Compassionate Marylander Awards 2011

Made possible by generous donation from
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Governor O’Malley believes in the dignity and spirit of every individual, and that every individual in fact matters. We know that there are Marylanders that embody these beliefs, and take actions in their own life, to ensure that every Marylander is treated with respect and dignity.  That is why, as part of our Maryland: Stronger Together initiative,  we are searching for our most Compassionate Marylanders, those citizens who impact the lives of others and go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure our neighbors in need are taken care of. We are looking for essays from citizens on why they themselves, or someone they would like to nominate are “Compassionate Marylanders”. This essay contest will take place from November 10th thru December 30th and 5 winners will be selected from around the state and announced in January.

Marylanders will be able to help select the 10 finalists by voting for their favorite story online right here. A review committee compiled of members from the Governor’s Office and CareFirst will choose 5 winners from the top 10 finalists. CareFirst, our corporate partner, will donate $5,000 in each winners name to the charity of their choice (a total of $25,000 will be donated from CareFirst), adding a wonderful incentive for citizens to participate.

Semi-Finalists for the Compassionate Marylander Contest

  1. IWIF volunteers
  2. George Hollenack 
  3. Amy Pucino
  4. Andre Samuel
  5. Reverend Robert Hahn
  6. The Beth El Congregation
  7. Victoria Marinzel
  8. Sue Dollins
  9. Nancy Clark
  10. Rich Blake
  11. Deb
  12. Diana L. Loar
  13. Heather Harvison
  14. Katherine Fedalen
  15. Cheryl
  16. Monica Adler Warner
  17. Susan Blaney
  18. Caitlyn McSorley
  19. Victoria Pepper
  20. Patsy Conner


IWIF volunteers

Many thanks to the Governor's Office and CareFirst for the opportunity to submit a nomination through the 'Compassionate Marylander Awards 2011' program.

I would like to nominate the group of 10 - 12 IWIF volunteers who volunteer on a rotational basis each Thursday to serve meals in Towson through Meals on Wheels (MOW).  IWIF has had a long history of helping in the community although our relationship of delivering meals with MOW just started a little over 2 years ago.  We have delivered alongside other dedicated and compassionate MOW volunteers out of the Towson distribution site who have 10 and 20+ years volunteering each week and some of them deliver more than once a week.

We are extremely proud to support the MOW program and vital services they provide to our community.  Their slogan is 'more than a meal'.  For many of their clients they are either seniors or people who are homebound and isolated but who are trying to maintain a level of independence to keep them in their home or apartments.  The delivery of a meal gives their family members peace of mind that someone is able to check in on them as well as to deliver a nutritious meal.  For a number of their clients, they may qualify for a meal at no charge or greatly discounted which is important for this population who may be struggling financially with being able to make ends meet on a fixed income.

Soon after we began our volunteer partnership with MOW one of our IWIF volunteers went to a client's home and there was no answer.  As instructed he called the client's home and left a message on the answering machine.  The process is then to call back to the Distribution Site and a call was made to the emergency family contact who went to the home and found their family member on the floor and in need of emergency medical treatment.  The client was taken to the hospital and recovered after a short stay.  It's difficult to say that this MOW visit saved this client's life but the folks at MOW receive countless letters of 'thanks' for this similar scenario.

The clients are so appreciative of receiving their meals and it is rare for us not to hear 'thank you for delivering my meal today'.  In some cases, the clients are interested in a short visit just to tell you a little bit about their day, share with you about a family member and usually want to know what the weather is like outside.  When I leave from making a delivery I know that I might be their only visitor through the day and I hope I left them with a smile on their face but as in so many volunteer activities I feel that I am the one receiving much more than I have given.

My mother was a past MOW recipient and I know how important it was for that peace of mind knowing my mom had a visitor through the day checking on her when I wasn't able to be there during the week.  She was a diabetic and often wouldn't eat because she might not be hungry or didn't want to fix a meal just for herself.  She did have several emergencies involving 9-1-1 and soon thereafter we ordered MOW for her and she didn't have any other 9-1-1 calls because of poor nutrition.  She always said how nice the volunteers were who delivered to her apartment and that the meals were good too.  My mom passed away before I began my MOW volunteer service but I know that would have made her very happy knowing I was helping someone else's mother, father, or grandparent.

MOW is a critical safety net for thousands of frail, elderly neighbors each year.  They are truly a lifeline for clients and communities.  MOW of Central Maryland has a corps of over 2,200 volunteers who help deliver meals including a number of companies, just like IWIF, who feel it is important to allow their employees to participate in this important volunteer activity.  I would strongly encourage other area businesses to allow their employees the time to volunteer in the community and MOW is always looking for new volunteers.

I would be so elated to be selected as part of the 'Compassionate Marylander Award' but not for the recognition of IWIF's corporate citizenship in the community but to have a $5,000 gift available to Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland to help better serve their many clients.

Thanks so much for your careful consideration of this nomination on behalf of Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

George Hollenack  

Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart.  ~Russell Page

When I was a young girl, my grandmother often asked me to help her in the garden, where she grew cherry tomatoes in the summer. There is something magical in gardens—they are a place where love, gentleness, and deliberate care are rewarded readily. Many gardeners that I know see their labors of love as almost divine—a precious chance to create something, which can then be shared with others. Having had this wisdom for most of my childhood and all of my adult life, I should probably have guessed that George Hollenack had the heart of a gardener the first time I met him.

He stands very quietly to the side of the room, humble, yet with pride, a now elderly man with a soldier’s good posture. You can see years of smiles crowding into the lines of his face, which makes me like him immediately. He has come to St. Elizabeth School for a very special night—a chance to see the faces of so many young people who he has helped over the years—the St. Elizabeth School Alumni Homecoming Dance. His face lights up each time he sees a former student that he knows, and he makes a point to shake hands and greet each of them. The alumni are as varied in personality and manner as any group I’ve ever seen, but almost all of them make a point to say hello to him. I ask my coworker, “Is that George?” quietly, hoping the din of the excited dancegoers moving into the gym will cover the question. She confirms, and I get up to shake his hand and introduce myself. George Hollenack is a legend at St. Elizabeth School, a nonpublic school for students with disabilities, and I’m glad to meet someone who knows so much about the history of this place. It is a strange meeting for me, since I’ve already heard a lot about George, and he knows nothing about me. He shakes my hand and says, “Ah, one of the new guard!” kindly, and I move aside to let some eager alums say their hellos to him.

George has changed many of the lives of the SES alumni for the better. He worked at St. Elizabeth School for 13 years as a horticultural assistant after retiring from his original career in 1992. Christine Manlove, the school’s Executive Director, knew George from his many years of involvement in the Knights of Columbus Notre Dame Council, where he advocated to send donations to families of children with disabilities in need, such as holiday food baskets, for many years. She invited George to come work for the school, and he agreed. He started on as an assistant to the Horticulture Teacher at St. Elizabeth School where he worked with countless students over the years, laboring together to grow both plants and capable citizens. His quiet demeanor, inexhaustible patience, and his passion for gardening gave him an instant connection to students, who, even those with significant and debilitating disabilities, respected him.
In his first year, George worked closely with a student that had frustrated many other staff members at the school. The young man had emotional as well as intellectual disabilities, and seemingly boundless energy. George remained steady and patient as the two worked together in the garden, and remarkably, the student seemed calmed by their relationship. Other staff at St. Elizabeth School were in awe of his influence over the student. This was the first of many triumphs for George during his employment at the school. Many students who were difficult in the classroom and other settings worked with George in the horticulture program, growing as people by listening to his wisdom about gardening and about life. As they tended plants together, he sowed small seeds of independence, self-worth, and fortitude in their hearts, ensuring brighter futures for each of them.

The students that once helped George tend the gardens at St. Elizabeth School are now adults, working and living in Maryland. I think George knows that the time he invested in each of them has made them grow into better people. Individuals with disabilities must always overcome great hurdles to make their journeys, but George is the kind of person that any of them would be blessed to meet along the way. He believes in people, and in the importance of relationships. As a veteran from the Korean War, George returned to that country after the fighting had ended to marry his wife, Yoshi, who he had fallen in love with while overseas. His family is deeply invested in philanthropy, particularly through their now three generations of involvement with the Knights of Columbus, through which he has been a doggedly determined advocate for St. Elizabeth School. He is a man of deep faith, and a man who accepts the differences of others with great compassion and empathy. He is a patriot, a humanist, and a family man. He is the kind of neighbor anyone in Maryland would be lucky to have, and his life serves as a powerful example to others that through perseverance, patience, and love, we can help the hearts of others grow in truly amazing ways. I would like to nominate George Hollenack for the Compassionate Marylander award of 2012, for his many years of service to his country, to our community, to the students of St. Elizabeth School.

Amy Pucino

I am writing to recognize Amy Pucino for her exemplary efforts as a mentor through Baltimore City Community College’s Refugee Youth Project (RYP) and to nominate her for the 2011 Compassionate Marylander Award. 

Refugees flee their home countries due to oppression; they live through traumatic and life-threatening situations as they seek safety abroad.  They survive almost unimaginable circumstances, with hope and optimism, ready for a second life in the United States. Yet they are often unprepared for the social and economic complexities in their new home.  New arrivals enter the US with few possessions; they frequently lack English skills and are unfamiliar with American customs. Navigating the public transportation system or understanding how public education is organized in this country can present major early hurdles to adjustment.  

