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City's 'Snow Angel' program ready to help even though weather has been mild

December 09, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Dick and Sylvia Smith are longtime Hagerstown residents who have been helped through the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Snow Angel program in recent years.
Dick and Sylvia Smith are longtime Hagerstown residents who have been helped through the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Snow Angel program in recent years.

While last winter was rather mild, City of Hagerstown officials are reminding residents of its volunteer snow-removal program that aims to help those who might not have the means to clear their own sidewalks if wintry conditions arise.

The Neighbors Helping Neighbors Snow Angel program is designed to assist eligible homeowners in maintaining clear public walkways as required by city code through the help of volunteers, according to Karen Giffin, the city’s community affairs manager.

“Because we require people, by code, to remove snow, we want to help those who might not be able to,” she said.

The program matches willing volunteers with people who are in need on a first-come, first-served basis, Giffin said. Two pairs have been matched this season and the city has more volunteers ready to go if more people apply for help, she said.

“We really feel it’s part of Hagerstown to help those in need, and that’s what we want to do with this program,” Giffin said.

Dick and Sylvia Smith are longtime Hagerstown residents who have been helped through the program in recent years. The couple, both of whom suffer from adverse medical conditions, have lived in their South Cannon Avenue home since 1967.

“It’s benefited us greatly,” Dick Smith said Friday. “If it snowed, they were here right after the last flake fell. I think it’s a very good program.”

The Smiths said they first started receiving snow-clearing assistance about six years ago, when the program was run by a local church. The city has since taken it over and the Smiths’ snow angel for the past two years has been newly elected Mayor David S. Gysberts.

Gysberts laughed when asked about the program last week, saying he hasn’t gotten to see the Smiths in a couple of years because of the area’s lack of snow. But it’s a very worthwhile program, he said.

“Personally, I like doing it because I have off on snow days, usually. And it gives me something to do,” said Gysberts, who is a guidance counselor in Montgomery County, Md., in addition to his mayoral duties. “It gives me an excuse to get out and get some exercise and give a little bit back to people in need.”

Gysberts said it’s a good program for students who might need to accumulate service hours needed for graduation and it’s a great way to get some exercise while helping out your neighbors.

“It’s worth it just to see a smile on their face,” Gysberts said of the Smiths.

Dick Smith said it’s nice to see that there are still people in the community who are willing to help their neighbors.

“We know there’s somebody out there that still cares,” Sylvia Smith said.

Although there wasn’t a lot of measurable snow last winter, Giffin said being prepared and planning ahead is always important because weather patterns can change quickly and drastically. Once participants are matched, they can communicate directly when any bad weather approaches the area, she said.

“Last year, we didn’t have much snow, but we want to have people plan ahead because this doesn’t happen automatically,” Giffin said. “If you plan ahead and you have your volunteer and you’re ready to go when it snows, you’re all set.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or requesting to be matched with a volunteer should call 301-739-8577, ext. 116, or email kgiffin@hagerstownmd.org.

Criteria for eligibility

To be eligible for snow-clearing assistance through the Snow Angels program, individuals must meet the following criteria:

  • Be the actual program owner of a home within the city limits
  • Live in the residence at which assistance is needed
  • Have a physical or medical condition that prohibits activity of this nature
  • Be financially unable to pay for snow-removal assistance
  • Have no additional resources that could assist such as family, neighbors, friends or social institutions

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