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Levens makes keeping busy her business

March 09, 2009|By JANET HEIM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Charlotte R. Levens is looking for other seniors like herself.

"I'm very unhappy when I'm idle. I have to be busy," said Levens, 84.

Since December 2008, Levens has been the intergenerational programs coordinator for the Washington County Commission on Aging. The program is part of an initiative through the state of Maryland.

Levens is seeking those 55 and older who can volunteer at least one hour a week with elementary school students during the school year.

"They can do as much as feels comfortable," Levens said.

She has met with volunteer coordinators at 10 of the 26 county elementary schools to discuss how she can help them.

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The program is under the auspices of Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). During the summer, Levens will begin working with local nonprofit agencies that work with children.

Levens said she carries volunteer applications with her wherever she goes and has signed up several new volunteers through the Senior Center at Girls Inc. This weekend, look for her booth at the Flower & Garden Show at Hagerstown Community College.

It was serendipitous how Levens ended up in Hagerstown 10 years ago. She can say the same thing about her new job.

"It just happened," Levens said.

Her interest in the community led her to the Washington County Commission on Aging. She was sharing some concerns with Executive Director Susan MacDonald, who asked if Levens would like to be on an advisory committee.

After MacDonald heard about Levens' background, she asked Levens if she'd be interested in the part-time job.

"It's a great fit for my time of life. It's perfect. I think I found my place here," Levens said.

Levens, who grew up in Boston, was an educator for about 40 years before retiring in 1986. She earned her undergraduate degree at Boston Teachers' College, now part of University of Massachusetts.

Her career took her to different schools in Massachusetts and Illinois, and led to a year teaching in Germany early on. Her own love of education led her to Harvard University, where she got her master's degree and completed all but the dissertation for a doctorate.

About a decade ago, after living in Florida for several years where some of her family lived, she decided to head to Vermont to learn more about organic farming. Levens had her car loaded onto the auto train and headed north.

The constant rocking back and forth on the train finally took their toll on Levens and she chose to get off the train near Washington, D.C. She decided to see what Maryland had to offer and after determining Frederick was too expensive and Cumberland too hilly, she settled on Hagerstown.

"Hagerstown has wonderful amenities -- the museum, the symphony. Everything you could want is within a 10- to 15-minute drive. It's a good place," Levens said.

She still has an interest in organic gardening and puts it into practice in her small garden at Francis Murphy Apartments.

While she awaits the upcoming gardening season, though, Levens enjoys devoting her time to nurturing something besides plants -- the minds of young students.

"Even one hour a week to help a child can make a difference. It's a no-brainer. It has to do with caring," Levens said.

For more information about being a school volunteer, call Hannah Cramer, RSVP director, at 301-790-0275, ext. 209, and leave a message.

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