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State to commend devotion to service


At the rate she is going, Marie Wallis may never retire - which would be just fine with her.

Since the age of 65, the Glen Burnie resident has logged more than 14,000 hours working with disabled children at the county's Ruth Parker Eason School in Millersville.

At 79, she's still going strong.

"I love it so much, I don't even like to take a day off," says Wallis, who puts in four hours a day, five days at week at the school.

Since 1987, Wallis has been a participant in the Foster Grandparent Program run by the county Department of Aging. It provides seniors with an opportunity to work with disabled and disadvantaged children at 13 locations around the county.

Wallis is among 41 people, businesses and organizations being honored today for excellence in a volunteer or community service program at the 18th annual Maryland Governor's Service Award ceremonies at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Five of the honorees are from Anne Arundel. The others are:

Brenda Colbert, for her efforts as a CASA volunteer - Court Appointed Special Advocate - assisting children involved in welfare and juvenile proceedings. Among her cases was one involving four siblings with a history of neglect and physical abuse. According to the award nomination, she remained "a constant presence" through their assignment to social workers and therapists, and eventual placement in "safe, permanent homes."

Rachel Laribee, a full-time AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Maryland working for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education as service-learning coordinator for 32 schools. Among her accomplishments was creating community partnerships for students with Food Link, the Maryland Food Bank, Red Cross, Center for Poverty Solutions and the Sarah's House shelter at Fort Meade.

William Ramos, for his volunteer assistance to the Annapolis Police Department through the Hispanic Support Network as an interpreter and Neighborhood Watch block captain in his Cedar Ridge community. The nomination noted that he "continually" teaches Hispanics how to make use of police services.

Usinternetworking, for corporate giving and employee volunteer efforts in providing computers and computer training in Annapolis public housing communities, mentoring, and creating UsiReads, in which employees read to children in elementary schools.

Wallis' job at Ruth Parker Eason, for which she receives a small stipend, includes helping children with their classwork and other activities.

Some of the children there require one-on-one attention, which Wallis is happy to give.

"I've got plenty of patience - and I just love what I'm doing," she says.

When she is not helping Gentile with the children, Wallis keeps herself busy doing laundry - folding and putting away washcloths, bibs and the towels from the school's indoor pool.

For retirees or others who are looking for a volunteer opportunity, the county Department of Aging is seeking additional senior volunteers for the Foster Grandparent Program. Applicants must be age 60 or older, and, like Wallis, be willing and able to work four hours a day, three to five days per week. The tax-free stipend of $2.85 an hour is paid to seniors who are income-eligible.

Information: 410-222-4464.

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