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Growing Up and Giving Back

Six Local Non Profit Leaders Share About Growing Up in Frederick And Giving Back to Their Community

Article by Kristen Wojdan

Photography by Chris Martin of Convoy Creatives

Originally published in Frederick Lifestyle

Giving back is clearly a core value in Frederick County. Countless citizens volunteer, donate 

and serve in a variety of ways to make our community a better place for everyone. We enjoyed our time with six inspirational leaders who shared about their growing up years in Frederick and their passion for serving the community in which they grew up! 

Leigh Adams 

Executive Director, Ausherman Family Foundation 

Founded: 2001 

Schools Attended: Kemptown ES, Windsor Knolls MS, Urbana HS 

Favorite Quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi) 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? 

My family moved to Ijamsville from Germantown when I was in preschool.

WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT GROWING UP HERE?

I loved going to the Frederick Fair and continue the tradition with my children and husband.

WHAT IS THE MISSION OF THE AUSHERMAN FAMILY FOUNDATION? 

Ausherman Family Foundation is a private foundation focused on making Frederick a thriving community of vibrant spaces and places, with a superior quality of life and strong and collaborative nonprofit organizations. Our mission is to empower the passion for change in Frederick County, Maryland. At the Foundation, I oversee all aspects of the grantmaking, community benefit projects and network facilitation. I have a wonderful team around me that is constantly doing amazing things in and for the community. 

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO? 

I do a lot of listening and asking questions. Through my job, I often learn of needs in our community and have the privilege of connecting nonprofits and people for the greater good; sometimes, I feel like a matchmaker. Once a resource or partnership presents itself, my mind is constantly racing with how we can (as a community) have a more substantial impact. In recent years, we have connected community stakeholders more largely through forming collective impact networks to tackle big problems holistically. Ensuring that all voices are heard, and the people closest to the issues are informing the solutions is the key to creating meaningful change. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT THE AUSHERMAN FAMILY FOUNDATION? 

The foundation is involved in such an array of different projects, I am always learning new things, meeting new people and diving into new worlds seeing how we can help. Sometimes I look at the community as a big puzzle and become fascinated with linking the pieces together. One of the best parts about my job is working with the amazing people who run our communities’ nonprofits. They are the real MVPs, the ones who run towards the things that are hard to face and tackle them head on. It takes a special person to do that type of work and Frederick has the best of the best. It’s my privilege to support them in their work. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU? 

I love to laugh, travel and try new things. Hunting for seashells is probably my favorite thing to do. As a working mother of three little ones, I have a lot of balls in the air. I do my best to keep them all up, but sometimes I feel like a master juggler! 

WHAT QUESTION DID YOU WANT TO ANSWER? 

This made me think back as a kid about some of the things I vividly remember. I worked at Jimmie Cone, serving soft serve ice cream to the summer crowds. I loved going ice and roller skating at Skate Frederick and the Roller Rink. When Carroll Creek was renovated, I remember going to one of the first Festival of the Arts with my grandmother and being so amazed by the Community Bridge. As a kid, I remember constantly hearing the car races at the 75 and 80 dragstrip and going with my dad to cheer on the “funny cars.” These are just a few memories that make me smile. AushermanFamilyFoundation.org 

Dr. Denise Rollins 

Executive Director, Whole Heart Grief & Life Resource Center 

Founded: 2013 

Schools Attended: South Frederick ES, Parkway ES, New Market ES, Linganore HS from 7th to 12th grade, Frederick Community College, University of Maryland (BS in Accounting), Hood College (Masters in Thanatology) and Eastern University in Philadelphia (PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy)

Favorite Quote: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." (Gandhi) 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? 

I was born and raised in Frederick County. My first 8 years, I lived on Bentz St. in Frederick City and then moved to Mount Airy and lived there until I graduated college. After graduation, I moved back to Frederick City and was there until 5 years ago when I moved to Adamstown. 

WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT GROWING UP HERE? 

My favorite thing about Frederick is that I was surrounded by so much family. My mom always emphasized that when you had nothing else, you’d always have family. I also loved that Frederick was a place where you could make a difference. Community service was something my father instilled in me. In fact, when I was 23 years old, a group of friends, family members and I started a nonprofit to help kids learn their history and embrace cultural pride. That organization was good for the community, the kids and for us as leaders. 

