September 23, 2023
Annapolis, US 63 F

Chesapeake Charities honor those who make a difference

Nearly 200 people attended Chesapeake Charities’ fourth annual Celebration of Charity luncheon held Thursday, Nov. 14 at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville.

Each year, the event recognizes people and organizations that are making a profound difference in their communities. This year, honorees included Claudia Boldyga, Volunteer of the Year; Compass Regional Hospice, Non-Profit of the Year; and Chesapeake Women’s Network, Philanthropist of the Year.

“Today’s luncheon marks Chesapeake Charities’ 15th anniversary serving those who exemplify the qualities of leadership, community service, and altruism,” said Chesapeake Charities board chairwoman Audrey Scott, who kicked off the luncheon with opening remarks before introducing Chesapeake Charities Executive Director Linda Kohler.

Kohler, who was the organization’s first, and only, employee for many years, provided an overview of what the non-profit has accomplished in that time, not the least of which includes awarding grants totaling more than $15.5 million, and described philanthropy as more than writing a check – a sentiment each of the event’s honorees embodies.

“We tend to quantify a volunteer’s contributions in terms of the dollars raised or the hours spent on the job,“ said Rick Springer, senior vice president and commercial banking manager of First National Bank, who introduced Boldyga. “I can assure you — Claudia’s volunteer work has raised millions of dollars, but that isn’t where the greatest value lies. Claudia’s contributions change lives.”

Boldyga and Springer volunteer with Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation. Since 2014, Boldyga and her husband Randy have served as the founding chairs of AAMC’s Denim & Diamonds Bash, which has helped raised millions for vital mental health and substance use programs. Boldyga also joined Bosom Buddies, a non-profit that promotes breast cancer awareness, in 2016, after watching her mother-in-law battle – and survive – that disease.

Amid a room full of family support, including her husband, who had tears in his eyes as his wife spoke, Boldyga said she accepted the award with gratitude, love and appreciation.

Mark Freestate, Volunteer of the Year for 2018 for his work with Saint Martin’s Ministries, introduced Compass Regional Hospice, a regional provider of hospice care and grief support services across Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. Freestate lauded the efforts of Mildred Barnett, Hospice’s first executive director, and  Heather Guerieri, who leads the organization now, along with board members Kathy Deoudes and Tom Helfenbein, as champions for the organizations’ cause. Freestate also recognized the organization’s unsung heroes – the volunteers.

“There are so many wonderful causes – we are honored to be singled out and recognized,” said Guerieri, who accepted the award. “So many people in our community have been, or will be, touched by our services.”

Chesapeake Charities board member Jodie Gray introduced Chesapeake Women’s Network (CWN), a professional women’s networking group that helps women in the business community and offers scholarships through a fund established in 2007 at Chesapeake Charities. Since its inception, that fund has provided educational scholarships to nearly 100 women for programs across 22 colleges and universities across seven states.

CWN President Jenny Griffin, along with Vice President Heather Bacher, accepted the award, touting community effort over actual dollars.

“This is about all of us working together,” Griffin said. “It is not about the dollar amount – it’s about the change we are making in our communities, one person at a time.”

Also honored at the luncheon, Melanie Rebechi received the Gov. Larry Hogan scholarship. Now in its third year, that scholarship goes to a medical student pursuing a career in cancer research. Chesapeake Charities established the scholarship in 2016 to honor Hogan for his courage and leadership as he battled cancer during his first year in office. Gaye Adams, director of executive services at the governor’s office, presented that award.

Each honoree also received citations from the offices of Gov. Larry Hogan; State Sen. Steve Hershey. R-36-Queen Anne’s; Del. Steven Arentz, R-36-Queen Anne’s; U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.; and U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st. Hershey, Arentz and Mike Arntz, representing Harris, attended the event.

Kohler also received citations for her 15 years at the helm of Chesapeake Charities, with more than $25 million invested into local communities under her purview.

A community foundation that supports more than 90 non-profits in the region, Chesapeake Charities honors people and organizations that have made a difference in our communities each year at the award luncheon. The Celebration of Charity luncheon raises awareness about issues and solutions that affect our lives and recognizes those making a real difference.

Platinum sponsors for the event included The Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, Rural Maryland Council and WHBG Certified Public Accountants. Gold sponsors included Buck Distributing Company, Customer Relationship Metrics, GGM Wealth Advisors, The Marksmen Company and Shore United Bank.

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