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Volume 15, Issue 47 ~ November 22 - November 28, 2007

Volunteer Vocations

Volunteers for Pets on Wheels travel with four-legged assistants to nursing homes, hospitals and assisted-living facilities, where loneliness and isolation are dangers.

A Thanksgiving primer on finding good times in good work

by Diana Beechener, Bay Weekly staff writer

Never Volunteer.

That’s an axiom of the armed services. After a laborious summer of licking envelopes and Xeroxing pamphlets for the American Cancer Society, I felt the army was on to something.

In my job with the society — to complete state-mandated service-learning hours — I spent two precious months watching the blinding copier light travel back and forth over informational booklets and fundraising flyers. These unglamorous jobs are essential to all charity endeavors, but I realized quickly that there was a limit to my altruistic spirit.

In college, I discovered a world of volunteerism beyond clerical work. Editing papers for foreign students and teaching basic filmmaking to Harlem high schoolers was a far cry from my summer of paper cuts and copier blindness. If you’re having fun, volunteer work becomes volunteering — and you look forward to giving your time.

As the season of giving begins, Bay Weekly offers a primer on volunteering beyond the copier. From helping construct a dream home to reading stories to cats, here’s a starter on odd and interesting avenues to your volunteer vocation.

Artistic Endeavors

Bobbie Burnett and her Caring Collection volunteers create stained-glass angels for cancer patients.

Artistic altruists donate creative minds to charity work. Take time to craft your own contributions, or learn a new skill while brightening the holiday season.

Caring Collection’s Bobbie Burnett drew inspiration for her charity calling from a friend’s struggle with leukemia. Beginning in 1982, Burnett has trained volunteers in the artistry of stained glass, creating angels to watch over oncology patients.

“Like Henry Ford did the Ford Line, we have our angel assembly line,” says Burnett. Volunteers of all ages meet at her studio to design, draw, solder and ship stained glass angels to collectors and patients. Meeting Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, this network of glass artisans has created over 35,000 angels and raised over $700,000 for the oncology departments of Anne Arundel Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Caring Collections Inc., 1692 North Harbor Court, Annapolis: 410-849-5333;

Other Options:

• Help Annapolis find holiday cheer by hanging garlands throughout the capital Dec. 1 with the Annapolis Jaycees. 8am @ Main St., Maryland Ave., Church and State circles: 410-224-1775;

• Knit helmet liners for the troops at Operation Homefront:

• Sew your support by creating quilts for wounded veterans at Walter Reed and National Navy Medical Center with Quilts of Valor:

Hit the Road with Pets

Take your pets on the road to lift spirits with the wag of a tail.

Volunteers for Pets on Wheels don’t work alone; they bring four-legged assistants to work with them. Pet partnerships travel to nursing homes, hospitals and assisted-living facilities, where loneliness and isolation are dangers.

“Many physiological and emotional changes take place when a person interacts with a pet,” says program director Diane Dzambo. “Our goal is to reach people who are institutionalized or who have outlived their friends.” Animals ranging from alpacas to guinea pigs have cuddled up to elderly residents in Anne Arundel County — after passing the Tuskegee Temperament test.

After an orientation on animal-visit protocols, volunteers choose from over 100 participating homes and hospitals that welcome animal encounters. Well-behaved animals are essential, as these furry goodwill ambassadors often meet with frail residents or those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Pets on Wheels: 410-222-0738;

Other Options:

• Pets on Wheels dispatches throughout Maryland: 301-853-3330.

Volunteers of Arundel Habitat for Humanity help construct homes for families in need.

Constructible Charity

Hammer home the holiday spirit by helping construct houses for needy families.

If you build it, they will come — and help with the construction. Work alongside the family who will inhabit the home as you go from frame to finishing at Arundel Habitat for Humanity. As part of the requirement for receiving a home, each Habitat home owner must contribute 100 sweat hours, toiling alongside volunteers to create their home. Skilled labor is welcome, but construction supervisors will show you how to hit the nail on the head with on-site training.

“I can tell you from experience that I had no idea how to even hold a hammer when I started,” says volunteer coordinator Toni Cane. Volunteers 16 and up venture to building sites around the county, where they receive morning training and join families in building their dream homes.

To avoid hard labor but help with construction, donate building materials — such as wood, tools and paint — to a Habitat pickup center. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to organize warehouses and take construction inventory.

