Expo makes 'miracles' happen Sixth annual event to help needy seniors

October 25, 1992|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

For Joyce Hersel, the medium-sized package that came to her home held an enduring miracle, a hot-water heater to replace one that self-destructed during the coldest days of last winter.

Rita Rice, a 71-year-old housewife in Middle River, also receives a small miracle, $40 a month to help buy medicine for her heart ailment.

And Walter Furbee, 68, got an easel and a wheelchair to help him get around.

Money for these items came from profits of last year's Senior Expo, sponsored by the Baltimore County Department of Aging.

"We made $52,000 from Senior Expo last year," said Dr. Philip H. Pushkin, the department's director. "That money goes to people in need when there is no other way to get the money."

This coming Wednesday and Thursday, the sixth expo will be held in the Exhibition Hall at Timonium Fairgrounds. Last year, about 6,000 people attended. This year, Dr. Pushkin is expecting even bigger crowds.

"Our booth space is sold out," he said.

That could mean greater profits to help people like Ms. Hersel. When the water heater in her Essex home broke last winter, she was reduced to heating water on her stove for herself, her disabled mother, Virginia Gladden, 73, and her own two children.

"That wasn't working very well for us," said Ms. Hersel, 35. "But I figured that's what we would have to do forever because I didn't have the money to buy one. Then a miracle happened."

A visiting nurse told her the county could help. Phone calls were made, forms filled out.

"Pretty soon, a man showed up with the heater and installed it for me," she said. "The heater cost $177 and has a 10-year guarantee. To me that's a lifetime, and a miracle."

Mr. Furbee, a retired Baltimore County employee, lives in Parkville with his wife Alice, 72. Both are physically disabled. They, too, have benefited from the expo. Mr. Furbee spends time working with oils and duck decoys. He and his wife take classes at the Parkville Senior Center.

Senior Expo is part of a mandate placed on the department by the federal Older Americans Act, passed by Congress in 1965.

"The department gets about $4.6 million from the federal government and about $3.6 million from the county each year," Dr. Pushkin said.

As part of the federal mandate, the department has to produce demonstration projects like Senior Expo.

"We also make money from it, and that money is ours to spend without strings," said Dr. Pushkin. "Expo is not just for the money, however. . . . We offer enormous amounts of information on things like health care, services for the elderly, and finance. We're also interested in educating the children of elderly parents who some day will have to help their parents cope with their problems."

Senior Expo will be open Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3, with two-for-one admissions Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

"Almost all of the work is done by our staff and by volunteers," said Dr. Pushkin. "Corporate sponsors help us with other expenses, so the money we get from admissions and from booth rentals is almost all profit."

Expo's entertainment will include the Last Chance Jazz Band on Wednesday and the Towson High School Chorus on Thursday. U.S. Reps. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, and Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd, will discuss national health insurance prospects beginning 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Financial institutions, hospitals, law firms, the Internal Revenue Service, retirement communities, and other groups will be on hand.

"Our exhibitors together can answer any question that a senior ++ citizen can ask," Dr. Pushkin said.

For more information on senior assistance in Baltimore County call (410) 887-2594.

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