16th Annual People’s Choice Awards

The Community Foundation held its 16th annual People’s Choice Awards dinner on November 5 at the Kerfoot Refectory at Saint James School. This yearly event honors individuals from the community who exemplify the term “unsung hero,” people who give generously of their time and talents to make Washington County a better place to live. In addition to recognizing these individuals at the annual dinner, the Community Foundation creates a $5,000 endowment fund in honor of each recipient.

Ernest Truax Blanton Croft Gary WeaverThe winners of this year’s People’s Choice Awards are as follows:
Blanton Croft has worked with several nonprofit organizations over the years. He serves as a greeter at the Washington County Commission on Aging’s Senior Center and as an advisory council member. Since 2004, he has managed the Repeat Performance Thrift Store for Meritus Medical Center Auxiliary every Friday, logging in over 3,000 hours of his time. As an active member of First Christian Church, Mr. Croft has helped served meals at REACH, been on the School Support Team for Washington County to provide school supplies to children less fortunate and sang in the Chancel Choir for seven years. He has participated in the Maryland State Fundraiser for the U.S. Olympic Teams prior to each international event and runs in Relay for Life annually. Washington County Commission on Aging’s Susan Hurd said, “Blanton volunteers simply to ‘pay it forward’ because through the years his family and community have done so much for him. He believes in the golden rule to do unto others as you would expect them to do unto you.” Mr. Croft elected to have the Blanton Croft Fund for Meals on Wheels created as the endowment fund in his honor.

From Hancock, Maryland, Ernest Truax has dedicated 50 years of his life to serving the Hancock Fire Company. He played an important role in the design and acquisition of several engines and was instrumental in designing and acquiring the new fire company building. He has held many positions there, including captain and several terms as chief. In addition, Mr. Truax helped create the Hancock Rescue Squad in 1969, where he has offered his services ever since. Currently he acts as the board president, a position he has held for the past eight years. Mr. Truax also volunteers for the Washington County Fire Police and the Morgan County Deputy Reserve Unit, where he mentors young men from the county pursuing careers in EMS and law enforcement. Deborah Cohill, a member of the Hancock Rescue Squad, said, “Ernie is the most selfless person I have ever met. He volunteers from the time he leaves his house in the morning until the late evening. Washington County is fortunate to have him as a resident.” The Community Foundation will establish the Ernie Truax Fund for the Hancock Rescue Squad in his honor.

Gary Weaver grew up in Hagerstown’s West End in what he refers to as “the projects.” When he was nine years old, his mom contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters to request a big brother for him. Because of the impact having a big brother had on his own life, Mr. Weaver wanted to continue helping Big Brothers Big Sisters grow as an organization, so he applied to serve as a big brother at 19. He mentored three little brothers from 1972-1984. After that, Mr. Weaver joined the board of directors where he served as president from 1995-1996 and again from 2005-2006. He enjoys sharing his life-changing experience with others to help them realize the power and impact Big Brothers Big Sisters can have on their own life. Big Brothers Big Sisters recognized his dedication and contributions of over 40 years by presenting him with an honorary designation as Heritage Member. Tom Kline, Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO, said, “Gary has dedicated his adult life to supporting the work of BBBS through his volunteerism. He has always readily and openly shared the story of his life and his life-changing experience as a little brother to help the work of BBBS progress.”
Mr. Weaver created the Gary Weaver Fund for Big Brothers Big Sisters to benefit from the endowment created in his honor.

The Community Foundation appreciates the generous support of the following businesses that help make the People’s Choice Awards possible: Albright Crumbacker Moul & Itell, LLC; The Family Heritage Trust Company; The Hershey-Fitzsimmons Group of RBC Wealth Management; M&T Bank; Mason Investment Advisory Services, Inc., Susquehanna Bank; WPS, Inc.; William Dutton Family Fund; Marshfield Associates; Herald-Mail Media; Valley Mall and WHAG.