International Day of People with Disabilities, observed Dec. 3, provides an opportune moment to reflect on the remarkable achievements of individuals with disabilities and to reaffirm our commitment to fostering an inclusive and accessible community. We all play a role in supporting individuals with disabilities in Frederick County, and the Community Foundation is proud to serve as a partner both to generous donors who support programs and initiatives, as well as to nonprofits that provide important services.
The Community Foundation holds several funds that are dedicated to supporting local individuals with disabilities including The Monocacy Foundation Developmental Disabilities/Doris Remsberg Fund. The fund was created by both The Monocacy Foundation for organizational support and by Lawrence A. Dorsey to honor his sister, Doris Remsberg.
“Many individuals who are living with disabilities have difficulty affording items such as vacations, camps, companion pet care, medical and specialized equipment, and special classes and therapies,” Monocacy Foundation Development Director Rachel Ablondi said. “Some of these items may seem like ‘extras’ or of lesser importance, but to our applicants and their families, they are huge.”
The Monocacy Foundation, created in 1995 to ease the burden of individuals with disabilities of all ages and/or their families, was grown out of an initial donation of real estate by the late Don and Winnie Hiltner.
Doris Remsberg was an educator in Frederick County for 43 years. She taught second, third and fourth grades at Woodsboro and Thurmont elementary schools, worked in pupil personnel, and was the principal (“Miss Doris”) of Harmony Grove School and Rock Creek Center, respectively, from 1958 until her retirement in 1993. Doris was instrumental in establishing Harmony Grove School, the first public school in Frederick County for children with developmental disabilities. She also spearheaded the creation of the Jeanne Bussard Training Workshop and played a role in establishing the Scott Key Center for Handicapped Citizens, The Frederick County Chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children, and what is today The Arc of Frederick County.
Each year, The Monocacy Foundation receives grant funding from the Community Foundation which they use to directly support individuals with disabilities in Frederick County. According to Ablondi, in 2023, The Monocacy Foundation received more than 125 applications for support.
“With our grant assistance we are able to help our applicants live full and meaningful lives in their communities, and also ease the burden of families,” Ablondi said. “Every single person, no matter what they are facing, should have the opportunity to grow and flourish, and also to take part in our wonderful community of Frederick County.”
This year, The H. George Baker Memorial Fund for Epilepsy Support also provided funding to The Monocacy Foundation.
H. George Baker owned the Case Farm Machinery dealership in downtown Frederick. He changed careers in the early 1960s and went to work for the Frederick County Highway Department until his retirement in 1982. According to his obituary, Mr. Baker had epilepsy at a time when the disease was widely misunderstood, and as a child, his peers were not kind to him. To help others cope with the disease with which her husband lived, Mr. Baker’s widow, Elizabeth K. Baker, created the fund to support individuals with epilepsy.
International Day of People with Disabilities serves as a powerful reminder that disability is not a barrier to success; it’s a testament to the resilience, determination, and unwavering spirit of those who have overcome challenges and shattered stereotypes.
Donors and the nonprofits that their charitable funds support are the unsung heroes who recognize the immense value and potential of our friends, neighbors and co-workers with disabilities. They understand that investing in their well-being is not just an act of charity; it’s a catalyst for a more inclusive and equitable society.
*Published in The Frederick News-Post on 12/11/23.