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Despite economy, donations for free dinners remain steady

Organizations that provide food to needy are seeing more demand than in the past

Organizations that provide food to needy are seeing more demand than in the past

November 25, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Despite the financial concerns many people face this year, some local groups that provide free Thanksgiving dinners have seen donations remain steady or even increase.

Organizations that provide food to the needy report seeing more of a demand this year than in the past, and those groups are preparing for larger crowds at local Thanksgiving dinners.

Demand has been "unbelievable" this year, said Ruth Anne Callaham, executive director of Food Resources.

The demand for food is the highest it's been in her six years with Food Resources, Callaham said. An employee who has been with Food Resources for 12 years said it's the highest in the time he's been there, Callaham said.

Need has increased by about 20 percent in the last few months as many people who have lost their jobs or have had homes in foreclosure seek help feeding their families, Callaham said.

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Food Resources provides food for about 25 food programs, most of which are in Washington County, including food pantries, soup kitchens and after-school food giveaways.

Looking at household size as an indicator of need, Food Resources now serves households of six or seven family members; in the past the typical household had about three members, Callaham said.

Even as need has increased, so have donations, which were up by about 10 percent in recent months, Callaham said. She said she expected donations to increase even more as people who had bountiful Thanksgivings donate food.

The Food Resources holiday food drive kicked off Nov. 1.

The need for food will not end after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Callaham said.

"We do try to tell folks that hunger isn't over with the holidays. We need the same level of giving to continue (for) 12 months," she said.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Boonsboro saw demand increase for the food boxes members put together for the Thanksgiving holiday. The church, which has been making the food boxes for about 20 years, this year helped 11 families, said Vivian Clipp of Keedysville.

All of the families are from the South County area of Boonsboro, Brownsville and Sharpsburg, she said.

"We didn't get to everybody, but gave to the ones that really needed it," Clipp said.

The Hagerstown Rescue Mission is to hold its annual Thanksgiving dinner today at its Trinity Center on Walnut Street.

"People in this area have been very supportive, very generous," said Becky Shank, director of development for the Mission. She noted that she believes donations have dropped off a bit.

"In the same respect, I believe we might see an increase in the number of people (at the dinner) simply because of the economy," Shank said.

The Mission usually serves meals to 200 to 250 people at its Thanksgiving dinner. This year, volunteers are preparing food for 300 people, she said.

All of the food, a full Thanksgiving spread, will be homemade, she said.

In addition to monetary donations, one person donated 300 pounds of turkey and another donated potatoes, Shank said.

The Mission has been overwhelmed by people wanting to donate their time and expected to have 40 to 45 volunteers helping today, Shank said.

"I'm proud of this community and how they give of themselves," Shank said.

A group known as Around the Table, which hosts an annual dinner at St. John's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown, plans to feed 300 people today. Last year, the group delivered 125 meals and fed 150 people at the church, said Tracy Clipp, one of the organizers.

She said the increase is expected because of the poor economy.

Last year, the group spent about $1,000 on dinner and this year tried to raise $1,500 in order to serve more people, Tracy Clipp said.

Many of the donations came from members of Hagerstown Church of the Nazarene, Hagerstown Hope Bridge Church of the Nazarene and Hagerstown Grace Brethren, she said.

Churches were more than willing to donate this year, Tracy Clipp said.

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