Citizens Who Make a Difference

At our annual Valentines Gala, CTC Rotary recognizes individuals who exemplify Rotary values and work to improve the lives of those in our community.


2024: Ted Cochran - President, Free Bikes 4 Kidz Maryland  

The Columbia Town Center Rotary Club 2024 Citizen Who Makes a Difference Award was presented to Ted Cochran, president of Free Bikes 4 Kidz Maryland, an organization that collects and refurbishes donated bikes for distribution to underprivileged children.

Under Ted’s guidance, Free Bikes 4 Kidz recent annual campaign was in many ways their best ever.  In calendar year 2023, at least 577 volunteers spent at least 4,091 hours helping collect, refurbish, and give away over $300,000 worth of bikes and helmets to local children in need. In all, 2,608 bikes were given away.

Ted, along with a passionate and invested board of directors and a dedicated volunteer staff handle fundraising, volunteer recruitment, acquiring parts and helmets, collecting bikes and overseeing the cleaning, repair and distribution of the bikes. They are also responsible for enlisting key sponsors that donate time, money and facilities. Facilities like Prologis that provided a 19,800 square foot warehouse in Jessup for free where they could store, clean, refurbish and give away free bikes to kidz!

Volunteers including Columbia Town Center Rotary helped identify recipients, collect, clean, refurbish, or repair bikes, unpack and sort helmets, load and unload trucks, or help children find the perfect bike to take home.

Under Ted’s leadership, Free Bikes 4 Kidz has helped make a huge difference in children's lives!  Ted Cochran exemplifies the Rotary motto “Service Above Self”.


2023: Marianne Warner - Founder & Director, The Birthday Books Project   

It is with great pleasure, excitement, and enthusiasm that we recognize and honor Marianne Warner with the Columbia Town Center Rotary Club 2023 Citizen Who Makes a Difference Award.

We honor Marianne for her initiative and leadership to start, maintain and grow The Birthday Books Project, an innovative nonprofit providing high quality free books to 5,000 local elementary school students each year. The Columbia Town Center Rotary Club funds three of her Title I schools.  

Marianne's leadership of the Birthday Books Project includes raising funds, recruiting volunteers, curating book selections, and coordinating with schools. Student feedback on the program is immensely positive.  Children cannot wait for it to be their turn to pick their free book. A book they don’t have to return.  A book they can call their own. What a powerful influential impact in a developing child’s life. Too many children at Title I schools struggle with economic inequities, but kids in the Birthday Book Project get equal perks on their birthday.  Owning a book seems ordinary. The fact that it is not is heartbreaking. The impact of Marianne’s project on 5,000 kids is truly heartwarming.

Her dream is to grow the program nationwide, with the help of Rotary Clubs and others who share the vision of celebrating children and promoting literacy.   Marianne Warner exemplifies the Rotary motto “Service Above Self”


2020: Mary McGraw - Founder, The Village in Howard

We recognize and honor Mary McGraw with the Columbia Town Center Rotary Club 2020 Citizen Who Makes a Difference Award.

Mary McGraw was born and raised in Ohio. While in her 20’s she moved to Washington, DC, then Baltimore, and finally settled in Ellicott City, MD. She sold advertising space for numerous area news publications to include the Central Maryland News, the Columbia Flier, and the Baltimore Sun. She was at the Baltimore Sun for ten years.

Mary eventually started her own monthly publication for seniors called Generations in 2001. She owned and ran it until 2011.

It was her experience that led her to founding and bringing to Howard County, The Village In Howard. The Village In Howard is a member-based non-profit of Howard County residents age 55 and older who want to continue to live independently in the homes and neighborhoods they love.  The Village in Howard opened its doors in November 2014. Today, the organization’s membership is at 180 members and continues to grow.

Mary McGraw exemplifies the difference a person can make in the lives of many!


2019: Karen Mobley - Founder, Neighbor Network

Karen Mobley embodies Rotary’s motto, “Service above Self”. It is with great pleasure, excitement, and enthusiasm that we recognize and honor Karen Mobley with the Columbia Town Center Rotary Club 2019 Citizen Who Makes a Difference Award.

Founded in 2000, Neighbor Network deals with the challenges of today that require problem-solvers who bring different perspectives and are willing to take risks. Neighbor Network emerged out of a pursuit to both inspire and support the community, and a desire for actions to speak louder than words. Since its inception, the organization has been driven by progressive ideas, bold actions, and a strong foundation of support.

Karen saw a need in our community and did not look elsewhere for solutions, in fact she took on the challenge and with  family, friends and neighbors began to help those who find themselves in challenging circumstances. She and her organization created a series of programs that addressed the need for school supplies, meal kits distributed during Thanksgiving and gifts during the holiday season for families, who otherwise may not have had the resources to make each season rewarding and enjoyable. 

