Morrell will direct village's mission

January 05, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

As Rochelle Morrell prepares to lead Children's Village of Washington County into its 14th year, she has a clear vision of the impact this unique agency has and will continue to have on the communities it serves.

"Our children are our ambassadors," Morrell said.

She said she needs only to look at the faces of the youngsters pictured on the wall outside her office to know how important the mission is.

Take Casey Rogers-Metz for instance. While a fourth-grader at Marshall Street school, the youngster attended the Children's Village center on Mount Aetna Road. There, she learned that there should be a smoke detector on every level of a home so occupants would be warned in case of fire.


Rogers-Metz took that knowledge home to her parents and as a result, smoke detectors were installed throughout her apartment building, Morrell said.

Now executive director at Children's Village, Morrell, 52, had been director of development since 2000 and will continue to fulfill those duties in her new role. Brenda Donaldson, on staff since 1995, is the new program director.

Begun in 1991, Children's Village is a not-for-profit safety education organization that has provided close to 200,000 elementary school children of Washington County with the safety skills necessary to make informed decisions.

Classes also are provided for children taught in private and church schools, as well as those taught at home. Children from outside the county can attend the classes for a fee, Morrell said.

Much of Morrell's duties, before and now, revolve around raising funds.

"Many people are under the impression that we are part of the Washington County Public Schools and that's not the case," she said.

What the board does contribute is bus transportation and curriculum support, both of which are vital to Children's Village.

"Now that the new classroom building is open out back, we can double the number of classes we can hold at a time," Morrell said. "That cuts the busing expense in half for the board and that's a big plus."

Other money comes in via grants, private donations, foundations, contributions from Washington County government and the gaming commission, which Morrell said has been very generous.

There also are fund-raisers such as a celebrity waiter event, Kids Alive safety fair and a golf tournament that bring in about 20 percent of the annual budget, Morrell said.

Several grants are tied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"We're very proud that now every class at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md., comes here to tour so they can take the idea of Children's Village back to their areas," Morrell said.

A native of upstate New York, Morrell and her husband, Michael, lived in New Jersey for 20 years while raising their two children, Ashlea, 21, and Brett, 18. The family moved to Hagerstown in 1996 when Michael Morrell's career brought him to Allegheny Energy's corporate offices.

Rochelle Morrell stayed at home while the children were young.

Armed with a degree in business administration from Caldwell College in New Jersey, she re-entered the work force in 1994.

From 1998-2000, Morrell was a marketing assistant at The Herald-Mail. There, she learned about her new community and met a lot of people. When the development director's job at Children's Village position became available, she pursued it.

The idea of Children's Village sparked much excitement in the community when it was on the drawing board in the late 1980s. Through the hard work and dedication of many in the public safety arena, the concept became a reality and has grown steadily over the years.

But it hasn't been easy.

"Nonprofits such as Children's Village sometimes have a problem reigniting the fires once they are up and running," Morrell said.

Her job is to keep people aware of the continuing mission and see that funding is there to support it.

For more information on Children's Village, call 301-733-4443.

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