This column visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amelia Blades Steward has been a freelance writer in our community for 20 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.
For over 50 years, the Neighborhood Service Center (NSC), Inc. has worked to improve the quality of life, both socially and economically, for low-income residents in Talbot County by equipping them with the tools and potential for becoming self-sufficient.
According to NSC Board chairman Trevor Newcomb, NSC is honoring individuals in the community who have made outstanding contributions of their time, energy and talents to the advancement of the organization’s mission to address and eradicate poverty in Talbot County. The honorees are past Talbot County Council President Herbert Andrew (posthumously, Della Andrew accepting); Dorothy W. Black (posthumously, Walter W. Black accepting); Lorraine Claggett; Gregory Webb; and the United Fund of Talbot County. Walter Chase will also receive special recognition for his many years of service and leadership on the NSC, Inc. Board.
Marilyn Neal, Executive Director of NSC, comments, “We wanted to honor people who have been a part of our 50 years of services. In the 10 years I have been with NSC, I have seen a steady increase in community support for what we do. This allows us to take our support a step above without the restrictions that some of our grants require.”
She adds, “Community support is critical to our mission, as well as crucial to keeping family units together. Many of the issues we serve are generational. By changing one family at a time, we can stop poverty from being generational.”
According to Marilyn, although a celebration event honoring these individuals had to be postponed due to COVID-19, the organization hopes to accomplish recognition of the following honorees through other means:
Dorothy Webb Black
The Center began in 1969 as an off-shoot of the Tri-County Community Action Agency and, with the vision of Dorothy W. Black, the agency’s first executive director, began as a small non-profit that provided not only emergency services but hope, stability, and support to hundreds of families in Talbot County. Dorothy was a community activist, a civil rights advocate, and humanitarian. She held this position until her retirement in 1982. The youth center at NSC was renamed the Dorothy Webb Black Youth Center. The Talbot County Branch of the NAACP created an annual scholarship fund in her name as the Dorothy Webb Black Community Legal Award. She was a board member for the Talbot Red Cross, the Talbot League of Women Voters, the National Congress of PTA’s for Talbot County, The Margaret Ferree Scholarship Fund, and the Eastern Shore Hospital Center Citizens Advisory Board.
Herbert Leroy Andrew III
Born in Easton, Herb Andrew was a local farmer. While serving four terms on the Talbot County Council, Herb was the councilman who designated the Neighborhood Service Center as the community’s Action Agency for Talbot County in the early 70s. He is remembered for his longstanding community service, which included serving on the boards of Talbot Bank, Shore Bancshares, the Talbot County Children’s Council, the Workforce Investment Board, the State Council on Technical Education, and the MACO Board of Directors. He also served on the board for Pickering Creek Environmental Center. He was a member of the American Legion Post 70 (having served in the Air Force) and the Talbot County Farm Bureau. He was also a charter member of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Easton.
Lorraine Claggett was one of a group of citizens who founded the NSC. Her involvement included starting a prototype Head Start class for kindergarteners in Easton since there was not a Head Start Program in Talbot County Public Schools at the time. She also organized the swimming lessons for NSC children, having taught Red Cross water safety instruction to youth for years. When the Center was well established, she worked as a substitute teacher in the public schools and held a second part-time job at Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Mid-Shore.
Gregory Webb has been a landlord throughout Talbot County for decades. He has always worked toward providing safe and affordable housing for those experiencing financial difficulties. Gregory also helped to provide a fresh start to many in the community. The NSC’s Webb’s Hope Housing Project was not only named after Gregory because of donating the property to NSC but because 36 South West Street has always been a place of hope.
United Fund of Talbot County, Inc.
The United Fund of Talbot County has been a vital force in the county since its inception in 1956. Since its initial campaign in 1956, the United Fund has raised and distributed over $12 million, with 14 agencies participating in 2019. Its mission is working toward maintaining and improving the quality of life in Talbot County. The organization has supported the Afterschool and Emergency Service Programs of NSC for decades.
Walter Chase will also be honored at the event for his longtime service on the NSC Board of Directors. Walter, who was Chief of Police in Easton and owner of Chase Real Estate Rentals, has served the community in leadership positions with the Mid-Shore Regional Council, Channel Marker, the Talbot County Branch of the NAACP, the Samuel T. Hemsley Lodge #974 I.B.P.O.E., and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). He also served as a Commissioner for the Town of Trappe and on the boards of Talbot County Parks and Recreation and Easton Bank and Trust, and he is a member of Waters United Methodist Church.
“While we are very disappointed at having to cancel our celebration, the Neighborhood Service Center is working on a number of strategies to celebrate our wonderful honorees and all they have done to make NSC, Inc. the strong and vital organization it is today,” says Kate LaMotte, NSC, Inc. Celebration Committee Chairman.
“My fellow committee members and I are so grateful to our sponsors, and also to the scores of individuals, businesses and organizations who stepped up to support our silent auction. Providing recognition for their generosity is among our top priorities as we make plans for smaller celebratory events and projects that will unfold once the abatement of the current health crisis makes it safe for everyone to enjoy.”
Marilyn adds, “We are looking to the future, and to opportunities to increase local awareness of the many services we provide to the people in Talbot County who need our help. The low-income population and those suffering from poverty, disability, homelessness, hunger, and other disadvantages have enormous needs that can be met only through the engagement of our broader community. The NSC seeks volunteers in a variety of capacities and, going forward, we aim to broaden our base of private support and community partnerships. Any individual or group or organization who’d like to explore ways to get involved with NSC is welcome to contact me – I’d love to hear from you.”
For further information, contact Marilyn Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-822-5015.
In addition to providing affordable housing, including its Rapid Re-Housing Program for persons who are homeless and Webb’s Hope Housing Project, the Neighborhood Service Center offers both Afterschool and Summer Youth Programs for children ages six to 12, an Emergency Food Pantry, an Electric Universal Service Program for utility assistance, an Emergency Services Program for eviction and utility assistance, the Maryland Energy Assistance Program for heating assistance, Representative Payee Program to manage Social Security and SSDI payments for eligible residents, and Ridgeway Transitional Homeless Shelter.