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Judd shares past at Goodwill event

October 22, 2005|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN

Four years ago, things were really bad for Vanessa Russ.

Russ, 38, of Hagerstown, was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine. She also was pregnant with her son, Donald.

"I really didn't care that I was pregnant, as long as I got the drug," Russ said.

Russ explained how she turned her life around at the Horizon Goodwill Industries Golden Jubilee Gala on Friday at Fountain Head Country Club.

The event was in celebration of Goodwill's 50th anniversary.

Country singer Naomi Judd was the guest speaker. Judd, who once was a single mother who lived off welfare, said she was involved with Goodwill because she could relate to the people served by the organization.

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"I could barely keep a jar of peanut butter on the table or buy shoes for my kids' growing feet," Judd said during her speech.

Judd spent a good length of time talking about her family, particularly her famous daughters Wynonna, a country singer, and Ashley, an actress. She used humor to temper the sad moments.

She told the audience how she had Wynonna on the same day as her high school graduation. In describing what it was like at the hospital, Judd said, "I remember looking down at Wynonna thinking, 'Whoa, you're wearing a cap and gown. Can I get some morphine please?'"

Katie Hollendoner, manager of funds development, said Goodwill chose Judd because they thought her star power and her own life story would bring notoriety to the event.

"She is our demographic," Hollendoner said. "She's shared a lot of social ties (with our clients)."

Entertainment was provided by The International String Trio and singer Kellye Cash, former Miss America and the niece of the late Johnny Cash.

Russ was honored toward the end of the ceremony, after Judd's speech. Russ, who was named Achiever of the Year in 2003, said thanks to Goodwill, she has stopped doing drugs and now is able to provide a warm home for her family.

Joyce Norris was named Achiever of the Year for 2005.

CEO and Executive Director Craig MacLean said Horizon Goodwill has come a long way since it first started as an offshoot of the Baltimore branch in 1955.

When it began, the organization had fewer than 10 employees and was renting what used to be a shoe factory, MacLean said.

"It was really pathetic, a really small-scale operation," MacLean said.

MacLean said Horizon Goodwill now serves 17 counties in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. MacLean said the event was a way to say thank you.

"We serve people, people support us," he said. "We try to give them a positive return for their investment."

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