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"In my home, the table was always full, and I never knew who was coming to dinner. And I liked that," the Rev. Margaret Walker said.

For the last five years, Mrs. Walker and her husband, the Rev. Emerson Walker, both Wesleyan ministers, have been co-directors of the American Rescue Mission at 218-220 Franklin St.

"Our table is still full, and we have many diners," she continued. "And I like that. It's our joy to feed people. Without the Food Bank of Western New York, we would be hard pressed."

The American Rescue Mission is open daily except Saturdays.

"We begin at 4 p.m. with a 30-minute worship and serve fine dinners beginning at 4:45 p.m.," said Albert Edwards, an accountant who volunteers three or four days a week. "We ask no questions. Anyone who comes is welcome. Sometimes at the beginning of the month, we may serve only 30 men, women and children. But at month's end when check money runs low, we may serve 100.

"And Tuesday at noon, mothers who have registered with us can come once a month to get a food basket of fruit and vegetables, and any clothing we have and they need."

The American Rescue Mission has been in Buffalo since 1894. Its story led Donald I. Dussing Jr., chairman of The Buffalo News 1997 Summer Harvest fund drive, to renew his call for the public to contribute to the Summer Harvest fund.

Checks can be mailed to Summer Harvest, Box 395, Buffalo, 14226. Because the collection service is donated, all gifts go to the Food Bank.

The Walkers, their volunteers and the food handlers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers who donate surplus foods are doing their share to help the Food Bank assist the American Rescue Mission and 400 other volunteer groups in supplying food to needy people in Erie, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Niagara Counties.

"The Western New York banking community -- Chase Manhattan, Citibank, Fleet, Key, Lockport Savings, Marine and M&T Banks and the NYCE Network -- has joined the effort by donating cash," Dussing said. "Each time someone pays for something bought at a local supermarket with an ATM card, these banks will add money to the Summer Harvest.

"But we need the public to help. We are asking residents who can feed themselves and their families to send checks to Summer Harvest," Dussing said. "No one will be at the mailbox to thank donors, but it's the right thing to do. Any donor can get thanks by visiting one of the agencies that distributes food bundles and watching the eyes and smiles of the recipients."

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