Vouching for volunteers

February 17, 1994

Three Severna Park women have started a new volunteer program that deserves support.

"Partners in Care," based at North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie, provides services to the elderly, disabled and other needy people who have been released from the hospital and cannot or should not leave their homes. Volunteers are asked to perform simple chores: driving someone to a doctor's appointment, picking up a prescription or running to the grocery store, helping with minor housework or merely checking in to make sure the patient is all right.

One of the things we like about this program is that it tries to see that the relationship yields benefits for the volunteer as well as the client, benefits that go beyond a sense of having done something good. Sometimes that is enough to motivate people to volunteer, and many people might argue that it ought to be enough. But volunteerism is so much more enjoyable and valuable when it is a two-way street.

Partners in Care tries to match people who have something to offer each other. For example, a 14-year-old Glen Burnie boy who wants to be a firefighter spends Saturdays helping an 89-year-old Pasadena man who was a fire chief for 40 years. That kind of relationship can go far beyond an impersonal benefactor-recipient transaction.

In addition, volunteers earn "service credits," which they can redeem if they need help, or donate to someone else. The idea is not to make volunteerism dependent on some sort of coupon -- a volunteer who needs help probably wouldn't need a credit to get it -- but to serve as a reminder that what you give really does come back to you.

Partners in Care is based on knowledge and experience; its founders have a background in adult education, social work and health care administration. Applicants are screened and put through a training program. Thirty volunteers have been approved and are working throughout Anne Arundel County; Partners is looking for more.

The program, which has received financial backing through TC private foundation, the hospital and the Severna Park Kiwanis Club, also seeks contributions. We realize that the number of groups enlisting our support can be overwhelming. It's so hard to cull through the list to discern the credible ones that it is no wonder some people end up shutting their ears to any of them. But as charitable organizations go, Partners in Care seems to be the real thing.

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