Last October, Sarah's House had more Halloween candy than its residents could eat.

A local distributor donated 280 pounds of sweets tothe non-profit homeless shelter at Fort Meade.

"We had 100 people here," recalled Jane Strong, volunteer coordinator at Sarah's House, recently. "But they just didn't need all that candy.

"I started looking down in the phone book and called everyone I could think of. If I had been a part of the COVAAC I could have gone through a membership book and called someone (to unload the candy)."

That kind of problem, which revealed a lack of communication between volunteer organizations, was what spurred two women last yearto form Coordinators of Volunteers of Anne Arundel County -- a networking organization for paid and non-paid county volunteer coordinators.

The organization's purpose is to promote volunteerism, encourage support from the county executive and governor's office and to keep members informed.

"When I talk to other volunteer coordinators, they say 'I didn't even know there could be such a thing,' " said Karen Pippen Henry, one of the founders of COVAAC.

The volunteers areresponsible for coordinating and directing services, scheduling, hiring and maintaining personnel files.

"There are so many volunteer coordinators, and they would love to have assistance. The trend of volunteerism has gone down a bit. If we have a strong network of leadership, we could all work to improve it," added Henry.

Through Henry's position as volunteer coordinator of Anne Arundel County communityservices, she met Harriet Van Wyck, a former school board volunteer coordinator. They each had received calls from people looking to donate

their time. Soon, they began calling on each other for ideas onwhere to send these altruistic folks.

"People would call me interested in volunteering," said Van Wyck who recently resigned after 16 years with county schools.

"Sometimes it wasn't the school system they were interested in. I didn't have the background to help all thepeople, so I would refer to them to Karen. People were interested inSarah's House, Adult Literacy and hospices. We thought it would be helpful to get to know each other in the county."

Jean Paterson, president of COVAAC, said she received calls from people who were available to fill certain postions or had specific talents. "Someone wouldcall, and I wouldn't need their expertise. I can now refer them to another organization," she said.

"We decided that we wanted some kind of social networking for volunteer coordinators," said Henry. "So we got together and came up with an agenda and decided to start an organization. A lot of other counties have one, and we wanted one in Anne Arundel County."

She began calling volunteer coordinator organizations in Montgomery and Prince George's counties for ideas on how to form a group.

"It kind of just flowed from there," said Henry. "We had our first meeting, and everyone was very excited. Now we are opening up to other people, and we are ready to get the rest of the county coordinators involved."

The first meeting was last Sept. 27, and COVAAC has met every month since. The group of about 10 to 15 coordinators created bylaws, set goals and came up with program ideas and a membership fee of $5 per year, which covers postage for mailings.

COVAAC offers guest speakers and hopes later to conduct training programs and workshops. Meetings will be scheduled throughout the county for convenience to members.

The next meeting is open to anyvolunteer coordinator and will be at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the ArundelCenter North, Room 506 in Glen Burnie.

The membership decided in September not to charge dues until June 30. It also chose a board that will operate until July 1.

Paterson, the president, is a volunteer coordinator for the Providence Center in Arnold. She is a past president with the Maryland Volunteer Network, a statewide version of COVAAC. The state organization focuses on legislation and policy-makingfor volunteer organizations.

"We're working together for the samething," said Paterson. "It's (COVAAC) more localized, our problems are similar. We don't want to be in competition with each other. . . .It's one of our goals to work together."

COVAAC also gets ideas from the national volunteer organization and the Governor's Office on Volunteerism.

Other board members are vice president, Laurie Pierce-Lyons, of the Anne Arundel Medical Center Hospice; secretary/treasurer, Christine Poulson, of the Department of Social Services; and membership chairman, Strong, of Sarah's House.

Strong said she got involved because non-profit groups need to network together to get "through these tougher times."

"When I came, on we weren't in a recession," explained Strong. "So many of our services overlap. All of these people become a face with a name, and now they know who I am."

Other organizations who have joined COVAAC are Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Crownsville Hospital, Light House, Arundel Hospice and the Governor's Office on Volunteerism.

For more information about COVAAC, call Jean Paterson at 268-8835.

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