Pastors kick off End Hunger in Calvert campaign

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By Meghan Russell
The Calvert Recorder
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pastors of various religious denominations announced last week that they will unite again this year in a campaign to help feed the needy.

The announcement came during a Sept. 13 news conference at the Calvert Library branch in Prince Frederick to kick off End Hunger in Calvert County.

Although the state and county declared October as End Hunger In Calvert County Month in 2008, last year marked the first time that pastors from Independent, Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist and Quaker denominations, as well as Church of God, Church of Christ, charismatic and nondenominational churches, participated in the campaign.

The pastors teamed with charity organizations, schools, businesses and government officials to collect 86,000 pounds of food last October, said the Rev. Robert P. Hahn of Chesapeake Church, chairman of End Hunger in Calvert County.

The partnership's goal for next month is 100,000 pounds of food, Hahn said.

"And it'll be gone within two months, because the need is a lot greater than it was last year," he said.

Although Calvert is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, it also has a high foreclosure rate, Hahn said. According to RealtyTrac of Irvine, Calif., which reports on foreclosure activity across the country, Calvert had the 18th-highest rate in Maryland, with one foreclosure filing per 667 households.

In addition, about 10,000 residents used food pantries this year, according to numbers Hahn collected from each of the county's pantries. The majority of the county's hungry are not homeless, substance abusers or mentally ill, but rather are the working poor, Hahn said.

"There are people now who are saying, 'If I can be relieved of the price of food, maybe I can keep my house,' " Hahn said. "Our long-term goal is not just to feed people. It's to help them become self-sufficient."

In addition to the food drive, the inaugural 5K Run to End Hunger will be Oct. 16 at Trinity Methodist Church in Prince Frederick.

The event costs $20 for participants who register before Oct. 9 and $25 afterward. The proceeds will go to the End Hunger campaign.

The Rev. Paul Liersemann of First Lutheran Church stressed the importance of the clergy of different denominations working together to assist people who are struggling to make ends meet.

"Many of these people have jobs; they're trying to make their way. . . . I think it's so important that we build relationships with people, that we listen to their story," Liersemann said. "We can do something as individuals, but we can do an incredible amount of good" by working together.

John Shaia, director of programs for the Maryland Food Bank, said he supports the pastors' "vital" endeavors, "because it shows that the government gets it. They know it's the foot soldiers, the grass-roots movement, that gets the job done."

For information on the project and ways to help, go to http://www.endhungercalvert.org.


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