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People's Choice Awards honors volunteers who 'make it their lifestyle'

Judges chose Robert "Buck" Shipley, Patricia Beard, and Charles Koontz

November 10, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • People's Choice Awards winners, from left, Robert "Buck" Shipley, Patricia Beard, and Charles Koontz gather for a photo Thursday at Saint James School. The Community Foundation of Washington County, Md., Inc. sponsored the event.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

With his characteristic "big grin and a chuckle," Robert "Buck" Shipley started helping to build Habitat for Humanity houses in Washington County in 1995 and has worked on nearly every one since then.

Patricia Beard has freely given her time at Discovery Station at Hagerstown, Inc., whether it has involved sewing fabric for exhibits in the interactive museum on West Washington Street, doing custodial work or greeting visitors.

And Charles Koontz has volunteered at Deafnet Association, Inc. for nearly 25 years, helping deaf people with their day-to-day lives, such as making contact with doctors' offices and performing other chores.

Shipley, Beard and Koontz were honored Thursday night during the 12th annual People's Choice Awards, an event sponsored by the Community Foundation of Washington County, Md., Inc. to recognize people who give unselfishly of their time and talents, but who often go unrecognized.

There are many people in the community who do volunteer work, but the People's Choice Awards are for people who "make it their lifestyle," foundation Program Manager Kristy Smith said.

Smith said 310 people were expected to attend the dinner Thursday night at Saint James School south of Hagerstown to honor the three individuals. Tickets to the dinner were $100 each.

Each year, nominations come from throughout the county for the People's Choice Awards, and a panel of judges picked the winners, organizers said.

The Community Foundation establishes a $5,000 endowment in honor of each recipient to provide long-term financial support to the organizations of their choice.

Shipley, Beard and Koontz decided that their endowments would benefit the three organizations they have been affiliated with, Smith said.

Shipley, 72, recalled his start with Habitat for Humanity of Washington County before the start of Thursday's ceremonies.

The Huyetts Crossroads area resident said he learned about the group through John Wesley United Methodist Church on North Potomac Street and thought it would be interesting.

Shipley — who started the work after retiring from a 28-year job as a local mail carrier — said he learned many construction skills in the process.

"I learned just enough to be dangerous," said Shipley, who can often be seen in his Bobcat skid-loader grading Habitat for Humanity home sites.

Beard, 77, of Hagerstown, said she started volunteering at Discovery Station after her close childhood friend, B. Marie Byers, started working there.

"It's just a stimulating place to go," Beard said.

Beard, who taught school for 34 years, also volunteers at a food bank at St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Washington Street and has offered free tutoring in local schools.

Koontz, 88, of Hagerstown, was one of the first volunteers for Deafnet, which is a private, nonprofit agency that supports the deaf and hard of hearing in Western Maryland, West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, South Central Pennsylvania and Northern Western Virginia.

Koontz related the gratifying moments he has spent with deaf people and the unique skills they possess, such as being able to read his lips.

"I'm a people person," he said.

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