When Helen Chorpenning comes for her weekly visit with nursing home residents, she leaves in her wake women with brightly colored manicures and men with clipped, filed and buffed fingernails.
Chorpenning, of New Windsor, is one of hundreds of Carroll County seniors who volunteer in a variety of ways to make life more pleasant for others their age.
To show their appreciation for Chorpenning and a gold mine of about 300 other volunteers, the Department of Aging threw a recognition luncheon last month at the Reese Fire Hall.
Chorpenning participates in the Senior Life Enrichment Program, in which volunteers visit nursing home residents to chat, play music, exercise or share whatevertalents they have.
When Chorpenning, 67, first got involved five years ago, it was just to talk with the residents at Carroll LutheranVillage, Westminster Nursing Home and other homes to absorb some of their history and wisdom. She is a retired dispatcher and clerk for Westminster Cab.
"They can tell me more than I can tell them," she said of the residents she visits. "I started to think I should be doing something while we were talking."
She began offering to comb and style women's hair and sew on buttons. One day, she offered to spruce up a woman's nails. Then another woman asked to have hers done. Then another.
"The next thing I knew, I was doing 30 at a time," Chorpenning said. Typically, she spends the whole day at a nursing home Tuesdays and Fridays, and does 25 to 30 pairs of hands each day. Her record for one day is 37 people.
Some of her "clients" are regulars who want a manicure each week if she has time.
Others ask for iton special occasions, if they're going to a wedding or having a special visitor. They tell her they want nice-looking nails for the doctors and nurses to see.
"Some of them really like the bright red," she said of the polish choices.
One adventurous woman let her applyblue stars on her white-polished nails. Another let her paint eggs on her fingertips for Easter.
But most are happy with a nice red orrose shade, she said.
"I just thought it would be a boost for them, and they love it," she said. "I like to see that they love it so much. It does more for me than it probably does for them."
She alsotakes a certain vicarious pleasure in applying the colorful polish to the nails of some residents; she can't wear the stuff any more often than about once a month.
"I'm sort of allergic to nail polish myself, but putting it on other people doesn't seem to bother me," she said.
People like Frances Barnes of Hampstead keep senior centers running and keep them fun, even though they get little recognition, said Brenda Lerner, community service program coordinator for theDepartment of Aging.
But recognition isn't why Barnes does what she does, she said. She enjoys it, whether she's teaching ballroom dancing or roasting a turkey for a spring buffet dinner.
"I like it up here," Barnes said of the center. "Ever since I retired, I can't sit still. I've got to work."
Until 1986, she was an office worker at Black & Decker U.S. Corp. She lives on St. Paul Street with her husband, Nicholas. He also helps out at the center. Both attend every day, from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sometimes he goes in earlier to set uptables, she said.
"Whenever we need help, she's there," said Clara Hagan, assistant site manager for the center. Since manager DorothyHouff has been out sick, Hagan said she has relied on Barnes to keepthe center running smoothly.
Barnes helped Hagan cook and set up the Spring Fling buffet dinner last spring -- everything from cookingthe food to setting up the dining hall and greeting people as they arrived.
Despite her volunteer duties taking up as much time as a job might, Barnes enjoys being needed and helping Hagan.
"The two of us are the guiding lights right now," Barnes said.
Every Tuesday, the Shillacis hit the road to Hanover by 6:45 a.m. to get first crack at an assortment of day-old breads, rolls, cakes and pies.
For the past four years, Frank Shillaci has worked out an arrangement with the bakery to take its day-old goods and distribute them to neighbors and fellow members of the Finksburg Senior Center.
He and his wife, Evelyn, are members of the center, and both were selected by their peers as "Seniors of the Year" yesterday. The honor usually goes to one member each year, but this time the members decided to award it to the Shillacis as a couple.
Evelyn, 76, is a retired bank teller and municipal worker. Frank, 78, is a former firefighter and security guard supervisor. They live on Altondale Road in Finksburg.
In addition to bringing baked goods, they participate in several other senior center activities, said Suzie Santalucia, manager of the center.
Santalucia said the members always look forward to the Tuesday baked-goods event. Usually, there is more than enough to serve with lunch that day, and seniors take some home. Sometimes, the batch is so plentiful that they take leftovers to neighbors.