- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Become a dedicated volunteer. Become a National Gallery of Art (NGA) docent and learn firsthand what true dedication can be.

The program requires two years of initial training as part of a five-year commitment for the volunteers who guide visitors through those fabled art-laden halls. The head of the institution’s teacher, school and family programs is seeking 30 new docents to help exclusively with student tours. There are 65 docents in this branch of the NGA’s education department. They receive extensive training to be able to conduct student-centered thematic tours for children, who come from all over the country.

Applicants for the school program should have a strong interest in art, such as working with children and, if accepted, be available 20 hours a week between October and May for training, after which they are asked to do one tour a day. No art history or education background is required. The deadline is Feb. 28. Information sessions for those interested will take place Feb. 19 and 24 and March 9. Applications can be submitted at www.nga.gov/education.

An open call of this kind takes place just every five years. The docent program in charge of adult tours currently is at full capacity of 120 and only periodically advertises for new applicants.

There are many other volunteer opportunities at the gallery, many of them less demanding in terms of time and training. They include staffing information desks and helping in the horticulture division. High school student volunteers are solicited for fall, spring and summer terms to do clerical and administrative tasks that often correspond with a school’s requirement for students to perform community service.

CHARITABLE CUSTOMS

This traditionally is the time of year when organizations decide to donate money to a favorite charity instead of spending it on a holiday party or a bonus to employees. The District’s Occasions caterers, for instance, sent a card to friends and clients saying it was making a donation to Capital Hospice “in lieu of our annual holiday gift.” The Recording Industry Association of America went ahead with its holiday party but teamed up with seven sponsors and asked guests to bring canned goods - presumably for distribution to service organizations that reach out to the hungry.

Here’s an idea other organizations might use for charitable holiday gift-giving next year; it’s too late to participate this week.

Home Instead Senior Care, a provider of nonmedical in-home care and companionship services for seniors, each year encourages its local franchise offices to take part in a unique gift-buying plan called Be a Santa to a Senior. The idea is to have isolated seniors known as “elder orphans” write a list of items they might like. The lists are posted on trees around the community, enticing shoppers to purchase an item and put it in a box, wrapped or unwrapped.

A surprise presentation of the 1 millionth gift supplied through this national program was made last week to a resident of Mount Vernon House south of Alexandria. It was delivered by the owner of the Annandale Home Instead Senior Care office, dressed as Santa Claus. Nearly 50 percent of the residents of Mount Vernon House, where all are on subsidized living budgets, are disabled.

NOT QUITE GOOD ENOUGH

Good magazine, which was founded to encourage doing good works, has had to cut back on personnel at its offices in New York and Los Angeles because of economic conditions everywhere. The integrated media operation, founded two years ago, will continue to publish in its many forms with a slimmer staff. Its vision and purpose, as stated on its Web site (www.goodinc.com) is to be “a platform for people who want to live well and do good. We are a company and community for the people, businesses and [nongovernmental organizations] moving the world forward. GOOD’s mission is to provide content, experiences and utilities to serve this community.”

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