People to Watch
This year's "People to Watch" class could easily be renamed "People who Contribute"
This year’s “People to Watch” class could easily be renamed “People who Contribute,” because each of the six members of this year’s class—including a husband and wife—add to Frederick County in various ways, be it in business, charity, entertainment or even promoting our agricultural heritage. Through their accomplishments, they not only contribute to their community, they inspire others.
We have also, once again, selected a chair to photograph with (and without) our “People to Watch.” Thanks goes to The Loft at Al, which provided the beautiful antique chair found on the cover and in this feature. As you will see, it was a well-traveled chair!
Larry and Jo Ostby
In the world of charity, Larry and Jo Ostby are true foot soldiers. Instead of simply contributing money to help the poor, they do something truly remarkable: For 23 years, they have been operating a food bank out of their home near Urbana. Led by St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church and supported by 16 other churches, the Ostby’s food bank feeds more than 130 families each month.
FM: How did you get into this?
Jo: Years ago, we mentioned to our pastor at St. Ignatius that we thought that the food program was a little weak, and he said, ‘Go for it!’ We did and it’s just been phenomenal and its had a life of its own. You know, we’re a faith-based organization, so we say God is laying these things in front of us, and as long as he keeps doing that we will keep serving.
FM: But why do this out of your house?
Jo: Space is an issue, as it is in lots of places in the county, but having it in a home is perfect because it belongs to the community, not to one particular organization. It’s a community organization, and we’re assisted by so many others. The churches, the schools, clubs, organizations, businesses … they all help.
“Our community is so compassionate,” Jo Ostby says. “Any time that we need anything, we put the word out and we get it. It’s unbelievable.”
FM: The number of people you need to assist has grown over the years. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Jo: Well, it’s good that our community answers that call for help and that we can help that many people. But what we see is that times are not getting easier for the people we serve.
FM: What are the challenges of something like this? What’s the biggest problem in doing this?
Larry: I would say that when families sometimes ask for a refrigerator or stove. We have no space for those types of things. What happens then is Jo coordinates with the families in need and with the families who are donating [to have the large items picked up]. Many times, however, I load up my truck and we head out to the individual who needs the product.
FM: What’s the most rewarding part?
Larry: Just knowing that the people we’re fortunate enough to serve are incredibly gracious. They acknowledge over and over, many, many times, how fortunate they are to have something like this available to them. We always say it’s not us, it’s the community. They are the ones that support us and in turn they receive the benefits.
As assistant general manager for the Frederick Keys, Adam Pohl is the man behind the various promotions, mascots, marketing and pretty much any other nonbaseball attraction that tempts fans to see the Class A minor league team play at Harry Grove Stadium. He’s also one of the radio voices on the Keys’ broadcasts and can be heard on the radio doing local high school and college basketball games.
FM: How did you get started in this business?
Adam: After my junior year of college [at the University of North Carolina], I took a job as a broadcaster on a small AM channel in a town of less than 20,000 people in North Carolina. I then got an internship with the Tar Heel Sports Network, so I got to see some of the biggest and most famous broadcasters in the state of North Carolina and how they prepare for games and how they do things. From the mix of those two things, I learned both, number one, how broadcasters work and then secondly I started learning the inner workings of the business of a sports team.
“My job is reaching out into the community and trying to bring everybody together in a place where Frederick celebrates.”
FM: What do you enjoy about your job?
Adam: Well, I love everything. I love being around sports all the time. It is my passion. Not only that, but I love the people I work with. And that’s both in the staff and then all around the ballpark, the fans we have and everything. And then I love broadcasting. Long term, it’s what I see myself moving further into doing, if I can, trying to find a way to broadcast even more.
FM: What is the most challenging part of the job?
Adam: I’d say time is a major challenge. You know, during the season, you’re basically tailoring your life around the schedule of a minor league baseball team. But it is a long, long process, starting really in the fall before a season and putting together all these different things that will bring people to the ballpark.
FM: Weather is also a challenge, right?
Adam: If it’s supposed to rain all day, obviously not as many people will come as if it were 70 degrees and sunny. You have to understand, though, that’s just the way it’s gonna be. Then, when that Saturday comes and it’s perfect weather, it’s going to be dynamic. That’s one of the great things about our jobs. When you’re in the ballpark and it’s completely sold out and everyone’s having a great time, you can really stand back and appreciate the moment.
FM: What advice do you have for those considering a career like yours?
Adam: I would say that you have to, from the beginning, truly have a passion for the sport and the product because you’re going to have to put forth a lot of hours.
Eric Zimmerman is very familiar with the autism spectrum disorders, having himself been diagnosed with the high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome. But more than an advocate for those with autism, Zimmerman went a step further five years ago by creating a nonprofit called The Buddy Project that has provided more than 150 recycled computers and technology training to people with disabilities.
FM: Why did you start The Buddy Project?
Eric: When I was in high school, I discovered that a lot of people with special needs don’t have access to technology. Some parents would only let their children with disabilities use their computer for only an hour or so a day because they were afraid the computer would get messed up. So I wanted to take my love for working with people with special needs and my knowledge of information technology to help others.
“When I first started the organization, I thought it would be cool to have new computers, but that’s in a way going against what part of our cause is recycling and reusing this technology.”
FM: So you give these computers away?
