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CAC director finds work rewarding

March 16, 2001

CAC director finds work rewarding



Glenda Helman

Editor's note: This is the sixth in a weeklong series of stories profiling women who are making a contribution in the Tri-State area.

By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer


The challenges never end at The Community Action Council of Washington County, they just keep changing.

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It's that element of diversity that keeps Glenda Helman excited about her work as CAC's director of services.

"I've been at CAC for 10 years, the longest I've ever been at one job," Helman said. "I stay because it is so rewarding."

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High fuel prices, government fund mix-ups and growing numbers of people in need are the everyday challenges she is determined to overcome.

"Now we are gearing up to take over the single-occupancy residents of the Hagerstown YMCA," Helman said.

Between 50 and 60 men will need housing when the YMCA moves from its downtown location to a new Eastern Boulevard facility that will not have a residential program.

"Most of the men who live at the Y have been there between two and seven years," Helman said.

For others, it has been decades since they have lived anywhere else.

CAC is looking for a place or places where these men can settle down.

Helman is no stranger to such a challenge. Ever since the 43-year-old Fort Loudon, Pa., native earned her degree in social work from Shippensburg University, she has been involved in public service.

Stints working with the developmentally disabled, the retarded and residents of two nursing homes led her to CAC in 1991.

"At first, I worked as the coordinator of community services for emergencies," Helman said.

That job involved providing food to the hungry and aiding those who needed medicine or places to stay after evictions.

After six months, Helman picked up the Head Start program CAC used to administer. She began writing grants and found she was pretty good at it.

"I love writing and I can really get the heartstrings," Helman said.

She learned her grant writing skills from Cheryl Moyer Walkley, longtime executive director of CAC.

Getting money from government agencies is one thing, but Helman said the backbone is and always will be community involvement.

"This community really amazes me with its generosity. I love it," Helman said.

Helman said more than $8,000 has been donated this year to help people with their fuel bills, up nearly $2,000 from last year in response to higher costs.

Helman is involved with the North Hagerstown Lions Club, the volunteer association of the Potomac Center and has taught CPR and first aid.

Once a year, she spends a night on the streets to draw attention to the plight of the homeless.

"It makes you realize how hard it is to get up and go to work in the morning after spending the night on the streets," Helman said. "Some people do it every day."

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