No vacation from the needs of homeless...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No vacation from the needs of homeless children

The office phone rings. It's Linda Greenberg. Again.

You sigh, less than thrilled at the prospect of writing precisely the same story you've written several times a year for the last several years.

But it's an undeniable fact: Greenberg, an activist for the homeless, may be as annoyingly persistent as a summer mosquito, but she does good things. (Wonderful things. Unselfish things. The sort of things we all should be doing, the conscience suggests.)

For years, Greenberg has lobbied for donations of everything from pumpkin pies to underwear for needy people.

In summer, her big push is to send homeless children to camp, a program for which she was recently honored by the YWCAs from the Washington metropolitan area.

For the last five years, Greenberg has cajoled and coerced Anne Arundel residents into sending children from homeless shelters to camp. It is, as she points out, a reprieve for children from hot summers in the city to attend Camp Letts in Mayo. Last summer, Arundel families sponsored 40 youngsters from the county and Baltimore.

This year, however, even Greenberg, with all her determination, isn't having much luck.

So far, few businesses or individuals have been willing to cough up the money -- $420 to sponsor a child. Greenberg has only five sponsors for a possible 80 slots.

She's in a nail-biting frenzy, with at least 35 children (from Sarah's House at Fort Meade and Transitional Housing in Baltimore) already on the waiting list, she says.

"We're desperate for kids to get the attention they need," Greenberg says. "Otherwise, they'll be stuck in drug-infested neighborhoods where the shelters are. In shelters, they don't have a chance to play like normal kids."

The comments sounds suspiciously as if Greenberg were reading from a stack of newspaper clips from past years.

But what she says is true: Kids are stuck in shelters. It's summer. Kids need to play.

Time to take a deep breath and think of the children. The economy can always pick up, but children don't get a second chance at being children.

(Interested parties may contact Linda Greenberg at 841-6280 or Gloria Brown at the camp, 269-6697.)

The Chicago White Sox may be mired in fourth place in the American League's West Division, but the team hat tops the charts in local sporting goods stores.

"Right now, them and the Orioles are the most popular," said Patrick Cleveland, the assistant manager at Sports USA in the Marley Station mall. "Especially with teen-agers."

"It's just a trend," said Shawn Bliven, who works at Champs at Marley Station. "Everybody wants to buy White Sox stuff."

Hats, shirts, jackets, key chains -- you name it. If it's White Sox, it sells, said Cleveland.

It's been this way since the 1991 season, when the Sox moved into the new Comiskey Park and changed their uniforms from blue, white and red to black and white. The 1991 team finished second in its division to the Minnesota Twins and second in American League attendance, with 2.9 million to the Toronto Blue Jays' 4.1 million. But in gross sales of team merchandise, the Sox were second to none, tops in the majors, said team spokesman Carla Morgan.

And so it went in Marley Station, said Champs assistant manager Joe Heinicke, especially with the hats.

"When they first switched [uniforms], we couldn't keep them in the store we were selling so many" hats, said Heinicke. "Last year, when the Orioles weren't doing that good, we were selling more Sox hats."

The reason, some people figure, is as simple as black and white. Something about that very basic, very elegant statement just grabs people. Heinicke points out that the National Football League Los Angeles Raiders, who wear silver and black uniforms, also sell a lot of sports merchandise.

The Sox cap, said Cleveland, "is a nice-looking hat."

But Bliven theorized that there's no aesthetic judgment working here, just herd behavior.

"The only reason they buy it is because everybody else is, that's it," said Bliven.

Mike White, a 17-year-old Glen Burnie resident, agreed. He was sitting at Taco Bell's eating a burrito and wearing a White Sox cap with the bill turn to the back; extremely cool. He borrowed the hat from a friend, who actually is a White Sox fan.

Asked to account for the popularity of the cap, White guessed that it's "because it's dark and it's evil-looking."

"They're real cool-looking," said his 16-year-old friend, Matt Clark, also of Glen Burnie.

Their companion, 17-year-old Josie Fredholm, of Glen Burnie, said the hat is a fine accessory for the wardrobe-impaired -- that is, most teen-age boys.

"Black and white matches everything they wear. It's simple," she said. "And they can get it as dirty as they want."

Arthur Hirsch

A planet goes to waste, one wrapper at a time

While world leaders converged in Rio de Janeiro last week to decide the future of Mother Earth, I watched the fate of the planet unfold in my rearview mirror.

A handful of weed-whacking State Highway Administration employees had descended on the concrete median strip between the north and south lanes of Ritchie Highway when I pulled up to an intersection near Marley Station mall.

Slowing to a stop at the light, I marveled at one man dressed in his long-sleeved, orange uniform. He must be terribly uncomfortable on a warm spring afternoon, I thought.

Apparently, he was weary from a long morning of battling the weeds that grow out of the concrete cracks. He laid down his gas-powered trimmer and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

It's something I must have seen my father do a million times, if not more, when he was doing yard work. A cigarette break.

Then, holding a cigarette between his lips, he crumbled the cellophane pack in his hands, looked both ways furtively and dropped it into the street. Was it possible I had seen this from an employee of a governor who wants to recruit One Million Marylanders for the Bay?

"Did you see that?" I growled at my wife.

She hadn't, but our smoker was not averse to an encore. Readying a fresh pack for his next break, he peeled open the top, again looked around, and dropped the cellophane into the gutter.

In Rio, men in ties debated greenhouse gases, global warming and biodiversity. How intractable those problems seem, especially on a Ritchie Highway littered with cigarette packs.

John A. Morris

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