Debbie Cohill

Hancock woman traded her commute for coalition

Hancock woman traded her commute for coalition

May 18, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK -- Debbie Cohill was living in Hancock and commuting to work at a law firm in Washington, D.C., in the late 1990s.

"I enjoyed the excitement," Cohill said of her career as a legal assistant.

The native of Prince George's County, Md., married John Cohill of Hancock in 1991 and commuted to her job in the nation's capital for seven years.

After all, she loved her work and the money was good.

But an opening for executive director of the Interfaith Service Coalition in 1998 captured her interest, and her hiring put an end to the commute.

"I have been the executive director for 11 years," Debbie Cohill, 48, said. "It's a big responsibility but I have no regrets."


The coalition was formed in 1989 by a group of religious leaders in Hancock to help fulfill the needs of people who were seeking housing, jobs, skills, food, furniture and utility assistance.

"It was the brainchild of the Rev. F. Allan Weatherholt Jr. of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church," Cohill said.

The first time there was an opening for the agency's executive director was when the first director, Ken Boheim, was leaving.

"I wasn't able to take the job then because of the pay," Cohill said.

Jane McCauley took the position at that time and held it until Cohill was hired.

In a small town like Hancock, Cohill said, she quickly became identified with the agency, on and off the job.

"People approach me at the grocery store, when I go out to eat," she said.

Though her roots were in metropolitan Maryland, Cohill said her neighborhood was close-knit and very much like the small-town atmosphere of Hancock.

Cohill said she feels privileged to be leading the coalition and fortunate that Hancock has been so willing to support it.

"People here have good hearts," she said. "When times are tough, people always pull together."

The opening of the Good Samaritan House on High Street as an emergency shelter last fall was a high point in Cohill's life. She described the house as her heart.

"I'm actually going to be buried right out back," Cohill said, pointing to the Episcopal cemetery behind the house.

Q&A with Debbie Cohill

Resides in: Hancock

Occupation: Executive director, Interfaith Service Coalition

Q: What is your proudest moment?

A: Sept. 20, 2008 -- the day the Good Samaritan House was dedicated as an emergency shelter in the Hancock area.

Q: Whom do you most admire, and why?

A: Mother Teresa. "For her impact on the world and her incredible humility."

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received, and who gave it to you?

A: "My fifth-grade teacher, Imogene Woodley, told me on a regular basis that you can do anything you put your mind to, so follow your dreams. She was a wonderful teacher and I've never forgotten that advice. I attended her retirement party a few years ago and realized how many children/people she had inspired over the years."

Q: What is the next goal you would like to achieve?

A: To purchase a property in Hancock for a training site for mentally and emotionally challenged adults. "It's so far to go to Hagerstown and it would be a win-win situation for Hancock."

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