Profits from sale of art aid programs GLEN BURNIE

SENIORS HELPING THEMSELVES

January 27, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

There's a lace-trimmed basket here, a painted wood kitty over there. Crocheted dresses hang in the far corner and earrings dangle near the doorway.

Nobody hovers over the customers who browse through the room on the first floor of the Arundel Center North because this is a low-key store with a higher-key mission.

Established 14 years ago as an outlet for trinkets made by senior citizens, the CASOS store on the first floor of the county office building has taken on renewed importance because profits from the store help fill gaps in the county's services to senior citizens.

Community Advocates for Senior Opportunities and Services was spun off in July from the county's Department of Aging, making it a private, nonprofit group with a $50,000 county grant.

Being an independent agency gives CASOS members "a feeling of autonomy," said Frances Jones, CASOS president. But it also means they "need a helping hand."

And these days, Ms. Jones is hunting for more help.

"I will dicker with the county to use the parking lot for a spring bazaar. Just one day," she says.

She points to a sewing machine, now covered. "We will be making a quilt to raffle here."

Because the county recently reduced its minivan services for seniors, Mrs. Jones says CASOS wants to buy a van of its own to take seniors on daylong outings.

The county's van service has been so stressed by demands for medical trips that it can no longer allow four of its 28 vans to be out of the county all day on senior sojourns, said Dr. Carol Baker, director of the Department of Aging.

CASOS probably will seek a federal grant to buy and operate a van or two. And Ms. Jones plans to ask area civic clubs for donations.

In tight economic times, every dollar a senior citizen can make counts. More than 100 of the county's 70,000 senior citizens sell handmade wares through the consignment shop, taking home 80 percent of the selling price. One man made $300 in December, Ms. Jones says.

The other 20 percent goes into an emergency fund, now several thousand dollars strong. The money helps put food on the emergency pantry shelf.

The store has become a place where volunteers help senior citizens do everything from filling out paperwork for federal entitlement programs to getting a few dollars to those whose budgets can't stretch to cover unexpected expenses.

Anna Dawson, whose job as a door-to-door outreach worker for the Department of Aging was cut in July, still tends to her former clients here. "I come over every day and do something," the Glen Burnie resident says. "I just can't let these people go."

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