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by Abigail Van Buren

No Thanks to the Groom, Couple's Notes Are Late

DEAR ABBY: Regarding "Enraged in Bremerton, Wash.," who has been inspired to political activism by the closing of a government-sponsored food shelter in her state: Why does she assume that it's the government's responsibility to feed the hungry? Where in the Constitution does it say that? Rather, it is our duty as neighbors and citizens to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

She wanted to know what she could do to influence the government about the injustice of the closure. While voting responsibly and educating herself on the issues is always a good idea, rolling up her sleeves and pitching in to solve the problem herself is an even better idea. How about getting on the telephone to private businesses and local community members and asking for their financial support to keep it open? She could also make calls to area grocery stores, wholesalers, restaurants, etc., and ask them to regularly donate their surpluses and good-but-unsellable food to the food bank. She could ask local media to announce a food drive to help fill the shelves as well, and ask for volunteers to run it.

Many food banks across the country are run in precisely this manner -- all organized and staffed by volunteers. When we volunteer our own time, it brings us closer to the problem, and we become more invested in solving it, rather than sloughing off responsibility to the government. Best of all, it's done with donated time and food that would have gone to waste, rather than spending our precious tax dollars. -- EILEEN COALE, ANNAPOLIS, MD.

DEAR EILEEN: Thank you for your helpful suggestions to implement community activism. I see your point, and it makes sense to me. However, it's not as simple as you make it seem. There are health department regulations, tax ramifications and fiduciary responsibilities that I doubt an 18-year-old would know how to handle. Perhaps those wishing to solve this nationwide problem should volunteer to work with an established charity such as a privately funded or church-sponsored food bank or service club.