GO SHOPPING for a volunteer opportunity this weekend at the Maryland State Fair, which opens Saturday at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium. A market for prospective volunteers will be held Saturday and Sunday, and Gov. William Donald Schaefer is scheduled to play host to Maryland volunteers Sunday.
The Strive for Five Volunteer Marketplace will feature more than 100 non-profit and government organizations seeking volunteers, including literacy tutors, crisis counselors, foster grandparents and many others.
A project of the Governor's Office on Volunteerism and Partners for Giving, it will be located in a large tent next to the grandstand and will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. Sunday. Fifty exhibitors will be featured each day.
Volunteering is something "that almost anyone can do, yet many people just don't know how and where they are needed," says Lisa Akchin, the project coordinator.
In a recent survey of volunteerism, the most frequent answer people gave as the reason they were not volunteering was "no one asked me," says Akchin, adding, "We want to change that."
Akchin is director of marketing for the University of Maryland Medical System and a volunteer for Partners in Giving, the coalition of businesses, foundations and non-profit organizations that conducted the survey.
Founded by Frank and Mary Ellen Gunther, the organization seeks to encourage volunteerism in Maryland and has established the "Strive for Five" request, asking individuals to give five volunteer hours each week and 5 percent of their income to non-profit organizations.
Meetings to coordinate the State Fair marketplace began in March.
"I don't know what I'd do if my family were not flexible about my work and if my employee wasn't community-minded and supportive of my volunteering," says Akchin. Her husband, Don, owns the publishing and marketing communications company Ideas for Issues. Their two children are Jonathan, 10, and Jennifer, 4.
The marketplace is also sponsored by the Capital Centre and WNUV-TV 54. The attraction features an area for children, and visitors will be invited to autograph a large sculpture of helping hands as a pledge to volunteering.
In conjunction with the marketplace, Sunday has been designated by the governor as "A Day at the Fair for People Who Care." Invitations, including free admission, were issued to 150,000 volunteers. Schaefer is scheduled to speak at 8 p.m. and will be followed by a free Oldies Extravaganza concert, sponsored by Signet Bank and featuring The Drifters, The Platters and The Shirelles.
For marketplace information, call the Governor's Office on Volunteerism at 225-4496. Current volunteers who did not receive an invitation to Volunteer Day may also find that some tickets are still available.