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Local woman dips into 'spirit of giving'

March 10, 2001

Local woman dips into 'spirit of giving'



Editor's note: This is the first in a weeklong series of stories profiling women who are making a contribution in the Tri-State area.

By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Prejudice and financial barriers didn't bar young Cornelia Ann Freeman from believing "the sky's the limit."

That's because a series of special women taught Cornelia - now married and known as Ann Hicks - that opportunities abound for people who pursue excellence and help others, she said.

The little girl from Noland Village in Hagerstown went on to become a star athlete and South Hagerstown High School's first black student council president and Homecoming Queen.

She graduated from Hagerstown Junior College, served as Action Line editor of The Morning Herald and eventually took a state job as an employment specialist for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

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She is pursuing her bachelor's degree in justice studies at Frostburg State University.

Hicks, of Hagerstown, hopes the lessons she gleaned from the female teachers, friends and relatives who shaped her life will help her help others through her daily dealings with Welfare to Work clients and her role on the Washington County Commission for Women, she said.

"I'd like to believe that some element of what they gave to me is now being transferred to the clients I see every day," said Hicks, 37.

"I'm hoping that through some ordinary situation in either my personal or professional life, I will have some kind of interaction that will bring about extraordinary results."

Hicks will dip into the "spirit of giving" instilled in her by her late grandmother, Maggie Freeman, to establish a mentoring program for young people, she said.

The Positive Influences on People, or PIP, network will foster meaningful relationships by pairing volunteer senior, or "seasoned," citizens with area youth in need of friendship and guidance.

"It's very simple," Hicks said. "Affect somebody's life in a positive way."

She will rely on the determination exemplified by her mother to overcome the "it will never work" attitude that often accompanies new ideas.

Ruth Llwellyn and Becky Sweeny taught Hicks the meaning of compassion, acceptance and altruism during her tenure as a Hagerstown Girls Club member. The lessons she learned from these "outstanding women" have helped her be more understanding of her welfare clients' situations and have shaped her desire to help troubled youth in the community through PIP and the Commission for Women, Hicks said.

"Those ladies just poured themselves into the girls. Those women were mothers. They treated us no differently than anyone else," Hicks said.

"They made me want to be involved in the community."

Former Bester Elementary teacher Louise Shank and E. Russell Hicks Middle School administrative assistant Joanne Jackson gave Hicks enduring lessons in kindness. Middle school guidance counselor Norma Minnick was a model of professionalism.

And South High biology teacher Pat Violet and basketball coach Rose Pellegrino reinforced the power of personal achievement, Hicks said.

"Knowledge is power. No one can take an education away from you," she said.

Carolyn Brooks, coordinator of the Hagerstown HotSpots anti-crime initiative and co-chairwoman of the Character Counts! Coalition, said she nominated Hicks to fill an open position on the Commission for Women because she "is committed to improving the quality of life in the community."

Hicks hopes to do so by following in the footsteps of the women who improved her life.

She's thought of a motto for PIP: "Love much. Give often. Live simply - or simply live."

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