Volunteerism is the ultimate in demonstrating compassionate concern for all people and the community we share.
It is as old as our nation and as new as today's headlines.
Long before President George Bush talked about the "thousand points of light," the 19th-century historian Alexis de Tocqueville said, "When an American asks for the cooperation of his fellow citizens it is seldom refused -- and I have often seen it offered spontaneously, and with great will."
Far from withering in our modern, fast-pacedsociety, volunteerism appears to be flourishing. The average volunteer offers nearly five hours a week. In 1987, volunteers nationwide racked up a total of 19.5 million hours.
In Maryland, volunteerism has come into its own. In Maryland state government, there are 165,000volunteers. That's three times the number of state employees.
There are volunteers in nearly every state agency, the majority involvedwith education and literacy. Some 10,000 Marylanders volunteer theirtime to our state hospitals, and 16,000 donate their efforts to cooperative extension services.
Promotion of volunteerism has been official state policy since 1983 when the Governor's Volunteer Council was established. The council's job was to ensure that volunteer efforts were channeled into all the areas where they were needed and to promote volunteerism across the state.
One of the first recommendations made by the council was the need to establish a Governor's Office on Volunteerism. The office was created in 1986 and each year has expanded the search for new volunteer energy.
In Carroll, volunteerism is alive and well. One example is the Carroll County Office on Aging's Life Enrichment Program, coordinated by Peggy Henderson. Program volunteers of all ages share their pets with residents of nursing homes, who have had to give up their own. These visits by members of theanimal kingdom fill a void no human can.
Some volunteers visit shut-ins and residents of nursing homes on a regular basis. They sit and talk and share memories of days gone by.
Perhaps the most unusual volunteers in this Life Enrichment Program are the teen-agers, the Youth in Service Program. Youth in Service is Carroll County's response to a double-edged challenge facing many communities today.
We are a mobile society that forces generations into long-distance relationships. And we face a growing senior population. The Youth in Service Program encourages the communication that fosters the growth of understanding and appreciation, and provides the vehicle for young people to reach across the generation gap and get to know our seniors.
Henderson tells me that volunteers are always needed for the Life Enrichment Program. If you are interested, give her a call at 848-4049.
But this is not the only program where volunteers make the difference. Volunteers staff the gift shop and other areas of Carroll CountyGeneral Hospital. They conduct tours at the Farm Museum.
They care for and support the terminally ill and their families through Carroll County Hospice. They return books to the shelves at county libraries and plant flower gardens in our municipalities.
Volunteers assist state and municipal police departments by directing traffic at fires and special events. They risk their lives to fight our fires and drive the sick and injured in ambulances to hospitals.
Volunteers teach others to read and write through the various literacy programs in our county. They establish and run recycling programs. They serve as Scout leaders to our young men and women, the future of our country.
Volunteers conduct nature walks at Piney Run, and they collect food for Carroll County Food Sunday, as well as all types of householditems for the Human Services Program. They deliver meals for the Meals on Wheels program.
Volunteers organize Welcome Home celebrations for Desert Storm servicemen and women. They serve as Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Volunteers organize and lead 4-H clubs and Students Against Drunk Driving.
The list of volunteers and their services inour county goes on and on. There are many more examples of their selflessness than I have been able to cite here.
Their points of light burn brightly in the Carroll County sky. Is your light burning withtheirs tonight?
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