GOOD DEEDS Free Enterprise

Volunteer work has its own rewards.

There are people in Dallas who need your help. As government and foundation money for social services gets scarcer and scarcer, local agencies are coming to rely on the kindness of volunteer workers. A volunteer’s time is doubly valuable; in many cases, in addition to doing the work, he helps the organization he works for to qualify for matching grants from foundations eager to see a little local initiative.

But there aren’t enough volunteers to go around; of every ten calls for volunteer help in Dallas, one is answered.

The motivation for volunteering is changing, says Mike King, director of the Volunteer Center, a United Way-funded clearing house for pairing willing bodies with needy agencies. “In the Sixties, the white Anglo Saxons were volunteering to cleanse themselves of the guilt of their forefathers,” he says. “Then there was sort of a backlash. People withdrew and became more concerned with their own personal well-being.” King says that people are still volunteering, and that the trend is up, but personal interest is the most significant motivator.

The bottom line is fulfillment; the opportunities abound. Here are some agencies that need help.

Angels Inc. (8550 Cadenza Lane, near the intersection of Buckner and John West, 328-4309.) This is a non-profit, non-denominational day school and day-care center for the mentally retarded, mostly children between the ages of five and eighteen. Staff representative Susan Bailey says that one or two volunteers are needed daily to assist professional instructors in each of the school’s ten classrooms, to work with the children on a one-on-one basis. Classes include social skills, self-help, academic skills, music, recreation, and language skills. Most of the children are physically normal, but the average mental age of the teenagers is not much over first grade.

“We need mature people who aren’t upset by disability,” says Bailey. “After all, they’re just kids.” Being just kids, they enjoy going to the zoo and other places. Groups are needed to put on puppet shows, parties, and plays.

Consistency and reliability are features the school looks for in regular volunteers. “We have a Braniff stewardess who works with one of our classes every Friday on her day off,” says Bailey. “She’s worth her weight in gold.”

Brooks Manor. (630 South Llewellyn, in Oak Cliff, 942-0333.) This is a multipurpose center operated by Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas in a limited-income residential facility owned by the Dallas Housing Authority. About half of the clientele resides in the facility. Volunteer coordinator Katie Dickenson is looking for people who can teach a pastime activity, such as tole painting, bridge, or macramé. There is also a tremendous need for transportation – to the drugstore, the doctor, or the grocery. “A lot of our people have arthritis,” Dickenson says, “and even if they are able to walk to the grocery, they can’t carry enough back to make the trip worthwhile.”

Transportation is also needed for field trips. “We had a 20-year-old woman take a whole carful down to Old City Park,” says Dickenson. “She really made a hit. When they got back, no one talked about what they saw – just how neat the volunteer was. Sometimes if they just have someone to talk to it makes a world of difference.”

For Christmas, volunteers who can teach special holiday cooking would be welcome. Instruction in clever package wrapping and tree decoration would also be well received, as would tips on making inexpensive gifts.

Wesley Rankin Center. (3100 Grossman in West Dallas, 742-6674.) Men are needed to work with the Boys Club and i the Boy Scouts, and to teach such skills as electronics, woodworking, and model car crafting. Help is also needed on camping, hiking, and fishing trips and in coaching sports teams. “Commitment is our first criterion,” says Espie Rosario, the center’s director. Ability to speak Spanish is helpful but not required, since most of the children understand English.

Groups are encouraged to contribute parties for all age groups, pre-school to elderly. Refreshments, games, and gifts are needed; the center has names and addresses of families needing Christmas food baskets. “We like to see the donor deliver the basket directly,” says Rosario.

“It establishes a personal relationship, even if just for a time.”

Emanuel Lutheran Child Care Center. (4311 San Jacinto, 827-5301.) This operation is typical of dozens of non-profit child-care centers in the area which get by with the help of their volunteer friends. Available funds stretch just far enough to take care of necessities, and the imaginative use of volunteer assistance makes life interesting for the kids. Director Hattie Hammer needs people to tell stories and teach reading, drama, and music. Help is also needed on field trips, right now to see the Christmas sights, and Hammer hopes someone will come through with tickets for the Christmas show at Hay market Theater.

The center needs reliable assistants to help with the classes on a regular basis, even if just one day a week. “We need people who can adjust easily to different situations,” Hammer says, “people who have no preconceived notions of what is expected of a child. We want people who will take the time to listen to the children, to laugh with them and to hold them.”

Parkland Hospital. (5201 Harry Hines, 638-1800, ext. 2945.) Operated by the Dallas County Hospital District, Park-land uses about 150 volunteers a day. But to help tend to the needs of the 40,000 patients who are admitted annually, the hospital could use twice as many volunteers as it gets. Volunteers are placed throughout the hospital, in the emergency room, in the radiology and newborn sections, at the information desk – even in the gift shop. “We have people call occasionally and say that they want to help but they don’t like to be around sick people,” says Nancy McPhail, director of volunteer services. “I told one man that we needed help in the gift shop. He said that was right up his alley since he’d been in business and gone bankrupt twice. 1 was scared to death, but the night he handled it we had our biggest gross of the year.”

The biggest need is for people to cart patients around and to stay with them and comfort them. At Christmas, the hospital needs unwrapped gifts such as cologne, powder, and after-shave. Wrappers and wrapping paper are needed after a census of patients is taken. There is also a year-round need for good clothing, especially robes and shower thongs. Quite often it is necessary to cut the clothing from gun-shot and accident victims, and they need a fresh change when they are discharged.

