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Social Services retirees have helped thousands

August 12, 2004

Armed with her diploma from South Hagerstown High School and one year of business school, Karen Nicodemus tried a couple of jobs in the mid-1960s but didn't feel she'd found her true calling.

A friend said the Washington County Department of Social Services was looking for clerical workers so she applied in January 1967, she said. Nicodemus got the job and decided to stay - for 37 years - because she "liked the work and the people."

A couple of years after Nicodemus came on board, California native Jerilyn Annan made her way to the agency, which was then at 116 W. Baltimore St. She stayed for 32 years.

Annan and Nicodemus recently were feted upon their retirements at a party attended by more than 100 of their friends and co-workers. Together, they gave 69 years to the agency, which has been at 122 N. Potomac St. since 1990.

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"Jeri and Karen are wonderful people," said David Engle, executive director of the agency. "They have provided services to literally thousands of county residents over the years."

Nicodemus said the agency had approximately 35 employees in 1967.

In a typing pool at first, Nicodemus said she mostly worked on case histories. Her group moved to Cleveland Avenue for a while and then to Maryland Avenue as she became an administrative assistant and then supervisor of the clerical unit.

Nicodemus retired as Engle's executive assistant.

"These are great people here who deal with tremendous challenges," Nicodemus said. "As a team, they are very giving."

Annan's first contact with the agency came when she inquired about getting food stamps while she was looking for work.

"I was told my husband and I were over scale for food stamps, but soon learned there was a job available, so I applied," she said.

Within her first few days, Annan found herself learning how to operate a switchboard. Her instructor was Nicodemus.

Through the years, Annan became a case worker and case manager in the food stamp division at the agency. She progressed to assistant supervisor in 1985 and to supervisor in 1996 of one of four groups within the public assistance/medical division.

Co-workers for more than three decades, Nicodemus and Annan, both 57, became close friends.

The two are planning a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., later this summer.

"We enjoy the trip as much as getting there," Nicodemus said. "We both just love to laugh and have a good time."

Nicodemus is looking forward to having time to volunteer and to do other things she couldn't do when she was working.

"Now I can spend time at my granddaughter's school," she said.

Nicodemus is the mother of two daughters, Marisa, 29, and Allison, 24.

Annan loves yard work and has some plans in that direction. She has one daughter, Courtney, 30.

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