Maryland's Promise summit to consider ways to boost voluntarism statewide Oct. 9 event aims to inspire people to help children


The number of volunteer hours reported in a recent study of Maryland nonprofit organizations sounds healthy: the equivalent labor of 80,000 full-time workers for a year.

The estimate in the study by Lester M. Salamon of Johns Hopkins University indicates that voluntarism is a major force. But as staff-short charities tell Margaret O'Neill, director of Maryland's Promise summit, "That's two hours at a time" -- valuable but untrained labor scattered here and there.

The problems of recruiting, training and retaining enough volunteers to adequately support groups working to help 38,000 at-risk Maryland children are among subjects of of a statewide summit on voluntarism and service, planned from 8 a.m. to 3: 15 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

"We hope to inspire more citizens to volunteer to improve the lives of our children," said O'Neill of the summit, a follow-up to the presidents' summit, America's Promise, held in April in Philadelphia.

The meeting of about 1,000, which is free but for which participants must register, will consider aspects of familiar volunteer problems that Salamon's study found:

70 per cent of Maryland nonprofits agencies reported "difficulties" recruiting dependable, qualified volunteers and training them, and 62 percent had trouble retaining them.

Two-thirds of the agencies had trouble finding people to serve on their boards, a "serious" or "very serious" problem for many of them.

O'Neill, executive director of the Governor's Office on Volunteerism, said summit delegates also will consider ways to fulfill the national summit goal: By 2000, about 2 million children should receive five resources seen as necessary for fulfilling lives.

That number translates to about 38,000 needing help in Maryland, officials said.

The resources are "an ongoing relationship with a caring adult, safe and structured activities after school, a healthy start for TC healthy life, marketable skills through effective education, and opportunities to give back through community service."

Delegates from 20 counties and Baltimore have registered to mobilize more volunteers, highlight service programs that achieve the five resources, and discuss Baltimore's Safe and Sound program and similar comprehensive children-friendly projects in Salisbury and Montgomery County.

The meeting will offer 20 workshops for leaders in business, government, religion and the nonprofit sector to discuss such topics as the America Reads initiative, successful after-school activities, and volunteer models for employers.

Others planning the summit include three co-chairpersons: Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; Larry Walton, president of United Way of Central Maryland; and Nancy Wolff, executive director of Leadership Maryland.

For more information on registering, call local county executive offices or the Office on Volunteerism at 1-800-321-8657 or 410-767-4496.

Pub Date: 9/22/97

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