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Organization encourages volunteers to come again

BY SUSAN KIM | CUMBERLAND, Md. | January 21, 1999

CUMBERLAND, Md. (Jan. 21, 1999) -- After a tough week of rebuilding homes in

western Maryland, volunteers may deserve a vacation -- but instead they want to

come back.

"I try to treat volunteers well so they'll come back," said Sharon Kazary,

program director of NAILS, an interfaith long-term disaster recovery

program based in Maryland‚s Appalachian Mountains.

Even though much of the public memory of the disasters here -- major

flooding in 1996 and tornadoes last summer -- has faded, residents are

indeed still recovering, and Kazary will still try to draw volunteers to

western Maryland.

First she publicizes the region's need through word-of-mouth, various

Web sites, and pastors' announcements. Then she coaches volunteers what

specifically to bring: their own tools, especially power tools, food or money

for lunch, and appropriate clothes for the season. She helps them arrange

accommodations. They can stay at a local church (if they bring their own

sleeping bags), check into a local hotel, or camp at a nearby campground.

Before arriving, volunteers may also choose from several jobs, picking the one

or two most suited to their skills.

Kazary, a commercial real estate developer and long-time western Maryland

resident, also arranges business and community donations that help make a

mission trip more comfortable for hard-working volunteers. A local church

provides breakfast each day. Volunteers can shower between 4 and 5:30 p.m. at

the YMCA. Then they eat dinner at the Memorial Hospital.

"We also do an overview presentation with a potluck dinner the first night

that gives background on the disaster. We try to tell them what to expect, and

to adopt the attitude that, even though we're helping these homeowners, we're

still guests in their homes. That means not exclaiming about how poor

conditions are in some homes, and not just snapping pictures without asking,"

said Kazary.

Then the building committee of NAILS designs each job, and two members of that

committee serve as "gophers" for each group, stopping at the building sites to

check on progress and bring extra materials.

Phil Mills, building committee chair and himself a volunteer, recruits other

volunteers, schedules jobs, lines up materials, and identifies worthy

projects. "I always feel like there is so much that could be done but I have

to be satisfied," he said. "We have helped a lot of people. But there's still

so much need out there."

Mills, also an elder at the First Presbyterian Church in Cumberland, sometimes

dedicates as much as 15 hours a week to NAILS while working as a golf course

superintendent. "Unfortunately, I'm very busy at work when the weather is nice

-- in the summer, late spring, and early fall. That's when volunteers tend to

visit. But I get the job done."

Mills does more than "get the job done." He shares his inspiration with

volunteers -- another reason they come back to western Maryland. "I remember

hauling a tremendous amount of garbage and junk out of one man's yard. When we

were finished, he looked at me with these crystal clear blue eyes, and he said

'thank you, that's one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me.' That

kind of appreciation really sticks with you," said Mills.

Finally, NAILS insists that volunteers take a day or a half day off, depending

on how long they're staying. "The work can be very intense, and so we make

sure volunteers schedule time off, and we provide them with a map and a list

of activities in the area," Kazary said.

NAILS also coordinates donations of building materials and personal items for

homeowners in need. Kazary said that, shortly after the 1996 floods, they coped

with an overwhelming influx of clothing donations, a common problem among

disaster response teams.

"Three tractor-trailer loads of clothes were donated, and the Salvation Army

had to help us sort them," she said. "We learned that people want to do

something and their first reaction is to donate out of their own closet or

pantry."

Now NAILS, when soliciting donations through radio announcements or printed

flyers, is more specific about what's needed. "We may thank people for their

previous donations, but then we tell them we need tools and building materials

a lot more," she said.

Posted Jan. 21, 1999


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