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Saunders: A December to remember that blessings still abound

Back in September the Frank & Ernest cartoon pictured one young lad saying to the other, “I’m thinking well beyond the school reopening issues. I’m concerned about how this situation might impact the ability of Santa Claus to travel…” And at the same time, members of the Board of Carroll County Food Sunday were pondering not the arrival of Santa Claus but the choice for a new executive director of the operation to replace Ed Leister, whom I lauded in my November column as almost irreplaceable.

That person has been selected, I am happy to say, and is someone very familiar with the Carroll community and familiar to many in the community. She is the very accomplished and involved Caroline Babylon!

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Caroline’s resume and experiences demonstrate her wide-ranging skills and abilities and connections that are very suitable for the continued successful operation of Carroll County Food Sunday. For example, her most recent employment since 2002 at MidAtlantic Farm Credit, ACA, in Westminster, as an auditor II, from which she is retiring at the end of this month, has meant that she designs and conducts internal audits and reviews of credit, finance and operations. She can identify strengths and weaknesses that help with annual planning, board reporting, and regulatory examinations, all areas that are important for the successful operation of a growing Food Sunday operation.

Her other experiences in banking operations, including assistant vice president of loan operations, chief internal auditor and security officer, and commissioned bank examiner, date back to 1976. Certainly Caroline’s background in business and banking, like Ed Leister before her, will help keep Carroll County Food Sunday on a firm financial footing. In fact, Ed has said that “Food Sunday will continue to flourish under Caroline Babylon’s leadership. She is the right person at the right time to be executive director, as Food Sunday will soon enter its 40th year of service to Carroll countians and looks to further its outreach. I can retire as executive director knowing that the organization is in good hands.”

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Caroline’s skills and experiences in auditing, accounting and management only tell part of the story. Her education will also be a valuable resource for Food Sunday. Caroline earned a Bachelor of Arts in business and economics from Western Maryland College and went on to Graduate School of Banking in Madison, Wisconsin. She returned to Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) to earn her Master of Liberal Arts degree.

Perhaps Caroline’s many volunteer positions with community organizations have provided her with the talents of greatest importance. She has gained insights into the importance of “great volunteers,” of which Food Sunday has many. Her many community connections are also an important asset for Food Sunday, an organization dependent upon the community for fund-raising, food-raising, and friend-raising.

In the spring of this year Caroline learned first-hand about CCFS when she herself volunteered with the food pantry held at Grace Lutheran Church, where Food Sunday supplied food for distribution and where Ann Thomas Gilbert, Westminster City Councilwoman, coordinated the food pantry. Ann Gilbert said of working with Caroline: “She is full of energy, empathy and kindness and came up with many ideas and partnerships that helped make the pantry more successful and unique. For example, she created bags of food that our Hispanic population would appreciate and even acquired donations of pet food, wanting to make sure no one was forgotten in the family.” Caroline remarked about this experience: “It touched my soul to be able to share the basic necessity of food with those who are struggling to make ends meet.” That sentiment will be at the heart of her role as executive director of CCFS.

Caroline also volunteers for the Finance Committee of Grace Lutheran Church as well as serving on community boards, many of them as treasurer. Her pastor, the Rev. Martha Clementson of Grace Lutheran, says of Caroline: “Through her leadership in the community over many years, she has forged strong relationships that will bring people together to support the ongoing work of Food Sunday. She works well with people, provides leadership, supports volunteers, and she brings compassion and care for the individuals around her while also working at a high level of competence.” Born and raised in Carroll County, Caroline’s service reflects her belief that “it is important to give back to the community.”

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That spirit of giving has meant that Caroline has received many awards from her worksites as well as from community organizations. Work awards include: Community Service Award, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (1984); President’s Award, MidAtlantic Farm Credit (2006); and Distinguished Service Award, MidAtlantic Farm Credit (2014). Community awards have included: Meritorious Service Award from McDaniel College (2002); President’s Award from Westminster Fire Department (2007); Pioneer Award from Carroll County Agriculture Center, Inc. (2008); Clara Barton Award from American Red Cross (2012); and Good Scout of the Year from Boy Scouts of America, Carroll County (2014). While all these awards are impressive, they speak to the respect that Caroline has earned for a job well done whether at her work sites or in her community outreach.

As Ann Gilbert assures us: “I believe Caroline’s innovative ideas will build upon the successes that CCFS has already shared with the community; her talents, expertise and dynamic thinking will be a great asset to CCFS and to the county.”

Never fear, Carroll County — Santa Claus has arrived at CCFS in the person of Caroline Babylon, who has said, “I am very humbled to follow in the footsteps of Ed Leister and Dominic Jollie, founder of Food Sunday in 1982. Along with the strong board, they have built an incredible organization in conjunction with the work of the faith community and other organizations in the area. It is exciting to become part of that service, history and tradition.” And so, we at CCFS can say gratefully — Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a blessed new year to all!

Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears once a month in Life & Times.

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