With the coming of the holiday season, families unpack their rituals. Whether its Grandmothers gravy boat, Mothers Christmas collection, Dads old Santa suit or Aunties Menorah, we return to tradition to affirm our closeness.
One of the holidays best traditions is reaching beyond our own need to share our bounty.
Abundant evidence shows that our community takes the giving part of Thanksgiving seriously. From the overflowing food donation baskets at local grocery stores to the inevitable television footage of folks serving turkey dinners to the less fortunate, this special time of year brings out the best in all of us.
As the holidays draw near, New Bay Times introduces you to a handful of neighbors who donate their time, talent and hearts to make our world a kinder place. For these dedicated volunteers, each day brings reason for thanks and giving.
Its a story weve told before, but one our readers liked so well that were making it a tradition. This year, meet Bobbie Burnett, Harold Cramer, Bill Franch, Thyme and Barbara Karper and Ruth Reid plus two of Marylands Most Beautiful People, Bruce Wile and Emily Adell Hall.
Bobbie Burnett of the Caring Collection
Believe this: Angels are among us. No one knows or shows that better than Annapolis stained glass artist Bobbie Burnett. As founder of the Caring Collection Inc., a group of volunteers that creates stained glass artwork to raise money for cancer research and treatment, Burnett has gotten to know plenty about kind, caring and loving spirits.
She works with them every day.
"I feel like I have my Ph.D. in angels," says Burnett, who holds a masters degree in art and has created stained glass sculptures for individuals, businesses and churches around the world.
Her angels are 60 volunteers, some at Burnetts studio in Annapolis, others at their homes, who donate time and talent year round to create the limited edition angels and suncatchers the Caring Collection sells to raise money for cancer research.
The Caring Collection came in to being around Christmastime in 1981, when Burnett learned that a friend had leukemia. Wanting to help, Burnett designed and created a three-dimensional stained glass angel: her gift of love, of hope and of care.
What began as a simple gift, however, became a means to help with medical expenses. Soon, a dozen friends joined the cause, creating angelic artwork to raise money for their friends treatment. The group lost their friend the next year, but the good work didnt stop. They established a memorial fund to aid the fight against cancer.
Through 1986, the fund donated money to the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in Baltimore. When Caring Collections reached their goal, the volunteers wanted to do more, so they made and sold stained glass artwork for Anne Arundel Oncology Center in Annapolis. As their donations increased, so did the number of volunteers.
"Every one in some way, either by family or friends, have been touched by someone with cancer," reasons Burnett. "Thats how it grows."
This spring, the group gave $15,000 each to the two oncology centers for treatment equipment and research.
Burnett designs each piece of art. Every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at her studio, she organizes and supervises volunteers as they cut and polish sections of glass, apply foil to edges, solder pieces and package the completed works in boxes also of Burnetts own design.
The volunteers come from all walks of life and from all backgrounds: a retired Westinghouse metallurgist; a young college grad at NASA; a retired banker; a developmentally challenged adult; an 82-year-old with a degenerative eye disease; a cancer patient; women from France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Korea.
They come from Shady Side to Baltimore. About a third work full-time jobs; in the evening they pick up pieces from the studio to work on at home. Some never set foot in the studio, but simply take the angels to places that sell them.
"Thats what Id like to have the Caring Collection known for," says Burnett. "That a group of ordinary people can do extraordinary things."
All told, Burnett and her 60 volunteers have made and sold 13,000 limited edition stained glass artworks each year a new design and have donated a total of $209,000.
"I love the people that work with me, and I love what they get out of it. The more I give of my time and energy to them, the more I get back from them. Its a wonderful experience."
Burnett says Caring Collection can always use more help. No experience needed, she says, only a desire to help.
Spoken like an angel, you might say.
