Columbia, Maryland… Computers, Money, Cars and the Law. Two exceptional individuals and two extraordinary teams who cover a broad range of the human services world are this year’s Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Award winners. The Awards, now in their 36th year, are presented by The Association of Community Services. Volunteer of the Year Don Bard is founder and head of the Lazarus Foundation, which works with schools and individuals refurbishing computers and opening the doors of technology to those often shut out. Volunteer Team of the Year Neighbor Ride has connected its 300 volunteer drivers and Howard County Seniors with more than 40,000 trips for everything from doctor’s appointments to religious services to cultural events. Barbara Coleman of Maryland Legal Aid, Employee of the Year has advocated for thousands of low income people, helping preserve their most basic needs: housing, food, benefits for more than 30 years. The Employee Team of the Year from makingCHANGE, has helped more than 6000 persons become financially literate and find a path out of financial crisis.
The Awards, which will be presented at a luncheon June 15 honor individuals and teams in the community who have performed services above and beyond the call of duty. This year’s event will also honor ACS’s Executive Director Anne Towne, who is retiring from ACS after 10 years with the organizations.
“This year’s humanitarians demonstrate the breadth of service that individuals in our community give to touch lives, and make a positive difference in those lives.” stated Audrey Robbins Awards Co-Chairs Debra Popiel and Nancy Huggins.
ACS created The Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Awards in 1975 in honor of the former Director of the Howard County Department of Social Services to pay tribute to the work of human services organizations and those volunteers and staff who go above and beyond all expectations in their service to the community. Since its inception, more than 75 individuals and organizations have been honored through the Award. A full list of previous award recipients can be found at http://www.acshoco.org/Default.aspx?pageId=526589.
Sponsors for the 2011 Audrey Robbins Luncheon include lst Mariner Bank, Athelas Institute, eMarketing Video, Emerge, Chase Brexton Health Services, Towne Group Media and Management, The Business Monthly, Central Maryland Regional Transportation, Susquehanna Bank, Community Action Council, hocoblogs, Howard County Housing Commission, Pinnacle Empowerment Center, Anonymous, Howard County Mental Health Authority, OBA Bank, Sen. Edward Kasemeyer/Del. Elizabeth Bobo, Lisa Dolce, DVD Consultants, Grace Community Church, Deb Popiel, and Mary Schiller
The June 15 Audrey Robbins Awards luncheon will be held from 12 noon-2:00 p.m. at The Meeting House in Oakland Mills, 5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia. TV personality Terry Owens will host this year’s awards. Flowers by Emerge will also be available for sale. For more information or to purchase tickets , visit www.acshoco.org or call 410-715-9545.
About the Honorees
Don Bard, Lazarus Foundation, Volunteer of the Year.
“Dedicated, “ inspiring,” “visionary,” “committed,” and “energizer bunny” These are just a few of the words the team of volunteers who fix and refurbish computers, and who teach and mentor with Don Bard at the Lazarus Foundation use to describe him. Bard founded the Lazarus Foundation in 1993 out of a 1980s computer users group. Its goal is to reduce the digital divide by providing free or low cost computers to deserving Howard County students and their families, and to educational and charitable organization. Under Don’s vision and leadership, Lazarus Foundation, named both because it resurrects computers and evokes Emma Lazarus’ “Give Me Your Tired Your Poor” poem, has remained focused and true to its mission. It has given away an estimated 1000+ computers. Over the years Don’s energy and vision have helped Lazarus grow and expand. More than just computers, Lazarus under Don has made educating students and their families a priority so they can also use their technology. Even as he himself has faced personal adversity that has affected his ability to repair and teach, Don Bard’s commitment to Lazarus has not waivered, and Don can often be found at its lab. Notes friend and Board Chair Rob Gold, “He has been tireless in always trying to find the best way for Lazarus to help the community in Howard County and beyond.” Because of him the Bright Mind Foundation has not only been able to give 320 computers to low income families, but his team has taught parents and children how to use them. Lazarus supplied the Black Student Achievement Program Community Based Learning Centers with computers and printers. PCs4KIDS gives students Lazarus refurbished computers and high school mentors to teach them. Lazarus computers play a key role in Howard County Public School System’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs. Because of Don Bard many thousands of people in the Howard County Community who might otherwise have been locked out of today’s technology and their future have the opportunity to learn, grow and succeed.
