Volunteers honored for lifetime of service
The Neal Potter Path of Achievement Award is presented each year to two residents of Montgomery County, Md., 60 and above whose accomplishments, enthusiasm and lifelong commitment to volunteer service make them outstanding role models for people of all ages.
The award was named to honor the lifetime of achievement of former Montgomery County Executive and Councilmember Neal Potter.
The presentation of the awards will take place Monday, April 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Md. For more information, or to request free tickets, visit montgomeryserves.org/montgomery-serves-awards-2019.
Profiles of this year’s winners follow.
When Karen Bashir was in high school in the 1960s, three teenagers died in a car accident on prom night. For years later, her hometown of Wallingford, Conn., hosted alcohol-free after-prom parties in a local bowling alley.
Bashir, now 72, never forgot her lost classmates or her town’s activism. So in 1992, when her two children were old enough to attend the prom in Rockville, Md., she helped form a nonprofit that works to keep kids safe by offering post-dance entertainment in a bowling alley, church hall or their high-school cafeteria.
“Before you knew it, 12,000 kids were coming to our after prom,” said Bashir, a former teacher and nurse who also volunteers at several area medical clinics and nonprofits.
For Bashir’s work with the “Post Prom” group, as well as decades of other volunteer service throughout Montgomery County, a panel of judges from the County’s Commission on Aging chose her as one of two winners of the 2019 Neal Potter Path of Achievement Award.
Working with refugees is a special passion for Bashir, whose husband, Dr. Jawaid Bashir, emigrated from Pakistan decades ago. She is a board member for Social Welfare Activities, U.S., which helps Pakistani refugees find jobs and colleges, and she has volunteered at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring for 25 years, helping coordinate its English language tutoring program.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for anyone learning a different language,” she said. “I look forward to my visits,” she said, noting that her Afghan students, with their impeccable hospitality, insist on serving her tea and pistachios.
Bashir began her career as a public school teacher in New Jersey and Colorado. She met her husband in college at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She went on to the University of Maryland, where she earned a master’s in political science.
During her 22 years at the National Institutes of Health, Bashir picked up a nursing degree at night and a second master’s degree in nursing informatics. She missed that graduation in 2010, though, because it was the same day her son graduated from medical school. “I didn’t go to my graduation because I wanted to go to his,” she said.
With her nursing degree, Bashir still volunteers at health fairs for the underinsured. She also finds time to serve on the Maryland Board for the Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Mental Illness, the Montgomery County Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Advisory Council, and the Alumni Board of Governors at Montgomery College. “I don’t need a lot of sleep,” she laughed.
When she looks back on her life, Bashir is proudest of the post-prom initiative, she said. “You never know how many lives you’re saving. But the police tell us, and we take their word for it.”
The second winner of this year’s Path of Achievement Award is Jacquette “Jackie” Frazier, 61, of Takoma Park, Md.
In 1997, she moved to Takoma Park’s Essex House, an affordable housing community, and raised her daughter there.
But she’s also been highly involved in serving the community, whether delivering turkeys during the holiday season or planning programs for resident seniors.
“I’ve always been involved in what’s going on in my community,” said Frazier. “I just like doing things for people.”
Frazier was working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Office of Civil Rights in 2011 when she suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on her right side and led to her retirement from the government.
She spent a year working to regain her strength and the ability to speak, which she still struggles with sometimes. Even now, her walking remains impaired and she cannot write.
Yet she decided to dedicate her new-found free time to giving back to the community.
In 2013, Frazier collaborated with Takoma Park councilmember Jarrett Smith to launch Lunch and Learn — a free summer camp that provides low-income children with breakfast and lunch, and tutors them in math and reading.
That summer, Frazier ran Lunch and Learn out of the community room at Essex House for 30 children in first through 12th grades. The camp now serves 200 children.
“My dream was for [the camp program] to go eventually back into the schools,” Frazier said. That dream will come true this summer, when the program will be offered for the first time in partnership with Montgomery County Public Schools.
Campers receive instruction in reading and math as well as lessons on nutrition and civic duties. They’re also taught how to swim, which Frazier, a native Californian, considers a life skill.
“It takes six months of planning for six weeks of camp,” she said.
When she is not busy with her responsibilities as camp director of Lunch and Learn, Frazier is an active member of several community organizations.
She sits on the boards of the Village of Takoma Park, which helps the community’s older residents age safely in place, and What’s My Bias, a nonprofit helping immigrants and people of color access community resources. She serves on a committee for racial equality and coordinates monthly food distribution to seniors and people with disabilities living at Essex House. She also runs Takoma Park’s annual service program on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
For her commitment to the community, Frazier received the 2015 Azalea Award for “Neighborhood Volunteer of the Year” from the Takoma Foundation and is a three-time winner of the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
“I started out volunteering while I was working, and then [after retirement] I was able to give back more,” she said.
“I wanted to also let people who have disabilities know that they can do as much as anybody else.”