Center to connect volunteers, needs Nonprofit agencies to get help faster, more easily

April 22, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Call it a matchmaking service for good Samaritans and staff-starved nonprofit agencies.

The Volunteer Center of Anne Arundel County opens its doors today to help match those with a spirit of volunteerism to an organization with a desperate need for help.

"I truly believe there are so many people wanting to do, but they are not asked or don't know where to begin," said Sylvia Beall, a founding member of the center and president of the nonprofit agency's board of directors.

"I don't know how many people give up on the idea of volunteering because they didn't know who to call," Ms. Beall said. "We're here to make sure that doesn't happen."

Volunteer coordinators with local organizations recognized a need for a clearinghouse 18 months ago after Anne Arundel County government eliminated a similar service.

Eight board members and others chipped in to start the center, which is modeled on a program in Prince George's County. Ms. Beall said no one bothered to figure out how much they have spent.

Founding members got a home for their center when the county offered them a $1 lease for a year for office space in the Heritage Building in the 2600 block of Riva Road in Annapolis.

"I think it's great that they have something like this," said Rhonda Starost, 30, of Severna Park, who stopped working and began looking for volunteer openings recently after her husband became ill. "I didn't know where to begin."

Mrs. Starost, who contacted the center before it opened, found her first venture as a secretary for the center. "They said they could definitely use some help getting organized," she said.

Officially, volunteers will not be referred to agencies until July 1, when the center is fully operational with a staff and an executive director, Ms. Beall said. The group hopes to get a grant to provide a salary for the director, she said.

Several agencies already have registered with the Volunteer Center, including Crownsville Hospital Center, the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County and Arundel Lodge, a transition program for people with disabilities.

Kristi Neidhardt, who is responsible for finding six to eight volunteers at a time to work on community festivals and other fund-raising activities for the Chesapeake Children's Museum in Annapolis, said she expects to benefit from the center.

Now that her organization has registered with the center -- a $25 fee per agency -- it will be placed on a database that lists available volunteer positions.

"My job will be that much easier now," she said. "It will really help me get bodies in and increase the quality of programs we offer."

For now, the positions will be kept in books. But in the future, volunteers will be able to log on to a computer, punch in their skills and find agencies that could use their help.

The agencies also can call the center and tap into a pool of active volunteers.

"I've been waiting anxiously for this center to open up," said Shannon Cobb, a volunteer coordinator at Providence Center, a nonprofit organization that works with adults who are developmentally disabled. "So many people don't know where to jTC start even though there's so much information out there. To now have one place where people can call up themselves is a great idea."

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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