Nearly three dozen service organizations turned out for the county's annual Volunteer Fair yesterday. They offered the chance to hold an elderly patient's hand or teach someone to read for no pay but great rewards.
"Volunteers, we couldn't survive without them," said Betty Jean Maus, volunteer coordinator at Springfield Hospital Center.
Volunteers at the state hospital in Sykesville saved taxpayers nearly $1 million last year, she said.
"Volunteers feel productive because they are contributing to the betterment of someone else," said Cindy Martin, program director at Deerfield Senior Services. "The hours also can be reflected on resumes and help with career choices."
During the fair yesterday at Carroll Community College, visitors learned who needs what from workers, who wore pins imprinted with "Spring into Action," the motto of the day.
"The pool of volunteers is not shrinking, but it is changing," said Peggy Henderson, coordinator of volunteer services for the county Department of Citizens Services and organizer of the fair. "Today's volunteer typically has a full-time job but is looking for a meaningful way to serve the community."
Agencies that want to attract volunteers need to plan around work schedules, she said.
The college provided the ideal backdrop, said Mary Jane Figinski, volunteer coordinator for Tri-Home Health Care.
"We need to encourage youth to be more community-oriented," she said.
College students, in the rush of spring registration, managed to stop by booths to gather information and encouragement.
"A lot of the students would just be hanging out but they have stopped by to ask about our programs and take our cards," said Michele Redel, a case manager with Human Services Programs.
The Westminster college lobby was filled with 30 booths, which offered a volunteer opportunity for every age, schedule and taste.
"We are looking for people who want to share their time and energy," Ms. Martin said.
From the noon opening through the afternoon, when most potential volunteers are at their jobs, a steady stream of visitors checked out the booths.
The fair offered an overview of the many different volunteer opportunities.
"Not everything appeals to everybody," said Dianne Bennett, a volunteer with the Literacy Council. "But if you are willing to volunteer, there is something here for you."
Kay Garnish tried to enlist volunteers for the Carroll County Women's Fair.
"There were quite a few who hadn't heard about the women's fair," she said. "I invited them to help plan next year's."
In the lulls between inquiries, she said she meandered around the other booths and found other organizations where she wanted to donate her time.
Chris Karman stopped by the fair and picked up a few ideas for community service projects for her Sunday school students.
"I want the students to learn to help," she said.
Dave Ellis, state coordinator for 55 Alive Mature Driving, was looking for instructors to teach the elderly safer driving techniques.
"We give them training and a mentor," said Mr. Ellis, who has about 60 volunteers in the AARP-sponsored organization.
From established organizations such as the county Department of Recreation and Parks, which lists nearly 13,000 volunteers, to fledgling groups, everyone asked for more volunteers.
"We have 2,000 volunteers in various activities, but the needs are still there," said Kathie Rumbley, volunteer coordinator with Maryland Public Television.
Beth Johnson just took over the volunteer program at Copper Ridge, a Sykesville organization dedicated to the care of the memory impaired.
"We just started and we are looking for everyone who is willing to work with us," Ms. Johnson said.