Laurel Historical Society's annual fundraising gala will recognize individuals, businesses and organizations for their influence in the Laurel community during this year's The Great Gala on Saturday, April 22 at the DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel.
Following the theme of the museum's current exhibit, "Laurel's WWI: From Here to Over There," gala committee chairwoman Jhanna Levin says the gala will introduce the Community Impact awards in honor of those who have preserved, maintained, highlighted and celebrated the history of Laurel.
Honorees include the American Legion Post 60 as the nonprofit contributor; Klingbeil Capital Management as the corporate contributor; and More Than Java Cafe as the small business community contributor. The late Marcus Colbert, a Laurel Public Works employee who died in January, was also chosen for an award. Bud Miller Associates in Silver Spring is providing the awards, which are sponsored by Laurel's Revere Bank.
Levin said Klingbeil, the development company behind C Street Flats and owner of Sip at C Street, has contributed to the city's arts community, while providing more residential housing at C Street – about 100 units – and business opportunities.
Although it wasn't the first coffee shop on Main Street, Levin said More Than Java, owned and operated by Tabitha and Ronnie Clark, also laid roots for successful businesses on the strip.
The Internet cafe opened at 358 Main St. in June 2015.
"Since then, we now have several more" coffee shops, Levin said. "Main Street ebbs and flows and when it was ebbing, [the Clarks] saw an opportunity, came and made an impact."
Located at the end of Main Street, American Legion Post 60 thrives on programs and events to support the local community, including scholarships, Legion Riders of Laurel and support of Laurel Advocacy and Refferal Services, the Special Olympics, and Toys for Tots.
Gala committee member Alicia Fields said her previous work with the city of Laurel's Office of Economic Development showed her the dedication of many business owners, who succeeded in making Laurel a great place for residents and visitors.
" I have seen up close and personal the efforts of local businesses and developers and the genuine passion of people to make contributions to our beloved city," Fields said. "The historical society has a natural platform for a welcome to newcomers and public recognition for contributors to our community."
A prime example was Marcus Colbert, who was killed on the job in January when an SUV hit the trash truck he was working on. The 30-year-old Laurel resident was known for his courteous and caring nature on and off the job, and was selected by committee members as an individual contributor for a Community Impact award.
"Because Marcus was a very recognizable and hard worker in our community, every one of our members has some story about him helping them bring their trashcan back up or waving at them," Levin said. "We thought we should be honoring people in the community who do lots of great stuff for Laurel."
Colbert began his work with the city in June 2003 as a summer auxiliary employee with the Department of Parks and Recreation. He was later hired as a laborer for the city's Department of Public Works in September 2005, working alongside his father, Ralph Brent, and cousin, Norman Hull.
As part of the award, a memorial paving brick with Colbert's name will be added to others on the sidewalk that leads up to the museum's door, said Lindsey Baker, executive director of the historical society. Although Baker didn't personally know him, she said she saw Colbert's impact on the community during the outpouring of support following his death.
"He was so nice to kids and older people on the route. When we talked about honoring an individual, he came to mind. There was no hesitation there."
While the gala committee selected four recipients for this year's Community Impact award, Fields said many businesses and individuals deserve recognition for their contributions.
"We recognize them all and again, look forward to presenting the awards for many years to come."