Call 410/849-5333 to join this company of angels. Or simply buy one. Suncatchers $12 (plus $3 shipping); Angels $25, $50 (plus $5 shipping). The Caring Collection offers their artwork for sale beginning in early November at Burnetts studio plus gift shops at the Anne Arundel Medical Center, the Anne Arundel Oncology Center, Spa Creek Health Center and Roozens Nursery.
Harold Cramer of the Auxiliary of the Anne Arundel Medical Center
Annapolitan Harold Cramer is a modest man. As he says, "the man who was given the Humility Award of the year lost it the moment he stepped up to accept it."
At first, Cramer, 73, resisted any personal recognition for his volunteer work with the Auxiliary of the Anne Arundel Medical Center. The retired sales rep agreed only because he believes all the dedicated and hard-working members of the Auxiliary deserve to be applauded.
"These people put their heart and soul into their work," says Cramer. "The services done by these people are really outstanding."
Since the 1940s, the Auxiliary of the Anne Arundel Medical Center has worked to make patients and their families comfortable during their time at the downtown Annapolis hospital and the Jennifer Road annex that will eventually become the hospitals main campus. Auxiliary members arent dealing with life and death issues; rather, they tend to the hundreds of little niceties that can make all the difference.
Auxiliary volunteers greet visitors and offer directions from the front desk, operate the snack bar and gift shop, handle the mail. They manage the push carts that offer books, magazines, candy and gifts, man phones and guide family members to their loved ones hospital rooms. Sometimes theyll simply fill water pitchers anything to ease the strain of a hospital stay.
The Auxiliary also raises a significant amount of money for the hospital, mainly through The Clothes Box, a consignment shop behind the hospital that is staffed by auxiliary volunteers. "The Auxiliary is always looking for new members," says Cramer who, as a man, is a rarity in this organization. He estimates that out of a total membership of about 900 (400 of whom are active volunteers), fewer than 50 are men. "Quite a few men think of it as a womens auxiliary. Thats one of the reasons they dont join. But its not strictly a womens organization."
Since he was recruited by his wife, Barbara, two years ago, Cramer has spent about 20 hours every week at the downtown hospital, dividing his time between the reception desk at the short stay unit, the cash register at the snack bar, the Clothes Box and patient visitations.
When visiting, "I talk to them and ease the tension. Ninety percent of the time I cheer them up. I never say How are you feeling today? because if they felt all right, they wouldnt be in the hospital," Cramer said.
Hell usually administer a dose of humor. "I kid with them. Ill walk into a room where two people are all hooked up with tubes going here and there. I usually say Im here to sign people up for dance lessons. That usually gets them smiling," he says.
Auxiliary volunteers also ensure patients comfort. "We try to find out how the hospital is treating them. If there are any complaints, then we take care of them," Cramer says. "This is a great, patient-oriented hospital. They go to extremes to make sure the patients are well taken care of, the building is clean and all services are running well."
All his life, ever since he collected money for the Red Cross at six years old, Cramer has volunteered his time and talent to a variety of organizations, including veterans groups, Boy Scouts and, lately, the Annapolis Opera.
"I try to fill in where theres a need," says this humble man of many causes. "As far as Im concerned, I dont need a reward. As long as I think Im doing the right thing, thats what really counts."
To learn more about joining the Auxiliary of the Anne Arundel Medical Center call the volunteer placement office 410/267-1251. Volunteer coordinators try to match potential members interests and talents with the hospitals needs.
Bill Franch of Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service
How does Marylands largest law firm offer its thanks at Thanksgiving time? The way it does all year long: Helping families work their way through trouble.
"Its gratifying to help people who otherwise would not be helped," says Winnie Borden, executive director of the nonprofit Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service.
Marylanders have turned to the volunteer legal service for relief from bankruptcy and insurmountable hospital bills. Attorneys also help with consumer rights, disputes with retailers, landlord problems, deeds and housing, custody and divorce, wills and power of attorney.
