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Local volunteer 'always thinking of others'

December 22, 2005|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Betty Sundstrom

Age: 67

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Where would you see Sundstrom? A recent nominee for Washington County's Most Wonderful Citizen award, Sundstrom has volunteered in the community for many years.

"Betty is that person who is always thinking of others. Many of her kind deeds are 'behind the scenes' and go unnoticed," Pete Hommel wrote in his nomination letter. "Despite her own needs, she is all about service and justice, reaching out to county citizens in need."

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Sundstrom most recently has been has been recognized for her work with the Washington County Department of Social Services, where she shops for HIV/AIDS clients; for her commitment to St. Ann Catholic Church; and for her efforts on behalf of the annual Stop Smoking program of the Washington County Health Department.

Sundstrom's volunteerism dates to when her three children - one son and two daughters - were younger. She helped at Smithsburg Elementary School and was a Cub Scout den mother.

Sundstrom was active with Al-Anon for about 10 years, beginning in 1983, and served as district representative for Frederick and Washington counties. After getting divorced in 1985, she became even more involved.

"It gave me something to do that people appreciated," Sundstrom said.

Sundstrom chose to give more time to her church, over the years serving as head money counter, Eucharistic minister, playing in the handbell choir and scheduling other volunteers to set up the altar and prepare for communion.

As chairperson of the Service and Justice Committee at church, Sundstrom provides help for families in need and directs them to social service agencies that can help. She now is helping two families who relocated here from Mississippi because of the hurricanes.

Helping coordinate annual parish blood drives for the American Red Cross and organizing monthly blood pressure screenings for parishioners also are Sundstrom's responsibility. In 2002, her efforts were recognized with the Archdiocesan Medal of Honor, an award for long-standing commitment to the church and its mission of service to others.

While Sundstrom thinks there are people more deserving of the award than herself, it meant a lot to her.

"That's really an honor - at least it was to me," Sundstrom said.

Sundstrom moved to Smithsburg in 1970 after she got married. She now lives on Cooper Lane, off Little Antietam Road, where she enjoys the country setting.

Despite knee replacement surgery in the 1990s and a heart catheterization in January, Sundstrom doesn't seem to be slowing down.

"I'm a bionic woman," she said with a laugh.

Hobbies: Sundstrom likes going to the beach. Even though she can't walk on the sand because of her knee replacements, she said she loves being by the ocean.

Sundstrom used to play golf, but the uneven terrain is tough on her knees.

Most of all, Sundstrom enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren, especially one-on-one time. Another grandchild is due in April.

What does Sundstrom like best about Washington County? "When I first moved up here, people were really friendly," Sundstrom said. Besides feeling welcome, she loves the scenery, although development is changing that.

"It was my ideal county - green, the rolling hills. It's home now," Sundstrom said.

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