In November, Chesapeake Charities, a community foundation in Annapolis, held its annual Celebration of Charity Awards Luncheon to honor individuals and organizations who exemplify their values and mission to promote charitable works by volunteers, nonprofits, philanthropists, and community workforce individuals.
“We knew there were incredible people out there doing phenomenal work, so each year we look for the very best and brightest in our state,” says Executive Director Linda Kohler.
Among the six honorees, Talbot County resident Duane Dieter was awarded “Philanthropist of the Year” for the Hero Community Program, a mentorship program to encourage the development of positive opportunities and appropriate decision-making for at-risk children on the Eastern Shore. During the ceremony introduced by Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith, Dieter also received other awards for his work – a Governor’s citation from Governor Larry Hogan, a Maryland General Assembly citation from Delegate Johnny Mautz and Delegate Christopher Adams, and a Congressional Recognition from Congressman Andy Harris in appreciation for his contributions and faithful service to the community.
In his introductory remarks, Maryland Secretary of State Wobensmith applauded Mr. Dieter as a true Hero for all his work with vulnerable youth, a mission inspired by his involvement in a federal drug task force countering the drug problem on the Eastern Shore.
“Duane realized that some of the youth in that area were influenced by bad examples, some being drug dealers, and children following in their same footsteps, so he said, “we have to do something about that.” He developed the Hero Program,” Wobensmith said.
For over 30 years, the Hero Program has attracted dozens of volunteer mentors from all walks of professional life. From police officers and paramedics to pilots, doctors, and nurses, each has brought to the program their personal stories and a passionate belief that their experiences offer alternatives to some of the less exemplary role models children may encounter in their lives.
Designed to encourage the development of positive opportunities, confidence to withstand the negative influences of peer pressure, and character empowerment for youth, the Hero Community Program is based on Dieter’s philosophy ‘to protect the innocent and those who are preyed upon,’ a core tenet reflected through all of Dieter’s three decades of training, from Close Quarters Defense to Navy SEALs, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement to mentorship training at his facility in Vienna, Maryland.
“The HCP Program provides the child with the courage to choose the right path and prevent negative influences to redirect them,” Dieter says.
Looking to the future, the Hero Community Program seeks to increase its staff and volunteers to meet the mounting challenge of drugs and drug-dealing lifestyles that impact vulnerable kids. To that end, they also seek funding to continue training Hero mentors to help transform youth into everyday Heroes.
“We appreciate our community for their support throughout the years and our great staff who have dedicated their time to the program,” Dieter says.
Other Chesapeake Charities honorees were Kelly Schutz, Vehicles for Change (Non-Profit of the Year); Dr. Charles H. Thornton and Kelly Rosenthal (ACE Mentor Program) and Natalie Cotton (Community Workforce Advocate).
Mentorship training continues throughout the year. For further information about the CQD Hero Program, please contact (410) 376-3600 or [email protected]