Families Line Up For Assistance Center Thanksgiving Distribution

The assistance center has hundreds of baskets ready for needy families

Casey Dean is like a lot of moms, juggling her two children, appointments and groceries. And unfortunately, like a lot of moms, she has had trouble making ends meet lately.

On Monday, the 33-year-old from Cockeysville found herself at the , where she was one of hundreds who were there for a Thanksgiving basket.

The assistance center began its two-day on Monday and families from around the assistance center's service area each came to get one of about 2,500 baskets. The distribution continues Tuesday.

The baskets include stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni, meat, vegetables and everything needed for a turkey dinner. The Maryland Food Bank provided more than 140 frozen turkeys, and the center provided $10 coupons to families who came after the turkeys ran out.

Dozens lined up outside the small assistance center building with the line stretching down the steps to the courtyard at. Visitors then went across the street to to pick up their baskets.

Dean, like many in line Monday, may not have appeared as if she needed to be there, as she pushed along her two children, ages 1 and 2, in a stroller, but she hasn't worked full-time in a few years and her situation is one that's become increasingly common, even in the suburbs.

Now, as her fiancé faces a layoff from his seasonal swimming pool engineering job and plans to go back to school, Dean has been trying to find work to help make ends meet. Her search has been difficult because she needs a job that will cover day care costs but jobs that would help pay the bills aren't opening up for her, even though she has experience in telemarketing and customer service.

"I guess they're passing me by because I've been out of work the whole time," she said. "Of course they're going to take the person that's more qualified."

Cathy Burgess, the assistance center's director, said that some, like Dean, wouldn't be among the centers's clientele in normal times. But the past few years have been anything but normal.

"These are families who are finding it really hard this year because their hours have been curtailed or they're barely making it, so they're needing this extra help to get them through the holidays," she said. "Some of them have large families to feed."

Nationally, Feeding America estimates that 12.6 percent of suburban households experience what the charity calls "food insecurity." According to U.S. Census data, 9.2 percent of Marylanders lived below the poverty line in 2009, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

Burgess said that the center still needs more food to replenish its pantry as the holiday season continues. A full list is available on the organization's website.

The assistance center expects several hundred more to show up for the second day of the Thanksgiving distribution, then the remaining bags will go to other parts of Baltimore County.

"Whatever we have left over, we send to other areas, other agencies," said Suzanne Boellner of Parkville, an ACTC volunteer.

As for Dean, she remained optimistic as she left Trinity Episcopal Church, bags in hand.

"I know there are a lot of people that are all worse off than I am, not that I take comfort in that," she said. "I'm at the point where it can only get better. I have healthy kids. That's all that matters."


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