Reaching out, Volunteer gains more than just experience

June 16, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

After graduating from Goucher College in Baltimore a year ago, Cindee Cadieux decided she had had enough of studying about helping people - she was ready to immerse herself in the day-to-day dynamics of working with a nonprofit agency.

So while attending a career fair in Washington, D.C., last summer, the Plymouth, N.H., resident spotted a booth on Volunteer Maryland. The motto, "One person ... One year ... A World of Difference," caught her eye.

"I knew nothing about AmeriCorps and I had no idea where Hagerstown was at that time," Cadieux said. "But my boyfriend and I didn't want to live in a city, so this seemed perfect."


In Hagerstown, Cadieux began her 11-month AmeriCorps assignment working with REACH, the Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless.

And what a "job" it has been.

"I was hired to develop a REACH liaison program that hopefully will sustain itself after I am gone," Cadieux said. "It's my baby and I've enjoyed working to make it a reality."

Since last August, she has been contacting area churches and other organizations in Washington County in hopes of designating a REACH contact person at each location. That person will be registered and trained to be able to work with people in need and direct them to the agencies that can provide assistance.

"It's been a little slow starting but we are beginning to identify more and more people with special needs," Cadieux said.

But that is hardly all she has been doing during the past 11 months. The Washington County Commission on Aging routinely refers people to REACH who then make them requested-care recipients. These usually are the frail elderly and the disabled, Cadieux said.

"It was through that program that I first met Savannaha Wynkoop," Cadieux said. "Her need was transportation and our friendship started through that."

Wynkoop, who gives her age as 821/2, has lived at Elizabeth Court on East Washington Street for 20 years. While fiercely independent, she acknowledges she needs help from time to time.

Cadieux takes her to the store, helps her fill out complicated paperwork and even stands in line with her at the Community Free Clinic so she can get her medications.

But more than that, the two women regularly visit with each other and Wynkoop says she looks forward to those times more than anything.

"It's been wonderful spending time with this terrific young lady," Wynkoop said as they visited in her cozy apartment.

And for Cadieux, the feeling is mutual.

"I love my grandmothers but they are far away so this relationship with Mrs. Wynkoop is very important to me, too," she said.

With each person she helps, the needs are different so the response is tailor-made to that particular need, Cadieux said.

She hopes other volunteers will see her example and realize that doing "dirty" work isn't as negative as it sounds - there always is an upside.

With a staff of just three, REACH depends on volunteers to deliver food, take people to doctor's appointments, transport donated air conditioners and do other chores.

To volunteer for REACH, call 301-733-2371.

AmeriCorps is the domestic Peace Corps. Its members range in age from 18 to 75 and come from a variety of races, educational levels and backgrounds.

The assignment at REACH that Cadieux worked involved an 11-month commitment with flexible day and night hours.

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