People to Watch 2017
As with most years, the task of selecting the members of this year’s “People to Watch” class was very difficult..After all, there are a great number of people in our community whose good deeds, careers, passions and frankly, results are worthy of attention..In fact, in any given week, we could probably think of another person who fits into the category of “People to Watch.”
But unfortunately, we don’t have the space for that many entries in “People to Watch,” so we have to narrow down the list.,A lot..In the end, we believe we have selected five people very much worthy of watching in the coming year,and hopefully for years to come, people who are already making a wide range of contributions in areas that make our community a better place in which to live.
Please read their stories on the following pages and see if you agree..
Louise Kennelly has lived in Frederick County for 13 years and until recently was the executive director for the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative—ensuring equitable access to high-quality arts learning experiences for D.C. public school students. Members included The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National Gallery of Art, most of the Smithsonian museums, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Arena Stage and others.
A commute was necessary the five years she held the position and with it came a drain on her schedule. “I didn’t spend time to see how profound the art community is here,” she says. Now, as the executive director of the Frederick Arts Council, a position she has held for the past 18 months, she’s taking it all in—whether it’s a newly established outdoor theater space or arts programs long established in the community. And she’s working to add even more to the local art experience.
FM: How do you see the arts fitting into the community?
Louise: The arts are an integral cause of Frederick’s economic strength and not just an outcome. I see the arts as fueling the economy, education and everyday life, not just a result of those arenas already being strong. That’s because the arts bring visitors and create a sense of place and identity that makes people want to stay.
The arts are even more than a primary ingredient; they can be a catalyst in strengthening communities. They can help turn around challenged neighborhoods and connect folks who might not otherwise be connected. So the arts can be transformative—and they’re also fun.
FM: What are some aspects to being executive director?
Louise: I have a 15-member board I work with and a staff of volunteers—it truly takes a whole village. One facet is the grants we give out. This year we awarded $80,000 in community arts development grants to 19 organizations.
FM: Frederick Arts Council is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. How do you go forward?
Louise: Frederick has the traditional fine arts, theater, dancers and painters [as well as emerging arts] from architecture to game designers, fashion designers and 12-year-olds that are doing amazing work on Instagram. Mentors are important. … It takes the Arts Council to connect all the dots.
FM: Talk about the outdoor Sky Stage on South Carroll Street, a vision put forth by artist Heather Clark and unveiled last summer.
Louise: Sky Stage definitely shows us about alternative art space. [It’s housed in the remains of a pre-Revolutionary War stone building.] It’s all one piece of public sculpture and we’re hoping it’s just the first of many more … where people are not just looking at something, but are engaging.
FM: Now that you no longer have that commute to D.C., how do you spend your leisure time?
Louise: My work time and down time are related to one another. We hang out with the arts whether it’s attending the Maryland Ensemble Theatre’s Retro Prom or viewing my daughter’s painting at the Delaplaine.
Frederick attorney Meaghan Delawter and her family were once featured in The Frederick News-Post as a real-life example of the clan in Blue Bloods, a CBS drama about a New York City family of police officers and a lawyer. Her family fit the bill with Meaghan’s father as Thurmont’s police chief, her brother as a member of the Frederick Sheriff’s Office and her mother who managed a law office. Exciting plots and action drama aside, Meaghan, who serves on the Frederick Memorial Hospital Honor Roll Committee, the boards of the YMCA and the Rotary Club of Frederick, plus Hospice committees, says, “Real life’s better.”
FM: What kind of law do you practice?
Meaghan: I work with family and estate litigation, mainly with contract disputes. My office is in my home and I can find a conference room depending on where I am. It works really well. [With the type of law she practices]: It can be emotional; you’re always on.
FM: What is your motivation to help Frederick Memorial Hospital with its fundraising?
Meaghan: A large part is because FMH is a community hospital and we very much depend on community donations. It’s good to know the hospital is being locally supported and that we can have more medical services available here rather than people having to go to other places for their treatment.
