For Sally B. Johnson, the National Aquarium is a place where an octopus once learned to unscrew a jar for a blue crab dinner inside.
It's where the seven harbor seals boom like ship's horns and the two gray seals just grunt while Johnson serves as a guide at the seal tank. One of 600 aquarium volunteers, the Hamilton woman has informed thousands of visitors in her 12 years.
Today she and 31 other Marylanders and organizations, from literacy promoters to a jail visitor, receive the Governor's 1997 Top Volunteer Awards.
"There's so much to learn at the aquarium, something new every day," said Johnson, 53, who logged almost 1,000 hours there last year. "I'm amazed at this honor. We have so many very good volunteers here."
David Pittenger, aquarium executive director, said, "Sally typifies our fabulous volunteers, best in the country. She has a can-do attitude. She's willing to take on any new duties. As a day captain, she manages 20 to 30 people, does VIP tours, is a guide at different exhibits and is on call 24 hours a day when stranded animals are rescued."
The clever octopus opened the jar several years ago; it's one of several skills the adaptable animals can be taught.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend are scheduled to present the awards today at Anne Arundel Community College. Margaret O'Neill, the program's director since last summer, expanded the awards from 12 to 32 this year.
Other recipients are:
Baltimore: Joseph Field of Columbia, a volunteer for 70 years at the Maryland Academy of Sciences, now the Maryland Science Center; Tyrone Gaines, for 25 years a basketball coach and youth leader in Reservoir Hill; Vivian Imes, an activist against crime, drugs and litter in Harlem Park and Lafayette Square.
Friends Helping Friends, founded by Jennifer Winter to help families suffering unexpected accidents and illnesses; Carroll Jackson, for working with children at Oliver Recreation and Community Center, Gay Street; Rose Jones, for aiding children at Zion Outreach Center, Pennsylvania Avenue; Lynn Deering, Marge McDonnell, Boyne Norton, Dr. Frances Trimbel and Anne Woody, volunteers at Joseph Richey Hospice, Eutaw Street.
Judith I. Martinak, coordinator of a $200,000 fund-raising concert for Chimes Inc. for emotionally challenged children; Northwest Citizens Patrol, for assisting police and neighbors in preventing crime; George Remmers, for developing friendships with homebound AIDS patients through Moveable Feast's meal program.
St. Agnes Health Care Reach Out and Read Volunteers, for reading books to children of poor families; John Staehlin of Lutherville, who founded Volunteers for Medical Engineering, for creating medical devices for 2,000 disabled people; teen-agers helping children through the House of Mercy Afterschool Prevention Program.
Anne Arundel County: Beverly Payne of Glen Burnie, an arthritis patient, for service to the Arthritis Foundation; Erica Swenson of Baltimore, for helping Pets on Wheels at Hammonds Lane Nursing Home and Genesis Eldercare in Brooklyn Park.
Cecil County: Loretta Graham, for helping the Cecil County Public Library and Literacy Council and Perry Point Veteran Affairs Medical Center.
Washington County: The Volunteer Team Inc. for maintaining resources at Rocky Gap State Park, Dan's Mountain State Park and Green Ridge State Forest; Brian Keith Grim of Cumberland, for cleaning flood debris and doing other work with the Volunteer Team; William Spangler, 80, of Smithsburg, for spending 50 hours a week visiting prisoners at Washington County Detention Center.
Montgomery County: Friends Store Volunteers, Rockville, for operating a low-cost bookstore and promoting literacy; Jeffrey Levine, a senior at Sherwood High School, for spending 100 hours at Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department.
Metropolitan Washington Ear Volunteers, for reading newspapers, magazines and books over closed-circuit radio for the benefit of blind people; 3,500 volunteers who organize the annual fair with 16,000 entries at the Montgomery County Agriculture Center; Chris VanBreen of Silver Spring, a University of Maryland student who has tutored all but one Saturday for the past five years at Saturday School for Hispanic Students.
Prince George's County: Charles Steeg, 89, of Hyattsville, volunteer for 45 years with local church and civic groups, including coordinating performances of the Seasoned Players since 1975.
Worcester County: Dr. Richard Shoemaker for founding the Pocomoke Middle School Ecology Club.
Talbot County: The Wye Guys, Lee Blades and Bill Mayhew, for maintaining Wye Oak State Park, home of the state tree; and Miranda Regan Langrell, a teen volunteer leader who founded the Talbott County Division, Maryland Youth Service Action Committee.
Also, three corporations were honored: Baltimore RESCO Co. L.P. for work and gifts of computers and other equipment at Westport Elementary School and South Baltimore Learning Center; T. Rowe Price, whose employees helped Tree-mendous Maryland and the Senior Olympics at St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing Center; and 6,000 employees and retirees of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. for efforts in various projects and donations of $1.4 million to charity.
Pub Date: 4/16/97