Threatened storm clouds held back yesterday as dozens of volunteers turned out to spruce up the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital grounds -- an annual event that began more than 30 years ago and now features third-generation painters and picker-uppers.
Employees of Baltimore Specialty Steels Corp. and past and present members of Boy Scout Troop 176 worked side by side with hospital vice presidents painting curbs, railings, benches and even metal bed stands.
Scouts Allen Burris, 11, and Harry Bigham, 12, both of Hampden, and 11-year-old Paul Rutherford of Roland Park boasted that they had 64 bags of leaves -- and one garter snake -- by 11 a.m. Chris Cook, 13, of Reisterstown, said he wasn't even tired.
Chris' father and two uncles, all former troop members, were among the volunteers, and Uncle Frank Cook is now Scoutmaster of Troop 176 at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church in Hampden.
Scoutmaster Cook, 35, of Severn, started helping when he was 11 -- and showed an old photograph of himself as a troop member, wielding a paint brush atop a ladder.
"The old estate [which used to house the hospital] had a wood-fired heater," Mr. Cook recalled. "So the steel guys would bring chain saws, and we'd bring axes and split the wood and bring it up."
Now housed in a new building, the 130-bed hospital in the 1700 block of West Rogers Ave., in Northwest Baltimore, provides rehabilitation and special services to children with a variety of temporary and long-term disabilities and illnesses.
George Borkowicz, 52, a retiree from Baltimore Specialty Steels' purchasing department, said the hospital cleanup project began in 1959, when parent company Armco Steel planned to erect a monument in Ohio to its founder -- who instead suggested that company employees honor his birthday with volunteer projects.
"The accounting department picked the hospital years ago and just stuck with it," said Doug Dale, 57, of Linthicum, who retired as a supervisor last month. Mr. Dale had two brothers, two daughters, a son-in-law and a granddaughter on the job yesterday.
None of the longtime volunteers was sure why the accounting department in Baltimore chose the pediatric hospital: One said an employee had a daughter there; another version said a steel company employee who was already volunteering brought in the whole department.