Currently I am working on trying to get corporate partners for the new cancer center [the $21-million James M. Stockman Cancer Institute on the hospital’s Rose Hill campus at 1562 Opossumtown Pike]. I’ve been on that mission for five years. It’s very rewarding.
FM: Tell us about your volunteer efforts at the YMCA.
Meaghan: As a member of the board, we’re the ones making the decisions for the YMCA, such as handling and developing the budget. We also plan special events and look at grants and funding. We monitor memberships and how the Y is doing numbers-wise. I’m impressed with the Y and in particular what happened after the major flooding [at the building on North Market Street from a storm in September 2015]. It was a huge undertaking [to get things back in order] in a quick amount of time. Kudos certainly goes to the staff and the community for standing behind the Y big time.
FM: What drew you to work with Hospice?
Meaghan: I have a personal contact. My grandfather was in Kline House [for Hospice patients] and I wanted to give back. The comfort that they give to a person at the end of life is amazing and they take anyone who needs their service.
FM: In addition to spending time with your husband, Will, a Frederick County teacher, how do you like to spend your down time?
Meaghan: [laughs] Well, I have a very rambunctious 20-month-old, Liam. But, my go-to hobby is golf. [She adds, however, that occasionally work is engaged on the links.] Sometimes I try and invite clients.
At just 21 years of age, Darline Gilson is proof there is no minimum age to be deemed a person worthy of watching. A junior at Mount St. Mary’s University, where she is majoring in both accounting and business, Darline has another responsibility in an already-full schedule: leading her own nonprofit organization. Vision 1804, which she and classmate Briana Thezard created two years ago, is providing educational support in Darline’s home of Arcahaie, Haiti.
FM: You moved to the United States from Haiti at age 12, not knowing the language or much else about your new home. What was that like?
Darline: It was really hard trying to adapt to the culture and the environment, and also to the language. But I am a fast learner, so I read a lot of books and watched cartoons on TV to learn English, and in two months I taught myself English.
FM: The idea for Vision 1804 was hatched during your freshman year of college. Where did you get the idea?
Darline: I wanted to start a nonprofit ever since I came to the states because back in Haiti school is not cheap. It’s a luxury for some. There is no free education. When I came here, I didn’t know they had free education in the states. It was a shock. I’m like, wow, you can go to school for free. I wanted kids back home to have the same opportunities I had.
FM: Why the name Vision 1804?
Darline: Haiti got its independence in 1804 and we believe that back then our founding fathers had a vision for the country: They wanted Haiti to be a well-off country. We want to carry that vision forward. We want to help raise the next generation of Haitian leaders, and it starts with education.
FM: You have been focusing on fundraising. Have you been able to put those dollars to work?
Darline: We’re working with a school in Arcahaie. We’ve actually just sent a shipment of school supplies. Ultimately, we want to pay the tuition, which ranges from $150 to $200 a year in U.S. dollars for each student. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but to someone back home who is unemployed, it is a lot of money.
FM: Where does the program go from here?
Darline: We see this going really big, and we don’t only want to help Haiti. We want to help kids around the world who cannot afford education. Education is my passion. I love education, I love to learn and I believe kids should be given the ability to learn just like I was given here in the states.
FM: What inspires you?
Darline: It’s my parents. They sacrificed a lot. Coming here to the states was not easy for them. … That is why I am trying my best to make something out of myself, because they have sacrificed so much and I want to make them proud.
“I had a pretty early calling to this field,” says Ken Oldham, 40, describing nearly 20 years working in the nonprofit industry, including stints at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Philharmonic. But now Ken is at a different kind of nonprofit as president and CEO of the United Way of Frederick County, an umbrella organization that provides funding and programs in the areas of education, health and financial stability.
FM: You went from the arts to the United Way?
Ken: For me it made sense because I really wanted to shake things up in my career. I wanted to try something different. I spent a career in the performing arts and I really wanted to more directly help folks and work with people and families, and this was a great fit for that.
