On-the-go volunteer makes time to help organizations


The idea of retirement usually calls to mind relaxation, naps and maybe an occasional night out. But for Robert Scarburgh, 78, his retirement in 1989 ushered in long days spent volunteering at organizations throughout Howard County.

"I have a lot of nervous energy," said Scarburgh, who worked 43 years for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. "I like to be on the go a lot."

Typically, Scarburgh volunteers at least three days a week. Although he keeps a flexible schedule, he usually volunteers at the Ellicott City Kiwanis Club on Mondays, with the state police in Jessup on Thursdays and with a Boy Scout troop once a week. He plays golf once a week and goes to the gym three times a week.

His community activism has not gone unnoticed.

The Ellicott City resident has been named 2005 Volunteer of the Year by the Howard County Volunteer of the Year selection committee. Scarburgh was among 30 nominees.

"I was very honored," said Scarburgh.

He and his wife, Jean, have been married 55 years and have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Scarburgh will represent all volunteers of Howard County on Tuesday evening at Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s "Maryland You Are Beautiful" ceremony in Annapolis.

Enjoying change

Scarburgh said he enjoys seeing the change and improvements his work helps bring about. He is not planning to slow down.

"You can see what good it does," Scarburgh said. "Maybe the public does not, but you feel good. It makes you feel really good when you do something for somebody."

To be considered for the award, an individual must live in or do his or her volunteer work in Howard County and have made a significant impact on the community or an individual.

Scarburgh has lived in the county for 45 years.

A Boy Scout for almost 50 years and a Scoutmaster for 19, he is an adult leader for Troop 874, which consists of 140 Scouts and meets at Glen Mar United Methodist Church in Ellicott City.

His principal job with the troop is helping boys who have made it to the rank below Eagle Scout take the next step.

The National Boy Scouts of America says only 4 percent of boys who enter the Boy Scouts become Eagle Scouts.

Troop leader Kevin McGovern said that since 1982, Troop 874 has had 95 Eagle Scouts, and a majority of them were helped by Scarburgh.

McGovern said that Scarburgh's "efforts are affecting those boys who are in turn affecting the community."

"The Boy Scouts are probably the most rewarding," said Scarburgh. "My favorite job there is interviewing the boys that come up to Eagle Scout."

Helping state police

Scarburgh has been volunteering for 14 years with the state police, where one of his duties is fingerprinting.

"Anybody could be taught to fingerprint," Scarburgh said. "But the point is, if I was not doing it, it would have to be a trooper doing it. And my take is, they belong on the road."

Scarburgh also role-plays at the state police academy, helping recruits learn interrogation.

"They are training, and they make a lot of mistakes. But it is best to make them there and learn when it is not serious; then take it out here to real life," Scarburgh said.

Writing computer programs is one of his hobbies, and he has been able to help the police by doing computer work for the anti-auto-theft program and creating a database for the gun-control unit. Recently, he began working with the missing-child bureau.

Using his connections with the Howard County police, Scarburgh started a program called the Teddy Bear Patrol, which makes sure every emergency vehicle in the county is equipped with a teddy bear for children. He got the idea while attending a luncheon during which a state trooper made a presentation about a teddy-bear program in Carroll County. Scarburgh liked it so much that he helped start a program in Howard County.

Ham-radio operator

Scarburgh is a member and past president of the Columbia Amateur Radio Association and has been a ham-radio operator since the mid-1950s.

He is a member of the Kiwanis Club and has held numerous positions in the service organization, including president and lieutenant governor. Scarburgh said he has been a member of Kiwanis for 37 years and was secretary for 27 years.

Volunteering keeps Scarburgh on the go, and he would not have it any other way.

"People have offered me jobs, and I don't have time to work on them," Scarburgh said. "I have turned down jobs, I have turned down volunteer opportunities. My take is, if I can't get into an organization and do the job that is expected of me, then I don't join."

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