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Teens reach out to lend a hand on Saturday morning

March 23, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

alician@herald-mail.com

Windex and paper towels in tow, about 35 teen volunteers set off down the halls of Potomac and Walnut Towers in downtown Hagerstown to assist residents with spring cleaning.

Terri Baker, executive director of REACH Caregivers - a service organization with a mission to respond to people in need - organized Spring Fling to serve senior citizens and people with disabilities. REACH volunteers spent the last several weeks spreading the word and recruiting volunteers.

Members of various youth groups and students earning required service hours gathered at Potomac Towers at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 20, and helped about 70 people get ready for spring.

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Baker told the teens to spend about 20 minutes in each apartment doing requested tasks like washing windows and flipping mattresses, then to spend a few minutes just talking with residents.

"This is a great intergenerational opportunity," Baker said to the volunteers. "Some folks can only stay here because of various supportive programs."

Each floor of the towers was equipped with a box full of cleaning supplies and a label detailing residents' names, apartment numbers and requested tasks to be completed.

Brittany Smith, 13, a member of Cross Bearers' Youth Ministry was eager to get started.

"I love to clean," she said. "It's one of my gifts. If I miss something, I have to get it. I can't let it go!"

Carolyn Baker, a resident of Potomac Towers, said she was happy to have Smith washing her sliding glass doors.

Laurie and Don Shinham, youth leaders at Tri-State Fellowship, brought a group of teens to help out with the project for the fourth year in a row.

Laurie Shinham said Tri-State has a young membership, with more than half being teens.

"This is a nice way for our kids to get exposure to the older generation and see what they have to offer," she said.

Katie Herman, who was with the Tri-State group, said it made her feel good to see the faces of the people she helped out.

"They are so happy for just 20 minutes of cleaning," Herman said.

Grace Weekley, program director of senior services at the Hagerstown Housing Authority, which manages both Potomac and Walnut Towers, said she thinks REACH's service to residents is wonderful.

"The teens learn from being here, and the residents really enjoy seeing young people," Weekley said. "I think everybody wins."

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