A Big Role, But Behind The Scenes Varelli Involved In Blood Drives, Neighbors In Need And Soup Kitchen

December 30, 1990|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Many of the people in Harford County who have been helped by Bob Varelli probably don't even know his name.

That's because Varelli, a Forest Hill resident, excels at working behind the scenes, coordinating volunteers in four community outreach programs, said Joy Rich, director of the county's Neighbors in Need program.

The Neighbors in Need program, which matches needy families and individuals with donors, is just one of the outreach projects Varelli has adopted. He assists that program by coordinating the pickup and delivery of furniture donations.

Rich said Varelli recruits volunteer drivers and coordinates their schedules to pick up about 127 furniture items donated each month. He makes sure the furniture is delivered from the donors directly to the families who need it.

"That's quite a bit of work by itself, and he's invaluable to me," said Rich.

As an active member of Bel Air United Methodist Church, Varelli also coordinates the church's Christmas adopt-a-family program and handles much of the shopping for gifts himself.

In addition, he plans the church's four blood drives each year -- a project he started working on after a close friend needed blood donations after he "went under a tractor-trailer," Varelli said.

The 43-year-old has donated 57 pints of blood.

"And he actually started the very first soup kitchen in Harford County," said Rich. "I just feel he deserves a lot of recognition as an unsung hero."

True to the image of an unsung hero, Varelli is modest about his accomplishments, especially the soup kitchen, which after a slow start last summer is now feeding as many as 50 people each Wednesday.

"Well, nobody else opened one in Harford County," said Varelli, shrugging his shoulders. "What I really want is a five-day soup kitchen.

I'm still working on that."

Varelli, who has been married to his wife, Nancy, for 21 years and has two children, Jason, 16, and Jill, 13, does most of his scheduling for the furniture deliveries, and some of the shopping for the soup kitchen, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays. That's after he's worked a full day -- from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- at a grocery store on Liberty Road in Baltimore County.

"What I really hate is when I call people and ask them to help and they say, 'Only if you really need me.' I just hate that," he said.

Listening to Varelli recite his holiday "to do" list, you can understand why he needs a hand.

"Let's see, I've got 22 dressers, two cribs, 28 chairs and assorted end tables for Neighbors in Need. Fifteen of the dressers are assigned to families who need them, but I still need to find drivers to deliver the rest and get more names from Social Services. I also need beds, beds, beds," said Varelli, turning the pages of the four notebooks he uses to keep his lists and projects straight.

"Then I've got 100 pounds of potatoes, canned peas, a couple bushels of apples. I've got 43 chickens for food baskets and 10 cases of vegetables.

And my church has adopted 73 families for Christmas, which means 300-plus children to buy toys for, and it's three weeks before Christmas."

Peggy Groseclose, associate pastor at Bel Air United Methodist, said the tasks Varelli has taken upon himself make up a full-time job.

"What he does would make most people tired. But this is something that just energizes him," Groseclose said.

Varelli, who grew up in Baltimore, said he's puzzled when people ask him why he does so much volunteer work or where he finds the time to do all he does.

"I do this for the Lord," he said. "I want to help people. It's that simple. And maybe if you put this in the paper someone else will want to do something for other people. When people say they don't have time to volunteer, I just don't understand. You make time."

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