New agency will match volunteers with needs

January 14, 1997


Staff Writer

Armed with a $25,000 Faith in Action grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a new Washington County organization hopes by the end of the month to be matching volunteers with residents who need help staying self-sufficient and independent.

Washington County Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers was formed after local groups committed to ending homelessness realized many people were falling through cracks created by cuts in government programs.

Caregivers advisory board member Carol Springer, who also is president of the county's homelessness task force, said the nonprofit Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless (REACH) decided to apply for the Faith in Action grant in an effort to patch those cracks.


REACH is a member agency of the homelessness task force. Springer wrote the grant application.

Faith in Action grants provide startup funding for interfaith volunteer caregiver projects. There are about 500 nationwide, including one in Shepherdstown, W.Va., Springer said.

REACH was awarded the $25,000 grant in October after raising an equal amount in cash contributions and in-kind services, Springer said.

"We have two target populations," Springer said. "The first is the elderly and disabled, and the second is anybody else. We're looking primarily to the faith community to get volunteers and identify congregation members who may need help."

Residents don't have to belong to a church to get help or to become a volunteer, Springer said.

Volunteers will do most anything necessary to make life easier for people in need, Springer said.

"The sky's the limit. Nothing is too small. We'll fill whatever gap there is," Springer said. "We're really excited about the possibilities. This gives us an opportunity to demonstrate what our faith is all about."

About $18,000 of the grant money has been set aside as salary for a director who will coordinate the volunteer program, Springer said.

Applications for director are being accepted. Also needed are volunteers to serve on the advisory board, she said.

Springer said office space has been donated by the Hebron Mennonite Church in Paramount, Springer said. REACH was able to come up with matching grant funds with the help of donations from county businesses and citizens, she said.

Anyone who wants to apply for the director's job or is interested in volunteering can call REACH Vice President James Martin at 733-5269, or write to 13315 Highlane St., Hagerstown, Md. 21742.

Springer said until Caregivers is up and running, families with an immediate unmet need should call the Department of Social Services at 791-4045. Adult individuals who need help should call 791-4059, she said.

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