It's 5:30 a.m. at North Baltimore's Ellerslie Apartments, and while a few people crawl out of their night's sleep and plod toward the lobby, Louise Smith has already started her rounds.
The 84-year-old retired nurses' aide moves swiftly up and down the stairways and through the five-floor building's carpeted corridors, delivering newspapers to 10 to 15 residents of the public housing complex for seniors. Maybe later, she'll check on some homebound neighbors and see if they need food, help around the house, or anything else.
Since she moved to Ellerslie in 1976, Smith has been a delivery person, "gofer" and companion to many of Ellerslie's 130 residents. She's been honored by the governor, the Golden Keys Club and the city. This week, she received the Harry B. Weiss "Exemplary Service" award from the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.
"I just like to take care of people," Smith said. "I like to do things for people when they need me."
Smith was one of 56 public housing residents honored Wednesday with the 33rd annual Weiss awards for public service at the McCulloh Homes Auditorium in West Baltimore. Another West Baltimore senior citizen, Mary Jenkins, 74, also received the "Exemplary Service" award.
Jenkins, 74, has been a resident of West Baltimore's Rosemont Towers for 20 years. She belongs to the community association and volunteers at the recreation center. Each year, she plants flowers at the apartment complex.
"I think everyone needs to take pride in where they live," city
Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III said at the awards ceremony. "We need to be good neighbors."
Ernestine DeYampert, Ellerslie's assistant housing manager, said Smith is always pleasant and helpful to the other residents. "She always goes out of her way to help people," DeYampert said.
Helen Williams, an Ellerslie resident since 1995, said Smith does some of the daily chores she can't do because of carpal tunnel syndrome.
"She's been very good to me," said Williams, 68. "She comes in and takes my trash out and brings me my paper and goes to the store for me."
Smith's four daughters have asked her to live with them, but she said she'll probably remain at Ellerslie.
Her friend, Phyllis Simmons, 58, said Smith is invaluable to Ellerslie's residents and would be missed. She often hears Smith knocking on doors and asking people how they are. "She'll stop past, sit down and talk with them to make sure they have someone," Simmons said.
Smith said that sometimes residents get lonely and just want conversation. "We talk about everything: good things and bad things and men," she said, chuckling.
Pub Date: 12/11/98