Back in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan threatened cuts to legal services nationally, a small group of Maryland lawyers stepped forward to help. They gained the support of the Maryland State Bar Association and formed what is now referred to as Marylands largest law firm. Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service works pro bono: thats for the public good.
In 17 years, some 2,500 lawyers have taken on 13,000 pro bono cases, providing clients with services valued at more than $12 million. Last year, 1,863 clients got help.
One of the helpers is Annapolis lawyer Bill Franch.
Franch is a man with a big heart. "If someone is in need, hes the first one there to help," says Pam Young, his secretary for 15 years.
Thats been true since 1963, when Franch did the legal work that paved the way for Anne Arundel Countys anti-poverty office.
But for the last two months, Franch has been waiting at Washington Hospital Center for someone elses heart. There Franch keeps up his spirits while waiting for a heart transplant by continuing to work for clients from his hospital bed.
"All professionals, including lawyers, have an obligation to help and give guidance to those who dont have the resources," Franch says. "Ive always done that. Its a way of paying back what weve been given."
This Thanksgiving, Franchs friends and clients are hoping that the man who has given so much will receive the one thing he needs most to continue the good works: a heart as big and kind as the one hes worn out.
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service is active in every Maryland county: 800/510-0050 e-mail MVLS@erols.com
Thyme and Barbara Karper of Fidos for Freedom
At the tender age of nine, this volunteer is already a pro who knows just how and when to offer her services. She even has a motto: "Always on the Job." Shes a Fido for Freedom by the name of Thyme.
Thyme, a yellow Labrador retriever, is a service dog, trained to aid mobility-impaired individuals to achieve independence. Barbara Karper, her service client and owner, says, "shes my life." Karper, a double amputee, lost her legs from complications due to diabetes.
"Thyme gave me back what I lost," Karper says. "With her help, Ive been able to take care of my grandchildren all day by myself. She picks things up for me, opens doors, pulls my wheelchair."
Fidos for Freedom, founded about 10 years ago, is one of the few assistance-dog training organizations in Maryland. From Laurel, the nonprofit group strives through the use of hearing dogs, service dogs, and therapy dogs to increase the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. The assistance dog training center is an all-volunteer organization with about 75 to 100 current volunteers.
Breeders donate the puppies, mostly working dogs like golden retrievers, Labs and Dalmatians. Breeds, says Karper, "that seem to have the desire to work."
Volunteers train the dogs, taking them into their own homes. Training takes two to three years. Canine help mates are then partnered with disabled humans who complete 120 hours of training to learn how to work with and take care of their service dog.
Thyme and Karper are a perfect match. Theyve had each other for seven years now, and Karper says she could do none of the things she does without her.
Karper was so well satisfied that she wondered what she could do to give back to the organization. She thought shed lick a few envelopes. Instead, Karper became Fidos dogsbody. As a full-time at-home volunteer, she answers all calls to Fidos for Freedom. That must mean Thyme gets to lick those envelopes.
Fidos for Freedom also trains hearing dogs to alert the deaf or hard of hearing to all significant sounds like the telephone, smoke detector, alarm clock, microwave, a babys cry, a door bell. Therapy dogs are trained to visit health care facilities and give their residents "a little unconditional love."
Karper says most of Fidos funding comes from donations. The "good faith" cost of a dog to approved applicants is $150. The real cost of each special helpmate is estimated at $10,000, but their value is beyond price.
Mostly, she says, people hear about Fidos for Freedom by word of mouth. From the movie 101 Dalmatians, we learn that in dog talk that would be called a "barking chain."
To learn more about Fidos for Freedom call 410/880-4178 or view the web: www.fidosforfreedom.org.
Ruth Reid of Huntingtown
As darkness falls, headlights sweep into the parking lot of the Carroll Victoria Community Center in Huntingtown, and the center comes to life. Carrying books, papers and briefcases, students and teachers mount the stairs. Another Monday evening at the Huntingtown Learning Center is about to begin.
