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Improving the community

September 30, 1999

They're the people who sit in evening meetings, long after most of their co-workers have gone home, to plan community improvements that range from new brick walkways downtown to a new campus for the University of Maryland.

They're not paid for their time; in most cases their service costs them money they might otherwise make if they spent it on business. It certainly costs them time away from home and family, time they'll never get back again.

We're talking about Washington County businesspeople like the ones honored this week by the Hagerstown/Washington County Chamber of Commerce. What they do is a mystery to the average citizen, but many things that affect the quality of life here - from the city's proposed Arts & Entertainment District to the Community Free Clinic - happen because they pitch in to plan and raise money for them.

Take Michael Gardner of Wright-Gardner Insurance. This Business Volunteer of the Year has spent the last 30 years doing everything from fighting fires to chairing the board of Brook Lane Psychiatric Center. And then there's Beverly Kornides, the chamber's Small Business Person of the Year. In addition to her work as president of Potomac Rehabilitation Services, she recently took on the duty of chairing the board of the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex.

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James D. Latimer, vice president of state affairs for Allegheny Power, was named Chamber Business Person of the Year, in part because of his effort to bring the new UM campus here.

Finally, attorney Carl Disque was given the chamber's Distinguished Community Service Award, as the originator of the Western Maryland Blues Fest.

This last event is like many projects that these and other businesspeople devote their time to. Having an idea is just the beginning. To turn such an idea into something real requires hundreds of hours of meetings, making sure that everyone who should be consulted signs off on the project and that every detail, from portable toilets to the musicians' contracts, is handled properly.

Too often we take for granted what such folks do. Too seldom we say what the chamber said this week: Thanks for giving of yourself to make our community better.

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