The uniqueness of Harford County lies within the people who strive to make it great. So many residents reach out daily to improve the lives of others. We have chosen six extraordinary individuals who have chosen causes that support the success of the county and, in many ways, encourage others to give back.

Stathis Kotanidis, owner of Pat’s Pizzeria in Edgewood, uses his professional resources to give back through volunteerism and donations which promote his personal pride in the county. Chip and Bruce Riley honor their father’s memory with a scholarship fund that benefits local youths. Jennifer Vido, published author and arthritis advocate, has a personal approach that brings awareness to a debilitating disease. Marlene Lieb co-founded the Women’s Giving Circle of Harford County and is leaving a her mark through a fund that was created by the organization. And Pastor Carol Taylor empowers others through her ministry to take charge of their lives.


Jennifer Vido
Spokeswoman for the Arthritis Foundation

By L’Oreal Thompson


When lifelong arthritis sufferer, Jennifer Vido wakes up in the morning, she hurts. By the time she goes to bed at night, she hurts. But, pain can be a great motivator if you can channel it in the right direction. The 44-year-old Bel Air resident doesn’t let arthritis stop her from living a full and active lifestyle. The wife and mother of two adolescent boys is a member of the Harford County Public Library Board of Trustees, a water therapy instructor, an author and spokeswoman for the Arthritis Foundation.

“I don’t know what it’s like to live without it,” says Vido. “I’ve learned to navigate around the disease. It’s a part of me, but it’s not who I am. It doesn’t define me.”

Vido was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was just 8. Since then, she’s become an advocate for the disease, which currently has no cure.

“Kids get arthritis, too. It’s not just an ‘old person’s disease,’ ” she says. “Part of my mission is to get that across, so people realize it’s not just adults.”

According to statistics from the Arthritis Foundation, the disease affects 50 million American adults and 300,000 American children. In Maryland, more than 1 million adults have arthritis, and it is the country’s most common cause of disability.

Vido, a New Jersey native, first became involved with the Arthritis Foundation during her freshman year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. She coordinated a “fajita fest” to raise money for the foundation, a tradition that continues to this day on the college campus.

“When I was at Vanderbilt, I was studying to become a French teacher. I always knew I’d become a teacher, but I didn’t know I’d be teaching about arthritis or that it would become my life mission,” she says.

In 1999, Vido moved to Bel Air from Atlanta and became a national trainer for the Arthritis Foundation’s aquatic and land exercise classes. As a trainer, she travels regionally to educate other instructors on how to teach the classes.

“For me, it’s really important to make sure we’re giving you the right instructions,” she says. “Who better to learn from than someone who walks the walk?”

When she’s not training other instructors, Vido can be found teaching water therapy classes three times a week at Kids First Swim School at the Festival in Bel Air. The classes are co-sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation.

“Teaching water therapy classes helps me stay in shape, and I get to help others,” says Vido. “I want to be the best mom and wife I can be.”

In addition to being a certified exercise trainer for the Arthritis Foundation, Vido is also a spokesperson for the organization and president-elect of the Rheumatoid Arthritis Alliance Leadership Group.

Indeed, the former French teacher has dedicated her life to promoting awareness of arthritis and helping those, especially children, with her condition. Every year, Vido hosts an author dinner for arthritis, sponsored by Harper Collins Publishers.

Earlier this year, the seventh annual fundraiser featured New York Times bestselling authors Marisa de los Santos and Wendy Corsi Staub. Proceeds from the event benefit The Kids Rheum Network, a support system for kids with arthritis, as well as other arthritis advocacy initiatives and research.

In her spare time, Vido enjoys reading and writing. Her first book, a romance-mystery novel titled “Par for the Course,” was published in 2010 and she’s currently working on the sequel, “Country Clubbed.”

“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. My arthritis makes me who I am today, and for that I’d never change anything. I love my life and I love my family … those are the most important things,” says Vido.


Q & A: Jennifer Vido

Age: 44

Water therapy instructor

Favorite charity:
The Arthritis Foundation

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
“Louisa May Alcott. I love ‘Little Women,’ it’s one of my favorite books.”  


Stathis Kotanidis
Owner of Pat’s Pizzeria and  co-owner of NVS Salon 

By Jennifer K. Dansicker


With just a few hundred dollars in his pocket, Stathis Kotanidis traveled over 5,000 miles from his home in Kilikis, Greece to carve out a life in Harford County. He is a self-motivated entrepreneur, owner of Pat’s Pizzeria in Edgewood and co-owner of NVS Salon whose successes have propelled him to give back to his community.

He is the third of four children with two older sisters and a younger brother, Chris, owner of Pat’s Pizzeria in Bel Air. No stranger to hard work, Kotanidis graduated from high school and worked various jobs from construction to cars. And at 14, he started working as a waiter in his uncle’s restaurant in Greece. By 2000, Kotanidis left his parents behind and joined some of his relatives and younger brother in the United States.

“I worked at a very young age being the first boy, and it made me grow up quickly,” says Kotanidis, 46.

For the last 25 years he has worked in the restaurant business and in 2001 with the help of his brother Chris, he opened Pat’s Pizzeria in Edgewood.

“He was an inspiration in the community when he opened Pat’s Edgewood location because he started a movement to revitalize the Route 40 corridor. He took a run down strip mall and built it up. Businesses began to rent out spaces and now, it is a thriving shopping center,” says friend and business partner, Tammy Ehrbaker.

Kotanidis is also co-owner of the NVS Salon with Ehrbaker and he admits that he tries to help those around him to achieve their goals.

“Stathis has a way of making people feel special. When the community doesn’t have power like during the recent storms, we allowed people to come in for free to shampoo and blow dry their hair,” says Ehrbaker.

He encourages his employees to volunteer their own time whenever they can to worthy causes like the annual BBQ Bash’s Bull & Shrimp Roast. He also feels helping young adults find the right path in life is important to the success of the county.

“We have kids who have worked for us over the years that have become teachers, professionals and they come back, and they are so appreciative to have worked here. It means everything,” he says.

Kotanidis has donated thousands of dollars in donations of services to local schools and churches. He collected suits for the “Dress for Success” campaign for underprivileged women looking for jobs. And he has been involved in toy drives for children and sponsors a breakfast with Santa and the Easter bunny during the holidays.

Kotanidis also believes in using local resources to build up the community around him. He buys local ingredients for the restaurant, uses local catering companies for various events and provides jobs for many people in the community.

“This county helped me to build this business and make it a success. I am inspired by that and think it is important to give back,” says Kotanidis.

With the help of his wife Linda, and his three boys, George, 10, Themis, 9, and Yiannis, 1, Kotanidis is making his mark on Harford County.   


Q & A: Stathis Kotanidis

Age: 46

Owner of Pat’s Pizzeria in Edgewood and
co-owner of NVS Salon

Favorite charity:
The Boys and Girls Club of Harford County

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
“Abraham Lincoln.”



Marlene Lieb
Co-founder of the Women’s Giving Circle of Harford CountY

By Jennifer K. Dansicker


It’s not surprising that Eleanor Roosevelt is one of Marlene Lieb’s heroes. Like Roosevelt, Lieb is a strong leader in the community whose goal is to leave a legacy that will be remembered for many years to come.

Mother of three and grandmother to four, Lieb, 63, has recently retired after 30 years at Harford Community College as associate vice president for continuing education and training.

Over the years, she has helped hundreds of people find their calling. She worked within the business community developing relationships and getting to know Harford County on a level not many have experienced.

Married to Robert J. Lieb for the last 43 years, a retired physicist for Aberdeen Proving Ground, Marlene, along with her friend Jayne Klein of the eponymous grocery store, decided to start the Women’s Giving Circle of Harford County.

“We had heard of other giving circles in other communities, so we met for lunch to talk about what that would look like in Harford County. Jayne had women friends, and I had friends all from different backgrounds. We picked 20 women who would be interested in the concept and invited them for dinner to share our vision of the Women’s Giving Circle,” says Lieb.

The organization’s members contribute a $550 fee per year and they give most of the money to support local nonprofits that support women and children. Members are recruited by word of mouth and different social events such as wine and cheese or Tupperware parities.

“Our first year goal was to get 50 members and we had 53. And, we were able to give $20,000 without fundraising. Today, we have 93 members,” says Lieb.

The Women’s Giving Circle of Harford County is different from other similar organizations because it has set up a legacy to give back to the community. A portion of the membership fees goes directly into a community fund that grows over the years.

“Fifty years from now, the fund will be our legacy to the community,” she says.

Lieb says the mission of the Women’s Giving Circle is twofold, “to support nonprofits and to increase philanthropy among women.”

“Statistically, men are the biggest givers … we wanted to change that culture. There are many career women who could be more philanthropic, and so, this is an opportunity.”

Over the years, Lieb has proven to be an active and vocal participant in bettering her community. In the 1990s she coordinated the Public Safety Training Institute with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, and founded the Susquehanna Human Resources Association. In 2008, she formed the Harford Leadership Academy Ambassadors and in 2011, Lieb was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force for the Future of Higher Education in Maryland.   


Q & A: Marlene Lieb

Age: 63

Retired associate vice president for continuing education and training at Harford Community College

Favorite charity:
The Community Foundation of Harford County

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
“Eleanor Roosevelt.”



Bruce & Chip Riley
Co-founders of the Charlie Riley Community Service Scholarship Foundation  

By L’Oreal Thompson


When Charles W. Riley, a longtime member of the Abingdon Fire Company, passed away in 2005, his sons–Chip and Bruce–wanted a unique way to honor his legacy and give back to the community he cherished so much. So the following year, the brothers established the Charlie Riley Community Service Scholarship Foundation in their father’s memory. To this day, the foundation has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships.

“Chip and I grew up with parents who demonstrated the give-back philosophy,” says Bruce Riley, 49. “Our motto is taken from the book of James in the Bible: ‘doers of the word.’ Instead of just speaking the word, be a doer of the word and serve other people.”

Chip Riley, 52, agrees. 

“When our dad passed away, I lost not just a father, but a mentor and best friend. He was the best man at my wedding,” says Chip.

“Cal Ripken Jr. said the day his dad died he’d lost his security blanket. There’s a lot of truth to that. If we ever needed something, he [our dad] was there.”

Every year, the Charlie Riley Community Service Scholarship Foundation awards $1,000 scholarships to 12 local high school seniors and 12 members of Harford County’s volunteer fire and ambulance companies. Recipients are chosen based on involvement in community service, leadership and extracurricular activities.

Two of the scholarship winners, one from the high schools and one from the fire companies, are chosen as overall winners and receive an additional $1,500 to support their pursuit of higher education. The scholarship foundation raises money through the annual Captain’s Choice Golf Tournament, a Ravens’ tailgate party, quarter auction and private donations.

“It’s not about how much you have, but the legacy you leave,” says Bruce. “What will people remember you for? What is your legacy going to be?”

Indeed, their father left behind quite a legacy. He was chief of the Abingdon Fire Company from 1968 until 1973; president of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association from 1983 until 1984; and chairman of the Maryland Fire Rescue Education Training Commission for 14 years. Additionally, he was an active member of the Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Abingdon for 55 years.

In addition to founding a scholarship foundation to honor their father, the Riley brothers give back to the community in other ways. Both continue to volunteer at Cokesbury United Methodist Church, where their mother, Phoebe, played the organ for more than 60 years.

Bruce is a counselor at Bel Air High School and former varsity football coach. Chip, a retired Baltimore County Fire Department firefighter, volunteers his time as Fired-Up, a Baltimore Ravens fan character he created based on his profession.

Last year, Chip was inducted into the Professional Football Ultimate Fan Association in Canton, Ohio. In order to be inducted, fans must be goodwill ambassadors at games and volunteer in the community as well.