The center germinated in need. Making his pastoral rounds, the Rev. Tunde E.O. Davies of the Huntingtown Charge United Methodist Church listened as parishioners recounted their frustration with low-level jobs. Mothers wanted to improve their skills so they could set examples for their children. Aspiring job seekers needed advice.
Now every Monday evening from 7 to 9pm, new skills are learned and new hopes inspired.
Says one student: "Im here to brush up on my English and know more about computers. I cant advance at my job because I need to upgrade my knowledge to move to the next level. I learned about the classes here from a co-worker."
The two-semester, 24-week program is housed in a room provided free of charge by Carroll Victoria Enterprises. Computers were donated by community members, Nationsbank and Baltimore Gas and Electric. Volunteers develop mini-curriculums, gather materials, keep the computers running and teach. Other experts volunteer as needed: people from the employment office bring applications and discuss job openings, other community members show students how to dress for success.
Students aged 18 to 40, who might be intimidated by classes held in schools, feel comfortable with these low-key, committed volunteers.
One of those volunteers is Ruth Reid, the co-chair of the Learning Center. Reluctant to talk about herself, always mentioning the names of other volunteers and her students, Reid finally tells her story. Retired from the Calvert County Public Schools as supervisor of Special Education, she has reached out her whole life.
Starting in her teens, Reid began a lifetime of helping. She was trusted to pay bills and run errands for her elderly relations. While the other teen-agers around her had negative attitudes toward the seniors, the teen-aged Reid would help. "I felt it was my duty, I was supposed to do this."
That spirit has grown stronger with the years. Huntingtown Learning Center is just one of the many organizations lucky to be the focus of Reids expertise and enthusiasm.
"I came to all the meetings to plan the learning program," she recalls. "I was volunteered by Pastor Davies, You be the chairperson and Joe Parran will help, he told me."
So Reid put her background in community assistance to work. Responsible for the total program, she makes sure the building is open on Monday evenings, checks on the equipment, recruits students and volunteers, publicizes the program to local organizations, raises funds, writes lessons and instructs.
Reid is quite the dynamo, fueled by the needs and successes of her students. Like the "young lady who caught on to computers and academic skills very quickly. She was doing domestic work at the time," Reid recounts. "As she became more confident she talked to her employer about her studies at the Learning Center. She was told that if she completed the program successfully she would be put on her employers business payroll. Where she still is today."
The part of the story that Reid really enjoys telling is this: "This young lady calls me all the time, very persistent she is. She wants to come back to the learning center to teach computer skills."
Nudged back on track to her own story, Reid ponders what she gets from volunteering. Slowly she says, "I have the joy of knowing that I touch the lives of people who might not otherwise get services and skills. Helping others keeps me focused and keeps my skills sharpened. I continue to be part of the community, giving back some things that were given to me along the way."
Thus does the circle of hope expand at the Huntingtown Learning Center.
Reids wish is for the Center to grow. "Id like to see us be open more than one night a week, have more volunteers especially during the day and provide transportation for students who cant get here."
If you can help Ruth Reid and her volunteers through donating time, materials or money, call 410/535-2730.
Meet Two of Marylands Most Beautiful
The many days Bruce Wile of Lusby and Emily Adell Hall of Annapolis answered the call to volunteer have earned them the title of Marylands Most Beautiful People.
The honor recognizes outstanding residents whose volunteer activities improve the qualify of life for all Marylanders. Wile and Hall are among volunteers from the states 24 counties and Baltimore City to receive this years awards.
"These unsung heroes make Maryland a better place to live, work and visit," Gov. Parris N. Glendening said at the ceremony honoring the volunteers.
After 26 years serving in the Navy, Bruce Wile and Ruby his wife of 46 years and a candidate for the state volunteerism award last year made Calvert County their home. He started volunteering at St. Paul Methodist Church in Lusby, where he is lay pastor, finance chairman and a member of the board of directors of St. Paul United Methodist Pre-Schools. He also is a member of the churchs cemetery and kitchen committees.
Wile is just as active in the community as in church. The best time to catch him is early in the morning if then.
"Hes into everything," said Sandra Lawson, of the Office on Aging at the Southern Community Center in Lusby. He "touches all generations of people in our community" wrote Lawson in nominating him as one of Marylands Most Beautiful People.
The retired Navy captain is chairman of the Calvert County Commission on Aging, which works to improve the quality of life for senior citizens. He and his wife have worked side by side delivering meals at least three times a month to elderly and homebound individuals through the countys Meals on Wheels program. Wile is vice president of Meals on Wheels, Inc.
Hes also corresponding secretary of the Southern Pines Senior Center Council, Inc., which serves more than 500 seniors. The council set a goal to raise $25,000 to furnish a new senior wing to the Southern Community Center in Lusby. With Wiles enthusiasm, the center has raised $20,000 of the goal.
"You find out where the needs are," said Wile, who calls networking the key to volunteering.
He soon discovered that his talents were needed in other areas of Calvert County. Vice president of SMILE (Service Makes Individual Lives Exciting), he provides food and clothing to people in need. He also tutors twice a week at St. Leonards Elementary School.
In addition, Wile is secretary of his neighborhood group, the Park Chesapeake Home Owners Association, and an active member of American Legion Post 274 in Lusby.
Wile and his wife also find time each month to visit the Solomons Nursing Home residents.
"Ive been a lucky guy in my life because of opportunities," Wile said. "I never felt want for material things. I felt I should start giving, not taking."
Emily Adell Hall
Emily Adell Hall, a 13-year volunteer with Anne Arundel Countys Sexual Assault Crisis Center, is on call from 1 to 7am at the emergency rooms at Anne Arundel Medical Center and North Arundel Hospital.
In 1991 Hall took early retirement from the Naval Academy in Annapolis because of an accident. She fell head first down a flight of stairs, injuring both arms. Though she has no strength in the arms, she can move them and is able to drive a car.
Volunteering, Hall said, "gives me something to do because of my disability."
Those in greatest need are her special mission. She has contributed and solicited items to help establish Anne Arundel Countys first runaway and homeless youth shelter. She also has gathered goods for the Chrysalis House, Light House Shelter, Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, Battered Shelter, West Virginia Special Project, Disabled American Veterans and Navajo Indians in New Mexico.
From July to December last year, she collected clothes, household items, toys and bikes, totaling more than $57,000.
This year, she was named to the Wall of Fame at Annapolis High School.
She is president on the local level and senior vice president on the district level of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"Volunteering keeps me going," she said. "If I didnt have volunteering, Id go nuts."
More than 1,000 people from many walks of life and generations were nominated for the state volunteerism awards. Winners were chosen by panels of local judges. There were no set criteria for selecting the nominees.
The other recipients of Marylands Most Beautiful People Volunteer Awards are: Thomas C. and James Stakem, Allegany County; Pry Watson, Baltimore City; George Wallace Zulauf, Baltimore County; Pansy C. Wilson, Caroline County; Paula G. Kellerhouse, Carroll County; David Hollenbaugh, Cecil County; John Hayden, Charles County; Gerry Boyle, Dorchester County; Fred Laliberte, Frederick County; Heather Marie Butler, Garrett County; Mary Chamberlin Woodward, Harford County; Vivian C. Millie Bailey, Howard County; Jane A, Wolfe, Kent County; John W. Molyneaux, Montgomery County; Cory Snyder, Prince Georges County; Christmas in April, Queen Annes County; Brian Laird, Somerset County; Philip Bailey, St. Marys County; Midge Fuller, Talbot County; Hugh Brandenburg, Washington County; Mike Andrews, Wicomico County; and Bob and Betty Robertson, Worchester County.
Volunteers are "the saints of the world," said Floraine B. Applefeld, director of the 12-year-old program.