The Refugee Youth project pairs mentors with families who struggle in their transition to life in Baltimore. Since August, 2009, Ms. Pucino has been matched with one of our more challenging families, an Iraqi single mother with seven children. Along with more than a million Iraqis, the family fled their country during the violent upheaval after the start of the war.  Over the past three years, Ms. Pucino’s dedication and passionate advocacy for the family has not wavered.   Placed with the family to tutor the children, she has spent over 280 hours working with the family, and has gone far beyond what was expected of her. She has helped them navigate landlord/tenant issues to prevent multiple evictions, assisted them with acquiring health insurance, guided them through accessing public benefits, connected them to mental health services and accompanied them to doctor and dentist appointments. 

The children attend local Baltimore City public schools, where they are easily discernable as outsiders. Like many refugee children, they are bullied by their peers and are far behind their classmates because they are placed according to age, not by the schooling they have already received.  During her weekly home visits, Ms. Pucino tutors the children and has helped one of the teens complete her BRIDGE projects, which are necessary for her to graduate from high school.
Ms. Pucino finds the progress of her mentees deeply rewarding, “I am able to see young people in the family meet academic and personal goals…One member of the family arrived here very shy and speaking no English, hoping to learn English and do well in school. Since that time, I have seen her win the science fair at her school and volunteer with the Refugee Youth Project herself. She is currently always inquiring about college, as she is getting ready to graduate from high school.”  

Volunteering with this family has had a profound impact on Ms. Pucino that reaches far beyond her weekly mentoring sessions – it has changed the course of her academic and professional pursuits.  As a doctoral candidate in Language, Literacy, and Culture at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, she addresses the complexities of refugee social integration and academic success. Her dissertation research is focused on how mentors and educators are perceived by refugees they serve, and how educators can effectively support this unique population.  “I am seeking to contribute to the store of knowledge on how “caring” differs across culture.  Hopefully, research like this will help those of us who work with youth in an educational capacity to understand how our work is perceived,” explains Ms. Pucino.

She has also incorporated refugee advocacy into her work as an adjunct faculty member in the Sociology Department at the Community College of Baltimore County.  During her “Racial and Cultural Minorities” class, students spent the semester working in groups on community-based projects, researching three themes relevant to refugee integration: access to English as a Second Language in Baltimore area public schools, bullying, and transcultural communication.  She explains, “As a result of this project, students were able to see how themes discussed in the class…were illuminated in their own communities.”

Ms. Pucino is an exemplary volunteer whose dedication and goodwill are rare and inspiring. As one family member said, “Whatever we ask her to help us with, she helps us with it.”  She surpasses all expectations of a volunteer tutor; she has taken her compassion for this family and turned it into a life pursuit impacts impact the greater refugee community.  

Many people would be overwhelmed by the differences between themselves and a refugee family, but she is an example of someone who has persevered to overcome those cultural and linguistic limitations. She states, “We have established a trusting, committed and productive relationship across culture, country of origin and life experience. I think sometimes people are afraid to step out of their comfort zones and work together with people who do not share the same history, but for us it works and has shown me the commonalities between our experiences.”   As more and more refugees resettle in Baltimore, Amy Pucino will remain an outstanding model of how to embrace our new neighbors, coworkers, and peers in an open-minded, understanding, and empathetic way.  

Andre Samuel

“Have a heart, lend a hand!” (Mr. Samuel’s favorite saying.)

We are honored and excited to nominate Mr. Andre’ Samuel for the Compassionate Marylander Award. Mr. Samuel has been a vital part of the Baltimore community and has been instrumental in helping to eradicate the homelessness and feed the underserved population. For over twenty years, Mr. Samuel has seen the stressing needs of the community and did not wait for someone to lead him on how to respond to their help. Instead, he started volunteering his time, energy, and his own money, to have a bus pick up the homeless population, located near the Mayor’s Office, and bring them to a facility, Faith Tabernacle Church, where he started feeding them breakfast and lunch.

On all major holidays, Mr. Samuel makes certain that the homeless population, if they desire, participate in each holiday. He purchases coats, clothing, shoes, hats, gloves, underwear, and helps to secure shelter for them. He has been essential in assisting those qualified to obtain employment and he feels it is critical that each person in need seeks healthcare. In reaching out to the homeless population, Mr. Samuel was able to pull together a team of volunteer workers who assist with the preparation of these meals, help to pick up the food, and drive the homeless group to their designated place of shelter.

It was through this outreach that Mr. Samuel decided to retire and create a pantry, called Fishes and Loaves (www.fishesandloavespantry.org), to support many families who are in need of food, toiletries, and household items. He started collaborating with other agencies, such as the Maryland Food Bank, Diakon, the Department of Social Services, and others, to bring in those resources. The Fishes and Loaves Pantry opened in January of 2010, five days a week, and ten hours a day in service. It has become a hub to those in the surrounding communities of Patapsco Avenue. Since the opening, Mr. Samuel has provided food and other items to hundreds of people each week. It is his vision to surpass the expectations of a traditional pantry through superior service. It is also Mr. Samuel’s mission to reach out to the neighborhood (Lakeland, where the pantry is located), to instill and restore hope, while providing much needed resources.

As he began to make a positive impact on the necessity to end hunger, Mr. Samuel saw the opportunity to assist these folks in making a change in their lives. He started contacting organizations, such as the University of Maryland Extension Program to offer free workshops to help these families and the community. One major program was the Nutrition Program that was offered to educate families on proper nourishment.

Who is this Mr. Andre’ Samuel? He was born 1953 and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended James Monroe Elementary School, Gwynn Fall Jr. High School and graduated from Baltimore City College. Mr. Samuel was employed by the Department of Defense where he retired after 38 years as an executive leader. He is the ordained Associate Pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church (FTC) where he chairs many outreach ministries. Rev. Samuel mentors the Men’s Fellowship, Youth Fellowship and Feeding the Homeless Ministry. He created a Benevolence committee, where FTC members can seek help. Rev. Samuel is also the Executive Director of Safe Haven Too Day Care, and the Director of Fishes and Loaves Pantry. During his employment, he traveled to faraway places such as Japan, England, Germany and Scotland. However, his desire was to help his fellow man which led him to continue his travels to Africa, such places as Kenya and Lagos, where he reached out to the needy. Now, Mr. Samuel’s compassion touches the lives of those in his neighborhood and his community and offers them a helping hand, a bag of groceries and some hope.

It is through Rev. Samuel’s efforts to help feed the needy during these economically tough times that the Baltimore School Mental Health Initiative (BSMHI), which is a part of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, reached out to the Fishes and Loaves Pantry. The BSMHI seeks to promote wellness and reduce barriers to learning for students with challenging emotional disabilities in grades K-8 in the Baltimore City Public Schools. Rev. Samuel allows the BSMHI case managers to obtain food for these needy families. During the holiday season, the BSMHI was able to pick up over 50 baskets and deliver them to families. All of these families were very happy and grateful to receive food for those holidays!

In closing, Rev. Samuel was diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. However, he continues to push himself on, even if he is tired and weary, and even when others quit. You sometimes see him sleepy and drowsy, while sitting at the table, but everyone knows when you want something done, you look for Rev. Samuel to get it done. It is because of his strong sense of compassion for those less fortunate than him that he was spending up to $500 a month out of his own pocket from his retirement. Lastly, Rev. Samuel is very insightful and innovative in his ability to help build the community back to a place of safety and successfulness in the lives of many. With his practical steps of leadership and skills, he truly has a heart to lend a hand to support anyone in need of any resources. It is with great pride that the Board of Directors of Fishes and Loaves nominates Reverend Andre’ Samuel, charity of choice Fishes and Loaves, for the Compassionate Marylander Award, for his compassion and caring for those in need in our community and across Maryland. The charity

Reverend Robert Hahn

Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another
who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the
suffering.” I would like to nominate Rev. Robert P. Hahn, Chairman of End Hunger In
Calvert County as my Compassionate Marylander. Rev. Hahn has been the Senior
Pastor of Chesapeake Church for over 20 years and in 2006 he began a countywide
movement that lead to the establishment of End Hunger In Calvert County. Rev.
Hahn was inspired to launch End Hunger In Calvert County when he learned that
while Calvert is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, it suffers from
rising poverty and hunger rates. Upon hearing that the majority of Calvert food
pantry clients are children and the remainder already hold full‐time jobs, he was
gripped by the vision of what could be accomplished if churches, schools, nonprofits,
businesses and other organizations joined together. His mission is to not
only feed people but to get to the root causes of local hunger and equip people to
become self‐sufficient.

In its existence, End Hunger In Calvert County has grown into a grassroots
partnership of over 25 churches, 11 food pantries, and more than 60 businesses
united behind the idea that hunger in Calvert County can be defeated. Every October
is now officially End Hunger In Calvert County Month, declared by a joint resolution
of the Maryland State Senate and the House of Delegates as well as Calvert County
Board of Commissioners. Rev. Hahn serves as an active partner on the board of
Governor O’Malley’s Partnership to End Childhood Hunger.

