By Nancy Jones Bonbrest, Special to The Baltimore Sun
5:26 PM EST, January 21, 2012
Commitment seems to come naturally to Anne Arundel County resident R. Kent Schwab.
As a Boy Scout he completed his Eagle Scout requirements before he was 15. He joined his high school newspaper and eventually became editor. And when he joined a fraternity in college, he ended up serving as its president.
So it's not surprising that after listening to a presentation eight years ago about a new fundraising campaign for the Baltimore Washington Medical Center, Schwab didn't just offer his help but jumped in with both feet.
"My friends say I can't say no," said Schwab, who oversees four Allstate insurance agencies in the state.
But he says that tendency is a result of the way he was raised.
"My parents, especially my mother, encouraged me to participate in extracurricular activities," he said. "And I've always done that."
The presentation he attended was for the Anne Arundel County hospital's new Tate Cancer Center. After hearing plans for the cancer center and healing garden, he and his wife, Nicki, decided to dedicate their time and resources to helping the hospital foundation reach its goal.
"It was a very easy mission statement to grab hold of," said Schwab. "It was very powerful. Cancer is something that is very prevalent in our state."
Schwab served for six years as a board member on the Baltimore Washington Medical Center Foundation, the fundraising arm of the hospital.
He now serves on the medical center's board of directors, including its executive committee. He also co-chaired the hospital's largest capital campaign, which paved the way for a $120 million expansion of the medical center, including an expanded emergency department, a 111-bed, eight-story patient care building and a women's health center.
"When you drive by there now and see the new tower, it's just spectacular," said Schwab, who estimates he spends about five to eight hours a week volunteering at the hospital. "This started as a tiny hospital 50 years ago, serving a very small community. It's grown to be a regional medical center and part of the University of Maryland Medical System."
Without people like Schwab, the hospital would have a much harder time when it comes to raising money and community interest, said Beth Peters, vice president of development for the hospital.
Peters said that no matter what was needed during the capital campaign, Schwab always made himself available.
"He was absolutely critical," she said. "A contribution from someone like Kent is just priceless."
Karen E. Olscamp, president and CEO of the Baltimore Washington Medical Center, agrees.
"It is dedicated leaders like Kent who really are vital to our success and ability to serve our community," said Olscamp. "He really brings so much to the organization. His links to the community, as well as his energy and contagious enthusiasm, have been critically important to our evolution."
Schwab said being a part of the community he lives and works in is important. Surrounding himself with positive people keeps him motivated.
"Even when I started my career with Allstate in 1977, I gravitated toward those agents who were successful and positive," said Schwab. "On the foundation board, there is this wonderful collection of men and women from all different occupations, and they all shared this one thing: They were all very positive and upbeat. I really enjoy that."
Schwab leverages his personal and business relationships, Allstate's Agency Hands in the Community grants, and his own personal funding to support the hospital.
"I just think it's a wonderful use of my time right now at [this] stage in my life," he said about volunteering. "This affects a lot of people."
His dedication and community service earned national recognition from Allstate. This year he was nominated for the company's highest community involvement award, the Ray Lynch Community Service Award.
Schwab received $2,000 to give to his charity of choice: the Baltimore Washington Medical Center Foundation.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun