For at least eight to 12 hours a week Florence Solonche forgets about herself.
Instead, the 37-year-old Columbia woman focuses on the free accounting services she offers to the Parent Teacher Associations at Dunloggin Middle and Northfield Elementary schools; she helps sponsor seminars to address women's concerns such as breast cancer; and she donates her time to local civic organizations.
The volunteer work the self-employed accountant, wife and mother of five has done won her one of the Seventh Annual Hadassah National Leadership Awards. She received a leadership award last year, too. "She's real committed to [Hadassah's] causes," said Donna Kaplan, spokeswoman for the organization's Ellicott City chapter.
Mrs. Solonche, who is president of the local chapter of the New York-based Jewish women's organization, was named a recipient of the award this month at Hadassah's 79th annual convention in Los Angeles.
Mrs. Solonche was one of 340 winners selected from 1,500 Hadassah chapters across the country and in Puerto Rico. The organization has more than 380,000 members, said Wendy Hirschhorn, Hadassah's national spokeswoman.
"It's nice that I got this award, but it's really the membership," Mrs. Solonche said. "I couldn't do it without the membership."
Members of the 4-year-old Ellicott City chapter of Hadassah place particular emphasis on providing support for Howard County's Jewish community with, for instance, Hanukkah parties for children and assistance for Russian Jews who have moved to the county.
In addition, members of Hadassah donate their talents and abilities -- such as Mrs. Solonche's accounting skills -- to county groups and give seasonal baskets to the needy.
The national chapter of Hadassah -- which is Hebrew for Esther, the heroic queen who helped protect the Jews in ancient Israel -- provides medical and humanitarian aid to people all over the world. "The need is enormous, and it's growing every year," Mrs. Solonche said.
Volunteer service has become a part of Mrs. Solonche's family history. She was named Florence after her grandmother, who was known for volunteering as the president of the Northeastern Parent Teachers Association in Ohio.
"She died the year I was born," Mrs. Solonche said. "I was always told how wonderful she was."
Mrs. Solonche not only acquired her grandmother's name, but she adopted her volunteer spirit. Even while she was in college at Sonoma State University in Northern California, she offered accounting services and peer counseling.
Now she said she wants to encourage the same attitude in her children. "I think it's a good thing to do because it really helps people," said Mrs. Solonche's 12-year-old daughter, Lauren, about the volunteer work women in Hadassah do. "I think that's something I would like to do."