The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore honored four award recipients and celebrated annual grant-making efforts at its virtual Annual Meeting and Report to the Community on November 12th. The Foundation celebrated a total of $5.5 million in grants made in fiscal year 2020, including more than $539,000 in scholarships to local students.
“While 2020 has been unique to say the least, for every challenge that demanded we be creative, nimble, and resilient we were joined by others who were willing to adapt and respond to needs in our community, and for that we are so thankful,” says CFES President, Erica Joseph. “The continued generosity of time, talent, and financial resources within our small, rural region demonstrates that philanthropy is an intrinsic value in our community.”
The Mary Gladys Jones Volunteer of the Year Award was awarded to Shawna Kearsley for her many years of dedicated service to others and passionate volunteerism. Shawna brings energy and joy to each situation as she works to connect people and organizations to better her community, always out on the front line, shoulder to shoulder with other volunteers. When faced with a challenge, she doesn’t step back, but steps up and seeks solutions. She was a Team Leader for the National Folk Festival Bucket Brigade in 2018 & 2019, tasked with recruiting, training, and leading hundreds of volunteers to gather on-site donations during the 3-day festival. Her current projects include, the Crisfield Community Gardens, video-casts of local events, leading the Crisfield Steering Committee on the Local Food Federal Assistance Grant, and coordinating support for the Somerset County Summer Arts & Education Series. She is a board member for the Minds in Motion Children’s Museum, The Salisbury Chamber of Commerce, and serves as Executive Director for the Crisfield Arts Syndicate. For her dedication to making her community a better place Ms. Kearsley will receive a $1,000 gift to designate to the charity of her choice.
The Nonprofit Award of Excellence honoring Richard A. Henson was awarded to Operation We Care. Founded in 2007 by Jeff and Diana Merritt, Operation We Care is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to supporting our military and first responders and understands the value of demonstrating gratitude to those who keep our communities safe. Their efforts include annually sending over 2,000 care packages to deployed military troops around the world, purchasing items needed by first responders like smoke detectors, K9 ballistic vests, PPE, and other supplies and equipment needed. Operation We Care works to show appreciation for military and first responders through events such as “Thank a Police Officer Day” where they deliver meals to every shift of every police department in the immediate service area. OWC also rallies our community together at their semi-annual “packing parties” where hundreds of volunteers assemble care packages to be sent around the world. Throughout the pandemic, OWC helped to bring resources and inspiration to healthcare providers as they responded to the impact of COVID on our friends and neighbors. In honor of their award Operation We Care will receive $5,000 to support their work.
The Frank H. Morris Humanitarian Award was awarded to Grace Murdock for her exemplary leadership, vision, integrity, compassion, and dedication to community. Grace has been a public servant for over 30 years, having worked as an educator, administrator, and as a community advocate. As the founder of Wicomico Grows Kindness, Grace’s vision was to facilitate the spread of kindness. Grace volunteers by making meals for neighbors in need, reading to children in classrooms, filling Operation We Care packages for our troops, mentoring college students, volunteering at Camden Community Garden, and leading the Kindness Commission for the City of Salisbury. She taught Girl Scout Troops how to create kindness keychains and has inspired One Year to Empowerment students by sharing her story about the positive impact of kindness. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Grace has shown her fellow citizens how to be kind to each other by setting up a HERO station where she encourages neighbors to participate in photo ops thanking our community heroes. In honor of the award, a $1,500 gift will be made to the charity of Grace Murdock’s choice.
The Chairman’s Award was presented to Dr. George Whitehead III for his dedication to the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore and his many community efforts. George is a passionate ambassador for the Community Foundation and has served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors since 2016. He has also served as the Chairman of the Community Needs Grant Committee. This year as the Foundation was challenged to adapt and respond, George was an integral part of the Foundation’s COVID Response Fund, and used his time to support Foundation efforts and to collaborate and connect through CFES to meet needs in the community.