When Tom Welliver was young, he hoped he could follow in the footsteps of his physician father, Dr. Daniel Welliver.
“My father was an old country doctor in town and I really wished I had his gifts growing up. I wished I could be a doctor and heal people,” he said. Then added with a laugh, “Well, I have this little safety problem.”
The younger Welliver’s talents turned out to lie in finances, but when Access Carroll, a low-cost clinic for the uninsured and under-insured was founded in Westminster in 2004, he realized there was a way he could still help heal people and volunteered his time and skills.
“In getting Access Carroll started, the light bulb went off in my brain," Welliver said. “You know what? I have other gifts that can provide health care, just not hands-on. In a sense, I am almost providing the health care by getting this great organization off the ground.”
But Access Carroll is not the only nonprofit Welliver has lent his financial know-how to over the past 28 years, having served on the boards of McDaniel College, The Boys and Girls Club of Westminster and many more.
On Wednesday morning, that service to the community was recognized, as Welliver became the 18th recipient of the Sylvia Canon Humanitarian Award, an annual honor given by the Carroll County Community Services Council. The award recognizes someone dedicated to going “above and beyond” in the field of human services, and honors the memory of the founder of Human Services Programs of Carroll County, Sylvia Canon.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Welliver said. “She passed away a few years ago, but I have known Sylvia for a long time and just to be honored in the same breath as Sylvia is unbelievable.”
Welliver was nominated for the award by Missie Wilcox, who has worked with him on numerous boards.
“There is hardly a nonprofit that he hasn’t touched in Carroll County. He is that kind of individual,” she said of Welliver. “He is the epitome of the Sylvia Canon Humanitarian Award. I really don’t think I know anyone who could be more deserving than him.”
Welliver, who lives in Westminster, got started with volunteering for area nonprofits when he realized he had a knack for explaining complicated financial information to people without a background in finance, and found a need for that kind of advice in small, grassroots organizations.
“People didn’t run when I started talking about the finances of these tiny nonprofits, and we’re talking about most of them are under $100,000 or $200,000 a year of income,” he said. “Most of their board members, while very, very smart people, were just intimidated by the financial end of things.”
The first nonprofit Welliver volunteered for was the Community of Shalom, which was building a community center on Union Street, in Westminster.
“There were a lot of church members from the Union Street United Methodist Church and they had pretty much mapped it out, but they needed someone with a little financial aptitude to try to help them with that,” he said. “Then as part of starting this community center, we brought over the Boys and Girls Club of America, because over at Union Street, we really believed that kids needed a place to be.”
The latter project, the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, launched with just 20 students, but soon outgrew the community center on Union Street and now hosts hundreds of students at its new location on Main Street. Welliver is still on the board there, as well as the Community of Shalom.
“We are now housing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Young Life and some autism groups and some different things in the building over on Union Street,” he said.
To Wilcox, one of the best examples of the type of volunteer Welliver can be is when, about 10 years ago, the Westminster Kiwanis Club took over the annual July 4 fireworks display at the Carroll County Farm Museum.
“That’s no small task,” she said. “He corralled the resources, he marshaled the volunteers and he put a spark in that that I swear a firecracker would envy.”
Welliver also helped raise funds for the Carroll County Youth Service Bureau, and serves on the boards of both Carroll Hospital and LifeBridge Health, Wilcox noted.
But another way in which he is exceptional, she said, is that Welliver is now the first person to receive the Sylvia Canon Humanitarian Award who does not work directly for a Carroll nonprofit.
“This is the first year they opened up,” Wilcox said. “Talk about the perfect pioneering person to get that job.”
Though at the same time, now that the guidelines have changed, Welliver will certainly not be the last such person to receive the award.
“We have so many amazing volunteers throughout our county who give countless hours of their time to ensure the success of our agencies,” said Andie Luchini, who is the current Community Services Council board secretary and treasurer. “We wanted to make sure these valuable citizens could be recognized for the work they do.”
And that’s fine by Welliver. It took him years into his adult life to realize the gifts he had that could be used to benefit others, and he hopes other people will think of the ways in which they might give back through one community organization or another.
“You don’t have to be chairman of the board. You can be on the marketing committee, you can be on the fundraising committee. And a lot of it is just, we need bodies to help at the fundraisers, or flip burgers or sell raffle tickets, whatever it happens to be,” he said. “I honestly believe that everybody has gifts; it’s just great if you can find out how to turn those to service to others.”