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food bank donations fall short

November 21, 1996

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

A local food bank's holiday donation drive remains far short of its goal, which is likely to mean it will have fewer bags of groceries to distribute to the dozens of outreach agencies it serves across the Tri-State area.

Food Resources Inc., a nonprofit charity in the Hagerstown Industrial Complex, set a goal of 60,000 pounds of food. But with less than a week remaining in the United Way agency's Bags of Plenty campaign, Executive Director Jim Mobley said he doubts giving will even reach the food bank's 30,000-pound minimum goal.

Collection sites have been set up at area grocery stores. So far, Washington County residents have donated 12,500 pounds of food.

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"Usually at this point in time, we would have about 24,000 or 25,000 pounds of food, but we don't," Mobley said. "It's going to be tough to even meet our minimum goal We'd have to get in 2,500 pounds of food every day, and that's just not going to happen."

This marks the second consecutive year in which donations to the drive have declined. Last year, Food Resources took in 24,914 pounds of food. Since 1990, the charity had collected at least 37,000 pounds, with a peak of 58,737 in 1992.

If Food Resources does not reach 30,000 pounds, Mobley said it will have to cut back on the number of 24-pound bags that it delivers to dozens of food pantries and other organizations throughout the Tri-State region.

That could be devastating to organizations that rely on the gifts for holiday charity programs, officials said.

"Any time that donations go down, it has a negative impact on our agency," said Glenda Helman, director of services at the Community Action Council in Hagerstown. "Obviously, this is a time of great need."

Helman said recent cuts to the Department of Social Services exacerbates the need.

Helman said the Community Action Council, with the Salvation Army, plans to distribute 240 bags to needy families. Even when Food Resources gave 400 bags several years ago, she said eligible people had to be turned away.

"With donations being down, there will be hungry people in Washington County who won't get assistance," Helman said.

Some other groups appear in better shape to weather a donation decline. Directors of several charitable groups said they will buy food to make up the difference.

"We're looking pretty good right now," said Lynn Singleton, executive director if Mount Hope Inc., which gives food and toys to children with parents in prison.

Harry McCarney, who chairs the food committee of the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church, said Food Resources contributed 40 bags of food last year. The church helps between 10 and 12 families during Thanksgiving and another dozen families around Christmas.

McCarney said the church will be able to purchase whatever food the food bank cannot deliver. But he added that the need has increased.

"Our people coming in for help have really increased," McCarney said. "We've really been swamped with calls."

Mobley said he is not sure why giving is down. He offered several theories:

He said there are many more food drives and charity programs competing for residents' generosity than when Food Resources launched its first campaign in 1987.

Mobley also said county residents have been asked to respond to an unusually high number of disasters this year, beginning with the brutal winter.

"I suspect people are simply tapped out," he said. "We've had a heck of a winter. We've had a heck of a year this year."

Mobley said Food Resources will reassess its operation next year to see if it can increase donations. One possibility is changing or adding collection points.

Traditionally, the charity has relied upon grocery stores as collection points. However, Mobley said a number have closed, including one in the Halfway area that usually produced good results.

Jon Cannin, manager of the Halfway Food Lion at 17718 Virginia Ave., said donations there have trickled to a near standstill after a man ran off with about a dozen bags of food late Friday.

"Someone tried to make off with the buggy and what (he) didn't take, (he) destroyed," Cannin said. "It just hasn't been coming in since."

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