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Star Democrat: Franchot tours, commends Chesapeake Center
December 5, 2017
EASTON — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot visited the Chesapeake Center in Easton on Friday, Dec. 1, to tour the production area and to present a proclamation to President and CEO Donna Harrison in honor of the center’s 50th anniversary this year.
Chesapeake Center, located at 713 Dover Road, is a nonprofit organization that provides job training and opportunities for developmentally-challenged individuals and people with traumatic brain injuries.
Leading the tour were Harrison and Lisa Korell, the center’s vocational services director, who introduced employees and described the center’s various services, manufacturing and customizing crab mallets, capping small toy bubbles, inserting pins in ignitor caps, assembling king hose cables for a company in Chestertown and assembling wiping cloths for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet.
“I think a lot of our success, in addition to the support from the town and county is the tremendous staff we have here,” Harrison said.
Harrison, who has been with the center for 36 years, praised the staff who have been with the center for many years, including one who has been with the center for 47 years.
“You don’t find that kind of dedication in many businesses — the fact that folks care enough and give of themselves every day and go the extra mile,” Harrison said.
“Your staff and you remind me of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The woman was a saint,” Franchot said. “She didn’t have to do all that, but she made a difference, and each of you are.” Shriver was the founder of Special Olympics and a sister of President John F. Kennedy.
Also taking the tour were business and political leaders and local officials, including Talbot County Councilman Chuck Callahan, Easton Mayor Robert Willey, Easton Town Councilman Ron Engle, and former Cambridge mayor Dave Wooten, Franchot’s Eastern Shore representative.
Franchot presented a certificate of recognition to Harrison, “all the board members and employees and clients of the Chesapeake Center a recognition from the state of Maryland.”
“We love you, we want you to prosper, we want you to grow, we want everybody to feel as if they’re part of our great country, and everyone treats everybody with civility and respect, kindness, and yeah, we pay good money to get good things done, and there’s nothing like hard work,” Franchot said.
Franchot recognized retired Easton attorney Waller Hairston for his long legal career and “for all the philanthropy and the wonderful leadership he’s given to organizations like this.” Hairston served the center as a member of the board of directors and president.
Franchot handed Hairston a Comptroller’s Medallion which recognizes Marylanders who make a difference in their communities. “This is for your excellence, your service and your sacrifice — you still have to pay your taxes,” Franchot said.
Hairston said the Chesapeake Center was his favorite charity.
“I think it will be one of my favorite philanthropies also,” Franchot said.
“It’s such a wonderful experience for me to see everybody working hard,” Franchot said. “I see a partnership with the federal government, state government, private sector, folks earning some money in addition to doing something that’s very crucial. You think these little toys you put together are not appreciated by kids, but I guarantee you they are. And these wiping cloths you make for the U.S. Navy, nobody else makes them. You guys are it.”
Franchot handed out the medallions liberally and encouraged participants as they worked. He called the tour an “eye-opener.”
On behalf of the state, Franchot thanked Harrison for her work in leading the organization and presented, “on the occasion of its 50th anniversary of helping individuals with disabilities, by providing job training and other opportunities to reach their full potential for independence through employment — what a great concept — friendship and community activities, with heartfelt gratitude and deep appreciation for your diligent work, best wishes for many more years of continued success,” Franchot said.
Franchot was presented with cookies and dog treats made by center participants. “My dog’s name is Henry, and he’ll be sending you a letter.”
Willey and Callahan commended the center as well. “On behalf of the council, we really appreciate all you do,” Callahan said. “This is a special place, we love coming here spending time with you guys ... we’re just so thankful to have people like yourself, especially here in Talbot County.”
“Mr. Comptroller, I can’t thank you enough for coming here all the time,” Callahan said. His remarks were greeted with applause.
Chesapeake Center’s mission is to assist adults with disabilities to reach their potential for independence by pursuing opportunities for housing, employment, natural supports, friendship, and community activities.
The center offers a full array of community-based services to adults with various disabilities who want to become vital members of the community.