Woman's passion for service is honored

Eldersburg volunteer wins Carroll's `Most Beautiful People' award out of 83 nominees


Virginia Harrison is a believer - especially in human relations and children.

She has been chairwoman of the volunteer Carroll County Human Relations Commission since 1992, and volunteers with Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, the Department of Social Services, United Way, the Local Management Board and the public schools' multicultural committee.

"I only do things I truly believe in," she said. "When you truly believe in it, you find time to do it."

Those passionate beliefs earned her Carroll County's 2005 Most Beautiful People volunteer award Wednesday out of 82 other nominees. The number of nominees set a record for the 19-year-old county program.

"She gives unconditionally of herself," said Jolene Sullivan, director of the Carroll County Department of Citizen Services. "When she gets involved, she gives every part of herself. She is absolutely a wonderful individual."

Harrison has her own business, Dressing by Virginia, making mostly wedding gowns in her Eldersburg home. In addition to her volunteer service, she is also called upon for advice from organizations she has worked with, including Carroll County 4-H, the Extension Service and the Community Service Council.

"Anything relating to human relations and children, I tried to get involved in," she said.

Like most of the county's volunteers, Harrison saw a need and got involved. At least seven nominees were volunteers with Project Linus, a program that provides blankets for children who are hospitalized, abused or traumatized.

Bea Alexander, 87, had never volunteered until almost three years ago, when a friend got her involved in making blankets for the Linus Project. The Hampstead resident has since created 646 blankets that have made their way around the Baltimore area. She sent some to Atlanta to a relative, who is a doctor, to be distributed.

"I have a stack of cards from mothers and hospital people and some children who draw pictures and try to write, telling me that the blankets are really nice and they really appreciate them," she said.

Five years ago, Richard Doxzen of Sykesville created the Little Sykes Railway. He said he "saw a need for the children in the community."

With the town already promoting its train heritage, Doxzen got support from town officials for his idea - a miniature train that children could ride, for free, built on an empty, flat piece of ground on Sandosky Road.

Doxzen later added to the attraction by getting local clubs, schools and Scouts to build a miniature train station and shed tunnel.

"It's been a real community effort," Doxzen said. "It's not a carnival ride. It's a real railroad experience."

He estimated that 5,000 children have ridden the train, which is open Saturdays, May 1 to Nov. 1.

All the nominees - who ranged from a church organist to senior center and school volunteers to tourist site helpers - were treated to a dessert reception at the Best Western Catering and Conference Center in Westminster.

During the ceremony, each volunteer received a bag of items donated by local businesses.

The volunteers were also invited to the state reception and recognition by Floraine Applefeld, director of Maryland's Most Beautiful People program, who announced that she would retire after the Nov. 8 event in Annapolis.


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