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Bags of Plenty abound

November 26, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

It's become a tradition in recent years to give out bags of nonperishable food to local Project Head Start families during Thanksgiving week, said Stephanie Scott, coordinator of family services for the program in Washington County.

The tradition has survived another year, thanks to an 11th-hour surge in donations that brought this year's Bags of Plenty food drive up to the 25,000 pounds of food needed to fill local agencies' orders for Thanksgiving bags.

As of early last week, Food Resources Inc. had collected only about 18,000 pounds of food in the Hagerstown area, said Brad Sell, executive director of the nonprofit food warehouse.

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With orders for close to 1,000 bags from local nonprofit programs, like Project Head Start and the Union Rescue Mission, it was questionable whether Food Resources would get the estimated 25,000 pounds of food needed to fill those bags by this week, Sell said.

Still, Sell said, he had been hoping for a repeat of last year's comeback when the food drive faced a similar shortfall as the deadline neared.

He said he had hoped, as happened last year, that publicizing the predicament in the newspaper would generate a surge of donations over the final weekend.

It did, Sell said.

"The last two days have been phenomenal. The community came through. It usually does when it knows there's a need," he said.

About 7,000 pounds of food were collected Monday and Tuesday, said Sell, who expected at least another 1,000 pounds would be collected on Wednesday.

Enough food was collected to fill all of the Bags of Plenty requests this year, he said.

However, it still fell short of providing the 5,000 pounds of extra food Sell was hoping to have on hand for additional requests over the holiday season, he said.

Scott said she was glad that Project Head Start was able to get all 75 Bags of Plenty it requested for distribution to the families of its low-income preschoolers before the holiday.

"It would have been a disappointment. We do look forward to being able to help our families," she said.

The Union Rescue Mission ordered 50 Bags of Plenty this year, said mission Director Bruce Shank.

Those bags aren't distributed for Thanksgiving but are kept on hand to be given to needy people who come to the mission, Shank said.

Last year, the mission requested 25 bags, which were gone within a month or two, he said.

Local agencies aren't the only ones that benefit from the annual Bags of Plenty food drive, Sell said.

The county's community food pantries get to keep the Bags of Plenty collected in their areas, he said.

For some of the food pantries, it doesn't amount to much food, say the people who run them.

The Hancock Food Bank, for example, only collects about three or four bags a year, said Jim Beeler, who runs the 22-year-old food pantry.

But between the Boys Scouts' food drive in early November and the Hancock Lions Club's sponsorship, the pantry is stocked with enough food to last through the holiday season, Beeler said.

The Bags of Plenty drive is a big help to the Smithsburg Food Bank, said Jill Connelly, who is in charge of the tiny food pantry.

As of Sunday, the food pantry had received 873 pounds of Bags of Plenty donations, Connelly said.

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