WHAT IS THE MISSION OF WHOLE HEART? 

Whole Heart’s mission is to help people who are grieving both death and life to address their total health and wellness. We accomplish this via workshops, tools and coaching that produce wholehearted personal, professional and community transformation. 

WHY IS WHOLE HEART IMPORTANT TO YOU? 

Whole Heart provides the personalized, nonjudgmental and meaningful help I needed when I was at my lowest. At the same time, we also help people when they have all of the trappings of success but none of the peace, which is something I’ve also needed at times. Helping others allows me to give back to a community that’s given so much to me! WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO? What I love most about the work I do is seeing the transformation in people’s lives and how each client’s ability to learn, grow and heal benefits others in their lives. The ripple effect of helping people to live wholeheartedly is huge! 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT WHOLE HEART? 

Whole Heart helps people deal with their pain, regardless of their ability to pay because we know that when one person in the family or community heals, it opens the door for many others to do the same. That also means that our funds are limited. So we invite people to be part of this community transformation via donations and volunteering.

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU? 

I celebrate my diversity every day. I know there is power in my culture and in my gender. Yet there’s also power in my Frederick roots. This community is part of my diversity, and it has shaped me in both painful and powerful ways. I choose to leverage that pain to help others heal, while also using that power to contribute to this community’s success. I’m proud that Frederick has always been my home! 

WHAT QUESTION DID YOU WANT TO ANSWER? 

What is one misperception people have about your work? Some think we only help people grieving death. But many of our clients are also grieving life and need help managing both positive and negative changes resulting from events like a child moving away, divorce and more. WholeHeartCenter.org 

Shannon Aleshire 

CEO, Mental Health Association of Frederick County (MHA) 

Founded: 1965 

Schools attended: Green Valley ES, Liberty ES, New Market MS, Linganore HS, Frederick Community College, Shepherd University and Hood College 

Favorite Quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has." (Margaret Mead) 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? 

My parents moved to Frederick County the summer between 1st and 2nd grade. I spent most of my childhood living outside of Libertytown. 

WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT GROWING UP HERE? 

The rural nature of Frederick County (at least until I was a teenager!). I didn’t live in a neighborhood, but there were other kids who lived nearby. I loved spending summers outside playing games with totally made-up rules and lots of “redos” during the day and going back outside at night to catch fireflies. 

WHAT IS THE MISSION OF MHA? 

Building a strong foundation of emotional wellness for the whole community by preparing resilient children, securing vulnerable families and facing crises together. 

WHY IS MHA IMPORTANT TO YOU? 

MHA is important to me because we serve everyone in our community and, although we serve people who are experiencing difficult situations, we also do prevention work with children and families. 

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO? 

I love that MHA is making a difference in the lives of my friends, family and community, and I know that we are making a difference because of the stories we hear from our clients. I also have the privilege of working with an amazing group of caring and committed people. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT MHA? 

MHA has 14 different programs that serve our community. When people think of us, they typically think of crisis situations. There’s much more to MHA than that. In fact, before I started working here, I was a client of MHA. I was teaching in an early learning center and took professional development courses through MHA’s Child Care Choices program. We welcome the opportunity to talk with community members about our services through the tours we hold throughout the year. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU? 

I’m a diehard introvert masquerading by day as an extrovert. Because of that, it takes some time to get to know me. Once you do, you’ll find I have a wickedly dry sense of humor. 

WHAT QUESTION DID YOU WANT TO ANSWER? 

What is your favorite question to ask a candidate in an interview? Which do you prefer—dark chocolate or milk chocolate? I tend to ask this about three questions in. I use it to put a candidate at ease. Plus, it gives me an idea of whether they have a sense of humor and provides a great opportunity to talk about workplace culture. FCMHA.org 

Aje Hill 

Founder and Executive Director of I Believe In Me Inc. 

Founded: 2016 

Schools Attended: South Frederick ES, Ballenger Creek MS, Frederick HS and Strayer University 

Favorite Quote: “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” (Albert Pike) 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? 

Born and raised in Frederick, grew up in the Ballenger Creek area. 

WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT GROWING UP HERE? 

