THUMBS UP: To you, our readers, members of this community. We asked you, for the 22nd time, to support Holiday Hope, our fundraising campaign designed to help a handful of Carroll County nonprofit organizations. And, wow, did you come through. Unsure of just how willing and able citizens would be to contribute this year, which has been so negatively affected by COVID-19, we kept our goal at $125,000, a level reached only three times previously in the campaign’s history. But even in a year that has included furloughs and unemployment and business closings, the donations flowed in — in record numbers. By the official end of the campaign, Christmas Day, we had received more than $175,000, far surpassing the previous high of just over $141,000. And, no doubt, more donations are still to be delivered via the mail. The staff and volunteers at Access Carroll, Carroll County Food Sunday, Carroll Hospice, Human Services Programs of Carroll County and The Shepherd’s Staff are most appreciative. We are thankful for what those organizations, and all the local nonprofits, do for Carroll countians everyday. We are thankful for our partners at NWSB Bank, a division of ACNB Bank with seven branches in Carroll County, for processing the donations — particularly Timothy Utz and Lisa Monthley. Most of all, we are thankful for the hundreds of individuals, families and businesses that donated like never before. Even during a difficult year, maybe especially because it was such a difficult year, this community truly displayed exceptional generosity, which gives us a great deal of hope this holiday season.
THUMBS UP: Here’s to some holiday spirit for a good cause. Sykesville resident Gemma Moorhead, 7, lives with her family on Hummingbird Court. There, a canopy of Christmas lights is strung from about 90 homes from house to house advocating for people with hydrocephalus. Gemma was one of every 770 babies diagnosed with the hydrocephalus, a neurological condition caused by built-up fluid that puts pressure on the brain. After being born at just 28 weeks, and weighing less than 3 pounds, Gemma has undergone nine brain surgeries. She has no external physical differences from her peers because of hydrocephalus, but underneath her skin she has a tube that connects from her scalp and passes down through her neck and chest. Gemma lives with her mom, Gina, her dad and two older sisters in Sykesville’s Patapsco Valley Overlook. And her neighbors are rallying around her while delivering some holiday cheer at the same time. “Gemma Moorhead is the ‘mayor’ of our street,” Tony Wood, the family’s next-door neighbor, told us. “And her glow is brighter than any holiday lights and she is on 365 days a year –– 366 in this leap year.”
THUMBS UP: We’re glad to see Reese & Community Volunteer Fire Company celebrate a first in its 73-year history earlier this month when Westminster High School graduate Kylee Zbignewich earned a promotion to fire lieutenant. Reese has never had a female fire lieutenant until now. Zbignewich, 20, got her firefighting career started in high school when she took emergency training classes at the request of Ken Hyde, her stepfather. Hyde, now the fire chief at Reese, told us he couldn’t be more proud of his stepdaughter. “She has the drive. She’s physically able and capable of doing the job,” Hyde told us. “I’ve been a fireman since 1981. She’s probably the second-best female [firefighter] I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve fought a lot of fire, and she’s incredible. I’m super proud of her, for her to get this far.” Zbignewich will be assuming more of a leadership role within the fire company as a lieutenant, something his stepdaughter is savoring. Zbignewich has a paid position with Baltimore County Fire Station 18 in Randallstown, but calls Reese her home in Carroll. And she told us she loves being a mentor to some of the younger members. “I like to see other girl firefighters can come up to me and say … ‘Hey, I want to be like you. I can be just like her, I can do it,’” Zbignewich told us. “So being the first, making history, I love it. I’m all about that. I’m setting example for these young girls.”