FERNDALE'S Robert and Joan Childs are motivated by the need to help others through their Christian faith. They are members of a response unit of the Maryland/Delaware Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Program.
They belong to Linthicum Baptist Church, whose former pastor, the Rev. Elwood Ulmer, spoke to them this year about a program that certified volunteers to respond to natural or other disasters in relief efforts.
The couple received training through a Red Cross course given in early June at Glen Burnie Baptist Church, so they would be available to respond to the challenge of helping people affected by disasters.
They learned that disaster could mean anything from a fire involving only one family to an ice storm paralyzing an entire community. Or a hurricane.
The call to action came by telephone at 9 a.m. Sept. 12, courtesy of a storm named Floyd. Their assignment was to cook meals for people flooded out by the hurricane.
Uncertain about their eventual destination, the Childses had until 3 p.m. to get to the Middle River Baptist Church and meet other volunteers -- including three from Glen Burnie -- and see the kitchen-equipped truck they would use.
"We thought we might be sent to North Carolina, but when we met up with the group, we found out we were going to New Jersey," Mrs. Childs said. "Five cars followed the truck in caravan style until we arrived at the Somerville police station. With our letter from the Southern Baptist Relief Program, we were admitted to the disaster area and directed to the Somerville sheriff's lot where we set up under a tent."
For the next four days -- two of them rainy -- they, with 18 other volunteers, worked under the Red Cross program, cooking 3,000 hot meals outdoors.
"It was heavy work and exhausting and not real glamorous. The huge cans of food were heavy and hard to open, even for the men," Mrs. Childs said.
The Childses started at 6 a.m. to prepare lunches and, after handing those over to the Red Cross to deliver, began to fix the supper. Food was packaged with bottles of water brought to the site by the National Guard and delivered to those who had been hard hit by the hurricane.
It wasn't until 9: 30 p.m., after the pots and pans were scrubbed and everything was cleaned up, that the Childses were able to call it a day and sleep in their van on the site.
The last two days, the Childses said, Red Cross workers asked whether they would like to ride on the truck delivering the meals in the New Brunswick area. It was a real eye-opener.
Until then, they had seen mostly main roads, which didn't give an idea of the extent of the damage. When they went into the towns, they couldn't believe how bad things were. They saw bulldozers in the street pushing rugs, sofas and all kinds of contaminated household articles. All of it was headed for the dump.
Officials were allowing people to return to their homes, and some residents were scrubbing down the best they could. Still without electricity, the residents were happy to receive the hot meals.
"When they saw the truck coming with the food, they came out of the houses to greet us, they were so happy to get the meals," Mrs. Childs said. "They would tell us how many were in the family."
Many were Spanish-speaking, Mrs. Childs said, so she fell back on her high-school Spanish lessons to say hello and goodbye and she understood numbers when they told her how many meals were needed.
The experience left a lasting impression on the couple, who say seeing lives shattered by the hurricane was very upsetting. "When I first came back home, I couldn't talk about it. We saw so much devastation. I especially felt bad when I saw this husband and wife in their 80s. They looked like they didn't know what to do, they looked lost," Mrs. Childs said.
But though the experience was exhausting, difficult and upsetting, she said it was also very fulfilling. Asked whether she and her husband would go the next time they are called, she responded very quickly: "Oh, yes, definitely."
Delegate to give talk
Del. Mary Ann Love will be the speaker at Tuesday's meeting of the Woman's Club of Linthicum Heights. A member of the Maryland General Assembly since 1993 and of the Woman's Club for two years, Love is the first female chairman of the county delegation.
A Democrat, she has long been active in community and political affairs and served in various county positions before being appointed to fill a vacancy in the House of Delegates. She was elected in 1994 and re-elected last year.
The group's Public Affairs Committee, headed by member Pat Barrows, is in charge of the program for Tuesday's meeting, which will begin at 10: 30 a.m. at the clubhouse, 110 N. Hammonds Ferry Road. It is open to the public.
The club's International Affairs Committee is again conducting "Christmas in October" for its Operation Christmas Child project. Shoe boxes filled with gifts for children ages 2 through 14 will be collected at the meeting and distributed to children around the world through a program called Samaritans' Purse. Filled boxes should be brought to the meeting.
The Woman's Club is also conducting its fall sale of Entertainment 2000 discount coupon books for the Greater Baltimore area and Maryland/Washington, D.C., priced -- like last year's editions -- at $35.
Out-of-state books are available without an extra charge for delivery. To purchase any of the books, call Jane Bond, 410-859-0613 or Anne Skillman, 410-859-1082.
Proceeds are used by the club for its many projects, including educational awards and the Concerts in the Park program.
Bus to Biltmore
Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for the Ferndale Garden Club's bus trip to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. The bus will leave Ferndale at 6 a.m. Nov. 11 and return early in the evening Nov. 13.
The group will visit the mansion one evening to see the Christmas decorations by candlelight and return for a full day of touring the largest house in America, as well as the winery and newly renovated conservatory.
The cost is $175 and includes transportation, two nights' lodging at the Best Western Biltmore, continental breakfast and entry fee to the estate. There is a $75 nonrefundable deposit due with each reservation.
Information: Mary Stafford, 410-760-0557, or Carol Wagner, 410-768-9575.
The North Glen Improvement Association will hold a Longaberger basket bingo Saturday at the Glen Burnie Moose Lodge, 1456 Crain Highway. Doors open at 5 p.m., and games begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.
According to member Nancy Mason, there will be 20 bingo games, three specials, door prizes, raffles, and extra cards available at the door. Proceeds go to the equipment fund of the association.
Tickets: John Campbell, 410-761-3460; information, Nancy Mason, 410-761-4894.
Police liaison meeting
The Linthicum Shipley Improvement Association will have its next meeting at 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday at Lindale-Brooklyn Park Middle School, 415 Andover Road. The speaker will be Gordon Merritt, community liaison officer from the Northern District police station.
A traffic dialogue begun at the September meeting will continue. Committees are being formed to work on streets that have problems such as speeding, bottlenecks and bad visibility.
Opinions as to what actions are needed to solve these problems are diverse. Committee people are still needed to work on Shipley Road, Benton Avenue, Music Lane, Twin Oaks Road and other streets in Linthicum.
Information: Gerald Starr, president, 410-859-8026.
Research on roots
Kuethe Library -- home of the Historical and Genealogical Research Center operated by the Ann Arrundell County Genealogical Society -- will have an open house from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. today.
This is an opportunity to trace your roots. Experienced researchers will be available to help. No charge is made. Refreshments will be served. Local maps and other items of historical interest will be on display.
Although specializing in Anne Arundel County and Maryland, the library is a treasure trove for historical and genealogical information from across the United States.
The library is at 5 Crain Highway S.E. with ample parking behind the building.
Information about the center: 410-760-9679, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.