$1 million initiative to encourage older adults to volunteer

Seniors to help in 5 city neighborhoods and Dundalk

April 14, 2010|By Liz F. Kay, The Baltimore Sun

Three foundations plan to tap the value of older adults to strengthen five city neighborhoods and one in Baltimore County through a $1 million initiative funded by nonprofit groups.

The Baltimore Community Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies and the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Foundation will contribute the money over three years to draw 1,200 volunteers expected to contribute 500,000 hours of work for organizations in their communities.

By 2030, the United States is expected to have more people over the age of 60 than any other society in the history of the world, said Kevin Griffin Moreno, program officer and advocacy coordinator for the Baltimore Community Foundation. In addition to ensuring these people have adequate health care and other resources, "we need to be able to capitalize on their talents and experience," he said.

In 2006, the community foundation was one of 30 around the country that received an assessment grant from Atlantic to participate in a project designed to encourage civic engagement by people older than 55. The foundation commissioned a survey of people at more than 50 neighborhood groups, senior centers and other organizations to find out what motivated people to volunteer and what barriers prevented them from continuing.

Obstacles included basic problems — lacking transportation, for example — as well as frustration stemming from a lack of recognition or an inability to fully use available talent, Moreno said.

Two years later, Baltimore was selected as one of nine communities who received grants to plan projects to mobilize older adults, Moreno said.

Baltimore took a neighborhood approach, identifying areas with high populations of older adults that also had community-based organizations that could take on a multiyear project, Moreno said. The projects are intergenerational, helping older adults work with younger adults and children, he said.

"We didn't want to help create a project where older adults would work in isolation," he said. "We wanted everyone to benefit from their leadership and expertise."

The money for the program, called Neighbors in Deed, will help provide technical assistance to nonprofits so they can better manage volunteers and build leadership among older adults, he said.

Each neighborhood focused on a different need. In Northwest Baltimore, residents will be addressing crime concerns by organizing to take on neighborhood safety projects through Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. Older adults in southwest Baltimore will provide leadership training to younger adults with the Citizen's Planning and Housing Association.

The Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. will expand the Neighbors Helping neighbors Time Bank program based at Stadium Place to provide assistance to seniors in surrounding neighborhoods. And in Highlandtown, the Southeast Community Development Corp. will work with the Creative Alliance, churches and schools to eliminate barriers between historic residents and more recent settlers, primarily Spanish-speaking immigrants, Moreno said. In Dundalk, older adults working with Dundalk Renaissance will enhance green spaces.

Seniors interested in volunteering should call the Baltimore Community Foundation at 410-332-4172, ext. 146.

liz.kay@baltsun.com

twitter.com/lfkay

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