Thanksgiving feast awaits families at county shelters Groups are looking ahead to Christmas


Families in Howard County homeless shelters won't have to wonder where their Thanksgiving meals will come from -- but social service groups are already planning ahead for donations and volunteers to help with Christmas.

Churches, businesses and other organizations are reporting that successful Adopt-a-Family effort in the county's shelters means most who need a meal will have the traditional November feast.

But Grassroots, one of the county's major shelter providers, is still looking for donations of turkeys or gift certificates to buy turkeys for families who have a place to stay but who can't afford holiday food.

St. John's Roman Catholic Church in Columbia has promised to feed the 20 or 30 people who are expected at Grassroots' Thanksgiving dinner, said Kathie DiNoto, shelter coordinator for Grassroots.

"At this point, the shelter is pretty much taken care of for Thanksgiving," Ms. DiNoto said.

Every Thursday, two volunteers from St. John's prepare casseroles that feed 20 clients in the shelter's Columbia center. Because Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday, St. John's has cooked special meals for the past three or fours years.

"Since this is Thanksgiving, we're having two people fix turkey dinners," said Jayne Fleischer, secretary of the social ministry coordinator at St. John's and one of the Thanksgiving volunteers.

The dinners will include stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetables, potatoes and pies, Ms. Fleischer said.

"We have volunteers who just love to do this," she said.

For those who would like to boost holiday spirits among the needy, all of the shelters are looking for individuals and groups to adopt families for Christmas.

Gifts for the holidays -- such as children's toys, underwear, socks and toiletries -- also are welcome and should be donated, along with wrapping paper or identified with a note if already wrapped.

In addition, Howard's shelter providers said they are still in need of nonperishable foods and other supplies for the regular operations of their programs.

"Everybody can use a new toothbrush or a razor," said Neil Gaffney, a board member for Churches Concerned for the Homeless, a group of 29 churches that provides shelter for four homeless families and two homeless single men.

The county has three major shelters. In addition to Grassroots, which maintains 20 emergency beds and 12 long-term beds in transitional shelters, and Churches Concerned for the Homeless, there is the Domestic Violence Center, which maintains eight short-term, emergency beds for month-long stays in its Columbia shelter and 28 beds in long-term shelters.

To arrange contributions or for information, contact:

* Grassroots Shelter in Columbia at 531-6006;

* The Domestic Violence Center in Columbia at 997-0304;

* Churches Concerned for the Homeless at 381-6241.

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