Once a month on a Wednesday morning, a midsize truck from the Lutheran Mission Society in Baltimore pulls up in the parking lot of a Brooklyn Park church, its bed loaded with donated food and household items to be sorted and distributed to the needy.
Medium-size boxes of canned peas and corn and items such as dish detergent and sponges are loaded onto dollies and rolled into the fellowship hall of Resurrection Lutheran Church in the 600 block of Hammonds Lane.
Inside, a group of men and women, mostly retirees volunteering their time, stands waiting around a long table. It is a ritual they engage in on the first Wednesday of every month. From 9 a.m. until the job is done, they separate the spoiled and damaged items from the good ones. Rusty, outdated and badly dented canned goods are tossed, along with leaking containers of household cleaning fluids.
On a good day with about 12 helpers, the volunteers can finish by noon. On Wednesday, they sorted about 5,000 pounds of goods, all from grocery stores that wish to remain anonymous.
David L. Mather has been a volunteer with the society for several years, but he didn't get involved with the food-sorting program until last year.
"I volunteer because it fulfills my duty as a Christian without making a big splash," said Mr. Mather, 55, an engraver who lives in Linthicum.
The project is sponsored by the Lutheran Mission Society, a nonprofit religious, charitable and educational ministry based in Baltimore.
Before day's end, the trucks deliver the sorted goods to the society's "compassion" centers in Annapolis, Cambridge, Essex, Fells Point, Havre de Grace and Baltimore. At the centers, the society offers food, clothing, counseling, shelter, furniture and prayer.
"Our sole purpose for being there is to help people and spread the message of Jesus Christ," said Eileen P. Alms, director of community ministry for the society.
Carl C. Dederer Jr., director of volunteers for the society, said more than 300 people visit the centers each day.
The volunteers sorted the donated goods at the society's office on South Charles Street in Baltimore until the project outgrew the space. About three years ago, the society started using Resurrection Lutheran as a sort of clearinghouse.
On Wednesday, C. Allen Tipton, 66, and his wife, Betty J. Tipton, 62, stood together, hands sticky from cleaning fluid that had leaked out of broken containers. It was the Pasadena couple's first time helping. The Tiptons, both retired, said they didn't mind getting their hands dirty for a good cause.
"We've been giving money to the mission for years, and now we know what good the money does," said Mr. Tipton, a retired accounting clerk.
Mrs. Tipton, a retired secretary, said she and her husband learned about the people the program helps during an orientation.
"I was glad to see that the effort people put in getting the food out goes to good use," she said.
The society relies on word-of-mouth and fliers to recruit volunteers, but help is always needed, Mr. Dederer said.
Information: (410) 539-7322.