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Give and take

Volunteers find serving others is equally gratifying for themselves

Created date

January 8th, 2016
Charlestown residents and staff
Charlestown residents and staff

As a long-time business owner, Sally Langan spent years helping customers and serving the public unaware she was honing skills that would one day serve her in a very different but satisfying role as a volunteer. 

“Dealing with people is something that comes naturally for me,” says Sally, who lives at

“I’ve been blessed with a wonderful life. I’ve traveled and lived overseas, run my own business, worked for two Fortune 500 companies, so I can talk to people about pretty much anything. In some ways I think maybe that’s why I had all those experiences—so that I could do what I’m doing now.”

Group effort

Sally began volunteering at Charlestown two years ago after moving there from Arizona. She is one of 700 volunteers at Charlestown who give their time to dozens of different organizations, including homeless shelters, libraries, elementary schools, and churches.

“Making a difference is important to me,” says Sally. “For me to just sit home and watch TV or read, I don’t feel like I’m making a difference. When I’m helping someone else, it puts me in a good mood.”  

Charlestown Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Chrzanowski helps match residents with their volunteer interests. In her experience, Charlestown residents volunteer for a variety of different reasons.

“Volunteering allows retirees to stay active and maintain a sense of purpose,” says Chrzanowski.  “Some people volunteer to gain a sense of purpose; others volunteer to make a difference or to give back and connect with the community. Helping them feel engaged is the best part about my job.

“Many people were busy with their careers and raising their families,” she continues. “They didn’t have the time to volunteer. Now that they are retired, they find ways to give back to their community both here at Charlestown and in the greater Catonsville area.”

In 2015, Charlestown residents volunteered more than 350,000 combined hours to various causes. Sara Nixon volunteers as director of Charlestown’s Treasure Sale, an on-campus flea market; co-chair of the Community College of Baltimore County committee, which offers college-level classes to Charlestown residents; assistant webmaster for Charlestown’s resident-run website ccicharlestown
.org; and bulletin-folder for the Catonsville Presbyterian Church. Because her responsibilities vary, Sara says it has allowed her the opportunity to meet new people.

“I’ve met and worked with so many wonderful, giving, caring people at Charlestown,” says Sara. “I have been blessed with the gift of a happy, healthy, energetic, safe, loving life, and I want to use my energy to assist others and to make people smile.”

Volunteering has been instrumental in Sara’s life since she was a teenager. 

“One of the first things I did as a member of my church youth group was to visit a home for developmentally disabled youth,” says Sara. “It had a profound impact on me, especially because of the joyful response we received to our visit.”

Positive influence

John Lorenz moved to Charlestown seven months ago and is already volunteering with the community’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus, the Treasure Sale, and as a continuing care companion.  

“I really enjoy it, and it’s satisfying to be able to provide support to people who need it,” says John. “I am the volunteer type; I like to help out and use the gifts that the Lord gave me.” 

More than 400 Charlestown resident volunteers were recently pinned as a way of being thanked for their year-round service. A party themed “We need s’more volunteers like you,” held late last fall, honored volunteers with camping-themed food, a photo booth campsite, a DJ, and raffle baskets.

“Life is really what you make of it,” says Sally. “Charlestown is a community of volunteers. People are busy. Almost everybody volunteers doing something. I’ve met so many friends, and I’m super happy here. It’s a great environment.”