Rev. Hahn’s vision for change has always involved people and inspiring
others to envision what can be accomplished when they banned together to serve
the greater good; one of his and End Hunger In Calvert County’s core values is that
life change happens through relationships. And if you ever hear him speak on the
issue of hunger, one thing is always unmistakably clear, hunger is not a food
problem, it’s an awareness problem and together we can make a difference for
thousands of people.

Determined to rally a people, Rev. Hahn has relentlessly spent the last six ‐
years unifying the community of Calvert County to care for the least fortunate.
Because of his leadership and vision End Hunger In Calvert County’s 11 partnering
food pantries serve over 10,000 residents each year. Every October, End Hunger In
Calvert County hosts a countywide food drive in partnership with the Calvert
County Public School System, Calvert Memorial Hospital, Calvert Cliffs Nuclear
Power Plant, College of Southern Maryland, as as countless individuals, community
groups, and local businesses. Just this October, over 200,000 lbs of food were
collected to fill the shelves of the local food pantries.

2011 also launched The Farms of End Hunger, eleven acres of farmland
completely dedicated to providing fresh produce to local food pantries to provide
healthy food options for low‐income families. Over 160,000 pounds of produce were
harvested just this year.

Rev. Hahn also united the County clergy by spearheading a movement
founded on the value that although they may disagree on some things; they can all
agree that no person should go hungry. For the first time in Calvert County history,
clergy members across all faith backgrounds, in a display of unity, stood together as
the Clergy of End Hunger In Calvert County, demonstrating that religious and racial
divisions can be defeated when we unite behind a common need. Because of this
movement, two new church‐based food pantries have opened and the level of
awareness about hunger in Calvert County has grown.

Rev. Hahn has also had a great impact on the business community. As stated,
over 60 local businesses make up the End Hunger In Calvert County network.
Because of End Hunger’s relationship with the College of Southern Maryland and
Calvert Memorial Hospital the life of Elena Hutchinson will never be the same. Elena
is a mother of four, who came to End Hunger In Calvert County through the Red
Cross after her husband had committed suicide and two weeks later lost her home
in Hurricane Katrina. She now has her degree as an Occupational Therapist, holds a
fulltime job to care for her family and for the first time in her life she has a saving
account.

Here is another story of a changed life. Because of End Hunger In Calvert
County’s relationship with a local car dealership, Shawn Englert was provided with
a specialty van after a diving accident left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
This vehicle now allows him to build a more independent lifestyle and continue to
pursue his college degree.

It’s not about numbers, but behind those numbers are the faces of real people
whose lives have been touched and transformed by the work of End Hunger In
Calvert County. That success only comes from a compassionate vision combined
with the courage and passion to make it happen.

Because of Rev. Hahn’s compassion for people thousands of less fortunate
families lives have been impacted. But even more, Rev. Hahn has united Calvert
County. His work has influenced others to be compassionate people compelled to
make a difference in the lives of their neighbors. His legacy will live on long past his
years. And that is why Rev. Robert P. Hahn is my Compassionate Marylander.

The Beth El Congregegation

For 22 years, Moveable Feast has provided healthy and nutritious home-delivered meals, free of cost, to some of Maryland's most vulnerable citizens: people who are seriously ill with HIV/AIDS, cancer, renal disease and those who live in chronic homelessness. Moveable Feast operates 365 days/year. Most of our clients are poor and are alone in their illness or life-threatening condition.

Enter BETH EL CONGREGATION in 2001. Sunday, December 25, will be the 10th year that this dedicated community has provided an average of 100 volunteers on every Christmas Day  to deliver meals to some 500 of Moveable Feast's clients. This way, the staff of Moveable Feast might have the day off and enjoy the holiday with their families, while the mission of food service and care and compassion for the sick-poor is still fulfilled. This is an event that BETH EL plans and prepares for throughout the year in their Social Action Committee, under the leadership of Ms. Debbie Caplan. Single individuals, families, men, women and children, eagerly arrive at Moveable Feast early Christmas morning to deliver a week's worth of meals to clients, toys for children, and gifts for adults. Most importantly, the volunteers bring a card or hug or holiday greeting to our clients: the most significant gift of all.  These wonderful volunteers assure these clients that they are not forgotten on Christmas Day. For many of our clients, the volunteers from BETH EL may be the only person who greets them on Christmas. For the BETH EL volunteers, it is a way that attests to the fact that every individual matters, and so uphold the dignity and integrity of those who are often forgotten on Christmas Day. Of course, this gesture becomes ever more meaningful given the fact that all of these volunteers are Jewish and they are genuinely concerned for the good of their neighbors on Christmas Day. It is quite a testimony to the genuine expression of tzedakah in the Jewish tradition.  In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due.

Truly, the BETH EL CONGREGATION is a gift to Moveable Feast and our clients at Christmas, and, in their Jewish tradition, embody the true spirit of Christmas: to raise up the lowly and to embrace those who are downtrodden and forgotten: not as charity, but because it expected to "act justly and love tenderly".  The Congregation, whose home is in the beautiful Greenspring Valley on Park Heights Avenue North, believes that the experience of delivering in some of Baltimore's most poverty-dense neighborhoods is a double-edged sword: it makes them ever so aware of and grateful for their blessings, while committing them ever more deeply to the needs of the poor.  In its general meeting of January 2011, one member recalled her families' experience of delivering meals at Christmas:

"My husband reluctantly joined us in going to the door of one of the clients to deliver her meals and gifts. She graciously invited us into her simple and sparsely-furnished home and thanked us for visiting her. We would be her only company on Christmas Day.  At the next stop, my husband helped me carry the clients' food and gifts to the client's door, but refused to wait for the client to answer and, instead, told me he would wait in the car. Minutes later, when I returned to the car, I found my husband sitting in our car and sobbing. He told me he was overcome by the fact that he has such blessing, and others live in such abject poverty. That night, he told me that this was 'his best christmas ever' and that next year we would volunteer at Moveable Feast again, and invite friends to join us."

The role of these volunteers from BETH EL is creative and original in that they have identified a very particular need at Moveable Feast, which operates 365 days/year, and have responded wholeheartedly. On a day when most businesses and services are closed, and a day of relative insignificance to the Jewish community, these individuals volunteer their time and allow the Moveable Feast staff to spend time with their families on one of the most important holidays of the year. Moreover, the BETH EL volunteers go beyond the call of duty to ensure that the clients of Moveable Feast, who depend solely on this program for food services, are fed and greeted on the Christmas holiday. On a day when many people who are alone suffer from depression and anxiety related to being alone on a significant holiday, these volunteers ensure their neighbors are taken care of.  Evidenced from the story above, the experience of delivering meals to the homes of people who are sick and poor, is a life-changing event for some who participate in the volunteer experience from BETH EL.

Truly, the BETH EL Congregation volunteers are an inspiration to our community and represent some of the most compassionate citizens in Maryland!

Throughout the year the BETH EL Congregation remains engaged in the mission of Moveable Feast. Each month, they have members that make delicious, fresh, home-made baked goods for our clients. The Congregation is also a financial sponsor of Moveable Feast's annual bicycling fundraiser: Ride for the Feast.

In my estimation, BETH EL Congregation is most worthy of the Compassionate Marylander recognition.

Victoria Marinzel

I would like to nominate Victoria Marinzel of Davidsonville, Maryland as a deserving nominee for the Compassionate Marylander award.  Victoria is thirteen years old and since I have known her she has given back to her community.  Victoria knows and values giving back to her neighbors.  While most kids are caught up in their lives, be it social or sports, Vicky is always championing for others.  Each year at Halloween, instead of collecting candy for herself, she collects money from her neighbors for either UNICEF or another worthwhile cause.  Currently, Victoria is trying to raise money for ALS.  She saw a need for a friend and neighbor suffering from this disease and decided to try to help raise money and awareness for the cause.  She is selling bracelets and has joined a group dedicated to raising money for research.  Vicky is also working with her family to assist their friend and neighbor with meals and childcare while they work through this debilitating illness.  I am nominating her without her knowledge because I believe that she would not want the attention focused on herself.  

Victoria has such a heart for others; people, animals, her environment-she truly cares.  I am willing to bet that there are other things she is involved in and passionate about that I don’t know.  I believe that she should be commended for her community spirit and dedication to improving other’s lives.  She is a wonderful example to others, especially others her age.  It is so heart-warming to see such unselfishness at a young age.  During these especially trying economic times it is so encouraging to see our next generation taking such an interest in helping those less fortunate.  At a time in their lives when most kids are thinking it is all about “me”, Victoria embodies the true selfless community spirit that other parents only hope their children will aspire to. 

Thank you for considering Victoria.  She truly is a Compassionate Marylander. 

Sue Dollins

From the start, almost 20 years ago in the empty room of a Silver Spring
church, Susan M. Dollins has devoted herself to helping frail and
elderly residents of Montgomery County live as independently as
possible.  

In 2011,  Sue Dollins, the founder and executive director of The Senior
Connection (www.seniorconnectionmc.org) oversees the provision of
services each year valued at greater than $500,000 to almost 949
residents.  On an average week, she and her small staff dispatch 160
volunteers to perform tasks that allow the county's seniors to age at
home while feeling safe and connected to the wider community.  

