Howard County honored outstanding volunteers in a recent ceremony that recognized the generosity and achievements of three individuals and one nonprofit organization. The winners were selected from 11 nominations, composed of nine individuals (six adults and three youth) and two nonprofits.
The annual event also included the announcement of Howard County’s Volunteer of the Year and other special award recipients. Award winners will have an engraved brick installed in the “Pathway to Excellence” at the county’s Troy Park at Elkridge. The pathway will feature bricks etched with the winners’ names and award, and will be part of one of Troy Park’s future development phases.
This year’s award winners included the following:
Volunteer of the Year: Richard Ellestad
Following his retirement from the National Security Agency in 1999, Richard Ellestad began giving back to the community. He helped Howard County seniors learn how to effectively use computers through Computer Seniors of America, and has assisted seniors and low income residents with free tax preparation for more than 14 years with Howard County AARP TaxAide program.
During his tenure with the TaxAide program, more than 25,000 tax returns have been completed, saving seniors and low-income residents roughly $5 million in tax preparation fees. Thanks to his dedication, Howard County’s AARP TaxAide program is now one of the largest in Maryland.
Youth Volunteer of the Year: Martin Wang
A junior at Glenelg High School, Martin Wang’s dedication to service is evident in the roughly 300 hours of volunteer time he has logged since his sophomore year. He primarily donates his time to Making Change’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), an organization that provides tax-preparation services to low-income families free of charge.
Since joining the VITA team two years ago, Wang continuously goes above and beyond his normal duties of reaching out to clients, scheduling appointments and preparing taxes. When not volunteering, you can find him serving as Student Government Association president, helping run Glenelg’s Astronomy Club and playing varsity soccer.
Nonprofit Volunteer Organization of the Year: The Sunrise Rotary Club of Ellicott City
The mission of The Sunrise Rotary Club of Ellicott City is to improve the lives of children in need by partnering with local business, social service organizations and the government.
The group’s various projects and activities include the Howard County Library System’s BumbleBee and Dictionary projects, Kenya Connect, Clothes for Careers, DisasterAid USA, Rotary Boat Float and the Community Action Council of Howard County’s (CAC) Head Start Summer Enrichment Program. CAC’s Summer Enrichment Program has provided more than 1,270 Howard County children with extended classroom time and enrichment since its inception in 2003.
Lifetime Achievemet Award: Dave Dittman
For nearly 50 years, Dave Dittman has been involved in the community. Whether volunteering at his church, helping resettle refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia or serving on the board of directors for the Christian Services of Howard County, his true talent and work is showcased through his repair skills.
Since the ’80s, Dittman has been actively renovating and repairing homes for low income residents around the Baltimore Metropolitan area. As a “go-to” handyman, he is always willing to step in and get the job done, and done right, as is evidenced by his work during the last two years with Bridges to Housing Stability.