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OP Chamber awards honors past and present

Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kerrie Bunting awards nonprofit of the year honors to Worcester Youth & Family Counseling Services Executive Director Steve Taylor, who used the occasion to announce his imminent retirement while formally introducing longtime cohort Dr. Jennifer Leggour to fill the vacancy.

By Greg Ellison

Staff Writer

(Nov. 21, 2019) Service to the community was the theme of the Ocean Pines Area Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony last Thursday.

The annual affair was held at the Ocean Downs Casino and honored both departing and departed community leaders.

Receiving the chamber’s highest honor posthumously was Ocean Pines volunteer Anna Foultz.

Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kerrie Bunting said less than an hour after sending out the award’s press release in September she learned Foultz had died.

“Our chamber had to honor Anna Foultz and the Lifetime Achievement Award was the only way to do it,” she said. “Sadly, we are doing it posthumously, but I know she’s looking down on us.”

Scanning the packed banquet room, Bunting said the overwhelming percentage of the audience members’ lives were positively affected through associating with Foultz.

“She was involved in the very fabric that made up the Pines,” she said.

Among the honors recognizing Foultz’s work was a proclamation from the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Presenting the honor was Beverly Meadows, leader of Worcester County Girl Scout Troop 608, who worked closely with Foultz for nearly a quarter century.

“I never asked her to do anything for us,” she said. “I never had to because she was always one step ahead of me.”

Recognition of her charitable work also included a congressional recognition for lifetime service signed by Rep. Andy Harris (R-1),  a Maryland General Assembly citation signed by Del. Wayne Hartman (R-38C), and

Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-38) presented a citation from Gov. Larry Hogan recognizing the Lifetime Achievement Award from the OP Chamber.

Rounding out the governmental citations was one from the Worcester County Commissioners presented by Commissioner Chip Bertino.

Also during the ceremony, the chamber presented nonprofit of the year honors to Worcester Youth & Family Counseling Services, whose Executive Director Steve Taylor is retiring.

“I’ve served as executive director for six years now,” he said. “In my time there we’ve served 6,000 people.”

Taylor said he will step down from his role in December.

“The board that we operate under has done an interview process to find the next person and I’m proud to say the next executive director is Dr. Jennifer Leggour,” he said.

For her part, after spending the last 11 years with the organization, Leggour said she appreciates the opportunity.

“I have big shoes to fill but [am] excited and thrilled … to be part of such a wonderful organization,” she said.

In presenting the honor to Worcester Youth & Family, Marlene Ott highlighted statistical evidence of the group’s positive community impacts.

“This past year, they had 590 mental health cases … [and provided] family connection crisis support for 127 families … rent and utility assistance for 82 families and career assistance cases for 15 individuals,” she said.

Business of the Year honors went to the Matt Ortt Companies, based on the strong first-year financials the company posted after assuming food and beverage operations at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club and Beach Club.

Ocean Pines Association President Doug Parks said prior to the food operation changeover in April 2018 yacht club services had a poor reputation among residents.

Parks said negotiations with the Matt Ortt Companies resulted in several vital insights.

“One was that the brand was broken,” he said. “That struck me, because it wasn’t somebody coming in to do a smash and grab for one year and then run out, they were looking for a long-term commitment.”

After the Ortt Companies came on board last April, the turnaround was hard to miss, Parks said.

“The social center of Ocean Pines became the place to be,” he said. “Especially on Friday evenings … it’s pretty crowded.”

Citizen of the Year honors were presented to Jenny Cropper Rines, due in no small part to her leadership role with the Ocean Pines 50th Anniversary Committee.

“I think about the spirit of volunteerism in our community and it is really alive and strong,” she said.

Despite the pre-event publicity, Bunting said the Volunteer of the Year award honoree, Peggy Davis, was kept in the dark prior to that evening.

“We’ve managed to keep this a huge secret,” she said.

Bertino, who counts Davis among his close circle of friends, said the accolade was well deserved.

“I think the most surprised person here, obviously, was Peggy, but I think there were a number of us who weren’t all that surprised,” he said.