After retiring in 2013, Severna Park resident Ted Florenz wasn’t content to just relax.
“When I retired, I wanted to keep busy,” said Florenz. “I like to do a lot of different things outdoors. I kayak, bike, play golf, but I wanted to do something to give back to the community.”
He knew about SPAN (Serving People Across Neighborhoods) through his church, Woods Memorial, and started by volunteering to help with the food pantry. Impressed and inspired, Florenz jumped in with both feet.
“Once I got involved, I saw what a good organization it was and how much good they were doing, so I wanted to get even more involved,” explained Florenz, who is wrapping up his second two-year term as president of SPAN.
A faith-based, nondenominational ministry, SPAN provides food and/or financial assistance to qualified individuals and families to help them through critical or emergency situations.
“Most people think of us as a food pantry, but in reality, most of our efforts are financial. We have a budget that’s just under $300,000 per year, but 200,000 of it is for emergency assistance, helping with everything from utilities to prescriptions,” he said.
With only two full-time employees managing a variety of day-to-day operations, to be successful SPAN relies on people like Florenz who are willing to volunteer, take on leadership roles, and fundraise.
“We are very fortunate in Severna Park to have not only a lot of people who are willing to put in the time but also donate,” Florenz said.
While SPAN does support families across Anne Arundel County, the primary service areas are Severna Park, Millersvile, Arnold, Broadneck and Glen Burnie.
“Looking at the areas that we have served, one of the things that really surprised me the most was Severna Park,” Florenz said. “People have this impression that Severna Park is just all [affluent] and people don’t have needs. But 17.5% of the 1,400 families we served last year were from Severna Park.”
Florenz is quick to point out that it’s not simply enabling people. The max amount that someone can receive from SPAN is $225, which may be enough to help, but certainly not a significant amount of money.
“Sometimes people just need that little bit to get over something,” he said. “We try to understand what the needs are of each individual, and how SPAN can best support them, whether that be financially, the food pantry, or even things like financial planning.”
Throughout the holidays, SPAN manages its Holiday Caring program to help neighbors in need by providing assistance with food baskets and gifts for children. Last year, more than 100 sponsors and donors ensured that hundreds of families and children were able to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas with dinner and presents.
“It’s just terrific how the community has supported us,” Florenz said. “We’re excited because next year will be our 30th year. We’re all looking forward to having a big year and a lot of things going on.”
SPAN depends on donations from generous churches, businesses and individuals to keep it running. If you'd like to help, there are different ways to donate money, food and toiletries, baby goods for the diaper pantry, or on SPAN’s Amazon wish list. Visit www.spanhelps.org/donate for more information.