Most often, the volunteers provide door-to-door rides to medical
appointments and the grocery store and visit for conversation and
companionship.  All of these services have been provided by the Senior
Connection, at no cost to seniors.  And they've led to honors such as
the Chronicle of Philanthropy's bestowment of recognition as one of the
top non-profits in the Washington, D.C. area in 2011-12 and in 2006-07.

Now as during the organization's humble beginnings, when a small
Faith-in-Action grant helped start ASSISST (Allied Silver Spring
Interfaith Services for Seniors Today) in that single church room, Sue
strives to bridge gaps left by professional service providers and family
members.  

Many seniors cannot afford to pay for professional services, and some of
those services within financial reach cannot provide the personal touch
--- a hand from the front door to the curb, for example --- necessary
for individual clients.  

By bridging these gaps, Sue, her staff and volunteers help to enrich the
community through the continued involvement of older adults in their
neighborhoods.  And that's not to mention the societal savings reaped
when an older adult, with a little help, can avoid institutionalization
and instead can stay home.   

Sue's commitment to seniors is further exemplified by her commitment to
the Grassroots Organization for the Well-being of Seniors (GROWS), a
senior service professional group on whose board of directors she has
served the past six years. At it's December, 2011 meeting, Sue was named
the 2011 Humanitarian of the Year by her peers for her dedicated service
to the senior citizens of Montgomery County.  

For these reasons, Sue Dollins is a true trailblazer in improving the
quality of life for seniors in Maryland and is deserving of the
Governor's Compassionate Marylander Award.

Nancy Clark

Nancy Clark is the lead volunteer at CARES, a program of the Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO.) CARES is a food pantry, employment counseling, and emergency financial assistance center serving low income individuals and families in Baltimore who are facing financial crises. CARES is open for visitors every Monday, Thursday and Saturday, and Nancy has been there almost every Monday and Thursday since 1996, three years after the program began. When asked why she has been such a faithful volunteer, Nancy describes a personal "leading," which is a Quaker term for a calling. A retired school teacher, she speaks of a moment in her life when she encountered an individual searching through the dumpster looking for food. From that time on she has felt led to work with homeless and very low income people in Baltimore, striving to meet their most basic needs for food and shelter. More than 3,000 individuals a year are touched by Nancy's compassionate service.

There are many wonderful volunteers who work in food pantries or other community programs helping low income people with their most basic needs. Nancy's service is unique in her desire and her ability to establish a rapport with each individual she helps. This stems from her own modesty and humbleness and her belief in the intrinsic value in every person she encounters. All volunteers at CARES aspire to treat each visitor with dignity and respect, but Nancy achieves this with a grace that sets her apart.

Nancy has fulfilled every imaginable volunteer role at CARES, including serving as an unpaid interim director when one director left and a replacement had not yet been hired. She often serves as the receptionist greeting visitors. This can be a delicate task, as there is a long line outside the door before CARES has opened in the morning, and individuals are often tired, stressed by their circumstances and uncomfortable having to ask for help. Nancy puts each person at ease and makes sure they feel respected and valued as an individual.

At other times Nancy serves as an interviewer, determining clients' eligibility and needs. Occasionally this means delivering bad news, for example if a person lives outside CARES' service area or has not brought the documentation they need. Nancy is a calming presence in these situations and always has a suggestion for a next step the individual can take to get the help they seek.

Many clients who have gotten to know Nancy return to share their successes and struggles. They have been inspired to make changes in their lives, and they want Nancy to know how they're doing. One story in particular illustrates Nancy's effectiveness and her special gift in treating each individual with dignity and respect, no matter what their circumstances. One morning, a man came to CARES very obviously drunk. Nancy calmly took him aside and told him that he must be sober when he came looking for help. She engaged him in conversation, and he told her he wanted help with his drinking. She was able to find a program for him, and although he did not leave CARES with any food on that occasion, he did not go away angry or disgruntled. He comes back to CARES from time to time and always asks for Nancy. And he's always sober when he comes.

From time to time, Nancy has also been the volunteer statistician, documenting CARES' services. Some volunteers find this a mind-numbing and bothersome function. Nancy, however, understands the importance of the statistics in helping CARES make its case to donors of food and money and be a good steward of the resources with which it is entrusted. So although her heart lies in the face-to-face encounters with visitors, she is always ready and willing when there is paperwork to be done.

Because of her long experience with the program and her calm demeanor, she is often called upon to be the trouble-shooter when something unexpected comes up. And finally, she is active in recruiting other volunteers and working behind the scenes to gather donations, stock the shelves and fill the bags with food for our visitors. Nancy truly lives the mission of CARES. The program is never far from her thoughts even when she is not on site. She talks about CARES to old friends and new acquaintances, trying to find ways to connect others to this cause. She has a special gift for discerning other peoples' interests and talents, and is adept at finding niches where individuals can be involved and feel particularly fulfilled.

Webster's dictionary defines compassion as "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." Nancy's volunteer service embodies compassion, in her sensitivity to each individual's need and her unwavering dedication and skill through the years in meeting those needs. She is an inspiration to all who know her because of her patience and quiet strength in dealing with daily challenges in the CARES panty, and her personal concern and care for each individual she encounters.

Rich Blake

As a 24 year-old sergeant in the US Marine Corps infantry moments before crossing the border into Iraq, I read the Commanding General’s Message to All Hands. General Mattis wrote, “On your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind.” I felt an enormous sense of responsibility at that moment. If my unit had been unsuccessful after crossing that border in March 2003, I would have felt at fault. We all would have. Even though General Mattis was leading the 1st Marine Division, none of us would have pointed blame at him for our failures. We were in it together. Imagine if that mentality could be applied to our position as residents of Maryland.

Today, I feel personally responsible for the problems here in Baltimore City and in Maryland. The burdens of this state’s toughest problems do not rest solely on the individuals who caused them, or the systems that accelerate and perpetuate them. They rest too on the shoulders of those with the energy and skills to solve our problems. I am one of those people. Unlike my experience in the Marines where the burden of success was shouldered by all, it seems that Marylanders, and most Americans for that matter, are pointing a disproportionate amount of blame at elected officials, all while sitting on their hands.

Don’t get me wrong. Baltimore and Maryland are definitely not short on philanthropists or philanthropic organizations. Everywhere I look, people are trying to do good things. In fact, most people I know engage in the traditional charitable acts of donating clothes to Goodwill, giving money to the homeless, or volunteering in local soup kitchens; but eventually, we all need to take a collective look in the mirror and ask ourselves why so many people are struggling so badly if there are so many people willing to help them. The answer may be tough to hear. You and I -- we’re simply not doing enough. It is one thing to donate some clothes or volunteer at a time that doesn’t inconvenience your normal routine and priorities. It is another thing to sacrifice your time, energy, and resources in a meaningful way.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”  Several of my veteran friends and I, through a non-profit we started called The 6th Branch, have been trying to revitalize East Baltimore’s Oliver neighborhood, an area with a reputation for crime and vacant homes. It started as a one-day beautification project. Close to 200 volunteers, half of them military vets, filled a roll-off dumpster with garbage gathered from streets and alleyways. I felt good after that day. I felt like we really accomplished something; but then, I started to wonder about the impact. I started to consider that maybe that service was more for my own benefit than theirs. Sure, it made me feel good, but the problems of the neighborhood remained.

Then, it hit us. What if we could create the same collective commitment to this neighborhood that we had to our military mission? What if we assumed a shared responsibility for the problems of the neighborhood, and not just the credit for improving it? We got aggressive. We started to be “truly compassionate.” We created “Operation: Oliver.” In the past five months we’ve organized more than 1,000 volunteers to spend time serving in a neighborhood that most Baltimoreans, quite frankly, avoid traveling through. We have garnered the investment of nearly every major university in the Baltimore area for a neighborhood they never heard of and have no ties to. We have officially partnered with multiple civic and non-profit organizations wanting to be a part of “Operation: Oliver.” We have volunteers who have traveled from New York City, Philadelphia, and North Carolina to clean alleyways in East Baltimore. They wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves, a familiar concept for the veterans leading the way.

As a combat vet, I can attest to the fact that revitalizing a neighborhood is a much tougher task than destroying one. We need to get serious about the underlying problems of poverty, jobs, and education. We cannot arrest our way out of a heroine problem, and we cannot clean our way out of a poverty problem. That’s why, in addition to highly aggressive beautification efforts, we have invested in children in the neighborhood, creating unique opportunities for them. That’s why we are helping people enroll in job retraining programs. Mayor Rawlings-Blake just announced a goal of bringing 10,000 families to the city.  “Operation: Oliver” fits this goal perfectly.  We want the neighborhoods in the city to thrive and be inviting once again. It is going to be a long road, but at least there is a road.

