Beth Anne Stouffer

Childhood experience helped her understand others' needs

Childhood experience helped her understand others' needs

May 18, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

HAGERSTOWN -- As one of eight children raised during the Great Depression, Beth Anne Stouffer knows what it's like to be poor.

Her father was an auto mechanic in Gooding, Idaho, a town so small people could walk anywhere, so he didn't find a lot of work during the 1930s.

"That's when everybody really looked out after everybody," said Stouffer, 82, who lives east of Hagerstown.

Neighbors took care of neighbors, she said.

Stouffer has been looking out for more than just her neighbors since she helped open the Community Food Bank at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown's West End in 1972.

Stouffer got involved at the inception when Community Action Council contacted her late husband, Bob, who was the social ministry delegate for St. Mark's, about starting a food bank at the church.


He turned to his wife for help.

She called other area churches to assist, and it's been a community effort ever since, with volunteers and donations from various people and businesses in the community.

"We have people now who really do make a difference in people's life," Stouffer said.

The food bank served 764 people the first year, Stouffer said. It has fed as many as 10,000 people in a year.

When the food bank began, Stouffer was working full time for Washington County Public Schools as a teacher's aide. She worked as a teacher's aide at Woodland Way, Boonsboro Elementary School and Winter Street Elementary School, and with special education students at Clear Spring High School, before retiring in the late 1980s.

Stouffer enjoys everything about helping the food bank.

"You feel like you're making a difference to people's lives. You meet a lot of people who come in for food and just feel like they're your friends," Stouffer said.

On a Tuesday in March, people came to the food bank and Stouffer said she could see the tension and worry on their faces.

"By the time they all got in there, I could see so much tension. ... They see what we're handing out and I can see they're worried we'll run out," Stouffer said.

Unlike many food banks, St. Mark's often has fresh meat and choices for those picking up food.

The food bank also provides clothes to those in need.

"You don't have to come for food, but can come down and look at the clothes and take what you want," Stouffer said. "It surprises you what people do not have."

Many of the clothes come from people who are cleaning out their closets and dressers, she said.

The food bank is at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 601 Washington Ave. in Hagerstown's West End. It is open from 1 to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

For more information about the food bank for people with low income, call the church at 301-733-7550.

Q&A with Beth Anne Stouffer

Resides: East of Hagerstown

Occupation: Retired teacher's aide

Q: What is your proudest moment?

A: "Maybe I'm still proud that I can still drive my car."

Q: Whom do you most admire, and why?

A: (American author) George Dawson ... He sacrificed. ... Some of the things he did (facing prejudice), I thought were just phenomenal. He surmounted that."

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received, and who gave it to you?

A: "Mom, don't you look at the big picture?" from her son, Bob Stouffer, to help with her driving.

Q: What is the next goal you would like to achieve?

A: "I don't know. I just take life as it comes."

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