Volunteers brighten lives of the homebound elderly


MY MOTHER always told me, "Be nice to older people."

Now I understand why: We spend a good part of our lives being "older," and it can be a time of isolation and immobility. It takes little effort to bring companionship into the lives of senior citizens confined to home. They're always at home, and always happy to see a friendly face.

Teen-agers, who must complete 45 service hours before graduating from county high schools, can be a welcome sight at senior centers where bright, young faces and optimistic attitudes are just the thing for shut-ins. So can four-legged visitors.

Karen Martin and Anne Young run the countywide Pets on Wheels/Life Enrichment/Mom & Me volunteer programs, which operate on a county grant and donations.

"Thanks to our volunteers in 1998, more than 15,000 hours were spent making someone's day brighter," said Martin, who lives in Millersville. "This included 289 Pets on Wheels volunteers and 267 Life Enrichment/Mom and Me volunteers."

Volunteers with all three programs are asked to spend an hour a week on the job, and they can visit any of dozens of county facilities: nursing homes, assisted-living centers, women's centers and schools for children with special needs.

Volunteers also visit residents of Sarah's House, Hospice House and patients in hospitals, including intensive-care units.

All volunteers receive an hourlong orientation on visitors' etiquette.

Life Enrichment volunteers might take a senior for a walk or a wheelchair ride, or drop by for a chat.

Mom and Me adult volunteers take babies and children on visits, brightening lives of the elderly.

Potential pet visitors must have all current immunizations and go through a screening process to see if they have the gentle personality necessary for this kind of assignment.

The programs depend on financial support from the community.

A fund-raiser is scheduled for March 1 at the Crofton Pizza Hut. Between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., Pets on Wheels/Life Enrichment will receive 20 percent of the sales, including carryout.

Information on the programs, or to receive a volunteer packet: 410-222-4738 (4PET).

Race No. 1 for 1999

The Washington's Birthday 5K, a 3.1-mile race, is to begin at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Bay Hills Community Center in Arnold.

Sponsored by Annapolis Striders, this is the first race in the group's eight-leg 1999 club championship series, but nonmembers are welcome to participate.

Prizes will be awarded. Registration on race day will be from 8: 30 a.m. to 9: 30 a.m.

Information: 410-268-1165.

Pub Date: 2/11/99

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