“Fired-Up is like an alter ego,” says Chip. “It helps open the doors to make a difference.”

As Fired-Up, Chip is a part of the Baltimore Ravens Super Fan group, which includes Capt. Dee-fense. Chip and the group volunteer at various charity events around the state, including the Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Clubs, March of Dimes and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“Pay has nothing to do with it,” says Chip. “Gratitude comes from the heart. I never knew the way my dad felt, now I do.”   


Q & A: Bruce Riley

Age: 49

School counselor at Bel Air High School

Favorite charity:
The Charlie Riley Community Service Scholarship 

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
“Paul from the Bible.”


Q & A: Chip Riley

Age: 52

Retired Baltimore County Fire Department

Favorite charity:
The Charlie Riley Community Service Scholarship

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?

“Easy, Jesus Christ.”



Carol Taylor
Pastor and founder of word of Faith International Outreach

By L’oreal Thompson


For Pastor Carol Taylor, empowerment is not just a word–it’s a way of life, which is why the 48-year-old Aberdeen resident has dedicated her life to empowering others through her ministry and volunteer work.

“My vision statement is ‘empowering others while staying empowered,’ ” she says.

Taylor’s passion for empowerment has inspired her to create her own nonprofit–Just Living Empowerment Ministries. The ministry is based on her “Just Living Teleconference,” which she founded in 2010.

“The Just Living Teleconference started off for women, but this nonprofit is for everybody,” says Taylor. “God created abundant life and so many of us don’t pursue being the best we can be. Empowerment is authority given to take power over our own life and live it to the fullest.”

Earlier this year, Taylor began broadcasting her teleconferences live on the Harford Cable Network. “Just Living,” which airs Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m., highlights methods and organizations that will help viewers live an empowered life.

“The subject matter is very diverse,” she says. “I interview community leaders, and we talk about a wide range of topics from church matters to foster care, youth leadership and marriage enrichment.”

An ordained evangelist, Taylor has worked with youth and adults for more than 20 years. She founded Word of Faith International Outreach in Aberdeen with her husband, Pastor Melvin Taylor, 13 years ago. Before that, she had started an afterschool program at the couple’s previous church, Zion Temple in Havre de Grace.

“Raising five children was a challenge in itself,” she says. “I founded the afterschool program as a positive place for them to go and learn about life skills and spirituality.”

Taylor continued the program, Cares Club, at her current church. The club, which serves children ages 8 through 18, meets on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. During that time, the children eat dinner, attend Bible study and participate in various activities, such as cooking, sewing, photography and computer/science technology.

In addition to founding Cares Club, Taylor is also the director of FACE-IT (Faith Activated Community Empowering Intervention Training), which is a faith-based coalition providing education, reducing risks, uniting congregations and combating substance abuse.

“I enjoy working with the youth,” she says. “Those organizations are most near to my heart because of the ability to see change take place. You see the transformation happen right before your eyes.”

As the chairperson for the Harford County Youth Commission, Taylor works with county officials to better serve the youth population. Every year, the commission sponsors a “youth in government” week, where students are encouraged to participate in local government through meetings and other activities.

“The biggest thing I want to get across to young people is that they have a voice and they have power,” she says. “They need to learn to exercise it in a positive way.”

Additionally, the pastor serves on the Harford County Cancer and Tobacco Coalition and board of directors for Harford Family House, which serves homeless families. She was also a chaplain for the Harford County Detention Center.

“I enjoy street evangelism,” she says. “I have a way with young people that I’m able to reach ones nobody wants to fool with.”

Perhaps most importantly, Taylor stresses the need for balance in such a fast-paced, high-tech world, especially for women who are often juggling multiple roles as wives, moms and businesswomen.

“Finding a balance and being organized are really important,” she says. “That means taking mental health days when they’re needed.”   


Q & A: Carol Taylor

Age: 48


Favorite charity: Partnerships in Christ International

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
“Jesus and Paul. Harriet Tubman would be pretty neat, too.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun