Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Community Ministry celebrates 10 years of giving

Two will be recognized as humanitarian and as volunteer of the year at Friday breakfast

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Camilla O. McRory and Thomas M. Sherman say the countless hours they put in with Community Ministry of Montgomery County do not make them heroes, simply everyday citizens helping people who have fallen on hard times.

Community Ministry begs to differ, and on Friday morning the nonprofit will honor McRory and Sherman at its 10th annual corporate breakfast. McRory will receive the agency’s Humanitarian of the Year award, and Sherman will be named Volunteer of the Year.

Both McCrory and Sherman have worked with the Rockville nonprofit for more than a decade helping to fulfill the group’s mission of leading the county’s faith community in helping the poor. They are two of the more than 7,000 volunteers working with the 30,000 people served by Community Ministry.

McRory — a private attorney who specializes in elder law — provides free legal assistance for the organization in landlord-tenant issues, acts as a job coach and serves on its board of directors.

‘‘It’s very nice to win the award, but it would be really nice if someone else had won,” said McRory, whose law firm is in Rockville. ‘‘I do not do anything I do to win awards. I try to do the best I can at everything, which in this case is the clients and people served by Community Ministry.”

Sherman has worked with the organization for 12 years, volunteering with almost every program, specifically the emergency assistance and the furniture programs. His extensive experience has led to his selection to serve on the Program Evaluation Committee.

‘‘I’m honored to receive the award. I have worked with several other nonprofit organizations and found that Community Ministry is probably the most multifaceted among nonprofits,” said Sherman, a retired county Health and Human Services employee.

Community Ministry’s ‘‘Companies Caring” breakfast, which will be held at Marriott Pooks Hill in Bethesda, is sponsored by its original corporate founders, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International and The Gazette. In addition to recognizing the volunteers, the event also acknowledges the support Community Ministry gets from county businesses.

‘‘This is the 10th year that we have recognized that Montgomery County companies care about the community just as much as any other sector,” said Becky Wagner the organization’s executive director. ‘‘Companies have learned that giving back is a win-win situation for everybody.”

Over the past decade, the breakfast has generated more than $500,000 for the organization.

Also scheduled for the breakfast is Wagner’s annual status report of the organization, its volunteer service and finances.

‘‘The need is growing. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is growing,” she said. ‘‘The question for us is how do we level the playing field. The more people willing to think about that in Montgomery County where it is hard to imagine folks in need, the better it is.”

Even with ongoing fiscal challenges affecting many nonprofits, Community Ministry has been able to serve its large client base by keeping its overhead low — only 6 percent, according to Wagner — and mobilizing 130 congregations for its volunteer backbone.

McRory and Sherman agreed that those community volunteers deserve the honors.

‘‘I hope that next year and the following years there are community members who have contributed so much that my contributions will pale in comparison,” McRory said.

Through the work of the staff and volunteers, Community Ministry operates programs such Sophia House, an emergency women’s shelter services in Silver Spring; clothing centers in Rockville and Gaithersburg; and a ‘‘Friends in Action” mentoring program. The programs earned the organization a four-star, or exceptional, rating for the third consecutive year from Charity Navigator, a national independent charity evaluation group in New Jersey.

‘‘On Friday I would like to say that the people who are working full time and devote their careers to service to others are really the ones who should be honored,” Sherman said. ‘‘Those are the real heroes.”

To Attend

What: Community Ministry of Montgomery County’s 10th Annual ‘‘Companies Caring” Corporate Breakfast

When: 8 a.m. Friday

Where: Marriott Pooks Hill, 5151 Pooks Hill Road, Bethesda

Tickets: Call 240-361-0858

To learn more: Go to or call 301-762-8682