Mail carriers, Scouts aim to make special delivery to aid the city's hungry

March 16, 2003|By GREGORY KANE

WILLIAM DONALD Schaefer, former mayor of Baltimore, former governor of Maryland and the state's current comptroller, who has been in public office since, it seems, the Civil War, stood next to Canton's historic brick tower.

To his right stood 10 to 15 Boy and Cub Scouts, eagerly waiting to get on with their mission. Schaefer ordered one of them to his side.

"What's your name?" the comptroller asked in drill sergeant fashion.

"Alex."

"What are you here for?"

"To collect food."

"For who?"

"The homeless."

"Who else?"

"The poor."

"Who else?" Schaefer pressed. Seeing the kid was stumped, Schaefer helped him out.

"Old people like me!"

The crowd of volunteers roared with laughter. With the enthusiasm and humor that characterized his tenure as mayor, Schaefer launched the 17th annual spring food drive, Harvest for the Hungry. The rally yesterday found those Scouts, starting in Canton, going door to door and slipping hangers onto doorknobs informing people of the drive that ends Saturday.

The U.S. Postal Service is helping to collect the food. The hangers tell people to leave food by their mailboxes, where mail carriers will pick it up for delivery to the Maryland Food Bank. Donations can also be taken to the nearest neighborhood post office.

"This is the 15th year the post office has been involved in Harvest for the Hungry," said Baltimore Postmaster Kelvin Mack. "Our employees are just fanatical about this program and will do anything they can to help the hungry."

In addition to postal workers and the Scouts, private businesses are getting in on the act. Included on that list are Allstate Corp., Bank of America, Comcast, Morgan Stanley, Piper Rudnick, Safeway, Patuxent Publishing Co. and Coldwell Banker. Mary Kniep, the public relations director for Coldwell Banker, was on hand yesterday to describe how her company will help.

"The Fells Point office has volunteers who will set up tables in Safeway to ask for donations," Kniep said. Shoppers at Safeway and other stores should look for specific items, according to Teresa Ernst of the Maryland Food Bank.

"Canned meats, vegetables, fruits, peanut butter, tuna fish, macaroni and cheese - a lot of protein-based foods that will be nutritious for people," Ernst said.

Larry Adam Jr. is the senior vice president of investment at Morgan Stanley. He's also the volunteer who founded Harvest for the Hungry. Adam has been at it since 1987, when he started a holiday food drive. The response was fantastic. The problem was, the response of the public is always fantastic around Thanksgiving and Christmas. But Adam noticed there were 363 other days in the year - 364 if we include leap years - and realized hungry people need to eat then, too.

"Thanksgiving and Christmas, you have no problem," Adam said. "You get all the food you want. But then what do you do with the other 363 days?" Adam then gave what may be his favorite quote.

"Hunger doesn't take a holiday."

Scouts in Baltimore and its five surrounding counties will, for the next week, distribute 430,000 of those door hangers. Some will even return to homes Saturday to pick up any food postal workers missed. In the fiscal year ending 2002, Harvest for the Hungry raised $100,000 and 600,000 pounds of food.

"Every spring, year after year, we rely on the success of this food drive," said Bill Ewing, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank. "The food comes in at a perfect time - a time when our holiday food drive collection is just about gone. We challenge the public to give generously, as this food will help restock our shelves."

Ewing said his organization gets the food and stores it in the food bank's 50,000-square-foot warehouse. From there, faith-based organizations pick up the food and take it to soup kitchens all over the state. Ewing believes the numbers of people needing help never seem to dwindle.

"There are always going to be people living hand to mouth and needing assistance," he said.

So don't let your mail carrier leave your neighborhood without a mess of foodstuffs for the homeless and hungry this week. Hunger may never take a holiday, but neither should Jewish, Muslim, Christian, agnostic and even atheist charity.

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