2012: The year to volunteer

Written by on December 21, 2011 in Baltimore Voices - No comments

Approaching the end of 2011, we get a strong sense of the calendar turning. It’s a great time for optimism, hope and the establishment of new beginnings. And accordingly, it’s time to make those ever-popular New Year’s resolutions.

Now, honestly, we can all agree that a few resolutions are evergreen:

(a) Get in shape/Lose weight/eat healthier

(b) Get organized

(c) Be a better money manager

and there is another that a lot of people aspire to: Do something to help out. In the best of all possible worlds that would lead to a lot volunteers in all the organizations that need help.

There are a few things standing in the way. The first is obvious: people start the new year with good intentions, and those collide with the reality of home, job, kids and a general lack of time. Volunteering becomes too much of a ‘gotta-do’ instead of a “wanna-do” item, and eventually, becomes a thing to avoid.

Another problem? The idea is overwhelming. There’s a lot wrong with the world: natural disasters, wars, strife, famine — and even the most stalwart volunteers can be struck with the idea that ‘I can’t make a difference.’

Then, of course, there’s the economy. It’s tough out there. People (those who are working, anyway) are working harder than ever. Many are working two or three part-time jobs. Volunteering on a regular basis just isn’t in the cards.

But if you’re one of those who have been struggling with the wish to do something, and trying to figure out how to do it, here’s some good news: there are plenty of local groups out there that won’t ask for a regular commitment. Some need volunteers now and again. Some need various items. Some need a strong back for heavy lifting. Others need help sorting out the files. There are a lot of needs to fill.

Here are a few of the options. None require a regular commitment, and all can benefit others.

Household furnishings: If you’re in the mood to clean house and rid yourself of clutter (another very popular New year’s resolution), the Baltimore International Rescue Committee is ready to help you. BIRC is collecting basic necessities for Maryland’s refugee students and their families. Items on the wish list include English dictionaries, cooking supplies, gently used winter clothing, school supplies, lamps, gently used furniture, and more. Donations are tax deductible and can be dropped off during business hours at their office at 3516 Eastern Avenue. For information, go to www.rescue.org/us-program/us-baltimore-md or call 410-327-1885. You can also e-mail Baltimore@theIRC.org.

Have old shoes? Who doesn’t? You can donate yours to someone in need by dropping them off at the donation bin at Holabird Sports, 9220 Pulaski Hwy. (410-687-6400 for hours and location). P.S. They dont’t need to be sport shoes.

Help For Homeless Pets: The Maryland SPCA and the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter are teaming up with the Baltimore Guide to collect supplies and toys for homeless cats and dogs, as well as supplies for the shelters themselves. Items can be dropped at the offices of the Baltimore Guide (526 S. Conkling St.) between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, or may be taken directly to the animal shelters (addresses below). Needed are donations of kennel supplies (cleaning products, etc.), pet supplies (dog and cat toys, collars and leashes) and office supplies (copy paper, markers, pens, etc.). Full lists can be found on the groups’ websites. The Maryland SPCA, located at 3300 Falls Rd. in Hampden: www.mdspca.org or 410-235-8826, or the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, located on Stockholm St. in South Baltimore: www.baltimoreanimalshelter.org or 410-396-4695.

Kibble Connection: The Maryland SPCA is partnering with Meals on Wheels to help provide food for the pets of the needy. The program welcomes dry and canned food for cats and dogs, as well as cat litter. Drop by the Maryland SPCA, 3300 Falls Rd. in Hampden (call first to make sure of hours: 410-235-8826) or drop it off at the offices of the Baltimore Guide, 526 S. Conkling St. in Highlandtown and a volunteer will take it to the SPCA. Cat food and dog food donations, cat litter (and even monetary donations) can also be brought to the offices of Meals on Wheels on S. Haven St. in Highlandtown.

Give Blood: The American Red Cross always needs blood. Make an appointment at a Baltimore donor center by calling 800-448-3543 (800-GIVE LIFE).

Double-Knit Needed: Have some double-knit fabric or clothing and want to donate it? The Quilters of St. Luke’s can use it to make quilts for the needy. Also needed are regular washable fabric (sheets are nice) for the quilt backing, and yarn to tie the sewn blocks together. All donations are welcomed by the women. Info: 410-285-1312, e-mail Peer04@bcpl.net or stop by the hall of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 1803 Dundalk Avenue on Mondays between 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Leftover sports equipment? Patterson Park is interested in the following items for its upcoming programs. Donations can be dropped off at the white house (Lombard Street and and Patterson Park Avenue, inside the park) or call 410-276-3676. You can also email katie@pattersonpark.com.

Tennis Racquets: Friends of Patterson Park is seeking youth and adult size tennis racquets for its tennis programs. Racquets don’t have to be new, just usable by someone who wants to learn tennis. Note: They’re also looking for peoole who’d like to help teach tennis to beginners.

Youth Ice Skates: In anticipation of a youth ice skating program in Patterson Park this winter, the Friends are collecting youth ice skates to be donated to those who want to learn to skate. Any sizes, any styles are welcome. Info: 410-276-3676, katie@pattersonpark.com.

South Baltimore Emergency Relief, 110 E. West St., is open to receive donations of non-perishable food items, toiletires (travel size or full size, new blankets (any size) and monetary donations, from Mondays through Thursdays from 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., or by appointment by calling 410-752-1336.

Food Banks Need Help: Canton Baptist Church, 3302 Toone St., is trying to keep the shelves of its food pantry full. To donate, call 410-563-1177 or stop by the church. Canned vegetables, fruit and meats, cereal, pasta and sauce, peanut butter, bread, crackers, condensed, evaporated and powdered milk, bottled water and juices are all needed and welcome, as are cash and checks.

Dundalk Church of the Nazarene, 1626 Lynch Road, has a food pantry to held families in the community. Donate food by calling 410-288-5136, Michael Fiorenza 410-633-3696.

And these are far from the only opportunities. Community groups are always in need of people who will take an interest in what’s going on around them. Attend a meeting. Go on an anti-crime group walk. Help plant a garden or pick up trash. You don’t need to do it every week — just when your time allows.

Churches have outreach programs. Animal shelters rely on volunteers to walk dogs, clean enclosures and more. Soup kitchens need people to serve food. And if there has ever been a time when the Enoch Pratt Free Library hasn’t needed someone to help sort the returned books and put them back on the shelves, nobody here can remember it.

Opportunities to help make life better don’t have to start with natural disasters half a world away. They don’t have to require a commitment on a regular basis. They don’t need to become a chore. The only thing they need is a willing volunteer.

Make 2012 the year to make a difference. There are so many ways, and so many needs, right here.

by Mary Helen Sprecher

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