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London native says U.S. citizenship gave her sense of belonging

January 07, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer

Margaret Rhoads has lived in America for 33 years, but she's only recently felt at home.

"I think there's a sense of belonging I didn't have before," said Rhoads, who was sworn in as an American citizen in February 1996, and got to vote for the first time in last year's general election.

"I think I was really the only excited person at the polling place," she said.

Born and raised in London, England, Rhoads came to this country when she was 19 as an au pair for a Falling Waters, W.Va., family. America was one of many places that as a teenager she wanted to visit. Rhoads said she would have joined the Merchant Marine had they accepted women.

"I tried out a number of schemes," said Rhoads, who dreamed of hitchhiking across Europe and living in Scotland or Australia.

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"I didn't want just a mundane life and an ordinary job," she said.

She got her wish. Now a mother of two, a stepmother of two, a grandmother, and a career woman, Rhoads said she is pleased with the direction her life has taken. Conscious of the environment and a volunteer in many organizations, Rhoads is trying to give back for a life that has provided so much.

"I've been very blessed in my life," Rhoads said.

Six years ago, Rhoads became a vegetarian for health reasons and as a personal sacrifice to save the environment. She's given up red meat and poultry and plans to stop eating dairy products and seafood.

"It's a decision on my part...I can't participate in something I know is bad for the planet, for the environment, and I know it isn't healthy for me," said Rhoads.

Rhoads has devoted most of her life to helping others. For 14 years, she's worked at Manpower Temporary Services Inc. finding jobs for the unemployed. As the Hagerstown branch manager, Rhoads helps place between 500 and 750 Washington County residents a year in jobs ranging from clerical and technical fields to industrial and manufacturing positions.

Rhoads volunteered at Washington County Hospital and once ran a day care out of her home. She is active in the Maryland Correctional Institution's Alternatives to Violence program, which helps inmates develop communication and problem-solving skills. She also sits on the board of directors of Religious Efforts to Assist and Care for the Homeless, known as REACH, the Chamber of Commerce and her homeowner's association. She also volunteers at The Maryland Theatre.

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