William C. Brooking used to do his own yardwork but decided at 90 he would have to start taking it easy.
That was two years ago. On Saturday, Brooking had the help of the second-through fifth-grade boys of Cub Scout Pack 838 in cleaning up his two-acre lot in Mount Airy.
"They did a good job," said Brooking of the Mount Airy Scouts. "They cleaned up around the azaleas around the house, and they're going to come back and paint the fence."
The handful of Scouts were among the thousands of county residents who turned out to volunteer their time and elbow grease to fix or clean up homes, schools, parks and pathways or provide some other community service such as collecting donations for local volunteer groups.
"It was really successful, all things considered," said Kathy Sloan, county coordinator for the second annual Community Service Day.
The main consideration was that outdoor volunteers were often "on the edge of a hurricane," she said, trying to work between rain showers that buffeted the county Saturday.
Despite a morning downpour, about 150 people joined County Executive M.
Elizabeth Bobo for the kickoff ceremony at 9 in Centennial Park's Dockside Pavilion.
Sloan said about 16,500 people registered as volunteers -- so many that she had trouble finding work for all of them. She said she did not have the number of people who actually braved the rains to work Saturday.
The response to the event in Howard County has eclipsed that of populous Montgomery County, where Community Service Day originated in Maryland four years ago, she said. The event attracted the attention of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who turned it into a statewide event last year, Sloan said. An estimated 80,000 people signed up statewide, but no actual turnout figures were available, said a spokewoman for Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly Jr., the evenet's state coordinator.
All over the county, residents could be found doing everything from building birdhouses to pulling debris from streams.
Along the northern leg of Route 32, between Interstate 70 and the Carroll County line, members of the environmental group Windstar Connection cleaned up trash along the road.
Volunteers pulled discarded cardboard boxes and building materials from nearby ditches and streams and even rescued an amphibian with a bad leg.
"We found one injured toad that we saved. . . . We got him down where he was near water and shelter," said Kristin Mesa of Ellicott City, co-chairwoman of the group's Columbia-based Washington-Baltimore chapter.
In Columbia, members of Soroptomist International of Howard County, a professional womens organization, cleaned out storage rooms stuffed with donations at Grassroots, a homeless shelter and crisis hot line.
Five volunteers spent about three hours organizing the donations, which included soap, shampoo, towels and linens.
"We got a lot done. We gave them walking room in two huge storage rooms you couldn't even walk in when we got there," said member Ann Ryder, who works as coordinator for the county Office of Information and Referral.
"I think the girls enjoyed what they did," she said, adding that there was still work to be done. "We're hoping we can sandwich in coming back and doing it again."
Nearby at Lorien Nursing Home, 14 third-graders from Brownie Troop 134, based in the Clemens Crossing Elementary School, sang songs ranging from the "Brownie Smile Song" to "You're a Grand Old Flag."
"The girls were real happy, they had a lot of response. With a lot of the patriotic songs the residents were singing along," troop leader Kathy Airel said.
"It was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon."