By MARIE GILBERT
The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown
UNION BRIDGE, Md. (AP) — Working as a secretary in New York City for two decades, Eileen Beck might never have pictured herself preparing lunch for a crew of homebuilders.
She might not have imagined wearing a hard hat or preparing bidding materials for a fundraising auction.
But after leaving the Big Apple behind in 1996, Beck said Hagerstown provided an opportunity to become a real part of a community.
And she found her niche as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Washington County.
A 25-year employee of Allegheny Energy Inc., Beck spent 21 years at the company’s corporate headquarters in New York and four in Hagerstown.
Following her move to this area, Beck said she became a volunteer with the local Habitat for Humanity through the encouragement of her brother, the late Paul Beck, who worked with the organization’s building committee.
“He convinced me, without much prodding, to get involved,” she said.
She joined in 1997.
Beck said she began her volunteer efforts on Habitat’s fundraising committee, now known as the Dinner and Auction Committee.
“The dinner and auction is Habitat’s largest fundraiser,” she noted. “But we started small; so over the years I’ve done a mixture of things — soliciting and picking up donated items, mailing invitations, preparing bidding materials, helping to set up the day before and working that night.”
For several years, Beck served as chair of the committee. And thanks to the dedicated work of many people, she said, “the auction grew tremendously.”
Today, the fundraising event is headed by the executive director and Habitat staff. But Beck remains a member of the auction committee — “still soliciting and collecting auction items, helping assemble auction gift baskets, setting up the day before and overlooking the display of auction items.”
Beck also served on the board of directors for six years and was secretary for several years.
Along with other volunteers, Beck said she has “baked the occasional batch of cookies and prepared lunch for work site crews. Really just anything I can to help wherever.
“There are so many other Habitat volunteers who pitch in and do what needs to be done,” she shared. “I’m just one of the many cogs, so to speak.”
Beck said volunteering with Habitat “simply makes me feel good. I have the chance to do my small part to help other families have what I did: grow up in a safe home in a safe neighborhood, assured of my next meal and of going to a good school. My parents were able to provide those things and make our house — well, apartment — a home. I like to think that by doing my bit to help other families have what I did, I’m saying `thank you’ to them.”
Through her volunteer work with Habitat, Beck said she has “met some wonderful people, made good friends and had a lot of fun with them over the years. That means a great deal to me.”
Beck retired from Allegheny Energy in July of 2000.
“I had started as a secretary — the steno-typist kind — and moved up the ranks to assistant secretary and then corporate secretary,” she said.
In addition to Habitat, Beck volunteers in other areas of the community by participating in Newcomers, Inc.’s efforts to support Holly Place, delivering toiletries donated by Newcomers members for Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused (CASA) and wrapping Christmas gifts every year at the mall for the American Red Cross, another Newcomers activity.
While there are many rewards to volunteering, Beck noted her particular reason:
“Years ago, a young Navy seaman working closely with Dr. Tom Dooley said he lent a hand — because some people ain’t got it so good.’ That stuck with me. I truly believe those of us who do have it good have an obligation to help those who don’t in whatever way we are able,” she said.
Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)