FOR MORE THAN 125 years, the city's Department of Recreation and Parks has offered a myriad of free pleasures -- things to do that are fun, interesting, informative and, most of all, a break from the usual.
Helping that happen is volunteer Auora Wendi Coleman, 17, a senior at Edmondson/Westside High School. She has volunteered to the Mount Royal Recreation Center at 120 W. Mosher St. since she was 9 years old.
Wendi, as she prefers to be called, works with 5- and 6-year-olds reading stories, supervising and working with the summer camp programs. She is on a work/study program, spending half of the day at school and from noon to 5 p.m. as a clerk at the Social Security Administration.
When she graduates in June, Wendi says she will volunteer in the evenings and work full-time with the SSA. In the fall, she plans to attend either Frostburg State College in Western Maryland or Catonsville Community College.
''I want to be a child psychologist and an entrepreneur who has her own day-care center for children whose parents can't afford to give them the top in day care,'' she says.
The young teen credits her mother, Catherine Boone, and her volunteering for ''giving me self-esteem, learning the importance of hard work and study . . . I learned to care for myself and about myself,'' she says.
Her mother says, ''We live in the inner city and while many people say it is so hard to raise children, I say they should stop complaining and get on with it and give their children the shove and the help they need to get ahead.'' Catherine Boone works for Joseph P. Seagram and Sons and has two other children, Robyn and Robert.
In 1989, Wendi was honored by the recreation department at its annual luncheon and received a plaque for her more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time.
Last year she participated in the First Debutante Cotillion sponsored by the department, and she is active in the 4-H Extension Program and was a senior counselor at the 4-H resident camp.
Al Julian, director of volunteer services for Recreation and Parks, says there are 72 centers throughout the city and about 1,500 volunteers. More are always needed, he says.
''Throughout the year, we keep records of volunteer hours sent to us by the center directors, and we have an annual luncheon honoring those who have given 100 or more hours. Also, we give plaques to those with the highest number of hours,'' he says.
Volunteers are needed in the division that offers day care, as members of advisory counsels, for classes in crafts and to coach sports and to chaperon dances and events. Mr. Julian also says that ''for those interested in horticulture, we are in charge of the Cylburn Arboretum, the Conservatory and the Carrie Murray Nature Center.
''We have five parks in the city where members of community associations help clean up," he says. The parks are Clifton, Patterson, Carroll, Gwynns Falls, which includes Leakin Park, and Druid Hill.
Anyone interested in volunteering may call Mr. Julian at 396-7459 or call your nearest center. ''Also, the director of each center can give out the different programs offered there,'' Mr. Julian says.