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10.27.11 Howard County “Volunteer of the Year” Announced

October 27, 2011

Media Contact:
Kevin Enright, Director, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022

Howard County “Volunteer of the Year” Announced


ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County honored outstanding volunteers last night in a ceremony that recognized the generosity and achievements of 16 individuals, six non-profit organizations and one local business. The annual event also included the announcement of Howard County’s Volunteer of the Year and other special award recipients. The honorees were:

Volunteer of the Year: Jacques Fein
Born in Paris just before the start of World War II and the Holocaust, Jacques’ parents arranged for him to be cared for by the French underground “Organization to Save the Children” just before they were deported to Poland and subsequently executed in Auschwitz. To show his gratitude for the opportunities he was given early in life, Jacques has given back to his community and Howard County for well over three decades. He is one of several founders of the Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and is also an active member of the Jewish Federation of Howard County. He served on the County’s former Hate Bias Impact Panel and counseled youthful offenders who committed various forms of hate crimes. He also volunteers for the Holocaust Memorial Museum. According to his nominator, “Jacques exemplifies how a grateful immigrant can provide the creative leadership to motivate people in his community and beyond.”

Volunteer Youth of the Year: Rupini Shukla
A senior at Oakland Mills High School, Rupini started out as a member of the Teen Time After School Initiative at Howard County Library’s East Columbia Branch. When she turned 15 and graduated from the program, she decided to return as a program volunteer, leading a homework support group and mentoring other students. Since Rupini is fiercely committed to her own studies and is a straight A student, she is a great role model for the teens in the program. In addition to her work with Teen Time, Rupini is also a peer mediator at Oakland Mills and tutors students in Chemistry, Algebra 2 and Calculus.

Volunteer Non-Profit Organization of the Year: The Arc of Howard County’s Team Embrace
This group of dedicated volunteer athletes came together and launched a successful program through The Arc of Howard County that would give special needs athletes the opportunity to compete in athletic events at no charge. Members of Team Embrace raise funds for the Arc through their participation in triathlons and other endurance events, where they participate alongside athletes with developmental or intellectual disabilities. Each member of the team spends between 5-7 hours every week leading workouts, interacting with team members or assisting with fundraising. A parent of one of the athletes who has autism spectrum disorder said in her nomination, “the experience of working with these wonderful role models boosted our son’s self-esteem and self-confidence and provided him with a sense of belonging.”

Business of the Year: Brightworks Wealth Management
In addition to running a thriving business, Brightworks Wealth Management co-founder, Nancy Briguglio, has dedicated many hours in support of the BRAC Business Initiative (BBI), a development program that is free to all businesses in Howard County. Nancy volunteers in excess of 20 hours each week supporting the BBI. She provides highly technical leadership; and, through her efforts, she has helped nearly 2,000 small businesses keep afloat.

Community Builder Award: Laurel Conran and Lisa Chertok
When a large influx of Burmese (Chin) families settled in the Bollman Bridge Elementary School district, it was clear that the school needed to expand programs so they could integrate the new students and help them achieve. Laurel Conran (an ESOL teacher at Bollman Bridge) and Lisa Chertok (a Bollman Bridge parent and manager at Coastal Sunbelt where many of the parents worked), designed a program to help the Burmese refugee parents learn English and navigate the day-to-day challenges we all take for granted. The women created a 6-week program, now in its third session, where they partnered English and Chin-speaking Coastal Sunbelt employees so they could practice language skills during lunch. The program also included speakers on topics like fire safety, health care, and how to get a library card. Thanks to the program, friendships have been made and the refugees now have a real sense of what it means to be part of the community.

Patriot Award: Don Downer, Columbia
A former Marine himself who served in occupied China following World War II, Don has never forgotten the loneliness and hardship of military service overseas or the pure joy a soldier, sailor, airman or marine experiences when they receive a package from “Home.” To date, Don has assembled and shipped over 1,400 care packages to service men and women deployed to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He shops for, collects, packages and ships all his care packages at his own expense; and, with each package, he includes a handwritten note and a can of Spam, which goes back to his own days in the military and the packages he received from his Mom. The men and women who receive his packages have affectionately dubbed Don the “Spam Czar.”

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