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Howard County Volunteers of the Year Announced

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Howard County recently honored outstanding volunteers in a ceremony that recognized the generosity and achievements of 12 individuals (10 adults and two youth), three nonprofit organizations or governmental agencies and one for-profit or community group.

The annual event also included the announcement of Howard County’s Volunteer of the Year and other special award recipients.

Award winners will have an engraved brick installed in the “Pathway to Excellence” at the county’s Troy Park at Elkridge. Still in the design stage, the pathway will feature bricks etched with the winners’ names and their award. The pathway is part of Phase 2 of the park’s design and is expected to be completed in 2016.

This year’s award winners are listed herein.

Volunteer of the Year: Linda Lee Hickerson

Linda Lee Hickerson has spent more than two decades volunteering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Having been personally affected by the actions of a drunk driver, Hickerson helps educate DWI/DUI offenders on the dangers and the lasting and long-term effects of substance impaired driving. She is a 10-year member of the Howard County Police Chief’s Citizen Advisory Council and has been its chair for the last seven years and also serves as the chair of Howard County General Hospital’s newly created Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Youth Volunteer of the Year: Kevin Zheng

A junior at Glenelg High School, Kevin Zheng is no novice when it comes to giving back to the community, with more than 400 hours of volunteer service under his belt since entering high school. He co-founded Glenelg’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club in an effort to raise drug abuse awareness among his peers. He is also an officer with Glenelg’s largest club, The Key Club; he has led a series of volunteer projects, from writing letters to soldiers and organizing food drives. He also volunteers at The Starfish Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping at-risk Ecuadorian youth achieve a post-secondary education, is the student representative on the Howard County Alcohol and Drug Advisory Board and is an assistant coach for the Tennis Team.

Nonprofit Volunteer Organization of the Year: Mediation & Conflict Resolution Center at Howard Community College

Since its grassroots beginning in 1991, the Mediation & Conflict Resolution Center (MCRC) at Howard Community College has provided services and processes to the community, reaching approximately 2,500 county residents each year. Through free face-to-face conflict resolution services, MCRC helps neighbors live peacefully together and avoid costly litigation or entrance into the criminal justice system. With just two full-time staff positions and more than 200 volunteers, MCRC mediated 258 cases this year and is projected to arbitrate 375 this coming fiscal year; thanks to MCRC, Howard County’s Detention Center became the first Maryland detention center to allow pre-release mediation.

Business of the Year: Sandy Spring Bank

Since 2004, Sandy Spring Bank has been working with Rebuilding Together Howard County. Last year, Sandy Spring was introduced through Rebuilding Together to Adaptive Living, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing, food and supervision to nine adults with disabilities. When Adaptive Living could not afford to make needed home improvements to its townhouses, Sandy Spring Bank employees stepped in, organizing a team and repainting the interior of a three-story townhome. While the bank typically accepts one Rebuilding Together project a year, it again gathered a team and repainted two more of Adaptive Living’s townhomes.

In Memoriam Volunteer Award: Erik Steciak

Erik Steciak’s passion for volunteering was enormous. As a member of the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department, he spent countless hours personally mentoring new members. He trained and familiarized them with the department, helping them become more effective within the organization and ultimately a better provider of emergency services to area residents. He also volunteered for Americorps out of St. Louis, Mo., where he spent more than 1,700 hours with the organization’s Emergency Response Team. Steciak tragically died in the line of duty in January.