Legacy of Giving

Wertheimer Fellow Awards Recognize Exceptional Volunteers

By Mary Thayer Haugen | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 10.12.15 – Lifestyles, People & Places

The late Janice Miller Wertheimer was well known in the Frederick community as a business woman and avid volunteer. She was generous not only with her resources, but also with her time. The Community Foundation of Frederick County, which supports many charitable causes under its umbrella, was one of the beneficiaries of her estate.

“She instructed us to support community organizations at our discretion,” says Elizabeth Y. Day, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We decided to honor her love of volunteering by recognizing community citizens who give generously of their time through the creation of the annual Wertheimer Fellow Awards.”

Every year, two adults are chosen and given $25,000 each from the Wertheimer Endowment Fund. They can then choose an organization within the Community Foundation or create a new one to be the recipient of the money. Three years ago, a youth award was added for those under 18 years of age, with recipients recommending a $1,000 grant to the charity of their choice.

This year’s adult recipients are Peter Brehm of Frederick and Vaughn Zimmerman of Walkersville. The youth award went to Paulina Bustillos of Frederick. As one might expect of such outward looking individuals, all were humbled and seemed truly surprised to have been chosen.

“Each year when we present these awards, I think how extremely pleased Janis Wertheimer would be that her philanthropy lives on,” Day says.

Mr. Walkersville

“Walkersville is a great little town to live in and that’s due in great part to the volunteer fire department, and the fire department follows the leadership of Vaughn Zimmerman,” says Charles Nicodemus.

Nicodemus cited Zimmerman commitment’s to the Walkersville Fire Company and the community as a whole in his nomination for a Wertheimer Fellow Award. Zimmerman also gives time to his church and local organizations, as well, but the fire and rescue companies have always been a passion for him.

“I almost fell off a fire truck once just going over a bump. I know how dangerous it is to answer a call,” says Nicodemus. “Vaughn has been answering the call and putting his life in danger for 50 years. At 200 calls a year, I estimate he’s responded to more than 10,000 calls to help someone else.”

Ever humble, Zimmerman suspects the number is not quite that high. “In the early years of my membership, we didn’t get that many calls per year. However, it did change dramatically after all the development in this area, new roads and increased traffic,” he says.

“I lived in town all my life and there were very few times the siren went off that I didn’t answer it,” he adds. “You know when you hear it; it’s an emergency for someone. I thought about it as fulfilling a need, not about the danger.”

Like most little boys he was first attracted to the fire company because of the fire trucks. At 18 years old, he made it official and has never looked back, taking on more and more responsibility as he went. About 10 years into his membership, he saw the need for an ambulance company and charged ahead to make that happen.

These days, Zimmerman is not as involved in the action and plays more of a leadership role, as well as spearheading fundraising efforts. “Firefighting is a younger person’s job. I don’t want to put anyone in danger because I can’t do something that is expected of me,” he says.

But successful fundraising is critical to the existence of the fire and rescue companies. “Our ability to raise the money we need to run the companies saves taxpayers a huge amount of money. So, all the work is worth it in the end,” Zimmerman says.

He would like to use his award to start a scholarship fund for members of the rescue and fire companies, or their relatives, to continue their education.

Getting Things Done

There are many things that can be said about Peter Brehm, but one of the most important is that when something needs to be done, he will take it on and get it done. Period.

Kristopher Fair is a former Wertheimer Award winner and the person who nominated Brehm. “From the time I was given the award, all I could think was, ‘Peter Brehm deserves this award much more than I do’,” says Fair.

“It doesn’t matter what the job is, Peter will put his full energy into the task and make it happen. He is all about picking up the torch and putting his sweat equity into a project. His interest is truly in seeing the organization succeed. He isn’t in it for personal credit. You just don’t see that very often anymore,” Fair adds.

There are many examples of his selfless giving, but one that illustrates the point is his management of the beer and wine tent at the Frederick Festival of the Arts. It is a thankless job that no one wants. It involves securing permits and, most of all, being willing to be the “bad guy” to make sure everyone abides by the rules.

“The tent was a mess and I hate to see something done badly, so I agreed to take it on,” Brehm says. He studied the issue, attended training by the liquor board and made the tough decisions. As a result, the tent is now profitable and held up by the liquor board as an example to others of how to run such an event.

Brehm moved to Frederick from D.C. and loves his new home like a native. “From the start, I was impressed with the sense of community. There are so many people here willing to give of their time and treasure; we are truly blessed,” he says.

Brehm plans to donate his award to The Frederick Center, an organization that serves the LGBT community. “One of the greatest needs right now is for emergency/transitional housing for kids who are under 18 years of age. Many are kicked out of the family home when they come out. There is no place for them in traditional shelters,” he says.

Youthful Dedication

Paulina Bustillos of Frederick may only be 17 years old, but her skills read like a resume of a United Nations translator. She speaks fluent Spanish, conversational French and basic American Sign Language. She serves as an interpreter, teacher, tutor and mentor at the Asian American Center of Frederick.

In nominating Bustillos for the Wertheimer Youth in Action Award, Elizabeth Chung, executive director of the center, wrote, “She has always been a positive role model, even for our adult volunteers. I was impressed with how this young woman participated, collaborated and was on par with the rest of us [adults].”

Like the other winners, Bustillos gives of her time to many causes, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Even in summer, a time when many teens hang out with friends at the pool or around town, Bustillos likes to keep busy. “I’d rather be productive than sitting at home on the internet all day,” she says.

And productive she is. Her work to help newcomers successfully blend into the community is actually very important as Frederick feels the pressures of an expanding population. “She is a prime example of our agency’s vision of building a stronger community through integration,” Chung wrote.  “In one of the most diverse work environments and cultural diversity, Paulina manifested the true American values of equity, fairness, respect and service.”

Bustillos began classes at Hood College this fall. She is majoring in Spanish with a minor in French. But you can bet she’ll still be volunteering no matter what else is happening in her life. “I feel extremely fulfilled when I volunteer,” she says. “I’d rather spend my time helping people than doing anything else.”

She has asked for her charitable gift to go to Centro Histano, which helps recent immigrants with basic necessities such as language and citizenship classes.