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Mission is a labor of love

The Baltimore Sun

Volunteers are making a difference through the Elkridge Love Mission. Twice a month, students, parents and community members volunteer their time at the facility off U.S. 1 near the Baltimore County line to help distribute food and clothes.

"All the volunteers are nice. I love them," said Bessie Johnson, 82, who has been using the services of the mission for five years.

The mission has three components -- The Elkridge Food Pantry, Clothes Closet and Community Garden. The organization is nondenominational and receives support from local organizations and churches that donate money, food and services.

The food pantry was started 20 years ago by community members who wanted to help six families in their area. It originally was supported by the Kiwanis and local merchants. Now, the program serves an average of 80 families a month.

The Clothes Closet is in the same building as the food pantry. It started in the fall of 2001, when Pam Flynn of Elkridge saw that some community members needed clothes as well as food.

"I knew the food pantry was there, and I knew these people were experiencing hardships, so I thought if they have trouble buying food they probably have trouble buying clothing," Flynn said.

The Clothes Closet originally took only outerwear but expanded to collect all types of clothes, hygiene products, books, dishes, school supplies and more.

"It's growing by leaps and bounds," Flynn said. "We get donations weekly."

The Community Garden is behind the food pantry. Community members plant and watch over the vegetables, which are handed out when they are ripe.

Volunteers at the mission are kept busy and said they enjoy what they do.

"I send out the thank-you letters, run the Christmas program, volunteer every second and fourth Friday, organize the Girl Scout or Brownie troops, and in between that do whatever is needed," said Elkridge resident Stephanie Whitehead.

"I moved to Carroll County, but I still come back to volunteer every Sunday, Wednesday night, and on Fridays," Ellen Maguire said.

Some high school students volunteer to fulfill their community service requirement.

"Knowing that I have helped people that don't have as many things as I do is the most rewarding part about volunteering here," said Rich Bell, a junior at Mount Saint Joseph High School.

Girl Scout and Brownie troops also prepare meals for the families. "They are more than willing to cook," said Linda Goodman, a Brownie mother who helped the girls of Brownie Troop 4787 of Deep Run Elementary School prepare dinner and a dessert of brownies and cookies for the food pantry.

With the support of the community and its volunteers, the Elkridge Love Mission has helped serve residents in Elkridge, Hanover and Jessup.

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