The manager of Carroll County's largest food bank is trying to deal with declining cash donations while expecting an increase in demand as the result of proposed cuts in federal food programs.
So Tom Canon, manager for Carroll County Food Sunday, invited his congressman, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, to tour the organization's Westminster collection and distribution center yesterday in hopes of attracting some support.
But he didn't get promises of funds.
"Your organization is filling the gap and all without government money," Mr. Bartlett, a 6th District Republican, said. "Philanthropy should be the province of churches and service organizations. Philanthropy is much more effective than government bureaucracy."
Mr. Canon said financial donations to Carroll County Food Sunday are down by 42 percent since the first quarter of 1994, and he is wondering how the organization, which is supported by local churches and service organizations, will cope.
"I understand there have to be cuts in the federal budget, but it will mean more people coming to us," he said.
Mr. Bartlett said he seeks a return to the era when neighbors cared for each other and didn't rely on the government.
He called for more volunteers, more donations and no calls for help to Washington.
"Your organization is pioneering a way back to the way it used to be, when people felt a responsibility to help their communities," said the congressman.
While Mr. Canon said he agrees with the congressman's message of less government, he must deal daily with actual numbers.
"Our customers are down by 13 percent, but it won't take long before the math won't add up," said Mr. Canon, the food bank's first full-time director and its only employee. "We have to come up with more dollars to keep viable."
Many of the organization's clients are the working poor who earn too much to qualify for government aid, Mr. Canon said.
He noted that, while financial contributions have declined, food donations have increased. Two major drives netted 24,000 pounds of nonperishable items in the last two months, about 10,000 pounds more than the organization got in last year's food drives.
But, he said, the organization needs money to supplement those donations.
"Food donations are good, but often we get oddball items from people cleaning out their cupboards," Mr. Canon said. "We provide nutritionally balanced packages and vouchers for perishable items."
Mr. Bartlett said that, as Congress works to "correct the welfare system," he expects charitable organizations to alleviate "the grief people may feel" from the elimination of programs.
"As government becomes smaller, organizations like this can pick up the slack," the congressman said. He added that a system of tax credits, rather than deductions, might encourage people to donate to charity.
Mr. Bartlett said he was impressed with the success of the all-volunteer organization.
"Volunteerism is the biggest single need in the country," he said. "The dollars go farther in your organization because of your volunteers."
Mr. Canon said he hoped that Mr. Bartlett's support would lead to an increase in donations and volunteers for Carroll County Food Sunday.
About 100 volunteers work at the Westminster, Taneytown and Sykesville branches of the food bank. "We help anybody who is hungry in Carroll County," Mr. Canon said. "We encourage people to take advantage of the systems already in place, like food stamps."