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Howard County “Volunteer of the Year” announced

Howard County “Volunteer of the Year” announced

April 14, 2016

Media Contact:
Mark Miller, Administrator, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County honored outstanding volunteers last night in a ceremony that recognized the generosity and achievements of three individuals and one non-profit organization. The winners were selected from 11 nominations, comprised of nine individuals (six adults and three youth) and two non-profits. The annual event also included the announcement of Howard County’s Volunteer of the Year and other special award recipients.

“It is an honor to join the County Council and Volunteer Center Serving Howard County in recognizing the extraordinary individuals and organizations who generously give their time and talent to help improves the lives of others,” said Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman. “As National Volunteer Week comes to a close, I encourage our residents to be inspired by the work of all those who were nominated and consider how you too can make a difference in your community.”

“Congratulations to our honorees and all our volunteers nominated. We are grateful for your acts of kindness that help make our Howard County community a better, brighter place. This is a great time to pause and give thanks to our dedicated citizens who continue to donate their time selflessly,” said County Council Chairperson Dr. Calvin Ball.

Award winners will have an engraved brick installed in the “Pathway to Excellence” at the County’s Troy Park at Elkridge. The pathway will feature bricks etched with the winners’ names and award, and will be part of one of Troy Park’s future development phases.

This year’s award winners were:

Volunteer of the Year: Richard Ellestad
Following his retirement from the National Security Agency in 1999, Richard Ellestad began giving back to the community. He helped Howard County seniors learn how to effectively use computers through Computer Seniors of America, and has assisted seniors and low income residents with free tax preparation for over 14 years with Howard County AARP TaxAide program. A leader among his TaxAide peers, Richard volunteers at least 10 hours a week preparing taxes during tax season and continues to offer his services in the off season. In addition to serving as a tax counselor, Richard has been instrumental in ensuring his fellow tax preparers are properly trained, tested and certified, and also have the equipment necessary to do their jobs. Largely because of his effort and initiative, during his tenure with the County’s TaxAide program more than 25,000 tax returns have been completed, saving seniors and low-income residents roughly $5 million in tax preparation fees. Thanks to Richard’s dedication, Howard County’s AARP TaxAide program is now one of the largest in Maryland.

Youth Volunteer of the Year: Martin Wang
A junior at Glenelg High School, Martin Wang’s dedication to service is evident in the roughly 300 hours of volunteer time he has logged since his sophomore year. Martin primarily donates his time to Making Change’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), an organization that provides tax-preparation services to low-income families free of charge. Since joining the VITA team two years ago, Martin continuously goes above and beyond his normal duties of reaching out to clients, scheduling appointments and preparing taxes. In his nomination, Martin was described as a huge asset to the program, whose enthusiasm to aid the less fortunate embodies what VITA is all about. In addition to his work with VITA, Martin also spent time last summer volunteering at Phycin, a biotechnology startup committed to transforming plant-based stem cell research in products for the public. When not volunteering, you can find Martin serving as Student Government Association President, helping run Glenelg’s Astronomy Club and playing Varsity soccer.

Non-Profit Volunteer Organization of the Year: The Sunrise Rotary Club of Ellicott City, MD
The mission of The Sunrise Rotary Club of Ellicott City, MD is to improve the lives of children in need by partnering with local business, social service organizations and the government. The group’s various projects and activities include the Howard County Library System’s BumbleBee and Dictionary projects, Kenya Connect, Clothes for Careers, DisasterAid USA, Rotary Boat Float and the Community Action Council of Howard County’s (CAC) Head Start Summer Enrichment Program. CAC’s Summer Enrichment Program has provided more than 1,270 Howard County children with extended classroom time and enrichment since its inception in 2003. According to its nominator, the program would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of The Sunrise Rotary Club. As its nominator wrote, “We know that we can count on them to be the best. Their members are so committed to enriching the lives of those around them and we are so grateful for the partnership we have with them.”

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dave Dittman
For nearly 50 years, Dave Dittman has been involved in the community. Whether volunteering at his church, helping resettle refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia or serving on the Board of Directors for the Christian Services of Howard County, Dave’s true talent and work is showcased through his repair skills. Since the 80’s, Dave has been actively renovating and repairing homes for low income residents around the Baltimore Metropolitan area. As a “go-to handyman,” he is always willing to step in and get the job done, and done right, as evident by his work during the last two years with Bridges to Housing Stability. Often working with limited resources, Dave continuously strives to save money by utilizing building supply thrift shops and reusing leftover materials. According to his nominator, “Dave’s thousands of hours of work has changed lives, improved housing quality and impacted the community in countless ways.”