The community. Frederick has always been a great place to live due to the kindness and love displayed by those living here. Growing up, you not only had your immediate family; you had your church family, your sports family and those in the neighborhood that you could always rely on and feel safe with. 

WHAT IS THE MISSION OF I BELIEVE IN ME? 

Aim to inspire and challenge youth through mental, physical and social activities that foster self respect and respect for the world around them. 

WHY IS THIS ORGANIZATION IMPORTANT TO YOU? 

This organization is important to me because it gives me the opportunity to right the wrongs I committed in my past, to create a legacy for myself and my daughter and to remind people that tomorrow provides an opportunity to be better than we were yesterday. This organization also allows me to help prevent youth from potential outcomes that result in incarceration and/or early death, giving them a chance to live life to the fullest and break the generational cycles of struggle many of them are living in. 

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO? 

Working with the youth keeps me from the people and places that once made my life unmanageable. The ability to help these young men stay away from the lifestyle that I gravitated toward and get them on pathways to a positive and productive future is priceless. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT I BELIEVE IN ME? 

Our organization provides an after school mentoring program that allows youth an opportunity for safe spaces after school and on weekends; where youth are provided with educational support, mentoring services, mental health therapists, nutrition, hygiene products and various incentives for positive behaviors and growth/development—all while helping build strong and supportive families and including all stakeholders on their pathway to a positive and productive future. All of these services are free of cost to the family as we do not want to create any economic barriers to prevent families from seeking services to empower their child; especially since 91% of our families are considered ALICE. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU? 

What others may often perceive as a failure or a mistake, I perceive it as a gift. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn from and grow to become a better man, father and community member. While I may not always be receptive to these mistakes in the beginning; the growth that comes from them has made me the man I am today; still learning and developing the man I want to be remembered as. 

WHAT QUESTION DID YOU WANT TO ANSWER? 

What is a recent success for your organization? We recently opened up our Activity Center on Gas House Pike in July of this year. This activity center provides youth with a safe space, meeting the youth directly where they are. Some features of this activity center include: computer lab to assist youth with their educational needs, podcast room to provide youth a voice for their struggles and triumphs, a one-on-one mentoring room filled with fun and relaxing games, a theater room that allows youth to watch movies and play video games in a group setting and an indoor gym. How can someone help your organization? We are asking the Frederick community to unite together and provide a minimal monthly donation to cover the costs of the activity center and mentoring program in order to keep it free for all families involved. If we unite together, our minimal donations can add up to have a large impact on the youth of tomorrow. Frederick is an incredible community filled with ordinary people who continue to do extraordinary things and we are grateful for the support that is continued to be provided. IBelieveInMe.com 

Tonya Hatosy-Stier 

Director of Development and Marketing, Heritage Frederick 

Founded: 1892 (We first existed as The Historical Society of Frederick County and evolved to Heritage Frederick in the 21st century.) 

Schools Attended: Urbana ES, Kemptown ES, New Market MS, Linganore HS, Frederick Community College (AA degree in Business Administration) and Towson State (BS in Business Management) 

Favorite Quote: "To whom much is given, much will be required." (Jesus)

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? 

Our family moved to Frederick in 1977, when I was six years old. My parents purchased a house in the neighborhood Loch Haven, in Ijamsville, and it was a special place where life-long friendships started, where we played outside until my dad’s whistle brought us home. 

WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT GROWING UP HERE? 

The people. The connections. The quaintness of small towns, and the vastness of the countryside—mountains, streams, farms and cows. The snowstorms. We had the best snowstorms that took us out of school for days because we lived out in the “country”… and the plows never made it to Loch Haven. I loved coming to the “city” and going to Skate Haven, The Fun Factory and FSK Mall with my friends. When I was a little older, we would “drive the circuit” around downtown Frederick, out to Route 40 McDonalds and back. 

WHAT IS THE MISSION OF HERITAGE FREDERICK? 

At Heritage Frederick, we collect, preserve and interpret the history of Frederick County, Maryland, and its local communities, to facilitate continuous learning and inspire critical thinking. We accept and pursue objects, documents, photographs and other historical artifacts and materials that help convey the diverse narrative of the County’s cities and towns, industries and people that have defined the County’s history since 1748.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO? 