R.S.V.P. (Retired Senior Volunteer Program, 5217 Ross Avenue, 823-5700.) This is a clearinghouse for elderly volunteers. Director Virginia Pickard says that the group is now hard at work making red stockings for wrapping Parkland Hospital’s Christmas babies. The group also works at other hospitals and provides musical entertainment at Christmas time for the workers at Goodwill Industries. R.S.V.P. is heavily involved in the hot-lunch program for the elderly throughout the city. And a pilot project, called Off Our Rocker, involves one-on-one relationships between members and school children in an effort to promote better understanding between generations.

Mental Health Association. (2500 Maple, 748-7825.) Volunteer Coordinator Barbara Gerald needs help with Operation Santa Claus, a huge undertaking to brighten the Christmas of about 2000 mental patients at Terrell State Hospital and at halfway houses around Dallas. Volunteers are needed in every phase – furnishing gifts and wrapping paper, wrapping and delivering packages. Lipstick, pantyhose, after-shave, playing cards, dominoes, makeup, and cigarettes are needed. “We need people who can sing to get together and go caroling through the wards at Terrell,” says Gerald. “Our board of directors did it last year, but we can’t sing worth a darn. There’s really nothing to be afraid of, and it means so much to the patients. Some of their families have forgotten they’re even alive.”

Volunteers are needed year-round for the association’s family advocate program. Women (successful mothers) are needed to work with families of neglected or abused children, three to five hours a week, after training. Referrals are from the State Department of Human Services child welfare office, and in each case the family is asking for help. The aim of the program is to encourage the development of healthy relationships within the family. Another program is Children In Placement, started recently by the National Council of Juvenile Judges to learn about the progress of children placed by the courts in private homes. The preliminary discoveries have been startling: One child had moved 13 times since the court’s last record. The goal is to find out what kind of plans have been made for these children’s lives, and how they’re being carried out.

Hospitality House. (5111 Capitol, near Henderson, 827-3911.) This is a center for the elderly in the back of a church. Unlike Brooks Manor, Hospitality House has no live-ins. Director Diane Lane says that transportation is a major need nevertheless, especially for field trips to places like the Rusk Railroad and the Tyler Rose Festival. Right now, the center can use small gifts, especially handmade. Christmas baking and help with gift wrapping would also come in handy. Instructors are needed to teach various card games, as well as sewing and craft tricks. “We want volunteers who just like to be around people,” Lane says.

Head Start. (2208 Main, 742-7861.) This non-profit operation is funded primarily through an HEW grant and serves 688 children at nine centers. The aim is to give disadvantaged children a fair shot at learning. A volunteer is needed each day in each of the 34 classrooms. Help is also needed in nutrition, parent involvement, educational consultation, and secretarial work and bookkeeping. “Volunteers don’t have to be licensed teachers,” explains director Wanda Smith. “We want people who are warm and giving, and not impatient or abusive.” Special Christmas needs include food baskets for families and quilts, sheets, and toys for children. “We especially like to see that the very poor have at least something to give their children,” says Smith.

Juliette Fowler Home for the Aged. (100 South Fulton, near Lakewood Shopping Center, 827-0813, ext. 44.) This home is operated by the Christian Churches of Dallas (Disciples of Christ). It needs Christmas decorations, place mats, cookies, and party favors. Sewing and letter writing are major continuing needs, but the biggest of all is companionship – someone to talk to and walk with. “We’re looking for volunteers who are willing to give their time because they consider it a worthwhile investment to enrich someone’s life,” says volunteer coordinator Jan Tatlock. “What we really need is regular visitation, the constant stimulation to keep our people in touch with reality. Christmas parties are great, but it’s a terrible letdown to have a big party and be the center of attention, and then be alone again.”

Red Cross. (2300 McKinney, 741-4421.) This organization sponsors a number of Christmas activities for volunteer youth groups: caroling at nursing homes, skits at day-care centers, and a reception at which foreign exchange students tape messages to send home to their parents. Some of the volunteer youth groups have “adopted” favorite nursing homes. Older volunteers are encouraged to sew stockings to fill with fruit and candy for the homes and hospitals, and to provide canned food and clothing to be distributed by the organization’s case workers.

Dallas Independent School District. (3700 Ross Avenue, 824-1620, ext. 313.) The Dallas schools make far greater use of volunteer assistance than is generally believed. Help is solicited for math and reading tutoring, teaching English to non-English-speaking students, office work, libraries, health rooms, and after-school programs such as athletics. A college degree is not required. Volunteers work two to three hours per week on a regular schedule.

The Volunteer Office also coordinates SPARK (Special Program for Additional Resources of Knowledge). This is an effort to enliven classrooms by bringing in volunteer speakers with special knowledge, background, or skills to add a real-life dimension to topics encountered in various courses. Past visitors have shown color slides of Morocco, given insight into what it’s like to be a lawyer, and talked about the meaning of Jewish holidays. “One of the SPARK volunteers that we get a lot of repeat calls for is a gentleman who brings his sheep dog to demonstrate pet care,” says Jean Fagadau of the volunteer office. Another volunteer enthralled a class recently with an old washboard and a butter churn.

This is an ideal time to make a cash contribution to RIF (Reading Is FUNdamental). This program allows children to select five books each from a special assortment to take home, for keeps.

Dallas Committee for Foreign Visitors. (World Trade Center, 744-3109. Also has offices at DFW Airport and in the Adolphus Hotel.) Ever been on the other side of the world at Christmas? This organization offers hospitality to visitors from other nations. Dallasites may host foreign students, bringing them into their homes about once a month, especially at holiday time. One-shot opportunities are also available for entertaining foreign students. “Busy people make the best volunteers for this program,” says chairman Lorene Emory. “Involved people are more likely to understand the community and be better able to present it.” The potential cultural rewards from this international give-and-take are superb.


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