Eric: No, we don’t just give them out. We actually retain ownership because we maintain them. We also have training people who go over the basics of the computer. This helps the individuals become more independent with technology. Our goal is to have program managers that have caseloads that go out and work with these individuals and then get them to a point where they can actually hold a job that uses technology.
FM: What makes you unique?
Eric: We’re the only organization like this in the country. There are organizations or parts of organizations that provide technology to the disabled and to the poor, but they don’t have a training program, they don’t have a recycling program, they don’t do what we do.
FM: You receive donated or low-cost computers and upgrade them for your use?
Eric: My dad actually helps me with the recycling. A lot of these computers and donations we get we can’t use, so we take them apart and use what we can in other machines. My dad is retired from State Farm Insurance, so he just took that over. And he knows what we need to keep and what we don’t.
FM: What is your biggest challenge? More donated computers?
Eric: We can have computers, but we need funds.
FM: How rewarding has it been to do this?
Eric: I feel good when I do this because I’m helping people with similar disabilities [like mine], but worse. They’re not as high-functioning, and it’s nice to be able to see because so many parents have doubts. I’ve had parents who wrongly put in applications for a computer, and I take a computer to them and they want to use the computer themselves and I’m like, “No, this computer goes directly to your son,” and they say, “Well, Joey’s not going to be able to do that,” And that insults me because they’re wrong.
Sometimes you don’t find the cause, the cause finds you. That’s what happened to Dewey Stewart three years ago when he happened upon a farmer’s market in Frederick. Stewart became a regular at the market and was sad to see it go away. That inspired Stewart to become an advocate for bringing back the weekend farmer’s market at the old Carmack-Jays parking lot on North Market Street.
FM: Why did you decide this was an important issue to get behind?
Dewey: Well, I believe in the importance of agriculture, growing food. I think everyone should have a garden, on some level. I mean, you may not make money at what you grow, but it’s so therapeutic; I really enjoy the whole experience of growing. It’s really important; I think it speaks to our heritage as human beings. Especially in Frederick County, it’s a very agricultural area. So I like the fact that not having to source food from thousands of miles away and take advantage of the farms that are right here locally.
“It’s nice to have an opportunity to buy greens from a farm where it was picked just hours earlier.”
FM: What is the biggest challenge in organizing the market?
Dewey: The challenge is getting vendors and having a diversity of products and a variety of products because vendors are very sensitive about another vendor selling the same product right next to them. But if you have 20 vendors, you’re going to have some repetition. If you have a couple produce people, of course they’re both going to sell tomatoes. So there’s going to be choice for the consumers. That’s an OK thing.
FM: When will you have the market this year?
Dewey: Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., starting May 19, and we’re going to go through Oct. 27. It’s 24 Sundays and, ideally, if we could get a permanent structure we could be there for fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Craftspeople who make different holiday things, as well as turkey farmers or something like that, could come in.
FM: So you have an even bigger vision?
Dewey: Ultimately, I would like to see a permanent community market, not unlike what they have in D.C. or in Baltimore. But I understand that what we have to do is start off small and get the vendors and local growers. I understand they have a business decision and last year the foot traffic for our market was very low because it was just starting out, but I think that there is a developing, growing interest. And more and more people are going to support them.
FM: How close are you to that?
Dewey: It’s pretty much a dream. But there’s an opportunity to build on something. With all the community interest, no one says this is a bad thing. No one does. We could take 20,000 to 30,000 square feet and take the vendors who are interested, who are selling, to come together and build something big.
Representing the third generation of her family to manage the venerable Colonial Jewelers in Downtown Frederick, Sarah Hurwitz might have one of the most recognizable voices in Frederick, with her ubiquitous radio ads for the store seemingly on the air constantly. But that’s only a small part of her story.
FM: How long have you wanted to be in the family business?
Sarah: Well, I always wanted to do this, since I was very little. My dad would bring home broken stuff and mishap–stuff and I would play with those. My dad had these charts of where gems were found around the world and [looking at those] was my very favorite thing to do.
“I always try to support local businesses everywhere I can, because that’s really how we’re going to be successful as a county, state and nation.”
FM: What do you like about the job?
Sarah: I just love everything about it. I love working with people, working with a great staff. Jewelry, I think, is the highest form of art in some ways because it is art made with the most precious materials. So there’s a lot of talent that goes with making jewelry. Also, we get to help people with really happy moments in their lives.
FM: As manager, do you still get a lot of one-on-one customer time?
Sarah: I do. I try to at least help the people and meet with as many customers as I can, even if I’m not the primary person helping them. But I do help customers.
FM: Is it still cool to help someone shop for an engagement ring?
Sarah: Absolutely. And it’s really cool because we have customers who my grandparents sold rings to their grandparents, and my dad sold rings to their parents. So that’s unbelievable.
FM: How comfortable are you being the voice of the business?
Sarah: It’s fine now. When I first started doing it, I hated hearing my voice. I like doing it now because I like being able to talk to people [on the radio] how I would talk to them on the street.
FM: You have been involved in the Frederick Giving Project. How important has that been to you?
Sarah: Well, I really like to be involved in the community. The Giving Project’s something I really like doing a lot because it’s not a charity that specifically gives to just one thing. So we raise money all year long and we do service projects with different grantees. You really get to learn about a lot of things.
FM: Why is community service important to you?
Sarah: To be a good business person, you have to know what’s going on around you. You’re not isolated, you’re not in a little shell. It’s just helpful to hear what issues are important to people and what other people are doing and what’s going on with them.