Charity searches for new location

Neighbors in Need desperate for space as holidays approach

`Cannot let people down'

October 28, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Neighbors in Need gladly accepts donations of new adults' and children's clothing and toys to distribute to hundreds of families during the holiday season. But with Thanksgiving only four weeks away, the Carroll human services program is in desperate need of something else: a home.

Seven months have passed since the nonprofit group had to vacate its donated storefront in Westminster Shopping Center at Englar Road and Route 140. The center's owner, Washington Real Estate Investment Trust in Kensington, was preparing the 14,670-square- foot storefront for a new tenant.

Since then, the group has stored its toys, winter jackets and other items in two tractor-trailers.

Program coordinator Barbara S. Brown said she has looked for a new space but has had no luck. Now she's getting worried.

"Somebody always comes through, but I think the good Lord is playing it a little close," Brown said.

If much more time passes, she said, they might not be able to fully execute the program, which helped some 1,171 families last year. It's a thought Brown can't bear.

"How can you tell your son Santa's not coming?" she asked.

The group needs an area of about 10,000 square feet for December. "We've seen several places, but they're not handicapped-accessible," said Brown, the deputy director of community relations for Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc.

Neighbors in Need has no budget and uses the cash donations it receives to buy items for families. As a result, it would like to have donated space.

"We certainly don't want to take funds that have been donated to have to pay for space," Brown said.

Although there are numerous charities that help families with gifts and toys during the holidays, Neighbors in Need is different because it allows eligible families to shop for their gifts during two days in December. Families are paired with a volunteer "elf," who guides them through a collection of shops. Although how much families receive varies according to financial need, each person can select a new article of clothing and each child receives about $35 worth of new toys.

"It's really wonderful," said Jim A. Mayola, assistant director of family investment administration for the Department of Social Services and a Neighbors in Need volunteer. "It's not like they have to take what's given to them. They select what they want based on their needs."

At the Community Services Council meeting last week, Human Services Programs office manager Tom Canon said the group is so desperate for a home that it will settle for 7,500 square feet.

"We can set up in 2 1/2 days with everybody working around the clock," Canon said, adding that he does not want to wait until the last minute.

Dec. 10 is the deadline for finding space, he said, but waiting that long would cut into the group's efforts.

In the meantime, Brown said, she will continue perusing commercial real estate listings and calling the owners of every vacant commercial building she sees.

"This is important," she said. "You cannot let people down."

Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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