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Wonderful citizens sought

August 02, 1998|By SHEILA HOTCHKIN

When Dr. Martin Gallagher founded Hagerstown's Community Free Clinic in 1990, his goals did not include being recognized as Washington County's Most Wonderful Citizen of 1993

But it did not hurt, either.

"You don't realize people are even thinking about you," said Gallagher, who was nominated by a member of a civic organization.

Local coordinators of the Maryland You Are Beautiful program are seeking nominations for Washington County's Most Wonderful Citizens for the 12th consecutive year.

All nominations must be returned to the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau by 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14.

"It's a public-spirited program that is really made for John Doe Citizen," said Paulette Sprinkle, the local Maryland You Are Beautiful coordinator. "Anyone can make a nomination and you can be nominated for any good thing you do."

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Both individuals and groups can be nominated. All the nominees will be recognized at a local ceremony with a certificate and a gift, Sprinkle said.

But only one is chosen each year to represent the county at a statewide reception, generally held at St. John's College in Annapolis.

"You can't very well take thousands of people and put them in one place," said Floraine Applefeld, the program's director. But a number of free tickets are available for those who would like to attend, she said.

Last year, Hagerstown resident Larry Craig was selected for the honor. His wife was given the task of getting him to the local ceremony without letting him know he'd even been nominated.

"I sort of suspected I had been nominated when she asked, but not for the number one position," said Craig, who co-founded both Crime Solvers and Children's Safety Village.

Said Sprinkle: "He was just in a state of shock."

Applefeld helped start a similar program in Baltimore 24 years ago when former Gov. William Donald Schaefer was mayor, "because we were a depressed industrial city and people weren't feeling very good about themselves."

Her job was to start a feel-good program and turn that attitude around, she said.

"The way to do it, I found out, was to have a lot of people recognized for a lot of different things," Applefeld said.

At Schaefer's request, she launched the program on a statewide level more than a decade ago.

When Gov. Parris N. Glendening was elected governor, he asked Applefeld to continue running the program, much to the relief of many who knew of it.

"I think it's a very nice program," Gallagher said. "In fact, I was worried it wouldn't survive a change of administration."

More than surviving, the program has thrived, receiving thousands of nominations each year and even becoming the model for other states, Applefeld said.

"It's very uplifting because we have so many volunteers and people who do acts of kindness who never get any recognition," Sprinkle said. "They just do it because they want to."

Gallagher agreed. "You hear so much about tragedy," he said. "It's nice to hear something good for a change."

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