Fallfest helps area charities

Habitat for Humanity among groups to benefit


Habitat for Humanity in Carroll County had planned to use funding from Westminster's annual Fallfest, which ends today, to start building a second home in the area.

But plans changed after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, destroying 99 Habitat homes and damaging hundreds of others.

Now the organization will use some of the money to gather materials to create a "home in a box" to be shipped from Carroll to affiliates in the Gulf, said Marcia Weller, executive director.

"We have had so many calls since the disaster from people wanting to help," Weller said.

"People want to give their money. They want to give their time," she said.

Habitat for Humanity is one of four local nonprofit organizations that will benefit from the 28th annual Fallfest, an event that organizers say has become the county's largest charitable function.

Last year, the event raised more than $34,000.

Held in City Park off Longwell Avenue, Fallfest features four days of family-oriented fun with food, rides, live entertainment, and events like today's car show.

Fallfest is a significant source of funding for area nonprofit organizations, as many are past recipients, said Carol Baublitz, a member of the Fallfest executive committee.

Habitat for Humanity was one of four charities to receive $8,500 last year.

"It went to grading, it went to paving, it went to landscaping and it went to plumbing work on our first house completed last November in Westminster," Weller said.

Carroll Hospice, an organization that provides home care and support to enhance the comfort and quality of life for terminally ill patients, will also receive funding again this year, said Debbie Zepp, volunteer coordinator.

"In the past, we used the money to bring patients into the program who don't have insurance," Zepp said.

"We never turn anyone away because they can't pay, so we use our fundraisers to provide that care."

Zepp said this year, money will also be used for the construction of the county's first inpatient hospice.

"It has been a 20-year dream and we are hoping to break ground in a few weeks," she said. "It will be an eight-patient facility that is strictly for palliative, or comfort, care," Zepp said.

Another of this year's recipients is Mission of Mercy, an organization that provides free health care to the uninsured and working poor through a mobile clinic.

David Liddle, chief executive officer, described Fallfest as a wholesome, family event.

"It's a very important funding source for Mission of Mercy and the other organizations," Liddle said. "We can't do our work without the support."

Liddle said the funds will be used to purchase prescriptions and support the clinic's operations in Westminster, Taneytown and Mount Airy.

"We have had over 2,000 patient visits in Westminster this year, so we'll use the funds to support the providing of medical care, which usually includes medicines," Liddle said. "We'll probably dispense close to 6,000 separate free prescriptions."

In return for receiving proceeds, each of the charities was asked to provide some of the manpower for Fallfest.

Carroll Hospice recruited more than 90 volunteers to assist with the bingo table and other places as needed, while Mission of Mercy had almost 80 volunteers.

"We'll be in the ticket booth, we'll be at the gate, we'll be working at some of the kids' tables, and we'll have an information table about the organization," Liddle said.

Linda Auerback, president and founder of Residents Attacking Drugs, said her volunteers used to work the scarecrow booth, but this year they are running the Kids Court, with events including a toilet paper throw, a moon bounce, and a go-cart obstacle course.

Fallfest is a valuable source of funding for Residents Attacking Drugs, an organization that works to raise public awareness about drugs and alcohol.

"They're our main contributor and it's certainly the largest amount of money we get and it also keeps the organizational types of things running," Auerback said.

Past funding was used to create short public service announcements and a five-minute music video used to start dialog between parents and children about drug and alcohol issues.

She said this year's funding would be used to edit and shorten the organization's Heroin Kills video, so it can be used on television, as well as in schools.

Fallfest was first held on Westminster's Main Street in 1978. Baublitz said the event was conceived to revitalize the downtown shopping area. It was a small gathering and without proceeds - at first.

"After [the organizers] got into it for a few years, they started having this money left over and wondered, `Now, what do we do with this?' and that's when the charity idea grew," Baublitz said.

This year's event features more than 200 food and craft vendors and representatives from about 40 nonprofit organizations.

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