Tireless trio up to task

September 15, 2000

Tireless trio up to task


Bonnie Laing, Judi Rogers and Jason McCracken took a break from their jobs to go to work.

The middle-aged marketing employees at the Review & Herald Publishing Co. in Hagerstown did housekeeping chores at Hospice of Washington County and created a window display for the local United Way chapter during the Aug. 30 Day of Caring.

Those tasks were but a tip of the trio's volunteer iceberg.

Collectively, they have run homeless shelters, supervised youth groups, prepared food baskets for flood victims, visited lonely senior citizens, bought Christmas gifts for needy families, and raised money for numerous charities and neighbors in need.

Laing, 45, Rogers, 49, and McCracken, 45, have logged countless volunteer hours over their lifetimes - and they aren't slowing down.


"The phones will ring, the answering machines will go on, and the faxes will continue," said McCracken, of Hagerstown. "But we have to take time out because this is work that has to be done."

This kind of willingness to invest in the community through volunteer efforts anchors studies that say volunteerism peaks among people between 40 and 60 years old, said an expert in volunteer issues at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

"It contributes to a sense of being at home, and we can't feel at home if we're not participating," said Peg Hendricks, 58, a lifelong volunteer who headed a 1998 national forum that focused on volunteerism in mid-life.

That project was a follow-up to the 1997 summit on volunteerism in Philadelphia, said Hendricks, who serves as assistant dean at the Office of Public Affairs at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Middle age "is sort of a balancing point- a recalculation point," she said.

"It's a time when people start to more realistically evaluate their dreams and goals. They start asking, 'What difference am I going to make?' " Hendricks said.

A realization of mortality takes hold, and people begin to wonder, "How do I make it mean the most?" she said.

"It's also a time to begin laying the groundwork for the extension of talents and interests that people hold," Hendricks said.

Some of their volunteer efforts are extensions of their interests, but Laing, Rogers and McCracken said they tend to lend a hand wherever help is needed.

Volunteering adds more meaning to their lives, extends their social circles and broadens their understanding of human service needs, the local volunteers said.

It also feels great, they said.

"When you give of yourself for something like this you don't expect anything in return," said Laing, of Hagerstown. "But you usually get special little things. (Volunteering) always puts you in a happy mood. And you get a blessing for yourself."

Volunteerism may peak during the middle-age years, but our nation's leader said giving of ourselves should be an ageless concept.

"Citizen service belongs to no party, no ideology. It is an American idea, which every American should embrace," said President Clinton when he announced a 1997 summit on volunteerism in Philadelphia.

Laing, Rogers and McCracken, who have volunteered throughout their lives, agreed.

"We'd have a better nation if we all had that attitude," said Rogers, of Smithsburg.

Increased volunteerism would relieve pressure on government human services agencies, she said.

It would also "break down some of the barriers that we have," McCracken said.

"If every able person could donate several hours per week in Washington County, this would be a better place to live," he said.

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