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Volunteers help church aid others

March 16, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Ever since the Community Food Bank at St. Mark's Lutheran Church opened its doors in 1972, Beth Stouffer has been there. Now 77, she remains active and involved in the day-to-day operation of the food bank.

"But I can't do this forever," Stouffer said on a recent Thursday afternoon as she volunteered at the food bank.

That day, Stouffer was working with a group of volunteers from Christ's Reformed Church in Hagerstown who staff the food bank the first Thursday of every month and every fifth Thursday, when there is one.

It's volunteers like those - 60 or more in all - who keep the food bank going, Stouffer said. Not liking to call herself the director, Stouffer said she is a volunteer who makes sure that there is food on the shelves when people come in looking for help for themselves and their families.

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"Community Action Council sent a representative to St. Mark's 32 years ago to see if we could handle a food bank here," Stouffer said. "I got on the phone and called some pastors and the Community Food Bank got started."

The location has remained the same through the years, with some improvements made by St. Mark's, Stouffer said.

"We get a lot of people and groups bringing us food," Stouffer said.

The church at 601 Washington Ave. provides the food bank with free space and pays all overhead costs - a benefit that allows more money to buy perishable dairy and meat products for the needy, Stouffer said.

Those items are stored in large freezers on-site.

"Our only expenses are stipends to the church janitor and secretary and a young man who cleans the bathrooms," Stouffer said. "Some delivery people have to be paid, too."

Money to buy more food probably is the commodity in the shortest supply, Stouffer said.

"Last year, we took in about $25,000, but spent $49,000," she said, noting that the difference was made up but that still leaves the food bank needing more cash.

Checks for tax-deductible contributions can be made out to St. Mark's Lutheran Church Food Bank. They are deposited in a separate account for the food bank, Stouffer said.

The Community Food Bank is open Monday through Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. for pickup and drop-off. The entrance is on the south side of the church, down a dozen stairs to what used to be the church auditorium.

On a recent Thursday afternoon, more than 18 families and individuals had been in to get groceries that were bagged earlier by volunteers such as Lois Henry with the Christ's Reformed Church group.

"I have been doing it about five years," Henry said, as she added milk, meat and peanut butter to a young mother's bags.

Eligibility is determined by several local agencies, which then issue a special card that is good for one year and enables the holder to visit many area food banks, thus easing the burden on any one location.

"They can come four times a year to Community Food Bank," Stouffer said. "We served about 11,000 people last year."

Last year the Community Food Bank established a clothing rack just inside the door where people can leave what they don't need or take what they do need.

"We also have silverware, dishes, purses, baby clothes, cookbooks and all sorts of things," Stouffer said.

For more information about the Community Food Bank, call 301-733-7550 from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and ask for the food bank.

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