I am frequently contacted by people asking about our organization. They’re interested in how many people we have on paid staff or where our office is. It is with great pride that I tell them than not a single person involved with The 6th Branch or “Operation: Oliver” has been paid a penny, myself included. In fact, most of us have incurred personal debt in pursuit of this dream. We have no office. Some people ask why we picked the Oliver neighborhood. I tell them we met some people who asked for our help and we decided to give it. It is that simple. “Really?” they ask. Really.
Whether or not real, measurable change will occur as a result of “Operation: Oliver” is yet to be determined. There is a real potential for failure, just like there was when I was given the order to invade Iraq. But just like then, we won’t be afraid to shoulder the responsibility of trying. We are simply honored to share it with each other, and in trying to motivate the people we invest in to also become truly compassionate.

Deb

Deb of Frederick Maryland is the most compassionate Marylander of
2011.  This year she established an Early Onset Parkinson's Disease support
group which originally met at the office of a Neurologist and since has been
meeting at the Baine Center in Columbia Maryland.  This group is unusual
because up to now Parkinson's has been widely viewed by the public as an old
age disease and the support groups do not incorporate the view of
individuals who have employment, parenting issue,  spousal relationship
issues which are directly affected by the devastating aspects of this
chronic degenerative neurological disease, which by the time a person is
usually diagnosed, 90% of the dopamine producing neurons are no longer
functioning, causing key symptoms such as rigidity, tremor and oftentime
effects balance.  Of course, you may know that Michael  J. Fox has gone a
long way to putting a younger face on this medical condition, however, even
his organization will, if you check with his foundation point out that it is
only with the communication between the sufferreres of this disease, their
companions, caretakers, family, friends and community as well as
interactions with treating and research physicians can our state improve the
quality of life of these brave Marylanders who every day, despite the
immense emotional and physical effort it takes to get proper medical
diagnosis and treatment , get out of bed and properly dress, get to work, do
their job despite the increasing fatigue they suffer and pain they
experience with rigidity in movement, attend to their children's educational
and social needs, remain a devoted and committed worker  in and out of the
state, a devoted  spouse and still enagaged in their communities.  These
folks who Deb directly impacts are our community leaders, active with youth
as coaches and scout leaders, religious leaders.  They are our spouses, our
children, our friends, our co-workers.  What is most important is that Deb
is so compassionate that she maintains confidentiality and dignity for
attendees who come from Harford, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll,
Frederick, Montgomery County, DC, Northern Virginia for lively and
informative discussion of how to live with this overwhelming condition and
bundle of symptoms.   She has organized presentations by top flight medical
researchers  and physicians within the Johns Hopkins, Maryland Medical
Center, Veteran's Administration  Medical  Adminstration  community.  Deb
has inspired other members to attend outreach conferences  and trainings to
bring back to the group reliable information to consider about this up to
now incurable disease.  Due to her direct encouragement, members have become
Research Advocates for then Parkinson's Disease Foundation and Assistant
State Director for the Parkinson's Action Network. She has even produced and
distributed   "how to" broshures on how to get dressed and with other
practical guidance regarding living with PD.    For the Holidays she
organized a play meeting where attendees tried despite their limitations to
be successful playing "Operation" or "Monkeys in a Barrell" or make an
Oragami object - things they had no trouble doing before this disease
attacked the simple instructions sent by the brain to our body to make the
elegant movements found  in every day life.  She has done all this with
compassion, intelligence, humor and enthusiasm despite the knowledge that
this disease is not curable and the members of the support group face
bravely together the inevitabiltiy of the progression of this disease.  I
wish Deb continued success in her efforts.

Diana L. Loar

Diana L. Loar, the Executive Director at the Western Maryland Food Bank and a native western Marylander, epitomizes the role of compassionate leader.    While volunteering for the Holidays in the Governor's Maryland: Stronger, Together, three Maryland Park Rangers observed her commitment to the community first-hand.  She proudly regaled of her career that started over 26 years ago with the non-profit organization.  She recalled times that the pantry literally ran dry of supplies but she kept faith that donations would come; her faith has always paid off.  Diana's resolve only grows more every day.   Through the hard work and dedication of Diana and her volunteers the Western Maryland Food Bank currently has 105 agencies that serve over 10,000 individuals per month. Diana also related that she had served on nine out-of-country missionary trips.   With tear-filled eyes, she spoke of the people she witnessed in desperate need.   This face to face contact led her to vow that no child will be left hungry in her own community.   With help from local Allegany County Schools, Project Backpack was formed.  Over 220 elementary students in the county qualify for this program, sending Title One students home over the weekend with a backpack full of food throughout the school year.  Prior to the Western Maryland Food Bank, Ms. Loar was the Food Service Supervisor at Long Stretch Youth Homes for 14. Beyond her dedicated work for the Food Bank, Ms. Loar serves on various committees in the community. Diana's commitment and compassion for her community is a true example of a citizen going above and beyond the call to duty.  The Western Maryland Food Bank is a non-profit organization that takes salvageable food products, such as seconds, slightly damaged merchandise, and over-produced food and channels them to local and regional charities to assist those in need. The foods are designed to supplement or complement the local pantries and on-site meal service agencies in the Western Maryland area.

Heather Harvison

Fifteen years ago, Heather Harvison was living a life straight out of “The Devil Wears Prada” but a move back to her hometown and a heart to heart conversation with an elementary school principal changed all that.  Now she works out of a tiny home office with a staff of two, often times starting her workday in flannel pajamas. She now has 120 “sisters” who depend on her and the team of volunteers she leads like their lives depend on it—sometimes it does.

Heather Harvison is the founder and Executive Director of My Sister’s Circle a mentoring group for girls from poverty-stricken Baltimore neighborhoods.  The idea for My Sister’s Circle evolved from the conversation Heather had with then-principal Irma Johnson of Dallas Nicholas Elementary School, located just off of North Avenue in Baltimore City.  After being introduced to Ms. Johnson by her mother, Heather went to her and asked what she could do to help: the answer became a new career—a new life—for Heather.  Principal Johnson explained that she needed someone to help her fifth grade girls.  Heather recalls: “She said, ‘As they transition to middle school, we are losing them to the streets. A few years down the road, I see them pushing a baby carriage in the neighborhood.’” That was the call to action Heather needed to hear.

Ten years later, My Sister’s Circle has grown into a project bigger than anyone imagined.  Over 120 girls from 5th graders to college seniors (“once a sister, always a sister”) currently comprise the program.  This means there is a cast of almost 100 dedicated mentors who have made the commitment to be stable, steady and consistent forces in their mentees’ lives through middle school, high school and into college.  This long-term commitment is what sets My Sister’s Circle apart from other mentoring programs and is the product of Heather’s unique vision and understanding of the needs of the girls her program supports.

Heather knows each girl personally and intimately.  She can tell you the stories of which girls have lost their mothers to drug addiction and brothers to street violence, which girls have become homeless and knocked on Heather’s door for a place to stay and which girls have caused her to shed tears of pride and joy because they have beaten the odds and achieved success.  Long ago, she lost count of the trips downtown at all hours of day or night, visits to a principal’s office to advocate for a student and late night calls for support or advice.  Heather has maintained since day one “it’s a person, not a project”.  For her, these are words to live by.

All the while, Heather has a life of her own.  She’s a single mom to a  7 year old son and she raises every penny required to run this small but efficient organization which does so much for so many with so little.  From her tiny home office, Heather and two staff members recruit and train mentors and volunteers, run a weekly after school program for fifth graders in two schools, put on monthly events open to all mentors and mentees, guide students and their families in the school selection process, secure scholarships when possible and connect students with opportunities for summer camp, enrichment programs and provide support and counseling in the college and financial aid processes.  And this is just the job description.  They also field calls around the clock from students, parents and mentors calling to share good news and bad about successes, failures and tragedies in the lives of Baltimore’s poorest children.

Heather understands that it really does take a village.  Her close knit family has supported her through tough times and is very involved in her daily life and the care of her son.  This concept translates directly to Heather’s philosophy of mentoring.  For her, it’s a team effort and we can all use help wherever we can get it. 

Heather is petite and energetic and she packs a lot of punch.  When she walks into a room of mentors and mentees, she is almost like a celebrity.  They all know how much they owe to Heather and how deeply she cares for each and every one of them.  She has changed their lives for the better.  While the influence on the girls is obvious, a less expected benefit is the reaction of the mentors.  Mentor Katie Waddell says “I never realized the impact that (MSC) would have on MY world. There is no greater feeling then being a rock for a young lady who needs one.”

This holiday season, Heather opened her home once again, this time welcoming a group of the 29 students currently attending college and their mentors.  With tears in her eyes, she listened intently while Imani Yasin, a current sophomore at Philadelphia University says to her: “Miss Heather, if it hadn’t been for all the opportunities you exposed me to, I can’t imagine where I would be today.” 
These girls may have completed the program but they will always feel the warm embrace of My Sister’s Circle. 

Katherine Fedalen

When I read about this award, one person came to my mind, the Interim Head of School for Chelsea School, Ms. Kate Fedalen.    To know Ms. Kate Fedalen, affectionately called “Ms. Fed,” you need to know a little bit about her background.  You could not find a more dedicated Maryland resident.  She has resided in the state of Maryland for her entire life.  She went to Northwood High School in Silver Spring, received her undergraduate degree at Towson University, and earned her Master’s Degree in Education at University MD, University College.  She enthusiastically supports all the local Maryland teams and is a diehard Terps and Redskins Fan.  Her roots in the community are quite extensive. 

