City to be spruced up on annual day of service Serv-A-Thon seeks 5,000 volunteers

April 03, 1997|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

If you want to volunteer to fix up Baltimore but have dawdled so far, officials say you'll have fewer excuses May 3.

That day for several hours, in a major expansion of an annual day of service, thousands of expected workers will be sweating on scores of projects around the city.

They will plant trees in Patterson Park, for instance, or build walls in a West Baltimore school, fix leaky roofs at Police Athletic League recreation centers, remove graffiti from downtown walls, repair playgrounds or prepare a computer center in a public housing complex.

For the fourth annual Serv-A-Thon, planners are seeking 5,000 volunteers to work four to six hours on at least 236 projects in Baltimore. The day will end with a party at the Inner Harbor.

Last year, in the third annual Serv-A-Thon, 1,100 volunteers worked a half-day to fix 30 city public schools. Much of the effort was one-time aid such as trash pickup and painting.

"In this Baltimore Bicentennial year, we should do something of substance, build bridges between people and have some fun," said C. William Struever, president of Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, a Baltimore contracting firm.

He conceived the idea of a big volunteer day and has been working with Hands on Baltimore, the 4-year-old nonprofit group that has sponsored the annual Serv-A-Thons. Year-round, it matches 3,000 volunteers and a variety of jobs at times convenient to workers.

Struever is helping enlist the backing of corporate, foundation, neighborhood and other sponsors. A steering committee of 50 is at work. Struever's firm is donating $75,000, at least 50 volunteering staffers and services.

"I'm looking for a spiritual re-awakening to make Baltimore a better place," Struever said. "Bringing people together can make the difference. Baltimore's the biggest small town in America. If we don't make the city work together, we're dead meat."

Struever said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is scheduled to back the event today at George Kelson Elementary School, 701 Gold St. in Sandtown-Winchester.

It is one of the schools where volunteers will work May 3, putting up partitions for small classroom areas.

No taxpayer money will be used, but the city will offer help, such as Department of Public Works equipment, said Erin Ferguson, executive director of Hands on Baltimore. She said her group accepts private but not public money.

About 50 corporations and foundations have given or pledged $500,000, compared with $145,000 raised last year, Struever said.

Contractors, architects and other companies are donating thousands of dollars more in goods, such as lumber, and services, such as designs.

About $300,000 of the total raised will pay for substantial building repairs and other improvements, as well as planning costs, such as advertising, a marketing book to enlist corporate sponsors of specific projects, six paid temporary staffers and T-shirts for volunteers.

At least 75 companies have pledged teams of volunteers. "It's just wild how many people and groups are getting involved," said Ferguson, whose organization is one of 22 affiliates of a national group, City Cares of America.

"Three tangible things are being done for May 3," Ferguson said. "Neighborhood groups helped pick the 200 projects. Volunteers will do work of a lasting benefit. People not usually talking together will work together."

Officials of the Police Athletic League, the Greater Baltimore Committee and Citizens Planning and Housing Agency identified neighborhood groups that helped pick the projects.

Parking for volunteers could be a problem, Ferguson said, though 2,000 free parking spaces might become available. She urged indi- viduals to car pool and teams to rent buses.

Serv-A-Thon '97 was moved from May 10 to May 3 to take advantage of Baltimore Bicentennial fireworks sponsored that evening in the Inner Harbor by the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

To participate

Team and individual volunteers for Serv-A-Thon '97 can pre-register at four sites, where they can learn project options and rank choices for assignments. The sooner they sign up, the greater the choices, officials said.

Or volunteers can call Hands on Baltimore at 410-547-8042, receive forms by fax and learn their assignments May 3.

Registration days are today, April 16 and April 30. Sites and times are:

Hands On Baltimore, 312 N. Charles St., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Police Athletic League, 801 S. Highland Ave., Canton, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Police Athletic League, 525 Hurley Ave., Gwynns Falls, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Baltimore County Library, 320 York Road, Towson, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The May 3 schedule: 10: 30 a.m. check-in time for volunteers at Pier 6 Inner Harbor; 11 a.m. opening ceremony; noon to 5 or 6 p.m., work on 236 projects; 6 p.m. closing ceremony at Pier 5 and refreshments.

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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