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She wears many hats

May 15, 2007|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...

Nancy "Sharon" Leatherman



Age: 63.

Occupation: Executive Coordinator for United Methodist Appalachian Ministry Network with an office at Grace United Methodist Church in Hagers-town.

Hometown: Circleville, W.Va.

Where would you see Leatherman? Sharon Leatherman wears many hats in the community. Her paid job as executive coordinator for United Methodist Appalachian Ministry Network - a regional job that covers 13 states - means she's responsible for advocacy of social issues such as poverty, women and children, coal mining and logging.

Leatherman, who was hired about 13 years ago, said her job is to link people's needs with available resources in churches. That may be basic human needs, skill building or providing after-school programs, as well as economic development.

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After moving here almost 39 years ago with her family - first to Hagerstown, then settling in Williamsport - Leatherman said she was a stay-at-home mom until her two daughters were in middle school. The family moved here for Eston "Tom" Leatherman's new job as a teacher at Williamsport High School, where he taught for 37 years.

Sharon Leatherman returned to work in private industry for a couple months, before taking a job with the adult education program in Berkeley County, W.Va. Then, she was hired by then-Sen. Victor Cushwa, D-Washington, who knew her through her work with the League of Women Voters, to work in his Senate office.

For the 11 years she held that job, Leatherman also went back to school, graduating from Hagers-town Community College in general studies. From there, she went to Hood College, where she graduated in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in law and society.

"When I worked for Sen. Cushwa's office, he always said I was a frustrated social worker. I guess it's just that caring for people enables them to make changes in their lives and empowers them," Leatherman said.

Her job and volunteer work have a common thread - women and children.

"I guess I'm a womanist. Why shouldn't I be? I have two daughters and four granddaughters," Leatherman said.

Leatherman is the second longest serving board member for CASA, Inc. (Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused).

She got involved with CASA because of her experience with several friends who were in abusive relationships. One friend would stay in Leatherman's basement until it was safe for her to return home, but eventually was hospitalized for injuries related to the abuse.

Leatherman remembers when the group began in Washington County 30 years ago, with a desk, $72 in the bank and a CETA volunteer. Now she said it has a staff of more than 20 employees with a budget of more than $1 million.

Even more important is the growth of services available to the community, such as crisis intervention, counseling, case management at the permanent shelter, rape crisis program and a Displaced Homemakers program, which provides training to help women 30 years of age and older become employed.

The Hagerstown shelter, which is at an undisclosed location for safety reasons, has 48 beds for women and children and is usually full. There are also five transitional apartments.

Over the years, Leatherman has been an active leader in her church, Williamsport United Methodist Church. She has also taken on leadership for all levels of Church Women United, an ecumenical group, as well as the United Methodist Church, including serving as a delegate four times to the general conference, where policies are made.

Leatherman's other interests lie in the political arena. She has been involved with the League of Women Voters since moving here in 1968 and was a founding member of Women at the Table, WATT.

A local political action committee, WATT was formed to encourage women to run for office in Washington County. Leatherman also chaired the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women for about 14 years .

There are several CASA fundraising events coming up. The June 11 golf tournament is in need of sponsors and golfers and the Run Jane Run women's softball tournament is Sept. 8 and 9.

For more information about CASA, call 301-730-4990. CASA's 24-hour hotline is 301-739-8975.

Hobbies: "When I have time, I like to read," Leatherman said. She does a lot of reading for her job, but also enjoys reading detective mysteries and biographies.

Having grown up on a farm, Leatherman likes to grow vegetables and flowers, but said allergies impact how much time she can spend in the garden.

What does Leatherman like best about Washington County? "Location. I just think it's a beautiful, beautiful area. It still has rural character, but you can be in D.C. or Baltimore in little over an hour and a half. Pittsburgh's not far away," she said.

Leatherman likes that there are many cultural things to do within a short driving distance, but is saddened to see the development that is happening.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail janeth@herald-mail.com

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