After college, Ms. Fedalen started teaching at Chelsea School, a school for students with language-based learning disabilities in Silver Spring, MD.  Although she started as a science teacher, she has gradually progressed into an administrator.  Ms. Fedalen has dedicated her entire career to assisting Chelsea’s students to be successful and to graduate from high school.  The past 23 years she’s committed to Chelsea School have allowed her to touch the lives of students from all over the Maryland area:  Anne Arundel County, Calvert County, Charles County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County. The majority of Chelsea students go on to attend college and earn advance degrees.

To fully understand how Ms. Fedalen’s dedication impacts the Maryland Community all you have to do is look at studies of LD students who have not received proper supports.   “People with learning disabilities that have not been diagnosed or properly addressed, or who are deemed ‘ineligible’ for treatment, can experience serious, life-long negative consequences. The results can include loss of self-esteem, delinquency and illiteracy.  The individual, as well as our society, is harmed.”   (http://ldawa.org) Ms. Fedalen’s devotion has helped hundreds of students graduate successfully.  I think one of our students stated it best in a letter thanking Ms. Fedalen for her help: 

“My one memory that always sticks out to me is my first week or so at Chelsea and you handed back to me my first science test from you.  I think it was a B or maybe even an A, and you said quietly to me, ‘See, you are smart.’ I’ve never, to that point in my young life, had a teacher say that to me.  I had always been under the impression that I was stupid, until you opened my eyes.  Ever since that moment, I have believed in those words and they are what helped me through my times of not only academic struggles but many hardships.  You helped me find myself and realize who I am and who I can become.  You gave me the great gift of self-confidence; a fire that has blazed ever since to defy the limitations that I and others would place on me.  I know because of you that I can do anything that I put my mind to.” (Student from the graduate class of 2006.)

This sentiment has been echoed by so many students who have passed through the Chelsea School halls. 

In addition, the parents of our students’ lives have significantly been changed by her determination to support and enhance all students’ individual needs. 

“When I saw the announcement of this award I immediately thought of Kate Fedalen, the leader of Chelsea School, the school attended by my daughter.  She is a leader who works compassionately to meet the needs of the students in the school.  I can’t imagine how many extra hours she works in her position – I do know she is always available when needed.  Realize that this school is one for students with disabilities.  My daughter has been very difficult to educate and this school has been successful.  It has not been easy.  Kate’s compassion is one that embraces a shared understanding that my daughter needs to be educated, to get the knowledge and skills needed to attend college, and be a contributing member of society.  Kate does not feel sorry for us, nor our daughter, she instead uses her compassion in an active manner to empower my daughter’s success and independence.  Research documents that most students in my daughter’s situation do not end up being financially independent citizens.  I think that Kate’s work is integral to changing that situation for my daughter and the other students at Chelsea School.  This is a major contribution to our community and to Maryland,” stated a current parent at Chelsea School 2011. 
Throughout the years, many staff members have come to see Ms. Fedalen as a mentor. As an administrator, Ms. Fedalen has shown incredible poise when balancing the drive to maintain the program’s quality and understanding staff’s life challenges outside of Chelsea. It takes great skill to build a healthy and stable work environment, especially in a setting where human nature in itself is challenged, but Ms. Fedalen has done just that.  The faculty and staff of Chelsea School admire and are inspired by her integrity, open-door policy, spirit of compassion, egalitarianism, leadership, and her knowledge of best practices and pedagogy.  

Ms. Fedalen embodies the meaning behind this award.  To honor her with the award would assist her in completing her mission to assist students with learning disabilities become productive members, vibrant and happy members of our community, and bring a well overdue acknowledgment of her commitment to the program and community.  Ms. Fedalen would definitely utilize this award money and give it to the Chelsea School as her charity of choice.  She could use it towards the student scholarship fund, to buy technology to further assist the students or to provide them educational services that are necessary for student growth and success.

 Cheryl

I am nominating Cheryl of Laurel MD who presently founded the Extend-A-Hand Ministry which operates  under  the auspices of the First Baptist Church of Laurel, where she is a member. This Ministry works with the homeless, poor and disadvantaged in Laurel and its environs.
I was first inspired by the work done by Cheryl when she came by my home to pick up a donation of a box spring and mattress for a family who was transitioning from being homeless and moving into an apartment. She came with the person who was transitioning and actually helped, transporting the mattress, lifting and carrying it down flight of stairs to her van. I thought, ‘wow this woman is not proud at all’! I was moved by her humility and concern in getting this person and their family settled in a home as soon as possible.

Also a member of the Church, I begun to follow more closely the activities of the homeless services she was attempting to provide without a budget, actually using her own resources and dependent upon donations mainly in kind.  She has opened her home and that of her husband to youths and older individual who had no place to stay. She works with individuals from Day Centers and get them well on their way towards rehabilitation of their lives. She works relentlessly to get individuals off substance abuse, into jobs and eventually into a place to stay. This entails seeing that they get counseling, trips to Social Security, to the MVA, etc. In many cases the driving to these offices and gas provision is done by her and provided by her. Price of gas in the last few years have been very high, yet she manages to provide services  in spite of the situation.

This constant show of sacrificial service , denying herself a lot of comfort and amenities  to provide a modicum of comfort and amenities to the less fortunate deeply inspired me. In 2010, I decided to volunteer to help out with the Ministry. I asked myself, can one feel so passionatel y  for  other s? This woman must know the real meaning of love. She is always seeking the ulitimate best for others. In volunteering to work with this Ministry, I continue to be inspired by her always giving of self.  Whatever is in her power to provide for others, she does. Recently, she organized a birthday for one of the rehabilitated persons who lived with her, but now has housing and lives with his family in MD. He is one of those who can attest and affirm to all of which is being written about her. Why did she do a surprise birthday party for him? He had expressed that he had never had a birthday party in his life.  I believe this person is between 35-45 yrs.  He was so surprised and elated.

I’ve seen her show affection to the lowest of the low. Someone who the average person would  spurn and refuse to make personal contact. I thought, there has to be something different about this woman, something in her character that needs to register with others. This is another attribute of Cheryl which has left an indelible print on me, her ability to accept the less fortunate for who they are and be nonjudgemental of them. They may be free of drugs, but continue to smoke, drink, be unkempt, she continues to accept them just as they are and is hopeful that through constant acts of love and kindness, change will come. This has worked. One of the women, has made a complete turn for the better. She will tell you how long (30 yrs.) she has been on substance abuse and has now stayed clean for several years.  She is presently employed, and  is now also volunteering with the Ministry, reaching out to Baltimore by helping with distribution of clothing and basic kits of food, water, toiletries to people on the streets.

There is another attribute of Cheryl she shows to those who are trying to stay clean, trust. Recently  Cheryl  travelled out of state and left this lady in charge of her home while she was away.

On a regular basis, whether at work or at church, she always has prepared kits in her van for street handouts to whomever she meets and wherever she is.  This consist of towel, toothbrush and toothpaste, bottled water, and a sandwich. Also during the summer months, instead of having people come to the Church for distribution, clothes and furniture is taken to low income communities-apartment complexes, trailer parks, where residents can select what they need.  Usually when this takes place, Cheryl and the volunteers arrive there as early as 7am.

Recently a lady who had selected clothing during one of these distributions stated that she was so grateful for the clothing, being a single mother, jobless and was able to get 4 bags of clothing for her baby from our delivery to her community. She had come to this distribution because she had recently found employment and needed clothes for the job.

The Extend-A-Hand Ministry also liases with other Churches on hosting what is known in the area as Winterhaven.  As of the beginning of December of this year, several Churches in the area host the homeless every night until the very cold winter months are over. We hosted this the first week of December. This was a very busy time for the Ministry as the Church hosted over 30 persons during that week.  Due to her seemingly untiring spirit, this went relatively well, with a lot of donations of service, food, transportation, etc. from church members.

Due to her dedication, many volunteers have stepped up to the plate. The Ministry has grown from one person trying to do everything to many more volunteers assisting. There is someone spearheading food distribution, clothing, and furniture distribution. Also whenever  there is a distribution, she can rely on at least 4-6 persons who have been rehabilitated  and who in turn volunteer to sort, lift and load furniture. Her compassionate heart has had a spillover effect

For all of the reasons I have elaborated on- her humility, self-sacrifice, love, being non judgmental, trusting, is why I nominate and believe Cheryl to be one of Maryland’s most compassionate persons.  Her actions have motivated me and others to volunteer.  She feels, empathizes with the sufferings or trouble of others deeply and has the constant urge to help and alleviate suffering.  Above all, she shows love in a very high form. A love that is patient and kind,  not conceited or proud,  not selfish, love that never gives up. All of these positive character traits come from the heart of Cheryl. She has a good heart, a heart that feels what the person on the street feels. Those of us who work with her, know that she is not the best organizer and planner, but her heart/intentions drive her to accomplish tasks that many shy away from.

In conclusion, she has positively impacted and continue to impact the lives of many homeless and needy persons in the Laurel/Baltimore area. She definitely has made a difference in the life of others, and if needs be, some of those impacted, can attest. Through taking care of the physical needs of the homeless and needy persons, many have also been changed spiritually. She has impacted my life by showing how giving of one’s time and resources sacrificially can change the lives of others in many ways.

