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The giving hand

Even in this time of need, the spirit of volunteering and its benefi ts run deep

Created date

March 31st, 2009
Whether tutoring at local schools or responding to growing needs throughout the community, dedicated volunteers from Greenspring and Riderwood are eager to donate their time and talents. The proof is in the numbers. Combined, volunteers from both communities dedicate 3,600 hours a month in various volunteer efforts. Based on an estimated dollar wage value of $18.77 per hour of volunteer time (based on 2006 Independent Sector research data), this total donated time equates to more than $67,000 each month or $811,000 a year. Charity begins at home Many volunteers who live at the communities provide assistance at Renaissance Gardens, the on-site assisted living facility located on each campus. Two years ago, Riderwood became the first Erickson-built and-managed community to have a Volunteer Maryland coordinator through Americorps to run the REAL (Resident Enriched and Loved) program, providing one-on-one companionship for those living at Renaissance Gardens, the on-site assisted living neighborhood. Residents at Renaissance Gardens look forward to the care and support provided by volunteers during each encounter each day, says Karen Boyce-Adams, Riderwood s Renaissance Gardens Assistant Administrator. In addition to weekly visits, members of the Greenspring community recently initiated a Renaissance Gardens e-mail project. ' Thirteen trained volunteers visit the residents at Renaissance Gardens with two laptops, helping them keep in touch with family and friends through e-mails. We ve found it s a great way to bring the world into their rooms, says Greenspring volunteer coordinator Elke Martin. The people at Greenspring put a high value on volunteering, and many are involved in a myriad of projects. Volunteers on the birthday song committee take turns singing happy birthday as they deliver the mail to the residents at Renaissance Gardens. It s been very well received, says Greenspring volunteer Marjorie Krape. The smiles are unbelievable. Our singing makes them feel good, and it makes me feel good too. Teaching others Extending their reach beyond campus, many volunteers at both Riderwood and Greenspring provide tutoring support at local elementary schools. With many former teachers living at Greenspring, local elementary schools became one of the fi rst benefi ciaries of the volunteers time. Currently, volunteers travel to nearby Garfield Elementary and Hunt Valley Elementary schools. We do what we do because it is fun and something we believe in, says Greenspring s Edna Brill, a former teacher and administrator in the Fairfax County School System. We view these children as our own. Hundreds of volunteer hours are also spent beyond the borders of Riderwood providing tutoring at Beltsville Elementary and Fairland Elementary Schools. Additionally, volunteers spend time reading at the James E. Duckworth School, a public school tending to the needs of physically and emotionally challenged youngsters, ages 5 21, and assisting with the annual Special Olympics Challenge Day. The volunteer spirit at Riderwood is absolutely amazing, says Nancy Piness, the community s volunteer program coordinator. I think our residents are truly the most kind, caring, and giving people I have ever encountered. Something for everyone The abundance of clubs and activities at Riderwood and Greenspring provide additional opportunities for people looking to volunteer their time. Freda Burner, an active member in the Dogs of Greenspring (DOG) group, turned her love of dogs into smiles for those living at Renaissance Gardens. One day, I thought, why don t we start a pet therapy program, Burner says. As pet owners, we love our dogs, and we thought others would too. We visit Renaissance Gardens four times a month. Everyone gets so excited, and many now know our dogs by their names. I really love it, and my dogs, Itsy and Bitsy, love it too. Building dreams At Riderwood, a group of volunteers known as Friends of Habitat for Humanity, volunteer their time in the construction of 24 back-to-back, three-level, three-bedroom townhouses in Burtonsville, Md. Moving to Riderwood was one of the best decisions I have ever made because now I m free to participate in activities like this, says Friends of Habitat member Audrey Westcott. In addition to providing on-site assistance, members of Riderwood s wood shop club spend hours constructing handmade bathroom vanities for the townhouses. Making these vanities has created a very unique atmosphere in our wood shop one of fellowship because we are really helping people, says community member Jim Guthrie. Eyes to the future The list of volunteer activities at both campuses continues to grow. Combined, Riderwood and Greenspring volunteers participate in almost 100 diff erent volunteer efforts. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. This ' ' is is the mantra by which each volunteer continues to live by. Our work is part of the Erickson philosophy, says Riderwood Friends of Habitat for Humanity volunteer Bill Johnston. It s putting our resources and abilities together to produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts.