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He gives his time freely

Man applied for a paid job but decided instead to volunteer

September 19, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • At 82, Ernest "Bub" Snodderly has been repairing wheelchairs at Potomac Center in Hagerstown for 10 years. Since he was a child, Snodderly has been mechanically inclined and worked in the field until he retired. He said he loves working at Potomac Center because "It's very rewarding."
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

It was a want ad in the newspaper that brought Ernest Snodderly to Potomac Center.

It's the sense of fulfillment that has kept him there.

For almost a dozen years, Snodderly, known to family and friends as "Bub," has been somewhat of a fixture at the Marshall Street facility in Hagerstown.

Visit the center most afternoons, and he can be found tucked away in a small room doing wheelchair maintenance.

From adjusting brakes to mounting tires, it's Snodderly's job to make sure the equipment is running smoothly.

But while he spends several hours each day toting a tool box and doing repairs, he's not an employee.

Snodderly is a long-time volunteer.

It doesn't matter that next month the Hagerstown man will mark his 83rd birthday.

A little thing like age isn't about to slow him down, Snodderly said. He likes to stay active.

That's why, when retirement came knocking, he began to search for something to occupy his free time.

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Prior to retirement, Snodderly worked at Eastalco Aluminum Co. in Frederick, Md., as a maintenance supervisor, then did machine shop work for a local company.

"I've been doing mechanical work of some kind all of my life," he said. "That's all I know. Even as a kid, I was working on my bicycle."

Scanning the newspaper one day, Snodderly said he noticed an ad for Potomac Center, which serves as a temporary home to people with developmental disabilities.

"They needed someone to do maintenance work on wheelchairs for a reasonable hourly wage," he said. "I thought, heck, I can do that."

Following an interview, Snodderly said he was offered the job. He accepted on one condition. He didn't want wages. He wanted to volunteer.

Snodderly never has considered seeking payment for his efforts, he said, insisting the friendships he has made and the work he performs provides plenty of rewards.

"This was just what I was looking for," he said. "My wife had died in 1997, I was retired and I needed something to fill my days."

While Snodderly doesn't have to be at Potomac Center every day, he usually is, said Lisa Lynn, the center's volunteer coordinator.

"I track volunteer hours and Ernest is here about 50 to 75 hours a month. When you add up those hours over 11 years, that's a lot of time spent volunteering."

"Time is irrelevant," Snodderly counters. "Once you get acquainted with the individuals here, you're hooked."

Although Snodderly's main job is wheelchair maintenance, Lynn said he has become a jack-of-all-trades at the center. Recently, he adapted a table to fit a resident's needs and does small repairs where needed. He even sold mums at a Potomac Center picnic.

"We definitely fill his time," she said.

Over the years, Snodderly has developed a friendly relationship with many of the residents.

"You get to know the individuals pretty well," he said. "And they've gotten to know me. I really enjoy interacting with them and I like putting people in a good mood. I guess you could say I have a positive attitude. This late in life, I better have one."

In addition to mechanical work, Snodderly said he enjoys doing woodworking projects.

"I don't do as much as I'd like because I can't stand for long periods of time anymore," he said. "But I'm currently in the process of building a table for my grandson for his bedroom. He and I started it together and hopefully, it will be finished by his 14th birthday in November."

Snodderly also stays busy as the president of the Potomac Center's volunteer association. His job, he said, "is mostly to keep the meeting in order. We have such a good time, we have a tendency to get off track."

Snodderly said he would recommend volunteer work to people of all ages, but particularly to older adults.

"It's very rewarding," he said. "It only takes a few hours every week to make a difference in an individual's life. It's easy to become a couch potato - and I do that sometimes, too. But this is much better."

Snodderly said his family and friends weren't surprised when he applied for the job at Potomac Center and they're not surprised he has stayed there all these years.

"They know me," he said. "I've always thought it was important to help other people."

Looking back on his years at Potomac Center, Snodderly said one of the best things he ever did was answer that newspaper ad.

"Now, people around here tell me I better not quit. So I guess I'll be here a while," he said.

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