Every weekday, regardless of the weather, Marion "Mickey" Golinski rises at 5 a.m. and catches the 6:36 a.m. bus in Oakland Mills, arriving at the Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia by 8 a.m.
Once there, she settles in for a full day of volunteer work, making herself indispensable during her 40-hour week.
"I run around here like a mad woman," says Mrs. Golinski, who would say of her age only that she is "65-plus."
As a volunteer, she prepares reports, answers phones, sorts mail, takes care of program and activity registrations, informs visitors about activities at the center and even speaks Spanish, French or Italian when necessary.
The volunteer work offers an outlet for the energetic woman, who moved to Columbia from Arizona five years ago because of health problems and to be closer to her son. She has four other children and 14 grandchildren.
After 27 years as an executive secretary and a variety of temporary clerical jobs and hospital volunteer work after she retired in 1977, Mrs. Golinski was uncomfortable having nothing to do.
"I had always been busy, and I realized that if I stayed home, I would be going down the drain," said Mrs. Golinski, whose husband died 14 years ago.
Ultimately, a neighbor told her about the activity at the Florence Bain Center, and Mrs. Golinski decided to see for herself.
"I got on a bus and arrived at the center. I then sat in the lobby and met one of the volunteers. We began talking, and I was asked, 'Why don't you work here?' " Mrs. Golinski said.
Mrs. Golinski started volunteering at the center in October 1988, starting at two days a week and working her way up to her current schedule of five days a week.
"She is here early, no matter what the weather is," said Nell Boynton, director of the center. "Last year, during the big snowstorm, she hired a taxi and arrived before anyone else."
Ms. Boynton said thousands of people come to the center every year and that Mrs. Golinski often is the first person they see at the front desk. Many times, she is the one who answers inquiries over the phone.
"I answered 106 telephone calls the other day," Mrs. Golinski said.
Despite her volunteer workload, Mrs. Golinski seems to have energy to burn, sometimes knocking on her neighbors' doors to seek contributions for various charities.
Mrs. Golinski, who is vice president of her condominium association's board of directors, also enjoys playing the piano and exercises every night.
She said it is not unusual for her to iron or polish the furniture at 5:30 a.m. She attributes her energy to the right "frame of mind."
"The center helped me mentally, since my morale was low as far as my health was concerned," Mrs. Golinski said.
"I decided to overcome the problem, and within six to eight months I recovered. I have a creed: I get involved, and I don't let anything crush me down."