Plans to fight hunger in Southern Maryland were on the plate of state legislators last week.
The Rev. Robert Hahn, pastor of Chesapeake Church in Huntingtown, and local resident Theresa Kuhns told lawmakers in Annapolis about plans to expand the End Hunger program, which started in 2008.
Hahn said the church donated 9 acres toward the project, noted that some $750,000 has been raised and that state Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is sponsoring an initiative that would provide $200,000 in bond funding.
A kitchen that would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act is planned, Hahn said, noting it would help train those with high-functioning autism.
“We’re training employable kitchen skills,” he said, noting that it costs $2,000 to put someone with a disability to work.
Kuhns said that such a facility and culinary training program could help her three sons, ages 10, 7 and 5, who have special or medical needs.
Hahn said End Hunger plans to relocate its food warehouse — which is currently located in the Calvert County Industrial Park north of Route 231 — to the End Hunger campus next to the church.
“Our lease is up (this year), and it’s about to go to $90,000 a year, and we can build and save a lot of money,” he said.
The target opening date for the 32,000-square-foot warehouse — which would include a kitchen and collaborative meeting spaces — is late summer/early fall.
In addition to Miller’s bond initiative, Hahn said Gov. Larry Hogan (R) included $250,000 a year for two years for End Hunger as a line item in his proposed budget.
The nonprofit also applied for a $300,000 Protection of Religious Institutions grant from the state that would allow it to add security cameras, windows, and doors at the facility, which provides active shooter training periodically.
“We are the softest target in Southern Maryland for an active shooter,” Hahn said, adding that the church has five armed guards on the property each weekend. The church auditorium holds 800 people, he said.
Hahn, who has pastored the non-denominational church for 26 years, said he’s been living in Southern Maryland for 32 years and isn’t going anywhere.
“Never underestimate the Rev. Hahn because he finds a way to get it done,” state Del. Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) said. “He’s affected more lives in Southern Maryland than anyone I know.”
Clark, who formerly was a Calvert County commissioner, shared a memory. “I used to own property across the street (from the church),” he said. “I remember when it first went up. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. There were a few roadblocks that got hit. I told (county) staff, ‘We can’t fight this guy ... give him what he wants ... It’s not worth the hassle for the good he’s going to do.’”
That was more than 30 years ago, Hahn said, adding that he’s been attending the church for 32 years.
An End Hunger brochure says that Calvert County is the 19th wealthiest county in the U.S.
“In Calvert County, the face of hunger is not what you may think,” the brochure states. “The majority of the hungry in our county are not homeless, drug abusers or mentally challenged. They are the working poor.”
Hahn said food from Bernie Fowler Jr.’s Serenity Farm and Farming4Hunger program is housed and distributed from the End Hunger warehouse.
According to endhungercalvert.org, some 1.5 million pounds of food were distributed throughout last year. Twitter: @CalRecCALEB