The Rev. Jack Clifford, of the First Baptist Church in Hyattsville, isn't happy with the federal budget either, and he will speak out in November. "I plan to preach a sermon on the need in our county. I guess I'd draw a connection between the Christian message and basic human need."
Both pastors, as members of a group formed by 12 Hyattsville area churches, plan to act on their discontent and concern by aiding those who have lost welfare money and by helping the county's Social Services workers handle the increased demand for counseling. "We really do need to respond to the challenge to do more. And we can do more," Dunn said.
"Each church has responsibility for something it can do on its own," he said, "and three task forces were set up -- one on housing, one on the development of a people bank, and the third, headed by myself, was to meet with the Pastoral Counseling Service of Greater Washington, D.C., to help clergy supplement some of the counseling of the Social Services Department."
The efforts of Dunn's church group come at a time when volunteer groups in the Maryland suburbs are stretched to the limit of their resources. Lois Jones, co-chairwoman of Prince George's Help-By-Phone, described a "rising tide of anger" among people who need help but are unable to find it.
Help-By-Phone, which supplies emergency shelter, food, clothing and transportation, assisted some 40,000 persons last year. Jones said it is impossible to measure the increased demand because the phones are already ringing constantly, but she said those who ask for help now are more desperate.
"It used to be that once every three or four months we'd get a very angry call," she said. "We're finding that this is much more frequent and the calls are much nastier than they were before. There is a rising tide of frustration and people are raging at anyone who says 'No.' "
By Nov. 1, almost 4,000 people in Prince George's and Montgomery counties will have lost some, if not all, of the welfare benefits they once received. The cuts were delayed one month when it was discovered that those being cut from welfare programs had not received the warning required by law.
Mary Costable of Montgomery County's Volunteer Bureau said more volunteers are needed but not enough are coming forward. "We certainly have an increased demand," she said. "I foresee us using a lot more volunteers and depending on them more than in the past, and using volunteers where they haven't been used before."
Peggy Nelson, a former director of the Gaithersburg Help-Fish, a church-funded organization similar to Help-By-Phone, said volunteers cannot fill the gap left by welfare cuts. "Because of the economic situation, more and more people are going to work, so there are fewer volunteers," she said.
One person trying to round up volunteers is Bethesda general contractor Bill L. McIntire. This week, he was selling pumpkins on Seven Locks Road to raise money to incorporate a new charity he calls American Togetherness. McIntire hopes the fledgling organization can begin offering needy persons food, transportation and housing before Christmas. He said he has already enlisted the support of about 20 of his business customers.
"Almost all the volunteers will come from the people we help," he said. If the organization helps a single mother, he said, "she could repay us in any way she could, but if she could volunteer for the cause, it would more than pay for the service."
Phil Newsom, supervisor of Prince George's Social Service's Emergency Shelter unit, is excited by the potential of Dunn's group to help poor families find housing quickly.
"It's taking the family a lot longer to get themselves stabilized, get themselves into an adequate, stable living arangement. There's a greater need for an extended shelter so they can check out the different types of housing situations and get themselves squared away. By using the churches in conjunction, it gives a longer time."
The Social Services Department already has the help of a few churches, but most people seeking emergency shelter are placed in motels. An average of 22 persons a month were given emergency shelter in motels last year, and a total of 26 persons were housed in churches. Carolyn Billingsly, who heads the housing task force for Dunn's group, said churches in the Hyattsville area are now being surveyed to see if more shelter space can be found.
The People Bank task force, headed by Sue Boysen, plans to distribute questionnaires in churches to develop a list of volunteers' names. Social Services workers would be able to draw on such a list, she said. The Social Services Department is inundated with paperwork, Boysen said, and "in that case, there is probably something that the churches can do."
Clifford said the People Bank is an important effort to establish a "core of socially conscious people." He said he will distribute questionnaires after his sermon on need later this year. "Otherwise, people lose the spark," he said. "If you let them leave without something concrete, they lose their enthusiasm."
Boysen said she hopes Dunn will ask for volunteers after a similar sermon -- "a sermon that will make people wipe the tears from their eyes and get in the mood to do something."
Not everyone agrees with Clifford and Dunn. Clifford said he expects to hear some objections. "I think some of our people would question that there is a lot of need in the county," he said. "As a pastor, I would run into some opposition. But I think there will be enough support."
Dunn said he faced some opposition after his sermon in July. "I do know some people were very angry with me and felt that I was being critical of the president, and not giving him a chance," he said. "I had one elder give a prayer, in that same service, that thanked God for a courageous leader like President Reagan. He basically took me to task right then and there. I just rolled my eyes back. It really didn't bother me. I thought it was kind of humorous."
But Dunn believes these needy people can still be helped. "I think the president is wrong, but I don't think that's any excuse for the churches to sit back and watch this fail," he said. "We have a responsiblity to give it a shot. I really believe good things are going to happen. There are only 60 volunteers in the P.G. Social Services Department right now. Surely we could add to that."