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REACH volunteers

June 24, 1999|By MEG H. PARTINGTON

For some REACH volunteers, giving time to others is an expression of faith.

"It's just my way of serving the Lord," says Lillian Pickens, 77, of Hagerstown.

Pickens has volunteered with REACH's Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers program since September 1997. She also has done some work at the Cold Weather Shelter, buying supplies and providing magazines for those who sought refuge there.

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Pickens gives about 70 to 75 hours a month of her time to others, transporting them to medical appointments, grocery stores or just out for a ride and a meal. She has kept Alzheimer's patients company while their family members run errands and prayed with people who are scared before going into the hospital.

"I enjoy helping other people," Pickens says. "Anything they ask me to do, if I can, I do it. This is what the Lord wants me to do."

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James Martin was among the group of individuals from various denominations who began meeting in 1989 to create REACH, or Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless. They thought that creating a crisis intervention program through which volunteers would be available 24 hours a day would be a good start, since people were still in crisis after service agencies closed for the day.

"My Christian faith calls for caring for my fellow man," says Martin, vice president of REACH's board of directors and a volunteer with the organization since 1990.

Martin has worked primarily in crisis intervention, but also has lent a hand at the Cold Weather Shelter and worked as an Interfaith Volunteer Caregiver.

"It's something I really wanted to do and couldn't do for years" until retirement, says Martin, 67, of Maugansville.

Martin gets called about two times a week to assist those in crisis, sometimes in the middle of the night. He says calls at the wee hours are less frequent in the warmer months.

He was called once to help a woman who had lost her job and was traveling with her child on Interstate 70 when her car's steering gave out. Martin found a hotel that would allow the woman to stay overnight, and a tow truck driver transported the vehicle, free of charge, to a local garage that agreed to fix the car. Someone at the garage happened to have a part on hand that was needed for the older-model vehicle.

"You experience little miracles," Martin says.

A tank of gas was provided for the car and employees at a local restaurant sent the woman and her child on their way with a bag full of food.

An Eagle undertaking

From November 1998 to April, Patrick Haupt, 13, kept inventory of cleaning supplies and hygiene items at the Cold Weather Shelter with the help of members of his youth group from Mount Lena United Methodist Church and some fellow Boy Scouts.

He spent two to three hours a week keeping count of the shelter's supplies, labeling boxes and dividing supplies into categories such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and floor polish. Not only was Patrick providing a much-needed service to REACH, he was accruing community service hours toward the rank of Eagle Scout.

"It's a lot of fun. You enjoy helping other people," says Patrick, a ninth-grader at Smithsburg High School.

He says he intends to volunteer at the shelter again next winter.

'A godsend'

Once a week over a period of several months, Pickens drove Mary-Jo Cunningham to Meadow Dialysis Center for treatments.

"This was a godsend," says Cunningham, 43, who no longer needs the treatments after having a kidney transplant in April. "She's a very special person."

Cunningham was referred to the REACH program and recommends it not only to those in need of some help, but to those looking for a valuable way to spend their time.

"I would recommend it to people who would like to do something for others," says Cunningham, of Smithsburg.




The REACH Inc. office is in the basement of Hebron Mennonite Church, 13315 Highlane St., Hagerstown. It is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For information about REACH Inc., call 301-733-2371 or send e-mail to faith_reaching_out@yahoo.com.

After hours, call the Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused (CASA) hotline at 301-739-8975 to be connected to a 24-hour REACH crisis volunteer.

-- Nonprofit organization provides variety of services

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