Award-winning volunteers show unflagging devotion '95 recipients of honors are still going strong

January 19, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Almost a year later, Maryland's ace volunteers are still at it, except for Takoma Park crime-fighter Carrie Spicer, 91. She finally left the Takoma Park Police Department in December after 11 years of recording the comings and goings of burglars and muggers.

Ms. Spicer was one of 12 recipients of the 1995 Governor's Volunteer Award given in April to such stalwarts as a Baltimore chef, Boonsboro garage mechanics, master gardeners in Howard County, a Randallstown engineer-inventor and tree planters along Maryland roads.

The Governor's Office on Volunteerism again is calling for nominations for the 14th annual Governor's volunteer awards. The deadline is Feb. 16. Winners will be announced during National Volunteer Week April 21-27.

"We can't easily replace Carrie," said Sandra Broadwater, coordinator of volunteers in Takoma Park government. "She is leaving the area for her children in Virginia but she'll be volunteering for a hospital there."

Ms. Spicer began offering her skills in recordkeeping full time to the department at age 80, helping assign court dates and log police reports. Homemade cookies for the officers were part of the deal. At the end she was doing 15 to 20 hours a week of paperwork, far beyond the service of most of Maryland's volunteers. Programs nationally consider a weekly volunteer shift be four hours.

A random check of five other 1995 recipients shows no letup in the activism as well as the variety of Maryland voluntarism.

* Randy Stahl, executive chef-owner of the Brass Elephant restaurant in Baltimore, continues with his wife, Abbe, to donate food, raise food money and teach cooking for the needy in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County through Second Helping and Food Link. The two programs that collect prepared food from hotels, restaurants and caterers. "You see the need, and you make the time, but I couldn't do it without great support from my wife and staff," he said. He's starting his seventh class on cooking for single mothers in Baltimore through Operation Frontline.

* Terry Smith and mechanics at Terry's Auto Center in Boonsboro still serve as weekly mentors to troubled students at Boonsboro Middle School. "These kids need help," Mr. Smith said. "They come from broken homes. We assist with homework, we talk with them, we give them extra attention. We ourselves can't see all the change, but the school secretaries say the students show a marked positive change. We get a great deal of satisfaction from this."

* "We're going stronger than ever," said Georgia Eacker, coordinator of volunteers for Howard County Master Gardeners. "Last year we had 99 volunteers, we're adding 25 this year. We're expanding our plant clinics, we're adding new training programs for the new people. They will again be conducting planting and composting clinics, restoring historic gardens, doing research and helping answer gardeners' questions."

* Frank James of Randallstown, a retired Westinghouse electronics engineer, invents devices for disabled people as a member of Volunteers for Medical Engineering. He has built exercise equipment, hand tools, multiuse carts and crutches. "It seems like a good way to spend my retirement. I'm now working on a device for a man with Lou Gehrig's disease so that he can change his TV channels by moving his head. It still needs perfecting."

* And on the state's roads, when snows clear, 14,000 or so Marylanders still are removing trash, planting trees and cleaning streams along 2,400 miles of eligible state highways. Chuck Brown of the State Highway Administration said, "They're still doing it all." The state has 5,300 total road miles but more than half are too dangerous for lay workers. The state said the 1,200 cleanup crews save the state $1.2 million a year.

The annual volunteer awards usually attract 600 to 700 nominations, said David Minges, director of the governor's volunteer office. Three groups of judges weigh the evidence and decide.

Voluntarism peaked nationally and locally at about 52 percent of the population in 1990 and is about 48 percent now, he said. In Maryland, voluntarism is increasing among families, students and people over 60, he said. The recession put a damper on the service of preretirement age people worried about jobs and mortgages.

"Some people have less time, and if so, we're aiming for more people," Mr. Minges said. "The impact of the federal budget cuts is doubly tricky. People fear not only fund cutting in their programs but worry about the need for more volunteers."

People have a chance to nominate service-minded friends in 13 categories: arts and culture, education and literacy, environment, health care, public safety, recreation, seniors, social services, special events, student (K-8), student (high school), student (college) and work place. No K-8 student was named last year because there weren't enough nominees.

Nominators are asked to fill out an official form, write a one- or two-page statement, offer supporting materials and supply four complete copies of the nomination material. Send packages to the Governor's Office on Volunteerism, 300 W. Preston St., Suite 608, Baltimore 21201. For forms and rules, call the office at (410) 225-4496 or 1-800-321-8567 (from other parts of Maryland) or (410) 333-3098 (TDD).

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