Monica Adler Warner

A Passionate and Compassionate Educator

Monica Adler Warner runs the Model Asperger Program (MAP) at the Ivymount School in Rockville.  Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a type of high-functioning autism that many people outside the autism community characterize as “mild.”  Inside the autism community, people know that there is no such thing as “mild” autism.  The young people served by the program that Monica oversees are often those that have been shoved from school to school, program to program with little or no success.  These are kids that many other educators see as “bad” or “violent” or “out of control.”  Monica sees them as they truly are – kids that have been so battered by living in “our” neuro-typical (non-autistic) world, that they have had to protect themselves as they are backed into corners by the misunderstanding and lack of empathy of the NTs (neurotypicals) that surround them.

Monica is a hero – to my child and many others.  She reached in two years ago and rescued my son, and our whole family, from the despair of seeing him spiral downward into mistrust and self-loathing.  She stuck by him (and us) through the need for him to be restrained at school almost every day to prevent him hurting himself or others, through his anger, his mistrust and finally, his growth and acceptance of the help she (and everyone at Ivymount’s MAP program) offered him.  He has blossomed into a happy teenager this year (who ever heard of a happy teenager?) only because of her swooping in at a critical time in our lives.

You might be tempted into thinking that she is simply doing her job as the director of the MAP and that that is slim qualification to be one of the most compassionate of all Marylanders.  But you would be mistaken if you stopped there in your understanding of what she does and how she does it.  Monica is consumed by helping “her” kids – if she isn’t racing around the school to make sure all is well, she is reading about the latest and most cutting edge interventions, and thinking of ways to implement them and carefully evaluate their efficacy in the program.  She spends countless hours with an amazing staff of teachers, assistant teachers, therapists, mental health professionals, and even specially-trained and selected administrative support staff to ensure that everyone is working together in concert to provide a unified support system tailored to each individual child’s needs, interests, and personality.  She is always available for kids and their families – every parent of a child in MAP has her personal cell phone number and she answers calls and texts as if each were an immense emergency – because she understands that for parents of a child with AS, something as simple as grocery shopping can become an emergency in a split second.

The MAP program was initially created with the intention of “aging-up” with its earliest participants until it offered classes from elementary school all the way through high school graduation.  But the success of the program has resulted in kids that no one thought could manage in the mainstream school system returning to less-restrictive, or even public education settings by 10th grade.  She sets a tone that assumes that success will happen and the kids and the staff rise to meet those expectations.  When it became clear that the high school students were ready for language classes – she jumped in, on top of everything else she does, to create and teach a Spanish Language course.

Monica will always be one of the most compassionate Marylanders that I have had the good fortune to meet – she puts in countless hours and boundless energy in a (very successful) effort to help kids that many others have given up on.  She helps them to not just succeed, but excel; to not just survive but to thrive; to not just get by, but to feel joy in living.  As the rate of kids with autism rises, Monica’s passion will rise to help all who come her way and to find and empower staff and parents to see to it that ALL of our children have access to success.

Susan Blaney

In communities around Maryland there are wonderful kind and caring people from all walks of life who reach out to support those in need. The story of this Compassionate Marylander has a unique viewpoint. . . one from both sides. Fifteen years ago, at the age of 26, Susan Blaney found herself dealing with the consequences of the bad choices she’d made in life. She was unemployed, in a housing crisis and needed support to find her way back to a happy and productive life. She found Diakonia, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 non-profit in Ocean City, Maryland providing emergency housing and food, along with the social services and education necessary for men, women and families dealing with a housing crisis become self-sufficient. Susan knows how it feels to be homeless with no resources. She knows how the compassion and nurturing she received from our staff and volunteers impacted her life. You see during the six months Susan spent at Diakonia she got her driver’s license, social services and links to resources that enabled her to get her life on track. She embraced the resources offered and while difficult at times, Susan continued on her path doing the necessary work and overcoming obstacles. She became self-sufficient. Diakonia treated her with compassion and more importantly the respect that helped her find the confidence and dignity she’d lost along the way. Susan was now confident, employed and had a home of her own.

The unexpected result of Susan’s success story . . . she found her passion. Diakonia taught her the impact of compassion. For the last 15 years she has been the caring individual reaching out to others. She is paying it forward, using the lessons she learned, treating others with the same dignity and respect she experienced as she supports them through difficult times.

Susan first worked with The Children’s House by the Sea (now Believe in Tomorrow) preparing the Respite home for families dealing with critical illness…and offering her support when needed. . . something as simple as a smile or kind word. Susan enjoyed volunteering her time to assist with the free BBQ dinners for the families. It’s there that she met Sunshine the Clown who volunteered her time entertaining the children and their families. Sunshine the Clown recognized Susan’s ability to connect with those in need and her effervescent personality. She mentored Susan along the way. Susan embraced the opportunity and put herself through Clown School. . .adding another unique skill focused on helping others. She would return to The Children’s House as a clown to bring joy to those who were struggling with life’s difficulties. Susan even served as a Clown Doctor visiting hospitals and nursing homes. . .bringing her infectious enthusiasm to all.

Who could have known that in her time of need at Diakonia Susan would find her own passion…to help others in need. And the happy ending to this story. . . for the last 6 years Susan has been employed by Diakonia, Inc. as the Volunteer Coordinator. It’s her opportunity to make an impact on the lives of others at the very place that did just that for her 15 years ago! She uses what she’s learned from her volunteer experiences to motivate and encourage people to help themselves and others. Susan believes motivation begins with a positive attitude recognizing it’s how you approach people and a situation that can be the turning point.

Susan advocates for those in need by recruiting volunteers, coordinating donations and working with the Guests of Diakonia. Susan has a unique perspective. . .she knows how the Guests feel…she’s stood in their shoes. Susan instinctively knows when a Guest needs a hug and when they need some space. She knows there’s no free ride . . . she provides the support and encouragement Guests need while helping them to recognize they must do the work required. It’s an important life lesson. . .people can offer support but no one can change your life but you. A lesson that makes a greater impact when it comes from someone who’s been there!

That is Susan’s greatest asset. . .she serves as a positive role model for all the Guests and volunteers. She’s an example that it’s possible to turn a life around. In her capacity as Volunteer Coordinator all of Susan’s efforts are invaluable to Diakonia and our Guests, but perhaps her greatest impact on their lives. . . Susan brings our Guests and volunteers HOPE! I believe there is no more rewarding impact on a person’s life than to have the ability to give them Hope for the future. Susan does just that. Guests believe they can change their lives and volunteers recognize their support makes a difference!

As always, Susan’s compassion shines through. When she learned the Award included $5,000 for a charity of her choice she replied, “I am positive that my choice is Diakonia, Inc. It’s my chance to give back to the organization that gave me my life back!”

It is my privilege to nominate Susan Blaney for a Compassionate Marylander Award. She exemplifies the qualities of the award – compassion – a positive impact on the lives of others – and her life has definitely been impacted not only by her work as a volunteer in her community, but by the volunteers who were there to support her.
Should you required additional information please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Caitlyn McSorley

The meaning of success is elusive.  It can be a 4.0 GPA or a game-winning goal in a crucial game.  For me, however, success is not measured by a particular score but rather by the effort put forth to help others who face difficulties.  I have learned that no one aspect of a person defines an individual but making a positive difference in the community is truly rewarding in the most amazing way and can make you feel successful.

Motivating me to be the best person I can be is my drive to improve the quality of life for others in need.  Throughout high school I worked with Best Buddies, an organization that promotes one-to-one friendships for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Members of the program were matched up with a peer who had a disability.  As that individual’s buddy, the pair attended monthly meetings, talked to one another at least once a week, and hung out at least one time a month.  I had the same buddy for two years and we had such a great time spending time with one another. 

By my senior year in high school I worked my way up to a leadership role in this organization as Chapter President at Bel Air High School.  This position allowed me to help plan a variety of different social events for all of the Best Buddy members.  Last year we hosted events such as a Christmas party and talent show.  My primary role of Chapter President was to ensure that all members were benefiting from the program as much as possible by making social connections with peers.

In addition to Best Buddies, I have regularly volunteered at Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding at Tuckaway Farm.  The Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding program provides a variety of beneficial services to individuals who suffer from physical and mental challenges.  Before leaving for college this fall, I volunteered at the farm two times a week to assist in the Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding program.  Hippotherapy is a form of physical therapy that is done on a horse.  The rhythm of the horses steps, mixed with a variety of exercises, helps improve muscle strength.  During Hippotherapy, I worked alongside a physical therapist to help the rider maintain stability and work on various exercises on the horse.  It is amazing to see how a child improves week to week as their therapy progresses in each session.  I have seen children who were unable to walk, take their first steps up the ramp to meet their horse and to do things they thought impossible.

I also assisted one day a week in therapeutic riding lessons.  Unlike Hippotherapy, therapeutic riding allows the individual to focus more on improving their riding skills opposed to using the horse as a way to improve strength.  This is not to say that therapeutic riding does not have physical benefits for a rider, but it also helps the individual with skills such as following directions and social interaction.  I love therapeutic riding because it gives me the opportunity to meet a variety of people and interact with them by playing games while they are on the horse.  It is truly a gift to witness their satisfaction when they accomplish their goals.  Both Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding are so import for the rider because even though they are in a therapy session with hard work and concentration it is truly fun and exciting.  This form of therapy is one that the client looks forward to every week and I am so blessed that I can experience the joys that come along with the programs that Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding offers.

