Plowing through painters, cleaners and gardeners yesterday, the Springfield Hospital Center coordinator of volunteer services didn't look the least bit harried.
Amid the pandemonium, Betty Jean Maus fielded questions, reeled off instructions and couldn't keep from smiling. She called the daylong effort to renovate Springfield's canteen "an answer to a prayer."
"Patients love this canteen, and we want to help them get it back," said Doug, 16, a student volunteer from the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center who spent hours scrubbing kitchen shelves and cabinets.
The United Way of Central Maryland provided the team -- 48 volunteers from O'Farrell and Bon Secours Health System, as part of its annual Day of Caring community service.
Ms. Maus had submitted a proposal for the renovation project to the United Way.
"I tried before but never won," she said. "Maybe I sounded more pitiful this time."
The popular sunlit canteen formerly served snacks, sandwiches and hand-dipped ice cream, and provided an alternative to institutional food. The canteen closed for renovations in April.
But the newly installed kitchen with shiny stainless steel appliances has been sitting idle, waiting until the center's maintenance staff could bring the rest of the building up to county health code. That was expected to take months.
"We just don't have the hands to do it," said Ms. Maus.
O'Farrell, a residential treatment center for male youths committed to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, provided teen-age energy. Bon Secours employees each gave up a vacation day to paint and clean the canteen.
Both the center and the company are in Marriottsville, near the Sykesville hospital.
"I live and work in the community, and this is a way of giving something to my community," said Ross Brady, market research manager at Bon Secours.
Jesse Collins, whose wife works at Bon Secours, said he would rather be manipulating the keyboard on his computer, but "there is more to do in United Way than donating money."
Despite the heat, Ms. Maus heard no complaints. Wayne, 15, waist-high in weeds, wondered aloud, "What do I do if I find a snake?"
"Leave it alone," shouted several friends from O'Farrell.
Michael, 17, rolled ecru paint on the canteen walls, oblivious to the sweat beading across his forehead.
"I am helping mentally ill people," he said.
Using scrub brushes, paint rollers and weed cutters, everyone worked to get the canteen and surrounding grounds in shape.
"It's not that hard," said Kevin, 14. "Besides, helping other people makes me feel good."
Christopher, 14, said, "With all the state budget cuts, there's no one else but volunteers to do the work."
After hours of window and wall washing and grounds maintenance, the canteen could be serving ice cream sundaes again by the end of the month.
"If it weren't for the team, it would be months before the patients were back in the canteen," said Paula Langmead, Springfield's assistant superintendent. "This shows the community cares about Springfield."
For the O'Farrell youths, the day provided another bonus.
Oscar Morgan, regional director of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, called the day "an opportunity for young men to feel useful, gain self-esteem and do a good job for somebody else."
Said Liz Cavey, O'Farrell director of education, "It helps them learn the importance of functioning in a community.
"They are all going back to their own communities, and this effort teaches them how working together helps other people."
The health system employees and youths have cooperated on several volunteer efforts this year including a Chesapeake Bay cleanup last spring.
Tom Harwell, information analyst for Bon Secours, said he'll "hop in every time" he gets a chance to work with O'Farrell youths.
"They are good kids and hard workers," he said.