ANNE ARUNDEL'S poor are not all standing along Ritchie Highway carrying "Will Work for Food" signs. In fact, most of them are not. The county's needy, homeless and hungry are looking more and more like you and me.
They are working people who have suffered the misfortune of falling victim to federal job cutbacks and private industry layoffs. As many Westinghouse Electric Co. employees who have lost their jobs in recent years can tell you, it doesn't take long for families with a nice homes, good health insurance packages and comfortable incomes to find themselves struggling to stay off the street.
With government support for social problems waning, responsibility for creating a safety net for such people is increasingly falling on volunteers and charitable organizations. The United Way of Central Maryland continues to be one of the best. Last year, the United Way pumped $2.56 million into all manner of health and human service organizations. A substantial portion went to programs that assist people who have fallen on hard times: The Caring Program, which provides health coverage for uninsured children; the Anne Arundel County Food Bank, Helping Hand Inc.
If you are unsure whether to donate to the United Way because you are not sure your money will make a difference, or if you doubt the need is great, consider this: During 1994, county residents sought help from United Way-funded agencies 529,742 times. That works out to about 1.3 requests per county resident.
United Way volunteers predict homelessness and poverty will continue to plague Anne Arundel through 1996. In 1994, 1,890 people -- 37 percent of them children -- were served by shelters, while another 495 were turned away because there wasn't enough room. The jurisdiction faces many other critical problems. Child abuse and neglect are rampant. Growing numbers of frail elderly people as well as AIDS patients -- there are about 350 in the county -- can't afford the kind of care they need. The United Way funnels money to organizations that help these people.
The United Way is asking county residents for $1,382,615 -- a 5 percent increase over last year's total. Please give when you are asked to contribute.