I have also participated in a variety of church mission trips over the past few years.  I have traveled to Galveston, Texas and Lake Charles, Louisiana to help victims who were suffering from the devastating aftermath of hurricane Ike.  When we were in Texas and Louisiana, we met a few different families and worked to improve the quality of their home after they were destroyed by the storm.  It was so rewarding to know that because of my hard work, I was helping a family piece back a part of their life after such a tragic event.

My favorite mission trip that I take part in every summer is the Baltimore mission trip where I serve under privileged children at the Agape House for a week.  During the day I teach preschool children bible lessons and in the afternoon work with the older children to teach them how to cook.  A highlight of this mission is hosting a  block party for the people in the community.  At the block party there is a church service followed by a hot meal and grocery bags handed out to those in need.  This party is always a huge success and a great way to show those less fortunate that there are people out there who care.

As an individual with dyslexia, I have often felt I have been on the receiving end of getting help, but by participating in these volunteer programs, I have taken the opportunity to give back to others.  Doing so helps me feel better about myself and confirms that I can truly make a positive difference.

Through my service to others, I have learned a great deal about who I am and what is required of me in order to make a difference in people’s lives. These experiences have molded me into the person I am today and have prepared me for the future ahead. 

Victoria Pepper

The purpose of this essay is to nominate Victoria Pepper for a Compassionate Marylander Award.  Vicki has dedicated herself to the cause of adult literacy, and 2011 marks the 18th consecutive year that Vicki has given her time and effort to help the South Baltimore Learning Center improve the lives of educationally disadvantaged adults in the Baltimore area.

Addressing adult illiteracy embodies the very essence of helping people help themselves.  Assisting adults who have spent their entire lives feeling as if they were outside the mainstream of daily life not only gives them a valuable skill to improve their employment prospects, it further provides a boost to their self-esteem that is of ultimately far greater importance.

Vicki's work for the SBLC touches virtually every program participant.  As a member of the Board of Directors she helps determine the operational direction of the Center.  As a member of the annual fundraising gala her work is crucial to the financial well being of the organization, particularly in the current climate of steadily eroding governmental grants.

But what truly sets Vicki's dedication apart from the norm, and serves as an inspiration to others, is that she is not content with only providing leadership services that, while obviously critical, do not give her direct contact with Learning Center participants.  While Board meetings and fundraisers are important, her greatest contribution may be in continuing to provide direct, one on one tutoring to learners.  That is where she started with the SBLC in 1993, and it still gives her the consistent confirmation that she continues to touch people's lives.  Many of her learners have had to work very hard to juggle work and family schedules to meet with Vicki, and clearly if she wasn't helping them they wouldn't work so hard to keep their weekly appointments with her.  Hearing back from past learners about their employment successes reinforces that she is accomplishing her goals, but perhaps her most rewarding moment in her 18 years was when one of her learners expressed his gratitude for the help that enabled him to send a Christmas card to his children for the first time in their lives.  It is that type of result over many years that makes her an ideal candidate for a Compassionate Marylander Award.

Patsy Conner

Early last year I had the fortune to meet a person that embodies what it means to be a “compassionate” Marylander.   It was during a high school PTSA meeting that she introduced herself as a teacher as well as the Founder and President of a support and intervention program for the school’s students.   As the year progressed, and I learned about the enormous amount of work she does, I became inspired by her altruistic dedication and I hope readers of this essay will be too.

During the past seven years, in addition to teaching, Patsy has run an after-school program for students called “Youth with Purpose, Inc.” (YWP).   Quoting from her website (youthwpurpose.org) “The program's mission is to help students achieve optimum success and to graduate from high school by providing guidance through mentoring as well as exposure to rich academic and cultural experiences.  The key goals are to: improve academic achievement, enhance social skills, and to develop character.  The ultimate goal is for students to graduate high school and go to college.  Participants in the Youth With Purpose program meet after school and on occasional weekends for social and intellectual engagement.  The program includes tutoring, character and self-esteem education, skill-building, financial literacy, peer mentoring, college preparedness workshops, debate, motivational speakers, chess strategies, and critical thinking discussions.  Youth With Purpose offers positive alternatives and supports students before they become alienated and involved in drugs and gang violence.  It engages students, providing a sense of belonging in order to achieve positive results.”

The idea to start this program ignited when she noticed that a growing number of students didn’t have any life-goals, had anti-social behavior such as gang activity, and many had poor academic performance. She felt sadness at seeing students wasting their potential and decided she needed to offer them an alternative. She didn’t want issues such as poverty to hinder them from reaching their full potential- that’s why she offers continuous life enriching experiences to the students.  She believes every student can succeed; they just need exposure, resources, and encouragement.
 
To appreciate the compassion that Patsy has for young adults, one must consider how much work she has been doing. She spends many hours doing many different tasks.  For example:

  1. At the beginning of each school year, send out a school-wide invite
  2. Sort through applications for mentors and designate mentees
  3. Leading two weekly after-school meetings (one for mentees and one for mentors)
  4. E-mailing and calling all members every week for general memos and individual needs
  5. Intervening during a student’s crisis
  6. Consulting with her mentees’ teachers for weekly updates
  7. Calling potential guest speakers and volunteers
  8. Reaching out to fellow teachers (for help with arranging field trips and events)
  9. Consulting with the principal and counselors
  10. Talking with the webmaster of the YWP site for updates  Conferring
  11. Arranging and attending field trips and community service events
  12. Overseeing finance tasks
  13. Applying for grant money  

 The impact of this program is far-reaching. Over 300 students have participated.  Low attendance and grades change for the better. Crises are diverted. Potential drop-outs graduate with some going onto college and even get scholarships.  Plus, several students continue to serve their community after graduating as a mentor or on the board of directors.  A number of members have gone on to momentous achievements. For example, one student is currently doing a 2nd term of internship at the White House.  Others went on to be interns for the Prince George’s County Council and another is at the US capitol as an intern with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  One can imagine how others are affected by this program too.  This program could be even farther reaching; Patsy has pursued the county school board about getting this program implemented in the entire school system!

When I asked Patsy what it is that drives her to work so hard she said two things:  her background and her faith.  Patsy, a native of Antigua and Barbuda, grew up in poverty but her parents had instilled the value of dignity and respect into their children. At the age of ten, her father died and a few years later her mother decided to move to the US for a chance at a better life.  Although they continued to live with financial difficulties and adjusting to a new environment, her mother had persistent high expectations of her children. Instilled with these values and the certainty that education was a way for a better future, Patsy became the wonderful success she is today.  Her background helps her to empathize with the students she comes across in the halls today- whether a recent immigrant, living with low socio-economic circumstances, single-parent household, emotionally challenged and so on. Her deep faith also drives her to work hard because she believes that people who have the ability to do good deeds should and that everyone should strive to be the best they can be.

What Patsy has achieved thus far is an inspiration because she is someone who takes her spare time (including school breaks), without compensation, to enrich the lives of many people. Inspired, I have volunteered my time for her cause as well. In fact, over the years, several elected officials have also been inspired to help her program. This year she is taking care of over 65 students. Despite the work load, Patsy wouldn’t turn down another student if she felt they needed her program. Since her program is incorporated as a 501, she cannot get aid from the state school system. This award money will be used to help enrich the lives of students and free up some fundraising time so that Patsy can focus more on other tasks.

Awardees will be selected according to the following rules:

  • The contest is open to all Marylander residents who have made a difference in the life of others.
  • Each entrant must submit, via the email link above, an original essay limited to a maximum of 1,000 words on how they or the person they are nominating has positively impacted the lives of fellow Marylanders, or how their life has been changed by giving back to others and volunteering in their community. The essay should explore how the writer feels the story can be an inspiration to others.
  • Edits will not be allowed once essays have been submitted.
  • Entries will be judged based on relevance, originality, authenticity, merit and thoughtfulness.
  • Employees of the Governor’s Office or CareFirst are not eligible.
  • Contestants must be a resident of the State of Maryland.
  • The Governor’s Office and CareFirst review committee will select the top 20 semi-finalists and these essays will be posted on the MD Stronger Together website by December 31st.
  • We are still reviewing all submissions and online voting will begin Monday, January 9th at 4:00 pm and run through Friday January 13th at 5:00 pm. Thank you to everyone who submitted a nomination. When all of the votes have been officially documented, the top 10 essays with the most on-line votes will become finalists.
  • The review committee will chose 5 winners from the list of finalist to win a $5,000 donation in their name to the charity of their choice, courtesy of CareFirst.
  • The Compassionate Marylander Award winners will be announced in late January. Your essay must be received no later than Friday, December 23, 2011 by 5pm. Please include your first name, last name, phone number, age, county where you reside (or the county where your nominee resides), and the charity you would be donating the gift to, in your email when submitting your essay. Only your first name will be published with your essay.
  • Please contact Hannah Whiteker at (410) 974 5024 or hwhiteker@gov.state.md.us with any questions.