FM: You started at the United Way in August of last year. How has it been so far?
Ken: It’s been great. It’s been busy. It’s been a big learning curve. I’ve had to learn a lot very quickly and I’m still learning a lot every day of my life. But it’s been a lot of fun. … I have a great staff. They have been patient with me and they have really helped me grow and learn what we do.
FM: Any surprises?
Ken: I’ve lived in Frederick County for 12 years. I’ve had rose-colored glasses all this time. I thought, for example, that the extent of homelessness was the people we see on the corner panhandling. I had no idea of the tremendous need in this community. It’s been an eye-opening experience … to see the need in the community. And empowering, because not only is there need, but I find myself in a position where I can make a substantial impact, and that’s very fulfilling.
FM: Is it frustrating knowing you cannot help everyone?
Ken: I don’t describe it as frustrating. I describe it as challenged. The challenge is helping everybody, or as many as we possibly can. The need is so great that realistically it’s going to be difficult to do that—and I think we all recognize that—but to the extent that we can make substantial change is the challenge.
FM: What is your passion?
Ken: Ultimately, I think the reason I jumped into the nonprofit field is I am motivated by working toward the end, and the end is helping people and promoting the community to do bigger and better things. I think anyone who has committed themselves to the nonprofit field has a similar mindset.
FM: How giving is this community?
Ken: I think this is a very giving community. I see a community that gives in large numbers. … I think the challenge for this community is to maintain that high number of individuals giving and increase that, but also increase the level of giving. I think that philanthropic mindset is here to do that.
Starting your own business is hard—more fail than succeed. That puts Josh Funk, 30, in rare company, having already built two successful businesses: Lax Factory, a Frederick County-based lacrosse club; and Rehab 2 Perform, a physical therapy and training practice—which last year opened a 5,000-square-foot facility near Frederick Municipal Airport—that works with clients to improve athletic performance, overall health and quality of life
FM: You grew up playing lacrosse in Montgomery County, then at Ohio State and then professionally. What was the idea behind creating Lax Factory in 2011?
Josh: Doing camps and clinics while in college and grad school, I kept hearing people say, “My kid has to go all the way down to Baltimore [to play club lacrosse],” or, “My kid has to go all the way down to D.C.” There was a void in the market.
FM: You started with just two teams and now have 300 boys and girls playing year-round. How do you attribute the growth?
Josh: I think a big part of it is finding the right people. We were very, very picky about people we brought on. They usually had to come out and spend some time with us in unpaid roles before they were brought on in paid roles.
FM: Rehab 2 Perform is in a new facility, complete with an indoor turf field and weightlifting equipment. Are athletes your main market?
Josh: It doesn’t look like a standard medical practice. People walk in and say, “I’m going to move quickly here. I’m going to do things that are going to be high-level here.” It’s automatically more motivating, more conducive to people who are looking to do things that are more physical. … [But Rehab 2 Perform is] for anybody who is active or is wanting to be more active.
FM: Talk about how physical rehabilitation also improves overall quality of life.
Josh: Without physicality, some people can become antisocial. … When I think Rehab 2 Perform, I think performing in multiple parts of life. Yes, we’re going to talk primarily about the physical part of things when we are with somebody, but there is also a mindset component, a mental component and a social component to what that physical component brings.
FM: What trends are you seeing in sports-related injuries, especially with young people?
Josh: Unfortunately, we have more and more drive toward specialization [in sports]. … When we are talking about making sure young people are avoiding burnout or avoiding repetitive-stress injuries, we’re talking about making sure they are exposed to a wide variety of different movements.
FM: How rewarding is it to help them recover from an injury?
Josh: When you think of a young person who has their first injury, there’s such a psychological component and confidence component that gets knocked off the path. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing them go through the rehabilitation process, go through the trials and tribulations that people go through when they are coming back from a setback, and go experience a level of success on a sporting field.