Women of the Year - it's all in the family

Volunteers: A Baltimore County mother and daughter have each been recognized for their commitment to the disabled community.

April 22, 2003|By Alyson Klein | Alyson Klein,SUN STAFF

This year's Baltimore County Woman of the Year and Young Woman of the Year have a lot in common: They are both committed to people with disabilities, they both donate hours of volunteer time -- and they both have the same last name.

For the first time in their 21-year history, the awards have been given to a mother and daughter: Donna Reihl, 51, director of the Community College of Baltimore County's satellite branch in Owings Mills, and Sara Reihl, a senior at Parkville High School.

The awards recognize those who have made significant contributions to women and families. They are presented by the Baltimore County Commission for Women.

"They are both exceptional, successful women, and they have given so much back to the community and they could both serve as role models for all of us on ways that women can make a difference," said Jackie Wilson, liaison to the commission, who helped to choose the recipients.

That the two are mother and daughter "was unusual because we hadn't seen two top candidates who were a mother and daughter before. We were thinking about establishing a separate category for them but as we looked back through the pile we realized there was no reason to do that," Wilson said.

Before coming to work for CCBC, Donna Reihl, who holds a doctorate in business, worked for a number of nonprofit and educational organizations. She was the recreation coordinator at the Maryland School for the Blind and was director of the Richard E. Hoover Rehabilitation Service for Low Vision and Blindness.

She also serves on several boards, including the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce (of which she was president), Therapeutic Alternatives of Maryland, Creative Options Inc. and Girl Scouts of Central Maryland.

"Like the rest of us, Donna has a lot of commitments at home and at work, but she shows that you can always make time to volunteer and contribute to the community. She always has time to help someone else," said Carolyn Ritenour, who works as the registrar at the Owings Mills campus.

"I was stunned to receive this award. I was absolutely speechless, it was such an honor. If you do the things you believe in doing anyway, you never think you're going to get an award for it," Donna Reihl said. "I think I was even more excited about Sara winning. ... It's just very special to see your daughter win something."

Last year, Sara developed a community outreach project to collect materials for INNterim House, a women's shelter in Baltimore County. In 1999, she wrote a puppet show called "Alike and Different" to educate young children about disabilities. She and a friend secured a grant to produce the show at the North Harford and Gardenville recreation programs.

"I've been around kids with disabilities my whole life because of my mom's work. It angered me to see other kids my age not treating them well or just being uncomfortable around them. I wanted to show that they were not really so different from everyone else," Sara said.

In addition to her volunteer work, Sara is an honors student at Parkville, as well as the varsity field hockey goalie, vice president of the Dance Guild, and a member of the Spanish National Honor Society and the National Dance Honor Society. She received the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting.

Neighbor Kathleen Rettig, 32, nominated Sara for Young Woman of the Year.

"It amazes me the number of things she's involved in. She's one of the most responsible people I know and she's only 17," Rettig said.

Sara said her commitment to service is due in large part to watching her mother. "My mom has so much energy. She was a great model for me; that's the best way to learn," she said.

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