Investing In Our Children hopes to yield big dividend

Volunteer/Where good neighbors get together

November 05, 1991|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Evening Sun Staff

SEVERAL DAYS a week, Olga Martin goes from door to door in the Park Heights area giving out information to pregnant women that prenatal care is of utmost importance to the life of their babies and that there is excellent and free help available.

Martin volunteers to Investing In Our Children, a new prenatal outreach and public education program of the Office of Child Health in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The program began last April and is initially targeting the Park Heights community -- it is aiming to reduce the high rates of infant death and sickness there.

''The Park Heights area has one of the highest mortality rates for infants in the nation,'' says the 35-year-old Martin, who volunteers, she says, to ''give something back. So many blacks grow up in an area, then leave it for school and college and never come back. I left this area and I wanted to come back and give,'' she says.

Marcy Pride, program director of Investing In Our Children, concurs that the Park Heights and Baltimore in general need a program like Investing in Our Children. According to the group's literature, "Baltimore City has the nation's third highest mortality rate when compared with cities of similar size,'' and that the most recent statistics, gathered in 1988, show that "850 Maryland babies died before reaching the age of one."

Pride has a staff of three: Yvette McEachern, project director; Linda Turner, administration specialist, and Renee Lang, secretary.

''We have recruited and trained 38 dedicated and wonderful volunteers who either live, work, worship in or care about the Park Heights community,'' says Pride, who welcomes ''those who will join us in this project for infant survival.''

Volunteer Martin says, ''Children are our future, and when we go door to door we talk with the residents who are pregnant, who might become pregnant or who have small children. We offer a lTC packet of all manner of information. In it is a list of all organizations which can help them, such as social services, the Park West Medical Center as well as other medical centers and also available literacy programs. There is also excellent literature on prenatal care and its importance.''

Martin attended Drexel University in Pennsylvania and is the controller for the Forum Caterer Service on Primrose Avenue in the city. She also volunteers to Simmons Memorial Church at Pennsylvania Avenue and Carey Street and to the Bea Gaddy House for the homeless.

''What I do is not for recognition, but in the name of Jesus, and as long as I'm doing good work, that satisfies me,'' Martin says. Born and raised in Baltimore, where her parents, two brothers and two sisters live, she says her hobbies are being a CPA and doing taxes and aerobics.

Investing In Our Children has a community-based advisory board which will oversee the program's development and implementation. It is funded through a grant from the federal government. Its staff trains volunteers who work in pairs with the trained ones getting on-site experience.

Pride says she hopes for a volunteer commitment of at least four hours per week for four months. Those interested in volunteering or in getting more information about the program can call Pride or Linda Turner at 225-5824.

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