Ginny Gaylor went to the STAR Community Inc. office near Hagerstown on Wednesday to discover she had been named a Hometown Hero.
The award was presented to the Halfway woman by the fraternal benefits society, Modern Woodmen of America, for her work as director of the STAR Equestrian Center and with Operation Christmas Child.
The presentation was made during a surprise luncheon attended by friends, family and some of those Gaylor helps at the equestrian center.
"She was chosen to represent Maryland this year," said Lynn Bibbee, chapter director of Modern Woodmen of America. "She was chosen for the endless hours she that puts in at STAR Equestrian above and beyond her job duties. She makes a difference in the community .... With her, it's a better place."
"The equestrian center puts together things that are very important to me: Helping people and using horses to do it," said Gaylor, who has been with STAR Community for 25 years and is entering her 14th year as director of the center.
"We see about 100 people a week, and every day is a blessing. I see it as a ministry," Gaylor said.
The benefits of riding for people with disabilities are many, Gaylor said. For people with cerebral palsy or other disabilities, it can serve as physical therapy, she said.
"The way the horse moves causes the person riding to mimic the normal walking gait" and exercising those muscles, Gaylor said.
When Gaylor joined STAR Community Inc., it was known as the Anita Lynn Home, she said. Sharon Landis was the executive director at the time, and "it was her vision to have an equestrian center," Gaylor said.
Landis, Gaylor and many others worked for a decade to make the center a reality, Gaylor said. Today, it sits on about 20 acres on Greencastle Pike and stables about 20 therapeutic riding horses, she said.
Modern Woodmen of America also cited Gaylor for her work locally with Operation Christmas Child. She has been a relay center coordinator for the program, run by Samaritan's Purse International Relief, which fills shoebox-sized Christmas gift packages to distribute to children around the world.