I love Frederick, learning about its history and sharing stories about its impact on the community and world. It is also important to me that we are proactive about uncovering, researching, interpreting and amplifying the untold stories about the people, places, artifacts and events that took place in Frederick County over the past 275 years. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT HERITAGE FREDERICK? 

Heritage Frederick operates and maintains: the 200 year old house at 24 East Church Street called the Museum of Frederick County History, the Frederick County Preservation Center, the Frederick County Historic Research and Archive Center and the Heritage Garden. We’ve been in existence for 130 years and over that time, the people of Frederick have entrusted us to be the repository for over 9,600 objects, and over 200,000 pieces of paper, books, ledgers and maps. Our collection is the most complete and comprehensive collection of Frederick County artifacts in existence. Our collection contains story-rich artifacts associated with the people, places and events in Frederick County, a crossroads of American history. The collection ranges in time from 10,000-year-old archaeological artifacts to George Washington’s hair, and 200 year old wedding dresses and quilts...We offer educational opportunities, such as walking tours, speaker series, events and exhibits. We partner with schools to provide walking tours for students. And, we offer community events in the garden, like the Patio Music Series, Ice Cream Socials and Frosty Friday—good old-fashioned holiday crafts and games. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU? 

I love making connections, digging deep to uncover lost or untold stories and helping to amplify stories that I’ve learned in our community and beyond. I love learning about the people who make up our community. FrederickHistory.org 

Brooke DeSantis 

Founder, Love For Lochlin Foundation Inc. 

Founded: 1/20/2020 (the day our son passed away) 

Schools attended: South Frederick ES (now Lincoln ES), Ballenger Creek MS and Frederick HS

Favorite Quote: "There is always a different lens to view things through; it depends on if you're willing to look through it." (unknown) 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? 

My birthplace is York, PA. I became a permanent resident of Frederick County at the age of six months. 

WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT GROWING UP HERE? 

There was a level of trust, respect, and understanding. As children, we would go out and ride our bicycles having to return when the lights came on. If we did something wrong we knew we wouldn’t get away with it due to the level of respect amongst neighbors or parents overseeing us as their own. We have this level of trust, respect and understanding in different forms that no one else has developed—our programs, our non-profits and people in the community. This makes Frederick unlike any other. 

WHAT IS THE MISSION OF LOVE FOR LOCHLIN? 

To educate, prevent and drive awareness to the deadly impacts of infectious diseases such as Influenza (“the Flu”). Providing the resources, knowledge and ability to help our community prevent these infectious diseases through proven and ethical practices. Working diligently to prevent anyone from experiencing the pain that our family has felt from a vaccinable disease. 

WHY IS THIS ORGANIZATION IMPORTANT TO YOU? 

Lochlin gained his wings eight days before his 6th birthday. There was so much that he wanted to do in life. The impact one could have on a person—you saw it in this little five-year old boy. He is no longer with us because he didn’t receive the one thing that could have saved his life. He would want us to see that others are safe, knowing they are not in harm’s way. Saving others’ lives leaves his footprint as we provide every influenza vaccine, disinfectant and mask. He is with us, and me. This helps us get through the grief in a way we could never describe. 

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO? 

The lives we impact...Knowing we have provided over 3,000 vaccines and over one thousand of these were given to those who are receiving a flu vaccine for the first time! It is important for me to remove the barriers for those in our community to provide the best care possible, and sharing the love our son had for the community at the same time.

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT LOVE FOR LOCHLIN? 

Our son was taken from us. It could have been prevented. By a vaccine. By early intervention. Every evening I sit, reflecting on how our clinic went. Those who I met. Who our nurses met. I want to see that those who come to see us know that we are there for them and nothing more. Our focus is on that patron and seeing that we change their life for the better. We are the only recognized non-profit sepsis advocate and mobile unit offering free influenza vaccination in Maryland. We have recently won the Erin Flatley Kindness Award from the Sepsis Alliance. Our community is everything! 

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU? 

The community is where my heart is. Being present at the clinics, with the nurses and the patrons. Being a part of the community; serving with the community. If I am not present then I don’t know what the need is. As a non-profit, we are to serve the community. Having a true understanding of where the need is. There is no better way to do this than to be present in the moment. LoveForLochlin.com

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