Retiree finds fulfillment in volunteering

County woman works with cancer center, scholarship foundation

Harford Health & Medicine

October 23, 2005|By CASSANDRA A. FORTIN | CASSANDRA A. FORTIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mozelle Brown knew she'd be climbing the walls when she retired after 33 years of teaching fifth grade, so she started looking for a diversion five years before retirement.

The Churchville resident hobnobbed with area volunteers, which in 1984 culminated in volunteer work for the Bel Air branch of the AMC Cancer Research Center. In 1985, after local high school football coach Al Cesky died, she spearheaded efforts to start a foundation in his honor.

Since then, Brown has served in various positions for the AMC at a local level, as well as being the current national president. She's the sole founder still on the Al Cesky Foundation board.

Her hard work and dedication to these endeavors landed her accolades, including a 2005 nomination for a Harford County's Most Beautiful People award. The AMC started in 1904, originally founded as the Jewish Consumptives Relief Society, which treated patients with tuberculosis.

After TB was brought under control around 1950, the society changed its name to the American Medical Center, and turned to research and treatment of cancer. The patients who stay at the center are not charged for their medical treatment or hospital stay.

Brown saw AMC as a worthy cause and decided she wanted to participate in the organization.

"When I realized that I could actually help do something to help raise money for cancer research, I was immediately onboard and told them I'd help," Brown said.

"This organization researches why people get cancer, how to control it and how to prevent it from getting worse after it's diagnosed."

Opportunity knocks

Her chance to help came in 1984 at a meeting where she was solicited to work on the AMC Decorator's Showhouse committee. The chairman asked her to be in charge of staffing the house.

"It turned out to be the biggest job of all," Brown said. "It consumed my entire summer. I had to find multiple people to serve as hosts in each room."

Brown was hooked.

Pam Carpenter - also an AMC volunteer - met Brown while co-chairing the design committee on another decorator's showhouse.

"Mozelle was just wonderful to work with," Carpenter said. "The designers all have such different personalities and when I was nearing the end of my rope, she would come into the room and I would immediately feel better. She has a gift for making people feel special."

In 1985, she became vice president in charge of fundraising. "We are now one of the top 2 percent of all the AMC chapters in the country for fundraising," Brown said.

That same year, high school football coach Al Cesky died. Her brother Don, a former Cesky student, called Brown and asked her to get some people together and see if she could start a foundation to honor the coach. "My husband died suddenly of a heart attack, and for a long time I was just numb," said Jane Cesky, the coach's widow.

"When [Brown] contacted me and told me that they were starting the foundation, it was overwhelming. Al would have been thrilled. Education was so important to him," she said.

Finding success

Cesky said the foundation is going strong and attributes its success in part to Brown.

"She's been the secretary of the foundation since it started," Cesky said. "She has worked on every fundraiser. She's a great person. She can talk anyone into anything. Her enthusiasm always keeps people going. It spreads to everyone around her."

When they were trying to start the foundation, Brown invited about 20 members of the community to a meeting to discuss the idea. No one declined to help.

Going stronger than ever, the 15-year-old foundation, now a corporation, awards $1,000 scholarships to two students - a boy and a girl - at each of the area high schools and the top two receive a $5,000 scholarship.

"We select the creme de la creme for the scholarship," Brown said. "They have to be talented athletically as well as academically."

Today, Brown is the only one who knows the foundation history. "Mozelle remains very active on the foundation," Cesky said. "Some people join a board and they just sit there like a bump on a log. Not Mozelle. She's always active. She's incredible."

Brown said the foundation is important to the youth in the community and remains active to ensure it continues in the way it was intended. "I try to make sure new people know the history of the foundation and understand what the corporation is all about," Brown said.

Jerry Hudgens, a longtime friend of Brown's, said her dedication makes her unique. "She's extremely dedicated to any cause she believes in," Hudgens said. "She doesn't desert one project to do another. AMC is her pet project, and she's a tireless worker for that organization."

Over the years, Brown's roles for AMC have also expanded, and in 2005 she was elected as national president of the volunteer organization. She heads the fundraising for all 20 chapters around the country. When asked what she thinks is her biggest contribution, she said quiet leadership. "I never ask anyone to do anything I don't do myself," Brown said.

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