Howard County honored outstanding volunteers in a ceremony that recognized the generosity and achievements of 16 individuals, six nonprofit 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.
• Volunteer of the Year: Jacques Fein
Fein has given back to his community and Howard County for more than 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.
• Volunteer Youth of the Year: Rupini Shukla
A senior at Oakland Mills High School, Shukla 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. An “A” student, Shukla is also a peer mediator at Oakland Mills and tutors students in Chemistry, Algebra 2 and Calculus.
• Volunteer Nonprofit Organization of the Year: The Arc of Howard County’s Team Embrace
This program from The Arc of Howard County gives 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 five to seven hours every week leading workouts, interacting with team members or assisting with fundraising.
• Business of the Year: Brightworks Wealth Management
In addition to helping to run Brightworks Wealth Management, Co-Founder Nancy Briguglio has dedicated many hours in support of the BRAC Business Initiative, a development program that is free to all businesses in Howard County. She volunteers more than 20 hours each week in support of the effort. She provides technical leadership and, through her efforts, she has helped keep nearly 2,000 small businesses afloat.
• Community Builder Award: Laurel Conran and Lisa Chertok
Laurel Conran, an ESOL teacher at Bollman Bridge Elementary School, and Lisa Chertok, a Bollman Bridge parent and manager at Coastal Sunbelt Produce, designed a program to help the Burmese refugee parents (who work at the company) learn English. The two women created a six-week program where they partnered English and Chin-speaking employees so they could practice language skills during lunch. The program also featured speakers on topics like fire safety, health care and how to get a library card.
• Patriot Award: Don Downer
A former Marine who served in occupied China following World War II, Downer has never forgotten the loneliness and hardship of military service overseas or the pure joy a soldier, sailor, airman or marine experiences when he or she receives a package from home. To date, Downer has assembled and shipped more than 1,400 care packages to service men and women deployed to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan — at his own expense.