For most people, retiring means stopping work. For Betty Baker it meant leaving a full-time job to be a full-time volunteer.
On Mondays, she volunteers to the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, on Tuesdays and Fridays it's off to Church Hospital, Wednesdays she's a tour guide at the World Trade Center and on Thursdays she serves meals at Our Daily Bread.
As she sits at her breakfast table looking out over the Inner Harbor, she talks of her need to be busy and of the pleasure in helping others. Three years ago she retired after 39 years as executive secretary to the chairman of the board for Monumental Life Insurance Co.
''I planned my retirement very well," she says. "On the same day I retired, I moved into this harbor apartment, which is comfortable, safe and the view is exceptional.''
Being able to walk to her volunteer work or ''just to walk is one of the advantages to living downtown and working here. I am a walker and I feel absolutely safe downtown although I believe that staying alert is the secret to being safe,'' she says.
At Downtown Partnership, an organization of businesses formed eight years ago to enhance the area for tourists, shoppers and businesses, Ms. Baker does ''whatever is needed. I help with large mailings, which at the moment include schedules for the ballpark and other office help,'' she says.
''We couldn't do without her. She does an incredible job for us, and I'm sure it is the same everywhere she helps,'' says Brian Lewbart, public relations manager for the Partnership.
For seven years, the group has sponsored the event called First Thursday, which is held between 5:30 and 7:30 on the first Thursday evening of each month. It is a festive evening for the public to stroll along the Charles Street corridor visiting shops, museums, art gallerys and restaurants which stay open for this
event. Street performers and colorful balloons are about.
Each month a special event is planned. A salute to Mother's Day is coming up on May 7; a tumbling exhibition in Charles Plaza by the U.S. Olympic gymnastic contenders, who will stroll with the crowd down Charles Street, is set for June 4; an Independence Day celebration is scheduled for July 2 and an evening of jazz is planned on Aug. 6, which also includes a sidewalk cookout, says Mr. Lewbart.
Downtown Partnership president Laurie Schwartz says, ''We are downtown's only management organization and we work as partners with business and city and state agencies to create a more prosperous and vibrant center city.''
The many services the non-profit Downtown Partnership offers include Operation Clean Sweep, which has 80 volunteer block captains who monitor the area. Clean-up is by the city crews as well as a Partnership crew, which also has a training program for the homeless.
Currently the clean-up effort has been extended to Howard Street, and a security effort is in force through the downtown area.
The security effort, says Mr. Lewbart, includes many things such as getting improved lighting in parking areas, training block captains to be the eyes and ears of the streets and training the homeless to be alert on the streets.
"We have a security task force and also a business development program to attract small businesses downtown plus our bi-monthly inventory of available commercial space is the only one compiled for downtown Baltimore,'' adds Mr. Lewbart. The Partnership is funded by the city, voluntary contributions and about 300 downtown businesses.
Betty Baker continues her volunteering throughout the week. At Church Hospital, she jokes, ''I'm a go-fer, going for this and doing that. I go to the pharmacy, take patients to and from discharge, make beds and give out trays on a hospital floor,'' she says.
Her weekends are free, and during the summer she spends much of her time at her seaside home in Delaware. ''Each year I take a trip. This year will be Ireland. I enjoy both volunteering and my free time,'' she says.
At Downtown Partnership, Mr. Lewbart also notes that volunteers are needed in the office, ''distributing our First Thursday newsletter, blowing up and distributing balloons, and we would welcome those with a retail background to serve as consultants for our business development efforts,'' he says.
To volunteer to Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, 330 N. Charles St., Suite 300, Baltimore 21201, call Carol Lidard at (410) 244-1030.