Chesapeake Charities

Brittany Forker, center, stands in full COVID-19 response gear with fellow firefighters Kevin Kady, left, and Vinny Mascaro, right.

STEVENSVILLE — Chesapeake Charities’ fifth annual Celebration of Charity is set for Nov. 5 at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville and will recognize heroic actions taken by local citizens on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual luncheon recognizes people and organizations that exemplify the qualities of leadership, community service and altruism. The celebration includes three categories of award recipients: Volunteer of the Year, Nonprofit of the Year and Philanthropist of the Year. Due to the many stories of heroism, there may be several honorees selected in each category. Nomination forms are available online at ChesapeakeCharities.org or by calling the office at 410-643-4020. Nominations are due by June 15.

“This year we will honor those who made personal sacrifices to benefit others during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Linda Kohler, Chesapeake Charities executive director. “We want to recognize people like nurses, who left their children and families behind to care for others; fire fighters and EMTs, who entered the homes of those stricken and risked personal exposure; the food processors, truck drivers, and grocery store clerks, who worked tirelessly to ensure we all had food during the pandemic.”

The inspiration for this year’s theme came from Brittany Forker, who lives in Wye Mills and works as a firefighter in Prince George’s County.

During the spike in cases that ravaged communities in Prince George’s County, Forker and her fellow firefighters saw as many as nine COVID-19 patients per day. Before each call, she and the other responders had to suit up in full gear, with masks and face shields. On the calls, the responders encountered terribly sick people who needed immediate transportation to a hospital.

After each call, the firefighters had to dispose of personal protective equipment, disrobe, take a shower and wash their hair. This routine happened again and again with each new call. Some days, Forker suited up, transported, disrobed, showered and washed her hair dozens of times.

When Forker, the mother of a 3-month-old boy, returned home each night, she stripped down in the mud room, showered and washed her hair before going inside to see her husband and baby.

The hand washing and repeated use of disinfectant spray left her hands cracked and bleeding. And a workplace that had been fun and full of laughter and camaraderie became a somber, stressful environment.

“This is the level of sacrifice those on the front lines are making,” Kohler said. “It’s a really difficult situation, and we are proud to recognize and honor our local community heroes during this year’s celebration in November.”

Chesapeake Charities is asking the community-at-large to submit nominations of people like Forker. Philanthropist of the Year will recognize an individual who has demonstrated outstanding generosity and community leadership. Volunteer of the Year will honor someone who has gone above and beyond in fulfilling their service role. Nonprofit of the Year will be presented to an organization that consistently has provided vital support to communities and families. The Governor Larry Hogan Scholarship for cancer research also will be presented at the event.

Nominees must be from one of the nine counties served by Chesapeake Charities: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s and Talbot.

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