Baltimore has an invitation for everyone who thinks the city badly needs a spring cleaning:
Grab a broom.
Tomorrow, in what city leaders and volunteer groups are promoting as the biggest effort in years to restore some shine to Charm City, schools will be painted, flowers planted and walls scrubbed clean of graffiti. A historic cemetery will be repaired and a warship returned to its glory as an Inner Harbor tourist attraction.
As many as 3,500 people from around the city and nearby suburbs already have said they will participate.
"Hopefully, it will renew faith in people's ability to get together," said Stephanie Manuel, 28, a Mount Vernon resident who is helping to coordinate the cleanup. "If they see what you can do in one day, they'll understand what can be done in one year or a lifetime to make Baltimore a better place."
The big volunteer day is an expansion of an annual "Serv-a-Thon" by Hands on Baltimore, a nonprofit clearinghouse that matches busy professionals with a variety of charitable projects, from tutoring to feeding the homeless.
Designed as a grass-roots celebration of Baltimore in honor of its bicentennial, the cleanup also happens to follow this week's ballyhooed "call to action" by President Clinton, Gen. Colin L. Powell and other VIPs urging the nation to devote more to volunteer service.
Though the timing is coincidental, Hands on Baltimore and other groups organizing the event hope to capitalize on the high-profile push for voluntarism.
Local companies, neighborhood groups and people of all ages have signed up, most from Baltimore but also from Towson, Columbia and other suburban areas. Many work in the city and just want to see it beautified, said Erin Ferguson, director of Hands on Baltimore.
"There's a fun buzz," she said, sparked by promotions in posters, banners and radio ads. Still, planners have had to slightly scale back their initial expectation of a turnout of 5,000 people to about 4,000.
The day of service, the fourth one for Hands on Baltimore, got a boost this year with the involvement of C. William Struever, president of the politically connected contracting company Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse.
Struever, who wanted to organize a big cleanup for Baltimore's 200th birthday, enlisted the help of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, city and state agencies, contractors and churches, the Downtown Partnership and the five-hospital Helix Health system.
He put together a $500,000 budget, lined up in-kind contributions and arranged to cap off tomorrow's cleanup with a nighttime bash at the Harbor Inn at Pier V. The party will end with fireworks, planned as a bicentennial event, over the Inner Harbor.
"The idea is to build bridges and bring people together and really celebrate the city," Struever said. "People are pitching in in all kinds of ways."
Big and small projects have been planned for practically every corner of the city.
Thirty-six schools and four libraries will get everything from fresh coats of paint to bulletin boards, bookshelves and play areas. Twenty-one Police Athletic League Centers will be spruced up with a $100,000 donation from the Helix hospitals.
In Northwest Baltimore, paths will be mulched and a carriage house restored at the Cylburn Arboretum.
In South Baltimore, broken tombstones will be repaired and weeds cleared at Mount Auburn Cemetery, a neglected graveyard that once was the only one for blacks in Baltimore.
But in a city where block after block shows new bits of decay, even some of those who plan to volunteer say one day is not enough.
"Too many of our communities are inundated," said the Rev. Norman A. Handy Sr., a city councilman who has signed up for tomorrow's Serv-a-Thon.
"If you look at segments of our community, the older people are afraid, the working people are too busy, the children don't see the resources there. It's going to take a lot of volunteerism to make the community attractive to all."
All of the more than 200 fix-up projects were organized with neighborhood representatives, Ferguson said, so "people in the community have something invested."
Some volunteers are collecting pledges to raise money for Hands on Baltimore; others will just work tomorrow.
Ferguson hopes the spirit of voluntarism will prompt people to do other things in their communities. But at the very least, she said, the cleanup will freshen up the city.
PD "We're going to give it a face lift for its birthday," she said.
To learn more about projects and preregister, volunteers can call Hands on Baltimore at 410-547-8042. There are also four registration sites: Hands on Baltimore, 312 N. Charles St.; Police Athletic League, 801 S. Highland Ave., Canton; Police Athletic League, 525 Hurley Ave., Gwynns Falls; Baltimore County Library, 320 York Road, Towson.
Tomorrow, registration and check-in start at 10: 30 a.m. at Inner Harbor's Pier VI, projects will be done from noon to 6 p.m., and closing ceremonies are at 6 p.m. at Pier V.
Pub Date: 5/02/97