Police seek business volunteers for youths Partnerships would boost Athletic League centers

October 24, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The city Police Department is reaching out to local businesses, hoping to forge partnerships that will enrich its growing Police Athletic League centers with corporate volunteers.

The goal is to pair each of the 27 PAL centers with a business that will offer children teachers, mentors and supplies. Fifteen businesses have signed on to the program.

It is similar to a partnership established between the Greater Baltimore Committee -- a group of top business leaders -- and city schools, which brings volunteers into the learning institutions daily.

"It is just a tremendous concept," said Clark Jeunette, assistant vice president of community affairs for Helix Health Corp., which is working with four PAL centers near its affiliate hospitals.

Like other business partners, Helix designs its program around its specialty -- health-related issues. Volunteers from Church, Good Samaritan, Union Memorial and Harbor hospitals teach children about medical issues.

"The kids learn to take responsibility for their own health and welfare," Jeunette said.

When he was hired in 1994, Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier began PAL with a center in Northeast Baltimore. PAL has grown to 27 centers serving 7,000 children. Each center is staffed by two police officers. The goal is to have 29 centers -- one in each police sector.

A benefit dinner in July raised about $650,000. The goal is to raise $950,000 to purchase 22 vans and 80 computers for the centers, which are open until 10 p.m. and are designed to provide a structured environment for youth when they most need it.

Frazier made another pitch for the PAL at a breakfast yesterday at the downtown Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, where he talked to a group of PAL officers, police commanders and business leaders about how to forge successful partnerships.

The national PAL organization plans to hold its national convention in Baltimore in 1999. That indicates that the Baltimore program is becoming a national model for departments, he said.

"We want to be a part of the social fabric of the community," Frazier said. "We have to have good partners, and we need good partners. These are little kids. They don't have the resources to ,, do all this. But we do. And we can."

Shirley Zongker, an instructional resource coordinator for Baltimore public schools, told the group that the school-business partnership has paid off in several ways, from dentists who teach students how to brush their teeth to businesses that stock library shelves with books.

The speakers emphasized that they are seeking more than money. They want people's time. "Money is fabulous," Zongker said. "But we have gotten more out of our partnerships when we didn't discuss money."

Pub Date: 10/24/97

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