Arundel Habitat for Humanity, 273 D Peninsula Farm Rd., Arnold: 410-384-9212 x118;

Other Options:

• Patuxent Habitat for Humanity, Solomons: 301-863-6227;

Treasure Teaching

Make a community connection and help foster a love of learning through tutoring.

“We serve adults; that’s what our mission is,” says Calvert County Literacy Council’s Debbie Rawlings. Tutors for the Council improve the quality of life for illiterate or semi-literate residents by teaching them basic reading skills. No teaching experience is required: Director Maria Birnkammer organizes twice-yearly training sessions for groups of volunteers.

Tutors are evaluated and matched with a pupil or a group. The service is free, and meetings are often in local libraries. The sessions give students the tools to seek better jobs and foster a love of the written word in entire families.

“Tutoring is usually one on one,” says Rawlings. “But we do have groups for English as a Second Language students.” Volunteers 18 and up work on a flexible schedule that allows individual attention.

Calvert County Literacy Council @ Kaine Building, Suite 208, 65 Duke St., Prince Frederick: 410-535-3233;

Other Options:

• Anne Arundel County Literacy Council, 80 West St., Suite A, Annapolis: 410-269-4419;

• Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Maryland, 30065 Business Center Dr., Suite 2, Charlotte Hall: 301-290-0501;

At the Rude Ranch Animal Rescue, volunteers aid in socialization, adoption drives grooming and sanitation.

Find Furry Fun

Take a walk, scoop litter or play fetch with four-legged friends as they search for new homes.

Volunteers at Rude Ranch Animal Rescue are invited to cuddle up with a cat and a good book. “We really want to keep the cats social,” says president Katherine Rude. “Anything to keep them used to people. Some people read to the cats.”

The no-kill shelter welcomes homeless animals with the promise of a safe and clean home. Volunteers aid in socialization, adoption drives grooming and sanitation. “We can always use scoopers,” says Rude, “but we need gardeners too; we’re constantly battling chickweed.” Most jobs are far from labor intensive.“For the most part, you come by and play with the animals,” Rude says.

In December, as Rude Ranch readies for a visit from St. Nick, visit Crunchies Pet Foods (2421 Crofton Ln.) from 10:30am to 4:30pm Dec. 15 for pet and family pictures with the jolly old elf.

Rude Ranch Animal Rescue, 3200 Ivy Way, Harwood: 410-798-9559;

Other Options:

• Maryland Theraputic Riding, 750 Old Herald Harbor Rd., Small Barn, Crownsville: 410-923-1187;

• Humane Society of Calvert County, 2210 Dalrymple Rd., Sunderland: 410-257-4908;

• Calvert Animal Welfare League, 1040 Theater Dr., Prince Frederick: 410-535-9300;

Respect Your Elders

Play handyman or chauffer for the day for senior citizens.

Volunteers for Partners in Care drive their charges to doctor appointments or shopping.

Volunteers for Partners in Care have two options for service: house-call repair work or transportation. “Our main need is drivers. The greatest part of what we do is giving rides to older and disabled people,” says Joyce Cavey, volunteer coordinator. Drivers get behind the wheel for a good cause, taking their charges to doctor’s appointments or to the store.

Dispatchers call volunteers 17 and up at home or at work. “Drivers don’t need to come to a central location,” explains Cavey. “We can just send them to the person in need.” Hours are flexible; volunteers need only give one ride per month to significantly help Partners in Care’s work load. Trips range from around the corner to Washington, D.C.

Volunteers who steer clear of roadways can make home repair house-calls. “It doesn’t have to be skilled labor, just someone willing to lend a hand. Hanging up a rack, changing a light bulb — these are older people that can’t do the things they used to,” says Cavey. Occasionally, larger projects, such as building ramps, allow a group to join together.

All volunteers meet for a brief orientation (the next session is planned for Nov. 28) to learn techniques for aiding elderly and differently abled people.

Partners in Care @ 6 Rt. 2, Pasadena: 410-544-4800;

Other Options:

• Adult Day Care of Calvert County, Calvert County Health Services Center, Stoakley Rd. & Rt. 2: 410-535-0133;

If you don’t see your charitable cheer in these volunteer vocations, don’t give up. Hundreds more volunteer prospects await you in Calvert and Anne Arundel counties. Get a more complete list at The United Way of Calvert County (410-286-0100) or the Volunteer Center for Anne Arundel County (410-897-9207).

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