(Adapted from the Columbia Foundation Website)
October 28, 2011
Over 250 community members and leaders attended the Columbia Foundation’s Annual Dinner at Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville last evening – a night of sharing accomplishments, recognizing the many organizations that partner with the foundation, and thanking the community for their support.
The highlight of the evening came as Columbia Foundation Leadership Council Co-Chairs, Padraic Kennedy and Mike Davis, presented the Foundation’s first-ever Leadership Council Philanthropic Award, and the Willis family presented the annual “Casey and Pebble Willis Making a Difference Award.”
Casey and Pebble Willis Making a Difference Award
Linwood Center received the annual “Casey and Pebble Willis Making a Difference” award presented by Bob Willis, son of the late Dr. Eugene and Casey Willis. Mr. Willis was joined by his siblings on stage in making the presentation. Bill Moss, Executive Director and Kim Manning, Community Outreach Director of the Linwood Center, accepted the award.
The Columbia Foundation has had the honor of hosting the presentation of The Casey Willis Making a Difference Award since 2001. Casey’s husband Dr. Eugene “Pebble” Willis and her family established the award in memory of Casey and her community activism. Following Dr. Willis’ death in August of 2009, the family renamed the award for both of them. The $2,500 cash award honors their many interests and contributions and goes to a Howard County nonprofit organization that has made a difference in the lives of people here in Howard County.
Since 1955, The Linwood Center has provided residential programs, a special education school and supported employment to meet the needs of young people and adults. For individuals who have autism, living independently and maintaining employment can be challenging. The unemployment rate among individuals with a disability is over 80%.
To address that issue, in November 2010, Linwood opened Linwood Center Boutique in Historic Ellicott City. This upscale retail store sells gently-used items donated by people in the community. And, 20 of Linwood’s clients are able to gain meaningful employment experience at the shop. Working at the boutique provides them the opportunity to learn employment skills in a supported environment. They learn customer service, basic retail skills, how to interact with other employees and supervisors, and a host of other skills. Job coaches work side by side with the adults to make sure they are getting all they can from their employment experience. Linwood has a partnership with Howard County Public Schools to provide work study opportunities for students with autism who are close to leaving the school system. “This is the kind of program my father wanted to recognize when he started the award. And it certainly is one my mother would have embraced,” said Bob.
About the Columbia Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Foundation has awarded over $10 million in grants to Howard County nonprofit organizations delivering human service, arts and cultural, educational and civic programs. Money for the grant programs comes primarily from income generated by the Foundation’s endowment supported by over 270 funds established by Howard County businesses, families and individuals. For more information on The Columbia Foundation, visit www.columbiafoundation.org or call 410-730-7840.