He likes the challenge

June 06, 1997

He likes the challenge

Agencies name Abraham volunteer of the year


Staff Writer

Austin Abraham enjoys helping people solve problems so much that he spends time both on and off the job doing just that.

Because of his service, the Maryland Association of Community Action Agencies named him Volunteer of the Year on April 30.

Abraham has been president of the Washington County Community Action Council's board of directors for almost two years.

The council helps prevent evictions, pays energy bills and provides food and shelter services, all without a financial cushion, Abraham said.


"It's very challenging. It's a constantly changing environment. Funding comes and goes. It's a very exciting work environment because the employees are all very dedicated to their work," said Abraham, 44, of Indian Lane outside Hagerstown.

Abraham said he worked the last two years to increase board member involvement.

Council Executive Director Cheryl Walkley said Abraham helped develop a team spirit that enabled board members and staff to better face recent challenges.

"Austin is a fair-handed individual...who brings about him a grace and style to his leadership abilities," Walkley said.

The council's latest challenge is looking for a new building because the Washington County Commissioners plan to sell the council's 101 Summit Ave. building in two years, he said.

Abraham's public service doesn't stop when he goes to work.

He worked as the City of Hagerstown's customer service supervisor for almost 13 years, and in March took a new post that also stresses customer service.

As the city's project coordinator, Abraham assists the city's various departments and works with county officials on several projects.

"(Being) given the opportunity to help people solve problems is something I like to do, want to do," Abraham said.

Eric Marburger, the city's personnel manager and a close friend of Abraham's, said Abraham is very good at boiling down complex issues and presenting them so they're easily understood.

"He has a unique ability of analyzing issues and he's very good at keeping the goal in mind, and for him the goal is usually customer service," Marburger said.

Abraham keeps the goal in mind by making daily to-do lists.

"I seem to operate best when I'm organized and I get ribbed a lot for that," Abraham said. "If the devil's in the details then that's where I am, too."

Even his hobby - tuning and repairing pianos - is detail oriented.

He tackled the JFK 50-Mile ultramarathon last year for the first time, finishing in 12 hours, 13 minutes and 5 seconds to place 520th out of 690 participants.

While Abraham considers elected office an excellent form of customer service, he thinks his best contribution can be made in a supporting role.

"I hope to continue to work here for a long time. I consider it both an honor and a challenge to work for City of Hagerstown government."

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