Karen Mobley and Neighbor Network exemplify the difference a person and organization can make in the lives of many!


2018: Julie Rosenthal - Founder, Food on the 15th

It has been said that “our children may not remember what their parents say, but they will most certainly remember what their parents do.”  Julie Rosenthal embodies the “live by deeds” life.  In 2006, Julie wanted to teach her daughter about giving back to the community.  With that in mind, Julie started an organization to help those in need, all the while, teaching her young daughter (and other young children) the plight of the less fortunate and how a community can help reduce some of the hardship.

In 2006, Julie founded Food on the 15th, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, through which Howard County students and volunteers both collect and distribute groceries and toiletries to senior citizens in the community.

Food on the 15th, has grown into an organization that has provided over 25,000 bags of groceries and toiletries to economically challenged senior citizens at Morningside Park Apartments in Jessup, MD, the Tiber Hudson building in Ellicott City, MD and Parkview Snowden, in Columbia, MD.

Julie Rosenthal embodies Rotary's motto, "Service above Self". It is with great pleasure, excitement, and enthusiasm that we recognize and honor Julie Rosenthal with the Columbia Town Center Rotary Club 2018 Citizen Who Makes a Difference Award.


2017: Ray & Sherrie Jordan - Co-Founders, Athelas Institute

Athelas – an herb with healing properties.

Ray and Sherrie Jordan founded Athelas Institute, Inc. in 1976 when they saw a need to inspire and enrich the lives of adults with intellectual disabilities.  Prior to Athelas Institute, Ray and Sherrie were drawn to community service and that common sense of service brought them together as partners in life, purpose, and altruism.

The institute’s mission is to provide opportunities for growth and personal accomplishments to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities complemented by quality services and meaningful community engagement.

Athelas serves over 400 individuals. They are supported by staff members who are trained to focus on the safety and overall well-being of their clients.  The Athelas Institute provides residential facilities, supported day employment opportunities, individual support services, transportation, and unique educational opportunities through a partnership with Catonsville Community College, which provides on-campus classes as well as access to its facilities.

Athelas continues to be recognized as a leader in the field due to their creative programs and dedicated staff.


2016: Carol Hill - Founder, Open Doors Food Pantry at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church

Carol Hill is being recognized for her initiative and leadership to start, maintain and grow the Open Doors Food Pantry at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Highland, MD into a thriving community service in Howard County.

The Open Doors Food Pantry provides a no-cost source of wholesome food for struggling families. It is open the third Saturday of every month and provides a wide range of canned foods, dry goods, fresh bread and produce, and frozen meat. 

In 2013, Carol recognized the look of hunger on the faces of children, who through no fault of their own, are part of struggling families. She felt called by God to do something about it. She worked with tenacity, navigating the various church committees and local food banks to gain permission, establish partnerships and recruit volunteers needed to fund and supply the food pantry.

The Open Doors Food Pantry opened in July 2013 with 25 volunteers and served only 7 families that day. Since then, it has steadily grown, serving an average of  21, 39, and 65 families per month in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively. Last November, the ODFP served 105 families on a single Saturday.

Carol coordinates the food orders and over 50 volunteers monthly.    The program is funded through loose change collection at the church and individual donations. The ODFP would not exist without Carol’s initiative and leadership; she is the spark that got it all started.  Carol is truly a “Citizen Who Makes a Difference!”


2016: Lauren Robinson & Jomo Folkes - Founders, Blessing in a Backpack / Food For Kids Program at Running Brook Elementary School

Lauren Robinson and Jomo Folkes are being recognized for their work to start and build the Blessing in a Backpack/ Food for Kids Program at Running Brook Elementary School (RBES). With the support of other RBES teachers, administrators and volunteers, they are making a difference in the lives of hungry children and helping them perform better in school.

Some people feel for hungry children, others do something to help them.  So it was for Lauren Robinson and Jomo Folkes who saw the need and stepped up to do something about it. Seeing that young elementary, kindergarten and pre-school children who participated in the Free and Reduced Meal programs were often too hungry to concentrate at school on Monday mornings, they realized that these children were not getting enough to eat on weekends and holidays when schools were out. Realizing that there was no help available for these children from the County Food Bank or Social Network, they stepped up to fill the gap.

They started a program that supplies child-friendly, easily prepared food for weekends and holidays for each child in need, sending it home in a backpack or grocery bag each weekend.  From their own pockets, on their own time, with the active support of an enlightened principal, they chipped in to buy what they could so that children would not go hungry. They were the spark that got this program going. Eventually, with the help of the Columbia Town Center Rotary Club and the Open Doors Food Pantry, they were able to expand their program to offer more nutritious foods and reach more hungry children in their community. 


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