Volunteer Spotlight – Karen Albert

Welcome Karen Albert – New Chair of the Marian House Board

 

We welcomed Karen Albert as the new Chair of the Marian House board of directors on July 1, 2021. Karen has been involved with Marian House since 2008, when she joined the board and the advancement committee. During her first year on the board, she was the co-chair of the very first 5k, an event that is celebrating its 13th year in 2021. Karen continued to serve on the board and on various committees until 2018, when she took a brief hiatus. She rejoined the board in 2019, quickly assuming the position of vice chair and chair of the board development committee. 

When asked what she most looks forward to in her new role, Karen responded, “I have seen Marian House evolve and grow tremendously over the years I have been involved. I look forward to working with my fellow board members and the leadership and staff of Marian House to continue to develop and execute on strategic plans that will continue Marian House on its path forward. I feel there is so much opportunity for Marian House to serve more women and the board can play an important role in ensuring that is possible. It is my honor to have an opportunity to lead the board for the coming years.”     

Karen will lead us as we complete year three of our current strategic plan and will guide us through a new strategic planning process for 2023-2026. Karen stated, I am thrilled to be associated with Marian House at a time when so many positive things are happening.
The Marian House board of directors will do our best to elevate the visibility of Marian House in the community and help more women move from dependence to independence.”

When Karen is not giving of her time, talent, and treasure to Marian House, she holds the position of Vice President, Head of Internal Audit, and Internal Control for Constellium. Constellium, headquartered in Paris, France, is a global leader in the manufacturing of high value-added aluminum products and solutions.

Karen is a member of Executive Alliance, a Maryland based organization focused on accelerating the success and leadership of accomplished women by expanding their impact and influence through advocacy, education, and mentorship. Karen was recognized as a Daily Record Maryland Top 100 Woman in 2020. On a personal note, Karen has been married to her husband John for 22 years. They are dog lovers and currently have two yellow labs; Cali is 7 and Jules is 3. Marian House board and staff look forward to working with Karen for the next few years in her new leadership role.

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: The Smolen Family

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: The Smolen Family

There are many ways you can volunteer for Marian House and the Smolen Family of four has proven that.

John Smolen is a Marian House volunteer and his connection to us dates to 2008, a connection he describes as “hanging out in Katie’s circles.” (Katie Allston, Executive Director). At the time, John was on the board of the Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP) and knew about Marian House from running into Katie at Cub Scout meetings. Katie’s son Quinn was in the Cub Scout pack with John’s son, where John was Scout Master. Katie’s husband Paul grew up in Kansas City, about one mile from where John Smolen grew up. Talk about six degrees of separation!

John is a lawyer at the prestigious firm of Ballard Spahr LLP, where they have a very strong “pro bono culture” and where John holds the 2020 Pro Bono Honor Roll Gold recognition. The firm’s belief is that a charity’s money is better spent on their mission than paying for legal services. Marian House was the beneficiary of Ballard Spahr’s generosity when we learned about the acquisition of the Women’s Industrial Exchange (WIE) Building and had a need for legal services.

Marian House had the pleasure of working with a team of five lawyers and paralegals: John Smolen, Teri Guarnaccia, Alyssa Domzal, Marybeth Orsini and Kate McDonald. John stated, “the Ballard Spahr team is super supportive of pro bono work and this was no exception. This was a fairly routine real estate transaction and was a teaching opportunity for some of our younger lawyers and paralegals.”

John’s wife Jenny is the business manager of the Catholic Community of South Baltimore, a combination of three churches in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore.

Jenny was able to direct financial donations to Marian House from the church collections. John and Jenny are also personal donors to Marian House and have participated in our 5K Race for many years.

Felix Smolen, John & Jenny’s son, attends Mt. St. Joe’s High School and recently volunteered at Marian House to meet some of his service hour requirements. John and Jenny’s daughter, Rae, attends The Catholic High School and is planning to do some service hours at Marian House as soon as she is able.

When asked why the Smolen family is so devoted to Marian House John replied, “the Catholic connection was definitely a part of it. I have a deep- rooted Catholic faith and have an aunt who is a Sister of Mercy. The fact that Marian House was founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Sisters of Mercy made it easy for my family to connect with Marian House.”

We are grateful to the Smolen family and the team from Ballard Spahr for their support of the Marian House mission.

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Kate Hutson

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Kate Hutson

Cate Hutson is a 17-year-old senior at Towson High School. She runs track and cross country and also participates in the school’s Model Congress. She’s taking the virtual start to her senior year in stride and is focused on college application essays to mid-Atlantic schools with programs in biology and public health.

Marian House has been lucky to have worked with Cate over the past two years on a final service project as she finishes 11 years in the Girl Scouts. As an active member of her troop, Cate is following in the footsteps of her mother, a former Girl Scout, and her brother, who was once active in Cub Scouts.

After winning the Girl Scout Silver Award for a project focused on animal welfare, and before transitioning to what is sure to be a bright future, Cate decided to strive for the prestigious Gold Award, a feat achieved by only 5% of eligible senior and ambassador scouts, by devoting her time and talents to a capstone project which would build on the skills she’s acquired through her years in the Girl Scouts.

Cate heard about Marian House through her mother and a partner organization as she was exploring opportunities to work with people. After two years of thorough planning, Cate brought 23 volunteers out over 4 days in late July to clean and beautify the small, private playground behind the Notre Dame Residence at our Independence Place Campus in Pen Lucy, and spruced up some adjacent plant beds at the Independence Place campus. She acquired the tools and materials, as well as the people power, to remove trash and weeds, clean playground equipment, trim back vines and trees, replace gravel and rotted landscape timbers, install a drainage system and spread new mulch.

She coordinated with and procured resources from Hollins Market and Home Depot, gleaned input from experts at Mahan Rykiel Associates and those within her personal network, but it was the implementation phase of the project where she felt that she thrived and had the most fun. Despite having to wrap up the project in the midst of a pandemic, she was still able to mobilize friends, family, classmates and members of her faith community at Central Presbyterian Church to make her vision and the needs of our Marian House families come to fruition.

With a focus on sustainability, Cate has also provided Marian House with the details needed to maintain the refurbished space for our children and families to use long into the future. During a summer in which Marian House families have been more homebound than ever, this has been an extra special gift to us! We share our appreciation for Cate’s time and hard work. Congratulations on earning the Girl Scout Gold Award!