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Churches' ESCAPE helps people get past problems


When the name ESCAPE Ministries Inc. is mentioned, the inevitable question follows. Escape from what?

The acronym for Enabling Social and Church Advocacy for People Enrichment is actually a synonym for help.

Since 1988, the coalition of 17 South Carroll area churches has worked hard to address the needs of the community and has served more than 700 Carroll County families and individuals.

Although organized primarily as a referral and advocacy service, ESCAPE is able to respond to many kinds of situations.

According to administrator Janet Boyd, assistance is provided with the practical needs of daily living.

ESCAPE can help with obtaining a security deposit and rent on an apartment, utility assistance and school supplies. Some medical assistance is available.

Nonperishable food is kept in ESCAPE's well-stocked pantry and a voucher system exists for perishable items from several local groceries. The voucher system has also provided gasoline for people in emergencies. Clothing and household items are available through the system.

When ESCAPE is unable to meet a need directly, the group can help clients find others who can assist them.

ESCAPE is a member of Carroll's Circle of Caring and works closely with other aid organizations throughout the county.

Together with groups such as the county's Human Services Programs, Northeast Social Action Program, Taneytown Caring and Sharing, Shepherd's Staff, the Salvation Army and Mount Airy NET, ESCAPE is making a difference to people in Carroll.

Although help through ESCAPE is based on emergencies and is provided only once, the organization recently has experienced a significant increase in requests for food.

Tentative plans are being made for a weekly soup kitchen in Sykesville, to open sometime this fall. The group is seeking a location for such a ministry.

ESCAPE is funded entirely by donations from member churches, community service groups and individuals. That may be the true miracle of ESCAPE, Ms. Boyd says.

Although each member church is asked to pledge only $100 a year, ESCAPE manages to come up with an average of $1,700 to distribute each month.

Community groups such as the local Lions and Lioness clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Optimist Clubs and individuals have all stepped forward to help.

ESCAPE has been the recipient of generous funding from the Religious Life Committee at Fairhaven, as well as bake sale efforts of a local bank. A Gaithersburg company once honored ESCAPE as its Charity of the Month with the proceeds from its monthly tradition of dress-down Friday.

ESCAPE organizes a CROP Walk each fall to call attention to world hunger and receives 25 percent of the funds raised for its efforts. A springtime Ecumenical Sing has also become a popular event, providing some income for the group.

The real backbone of ESCAPE is the all-volunteer office staff and board of directors. The seven-member board meets every other month to monitor the group's activities and set policy. An annual open meeting gives church representatives an opportunity for input.

A staff of four volunteers keeps the ESCAPE office open two mornings a week. The office staff answers phones, greets clients and directs them to the services they need.

Administrator Boyd would like to open ESCAPE's doors more often, if additional volunteers can be found. She promises that the job is not difficult and that proper training will be provided.

ESCAPE Ministries Inc. occupies donated space in St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 7538 Main St. in Sykesville, and is open from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Prospective volunteers should call the office at 549-7230 for more information.

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