Barbara Coleman, Maryland Legal Aid, Employee of the Year
For almost 35 years Barbara Coleman has tried to “be the person who stays behind the scenes and do the work.” And what work that has been. As a Senior Paralegal at Maryland Legal Aid she is the person who keeps people from getting evicted, who fights with Social Security to ensure her clients get their benefits. As her boss and nominator Blake Fetrow noted, “Barbara is able to get results for clients that even the most gifted attorney within our organization could not hope to achieve. She has built relationships, knows the resources available, and knows how to get things done in Howard County. Time and again, she has prevented homelessness, sometimes by convincing the most jaded landlord attorneys to give tenants a second chance.” She is, he noted, almost a social worker, since she will then work with the client to keep them from repeating actions that led to an eviction effort.” She is also involved in the community, serving on the Community Action Council, on the Board on Homelessness, and on the Howard County Coalition of Geriatric Services (COGS). Her commitment and infectious personality make her amazingly effective, and admired. But maybe the real measure of her impact and dedication are clients like the couple who call her every week or when they get a new puzzling bit of official paper and trust her advice. Maybe it’s Mrs. Wainright, who would bring Barbara a cupcake, and whom Barbara would take the time to later visit at the Lorien Nursing Center to help her with Social Security.
Barbara says she entered this field because when she was growing up her Dad died, and no one told her Mom for several years that the family was entitled to Social Security benefits. “I made up my mind that there must be other people out there who must need to know.” Barbara’s impact in her community is in the thousands of clients and colleagues who admire and respect her because they see that for her it is more than just a job, it’s a calling. Howard County is fortunate that Barbara Coleman is there to help them.
Neighbor Ride: Volunteer Team of the Year
Mrs. T. gets taken to her exercise class twice a week. Mrs. S can visit her daughter in a Burtonsville nursing home because of Neighbor Ride’s help. Says another “you are one of the best things to happen in Howard County.” And she may be right. Neighbor Ride’s 300+ volunteers have helped Howard County seniors remain active, independent and connected to the community. For many of its passengers, Neighbor Ride is the difference between being cut off from the world, and from being a vital part of it. Created to fill a gap in transportation services identified by the Howard County Office on Aging, the service was launched in November 2004, with just 20 volunteers. Since then Neighbor Ride has provided more than 40,000 trips. The Neighbor Ride volunteers have not only directly benefited the seniors they serve, but also the seniors’ families who get peace of mind because their loved one has safe and reliable transportation. Local businesses and services providers welcome the fact their senior customers can get their hair done, go to concerts, or take fitness classes. Volunteer drivers even take seniors to locations so the senior being driven can continue to volunteer—passing the benefit onto other organizations who need volunteers. Today’s volunteers range from 21 to the mid-80s, and represent a wide range of professional backgrounds, races and income levels. They all share a common commitment: improving the quality of life for the seniors they serve. Have they succeeded? If frequent passenger surveys are any indication, the answer is a resounding yes! One hundred percent of Neighbor Ride’s passengers have reported that the volunteers’ service has had a positive impact on their quality of life. You can’t ask for anything better from a team of volunteers.
makingCHANGE: Employee Team of the Year
In one sense, makingCHANGE is all about the numbers. Financial numbers. The people of makingCHANGE believe that financial literacy may be one of the most important factors in ensuring a person becomes self sufficient. Financial education can mean learning how to break the cycle of dependence, and for those facing a job loss, or mounting debt, it can play a critical role in preventing a financial crisis. For those not in crisis, but lacking skills to ensure financial self-sufficiency, the financial education provided by makingCHANGE means a better chance for financial wellness and success. In that sense they are really about people, and since beginning in 2003 more than 6000 persons have benefited from one of their financial literacy programs. makingCHANGE reaches people both through 60+ seminars a year, and also in innovative, one-on-one family sessions. They can be found at Grassrooots, working with people in crisis or who are homeless. Or at the Howard County detention center with inmates who desperately need tools to navigate in a world closing employment doors, that is demanding restitution. Many have families in crisis. Making CHANGE’s impact can also be found with a newly unemployed woman who needs help with a form at the North Laurel/Savage Multi-Service Center office. Team members Michelle Glassburn, Kari Staddon, Jack Letzer and Theresa Croney help families with everything from budgeting, employment, debt, food, goal setting, to childcare, health care and housing. They can also be found working with community partners, promoting the importance of financial literacy at an annual financial literacy event with the Howard County Library, Howard Community College and the Howard County Public School System. These are important groups, and important efforts, but their importance is truly found in the woman Executive Director Michelle Glassburn remembers. The woman whom she met at Grassroots, who took their course for a whole year. Today That woman carries her financial workbook with her. She quotes the woman, who says “makingCHANGE “ was a game changer for me.”. Her success and continued effort by her and other clients are the numbers that truly count for makingCHANGe’s employees.
The Association of Community Services is a network of non-profit, for profit, faith-based and government agencies and citizen advocates. Founded in 1963, ACS develops, supports, and promotes the Howard County human services community with education and training, advocacy, and community connections. ####
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