ERNIE OHLER is an enthusiastic and capable volunteer with an infectious personality. At the United Way of Central Maryland, where he has volunteered for 12 years, this 82-year-old has a host of admirers who say there's no end to what he can accomplish.
During each United Way campaign, Ohler works in the marketing department doing anything to help out, including assisting with community promotions and special events. He draws the plans and builds props and displays for events, and he solicits contributions for the construction materials. He also mans booths at fairs and festivals as an information and referral representative.
Ohler retired from Black & Decker as a department manager in 1974, where he had worked for 48 years. "I was 16 when I went to work," he says. "In those days, many teen-agers had to go to work. I also spent 13 years in school at night."
He began volunteering to United Way five years after he retired. "I believe in the United Way and felt I could help the most people this way. I know how many [people] the United way reaches," he says, adding with a chuckle "and also they're so appreciative and complimentary of my help here, I'd never leave."
Ohler lives in Towson and has been a resident of Baltimore County his entire life, growing up in Glen Arm. He also volunteers to teach "in the field of marine electronics. I give a course in power squadron boating at the Randallstown High School for the United States Power Squadron," says Ohler, an avid fisherman and boater who has never owned a boat though he has spent plenty of time on his son's and friends' boats.
The United Way began in 1969. The current campaign began Sept. 5 and will run through January. This year's goal is 33.2 million, a four percent increase over the amount raised last year.
Many volunteers who work for the campaign are referred to as "loaned executives." Employers, who know that volunteers are critical to the campaign's success, "lend" employees for the campaign. "This year we have approximately 50 loaned executives and many will stay five months," says Mel Tansill, United Way spokesman.
Funds raised will help support more than 300 health and human services in Baltimore and in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties. Services include care of the elderly, homeless, abused children, child day care, domestic violence, substance abuse treatment and prevention, illiteracy, hunger, teen pregnancy and AIDS.
During the coming year, there probably will be families and individuals who need help for the first time in their lives, says Tansill.
Agencies supported by the United Way, to mention just a few, include the Catholic Charities, the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Girl and Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, House of Ruth, the YWCA and YMCA, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, League for the Handicapped, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the American Red Cross.
There are also some 23 health agencies that get United Way help, and they include the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Kidney Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Easter Seals Society, Epilepsy Association, United Cerebral Palsy, Alzheimer's Association and the Arthritis Foundation.
To volunteer to United Way, call Vickie Corbett at the 22 Light St. offices, 659-0050. Also call Corbett if you would like to have the Agency Services Directory and Contributor's Guide, which lists all of the organizations the United Way supports, enabling givers to designate their donation to a specific service. This directory is also an excellent reference for anyone seeking a volunteer opportunity.
As for Ernie Ohler, he'll "pitch in" as usual during his 12th United Way Campaign.