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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
The Greater Olney Civic Association has named Kristen Nelson its 2018 Howard J. Garber Citizen of the Year for her efforts in spreading kindness in the community through the #OlneyRocks project.
Nelson and other award winners will be honored at the 41st annual awards ceremony and reception, beginning at 2 p.m. March 10 at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. The event is open to the community.
Each year, the Greater Olney Civic Association (GOCA) thanks individuals, businesses and other organizations that resident and businesspeople have identified as having made a notable contribution to the greater Olney community.
“Olney has many unsung heroes – people who do things that make a difference in the lives of others,” said Barbara Falcigno, member of the awards committee. “GOCA has awards every year to publicly thank these unsung heroes. For example, Kristen not only learned about the Kindness Project, she did something that then spread across Olney. In a world that can seem too busy, finding a kindness rock can be a reminder of what is truly important.”
Falcigno said many organizations and events – PTA meetings, swim meets, scouts and more – require volunteers to take care of details.
“Whether it is helping to feed those that are down on their luck or bring a smile by seeing Santa, Olney is filled with heroes,” she added.
The Kindness Rocks project was founded by Megan Murphy, a resident of Cape Cod, to inspire others through randomly placed rocks. Her idea was to recruit every person who stumbles upon them to join in the pursuit of inspiring others through random acts of kindness. The movement has spread throughout the U.S. and beyond.
After learning about the project, Nelson was inspired to launch #OlneyRocks.
For the past two years, Nelson and her two daughters, Olivia and Adelaide, have painted rocks with kind words and placed them around the community. Those finding a rock may keep it, leave it where it was found or hide it again.
Many others have joined in, painting and hiding rocks, and posting photos of the rocks they have found to the Facebook Page “Olney Rocks,” which Nelson administers.
Other GOCA Award winners include Jennifer Asbacher and Fran Weiss, Contribution to the Community; Adina Brenner, Youth Contribution to the Community; Katie Harris, GOCA Worker of the Year; and Steve Schreurs, Ron Berger Olney Heritage Award.
According to the nomination form, Asbacher is the mother of three boys who are involved in several activities, in which she not only participates, but takes an active role.
Her efforts have supported Cub Scout Pack 774; Olney Elementary School, Rosa Parks Middle School and Sherwood High School PTAs; and the Norbeck Grove Swim Team.
The nomination for Weiss states that she coordinates contributions to Rainbow House, a local women’s homeless shelter. Working with Shaare Tefila, she manages donations for the holiday food baskets given to needy families in Olney.
At Shaare Tefila, she is the head of the Sisterhood Group that plans and runs events and meetings throughout the year. She is also instrumental in monthly Shabbat meals.
According to the nomination, Brenner has been a Project Change board member for two years, assisting with governance decisions, programs, fundraising, marketing and special events. She is the president of the Project Change Service Club at Sherwood High School, helping with club projects and outreach to members.
She is also the student manager for the teen coffeehouses held at Sandy Spring Museum throughout the school year and is responsible for scheduling performers and helping to run each coffeehouse event.
Harris joined the GOCA board last year as the corresponding secretary. Her work had an immediate impact, as she updated the GOCA website and the external correspondence list, GOCA says.
She kicked off the website renovation by soliciting bids from several vendors and selecting one to move forward with. Throughout the year, Harris maintained the GOCA website to keep the community informed.
Steve Schreurs, aka Santa Steve, was nominated because of his involvement in many charitable activities. Because he bears a natural resemblance to Santa Claus, he has embraced the role to benefit others.
The nomination form states that he runs marathons and other events to raise funds for worthy causes, always in character. Organizations he supports include Fisher House, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, Whitman Walker Clinic, National Brain Tumor Society, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Out of the Darkness, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
During the holiday season, Santa Steve offers fundraisers, photo opportunities and “Story Time with Santa.” The proceeds from those events benefit local families in memory of their loved ones, as well as other charities.
His efforts have resulted in donations ranging from $3,000 to $15,000 annually.
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