WESTMINSTER — A new county program will encourage residents to help neighbors and at the same time earn credit for services that they can use.
Offered by the county Department of Citizen Services, Service Credit Banking is designed to increase volunteerism and encourage residents to take advantage of available services, said Peggy Henderson, county volunteer services coordinator.
When the program kicks off Feb. 1, participants will be able to earn hours of credit by providing assistance to needy residents. Participants will earn credit for each hour they volunteer. The credit canbe withdrawn later when a service is needed.
"Some of the services that a citizen volunteer could provide would include making phone calls, letter writing, meal preparation, transportation to the store or to an appointment and light housekeeping," Henderson said.
Volunteers will be allowed to donate earned credits to others in need of help.
The service is expected to initially serve about 30 people, primarily seniors whose programs have been curbed because of recent state budget cuts.
Henderson said the program not only encourages citizens to help others, but it also provides a means for seniors who need help to remain independent.
"The recipient of this service canremain independent in their home," Henderson said. "It's a way to keep them from having to possibly make other types of living arrangements because there are things that cannot do by themselves."
Catherine Cook, an 85-year-old Westminster resident, gave the program her endorsement.
"I think it sounds very good," Cook said. "I would liketo be more helpful and volunteer, but at the present time I have to take care of myself."
Cook, who lives by herself, receives assistance from family members who live in the county.
"So far, if I haveanything that needs to be done that I can't do, I have my nieces andmy nephews," she said. "If the time would come that I ever needed a service, I would use a volunteer."
Nobody will be turned down for services, she said.
"Basically the credit hours are for those who feel better about earning the services," she said. "That way they do not feel like they are accepting charity."
Helen Jarvis, who volunteers at the Westminster Senior Center, agreed that the program wouldbe helpful for seniors in need of occasional help.
"It sounds like it would be very beneficial for those seniors who need help every now and then," said the 68-year-old Westminster resident.
The program has been in the planning stages since mid-September when Citizen Services received money from the Governor's Office on Volunteerism. The money will pay a part-time worker minimum wage to coordinate the program through June 1992.
Mary Agnes Fogarty of Finksburg was selected by the Department of Citizen Services to help plan the program. Although there were several applicants, Fogarty was chosen because of her activism in volunteer circles.
"I have been a volunteer for about 35 years with different organizations including school groups andCarroll Haven Inc. where I still volunteer," said Fogarty, who has four grown children. "Personally I feel volunteerism is a tremendous reward in itself, and I feel very strongly about paying back the community in which you live."
Fogarty, who began her part-time positionin October, has been working closely with Henderson to design the SCB program.
"We want to start out small and keep growing over the years," Fogarty said.
State funding will only cover the program through mid-1992.
"We are anticipating that through my office (Citizen Services), we will absorb the cost of running the program," Henderson said. "This is an idea that has interested the county commissioners, and they have given us their support in developing the program."