Help for Mentally Ill

Officials at the Prince George's County Center for Community Development are using a 30-minute play to dispel misconceptions about the mentally ill and recruit volunteers for the center.

"It's a story of a person returning from a state institution, coming back home and finding out that nobody wants him around," said Charlene Brisco, executive director of the center. "Everywhere he goes, he seems to run into barriers."

The short drama, "M.I., The Double Scarlet Letter," was written by Robert Maseroni to raise awareness and improve communications about mental health issues in the community, according to Brisco. After people see the play, the center hopes to get organizations and residents to volunteer, not only for the outreach program, but also for future performances in churches and centers throughout the county.

"What we hope to get from this play is to have people come forth and say, 'I want to hear more about the need,' or that 'I want to volunteer in some mental health program,' " Brisco said.

She said the center will train and match volunteers with people recovering from mental illness. Volunteers would provide companionship for recovering people and accompany them in social activities, she said.

The play will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Monday and again on Sept. 14 at the Trinity Moravian Church at 7011 Good Luck Rd., New Carrollton.

Parents Program Pushed

The Maryland Action to Prevent Child Abuse Organization will soon expand its Parents Educating Parents program with more than $25,000 in grants from two local nonprofit organizations.

The program, created for Prince George's County residents last September, will receive $18,500 from the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation and $7,000 from the Philip L. Graham Fund that will be used to recruit and train volunteer parents to educate and advise young single parents of Prince George's County.

"We plan to hire a part-time social worker to coordinate the program," said Elaine Fisher, executive director of the organization. "That's because we're expanding and we need someone to work solely with the {Parents Educating Parents} program."

Fisher said volunteers will be trained to work with single parents. After training, a volunteer will help a mother about seven months by going into her home, building her self-esteem, supporting and guiding her and often involving her whole family, she said.

"There are phone calls, trips to the park . . . . They usually become so committed and such friends that they continue to visit far beyond" the end of the session, Fisher said. This is the only program of its kind in Maryland, she said.