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Partners In Care celebrates 25 years of community service

When Barbara Huston, Sandra Jackson and Maureen Cavaiola sat around a kitchen table 25 years ago planning the venture that would become the volunteer time-banking service Partners In Care, they had no idea it would blossom into a thriving nonprofit.

“I got to see an idea become an organization,” Huston said.

Partners In Care offers a variety of services to support older adults who want to remain independent in their homes. What began as a service for transporting seniors has morphed into a multifaceted program offering home repairs, social functions, healthy living sessions, advocacy help and a boutique.

To celebrate the 25-year milestone, PIC held a party at Kurtz's Beach in Pasadena on Oct. 4. More than 160 people attended; former and active volunteers, members, staff, and sponsors came together to celebrate the longevity of the nonprofit.

Guests were treated to hors d’oeuvres, drinks, dinner, jazz music by Tooo Smooth Dudes and a silent auction.

Business manager Fran Schmidt worked behind the scenes for roughly four months to organize the function. As the recently retired CEO of the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, she has experience partnering with businesses to achieve goals.

By rallying support from local sponsors, Schmidt was able to cover the cost of the event and make a profit.

Her goal when organizing the anniversary celebration was to create a “relaxing and fun” atmosphere for everyone.

Schmidt said her favorite moment of the evening was the speech given by two Partners In Care founders, Huston and Jackson, about the humble beginnings of the organization.

What started out as three co-founders sharing a cubicle at their first location in what was Glen Burnie's North Arundel Hospital, has grown into a multi-county network of programs all aimed at helping seniors. The dozen volunteers they started with has grown to well over 2,000.

"There have been a lot of changes," said Jackson, "25 years is a lot of time for change."

Longtime volunteer and member Patrick Oates, of Glen Burnie, was recognized during the celebration. Donning his original Partners In Care badge circa 1995, Oates was greeted by fellow volunteers and staff who thanked him for supporting the program in its infancy.

For Jackson, the highlight of the evening was seeing Oates, She said the backbone of the nonprofit is volunteers like him.

"Without the volunteers there would be no Partners In Care," she said.

Oates isn't surprised by how large the nonprofit has become.

"An organization like this can't fail as long as we got good people," he said.

Oates began volunteering with the organization two years after it was formed. He heard about the venture while attending church and signed up.

As a former volunteer firefighter, Oates was seeking a new outlet for helping people and making friends.

Although he still worked full-time for the state as a computer operator, Oates volunteered when he had free time on evenings and weekends.

His primary responsibility was transporting seniors to and from doctors appointments, grocery and drug stores, and even hair salons. When members asked him to make an extra stop along their route, Oates would happily oblige even if he wasn't supposed to.

"It's hard to say no to someone," he said.

Some members he transported had no family members to turn to for help. Oates says he had one client who never left the house unless he was there to transport him.

Being able "to meet people you wouldn't meet otherwise" was what he enjoyed most.

After decades of volunteering, Oates was forced to stop. The radiation he received after being diagnosed with cancer in his eye made him legally blind.

Pointing to his white cane, Oates said, "they don't let you drive anymore when you get one of these."

PIC volunteers are also members, every minute they help fellow members is logged into a time-banking system. Members are then able to use those hours when they need support in return.

No one is excluded from contributing to the time-banking system, every senior is asked to contribute with their talents. Whether its baking for a social function or writing birthday cards, no task is too small.

After launching, Partners In Care was informed by the Department of Aging of the dire need in Anne Arundel County for senior transportation. Seven years later, the department asked them to apply for a grant which helped them create handyman services.

The boutique was another vital movement in the evolution of Partners In Care, providing stable revenue for the growing programs. With the opening of their new location in Pasadena, the boutique now has 110 active volunteers and four paid staff, said manager Tracey Dill.

The newest initiative is "member care," a wide-range advocacy resource for seniors. From tax information to applying for food stamps, certified social workers provide assistance to members.

"There's so many programs helping young people, the environment, schools," said Anne Myers, in marketing, "but nobody does anything remotely like what we do."

Even though Partners In Care has a growing number of volunteers, requests for assistance have exceeded its capacity to help. As active volunteers age out, there's a growing need for new volunteers to take their place.

Transportation remains their biggest need, volunteers are always welcome. Individuals interested in volunteering should visit www.partnersincare.org or call 410-544-4800.

Share your Pasadena news with Atalie Day Brown at adbrownmdgazette@gmail.com.

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