosalie Falter | Rosalie Falter,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"WHEREVER I GO, someone will come up to me and hand me a bag," Sue Woehlke says of the soap she collects for the AARP's Linthicum Chapter 2244.

She receives used soap slivers and full-size new bars - but mostly the small ones travelers find in their hotel rooms - for donation to charitable programs helping the needy.

She has handled more than 2,500 pounds of soap since taking over the chapter's project in 1992. Since 1979, when the project started, the chapter has collected and donated 4,100 pounds of soap.

Woehlke said she takes the soap home, then weighs and stores it in large containers. When there is enough, she and husband George Woehlke take the soap to churches, which in turn distribute it to the needy through shelters in Baltimore.

St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church takes it to Our Daily Bread, Linthicum Heights United Methodist takes it to Carpenter's Kitchen and St. John Lutheran delivers it to Christ Lutheran Shelter.

Woehlke also often receives such personal care items as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shower caps, deodorant, combs and shampoos, which she sends along with the soap. "I can expect a lot of soap and other toiletries when our group gets back from a trip, and I know the shelters can use them, too," Woehlke said.

Previously all of the used soap was given to Peace Lutheran Church in Ferndale for delivery to the Lutheran World Relief Center in New Windsor and eventual shipment to Third World countries. But recently Woehlke was informed that the relief center is accepting only soap that is new and wrapped, for use in hospitals in needy countries.

Woehlke and her husband have been AARP members since 1983. When she took over the soap project she recruited her husband's help. "This soap does get heavy. The boxes each weigh about 40 pounds, and I couldn't do it without him," Woehlke said.

Woehlke took over the soap project from its founder, Helen Del Brocco, who ran it for 13 years. Del Brocco began by going to local hotels and getting their used soap as well as collecting soap brought to her.

A former resident of North Linthicum, Del Brocco had to give up the job because of failing health and has moved from the area. Many in the community may remember that for the years she collected soap, she was referred to as "the soap lady." She collected 1,600 pounds of soap before giving up the project.

Visitors, prospective members and anyone wanting to donate soap are welcome to attend the chapter's meetings, held on the first Thursday of the month. The next meeting will be Feb. 1 at St. John Lutheran Church, 300 W. Maple Road. Social time will start at noon, and the meeting and program will begin at 1 p.m.

Bob Jansen, who calls himself "the antique man," will give appraisals. He is the owner of an antique store in Fells Point. The limit is one item per person, with a sign-up sheet to accommodate requests on a first-come basis.

John Benke is president of AARP Chapter 2244.

Information: Mary Foster, program chairwoman, at 410-850- 4630.

Patapsco Valley AARP

Representatives from the Delmarva Foundation, whose aim is to improve the quality of health care, will speak at a meeting of the AARP's Patapsco Valley Chapter 3850 on Wednesday at St. Christopher's Church, 118 Marydell Road.

A social hour with refreshments will begin at noon, the program at 12:45 p.m. and the business meeting at 1:30 p.m.

The speakers are Tim Jones, the foundation's senior operations officer; Tina Basel, outreach coordinator; and Marie McBee, vice president.

Nonperishable food items may be brought to the meeting for donation to area pantries.

Information: Paul Bagley, publicity chairman, at 410-255-2601.

School hearings alert

Tommy Thompson, chairman of the North County Coalition, is urging strong community turnout for the county Board of Education budget hearings at the end of the month.

Although the hearings focus on the operating rather than the capital budget, Thompson said the coalition will ask the board to continue seeking County Council backing for an addition to North County High School.

Although approved last year, the project is in jeopardy of being built because an expected $5 million in state funding is not coming, he says.

"We have hit a major obstacle and we may end up losing necessary funds. North County High School has been consistently overcrowded since the first day it opened, and we need people to show their support that they want this project completed," he said.

"You don't have to speak, just be there to support this project. We need physical bodies. We need strong representation," he added.

The meetings are scheduled Jan. 29 at Old Mill High School and Jan. 31 at the school board headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis - both at 7 p.m.

Thompson has been a board member of the North County Coalition since 1997, when it was formed to address crowding at North County High as well as area middle and elementary school problems. He has been chairman since June 1999.

North County High is at 10 E. First Ave. in Ferndale and has a feeder system of nine elementaries and two middle schools.

Information: Thompson at 410-859-1774 or Bryan Senter at 410-636-8321.

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