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Volunteers keep Baby Boomer, Senior Expo humming

Bidders in the silent auction at the Baby Boomer, Senior Expo can thank Sue Pearson if they get a call that they had the winning bid.

Pearson, 72, of Timonium, keys into the computer every name and address of those wishing to take part in the annual auction. Gone are the days when names and addresses were hastily scribbled on the silent auction forms — names sometimes too difficult to read. Now participants are given a number to use. And that corresponds to the name and address carefully typed into the database.

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The 27th senior expo for those 50-plus years old will be held Oct. 22-23 at the Cow Palace at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. Some 300 vendors and exhibitors showcase all kinds of programs, resources, products and services designed to enhance the quality of life for older residents, according to Joanne Williams, director of the Baltimore County Department of Aging, which sponsors the expo. Some 10,000 visitors are expected. A new feature will be a special section for veterans, seniors and well as those just returning, Williams said.

"There's a lot to see and a lot to do," she said.

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Fun is a part of the two-day event. There will be food, participatory fitness classes and musical performances. The Drifters will be on stage 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, Williams said.

An art exhibit of prize-winning works from each of the county's 20 senior centers is scheduled. "All 20 of our senior centers, all summer long have been having their own art exhibits," Williams said. All the winning artwork will be displayed at the expo.

And, of course, the silent auction attracts lots of attention. Williams said some 70 gifts and prizes have been donated for the annual auction.

Volunteers keep the expo humming, according to Williams. "We couldn't operate if it weren't for the volunteers," she said. Volunteers help out everywhere, from the front door, to the food service, to the health screenings.

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And at the silent auction where Pearson stays busy in front of her computer. This year she'll also be represented in the art show. Her stained glass angel was a winner at this summer's art show at Bykota Senior Center in Towson, where Pearson has been a member since 2001. She dropped out due to illness in 2005 but once she returned in 2009, she's been a very busy participant.

She's at Bykota a lot, at least three days a week.

"I like to do crafts," she said. Pearson and her husband, Jack were previously active in a senior center in Tennessee where she took all sorts of classes, from quilting to stained glass and even wood shop.

At Bykota, she has taken several classes but she has stuck with the stained glass class, which meets Wednesday mornings. But at Bykota she does more than crafts. She volunteers as a monitor in the fitness center on Tuesday and maintains its database. After spending Wednesday mornings in stained glass class, Pearson spends the afternoon calling bingo. On Thursday she's a part of Bykota on Stage, rehearsing the musical numbers that will be staged at area retirement homes, social clubs and senior centers. "I prefer to be in the chorus," she said.

If Pearson is free and the center needs help, she fills in other times as well.

"She gives back in several different areas," said Suzanne Biehl, assistant director at Bykota. "She's very willing to help out in many different ways."

Bykota has 2,230 members and 14 percent of them volunteer at the center, according to Biehl.

Originally from Galax, Va., near the Skyline Drive, Pearson and her husband moved to the Towson area in 1965 where Jack Pearson, a civil engineer, had gotten a job with Baltimore County. She worked for a time as a middle school teacher, first at Patterson Park Junior High and then Dundalk Middle School. She and her husband, who died in 2009, have one son, John, who lives in Parkville, and three grandchildren.

Pearson keeps up her love of crafts as a member of the Deer Creek Basketry Guild which meets in Harford County. One of her baskets will be in the expo's silent auction.

Why does she keep coming to Bykota?

"The people," Pearson said. "I like being around people." She's made good friends she can count on, she said.

"When my husband died that cut a lot of things out," she said.

They had traveled as much as once a month before his death. She began looking for new ways to stay active and meet other people. "I decided I would like to volunteer," she said.

Admission to the Baby Boomer Senior Expo is $2 or two cans of food. Proceeds will benefit the county's seniors in need, providing help with prescriptions, glasses, hearing aids, utility turn off or eviction notices, Williams said. For more information, go to seniorexpoonline.com.

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