Courtney Thomas has a commitment to volunteerism that began in her early teens. She gives countless hours to improve the lives of community members, not only in Allegany County (where she resides with her family) but also throughout the state of Maryland. The organizations Courtney serves locally include: the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, Allegany County Nursing Home, Allegany County Public Library, the D.A.R.E. Program, Peer Tutor & Counseling, Latch Key Programs and Teddy Care International.
As a student at Frostburg State University, she began spearheading her own projects. Last year with the help of Penguin Books, Courtney coordinated a $150,000 community book giveaway during National Volunteer Week. Courtney also organized a shoe drive in conjunction with Asics Shoe Corporation. A donation of twenty-five pairs of brand new tennis shoes was made to Adventist Family Services in Hagerstown, Maryland and to the Washington County Department of Social Services Foster Care Unit. On Make A Difference Day 1997 she coordinated a Clean-up the Community Day Project, and for Make a Difference Day 1999 she organized “Spare Change To Spare A Child,” a program which collected spare pennies to purchase infant car seats for families who could not afford them. The $250 she raised was used to purchase five infant care seats that were later donated to the Western Maryland Health System.
Courtney also serves outside of her home county. In Baltimore, Maryland, she distributes sandwiches and water in front of City Hall on Sundays with Happy Helpers for the Homeless. Each year, she helps with the Maryland Special Olympics. She also works with the Howard County Patapsco Women’s Institute, the Ed Block Courage Awards (honoring NFL Football players for helping inner-city children) and the D.A.R.E. Program in Calvert County. Courtney is also very active with the Make A Wish Foundation of Western Maryland.
“Character Kids!” a service project that Courtney founded and directs, is her pride and joy. The project teaches youth the six pillars of character (trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship) through mentoring. The “Character Kids!” program meetings are held on Monday and Wednesday evenings at Jane Frazier Village and Tuesday and Thursday at Fort Cumberland Homes, both of which are low-income housing projects in Cumberland, Maryland. Thirty Frostburg State University students serve as volunteer mentors for “Character Kids!” The program receives no funding and materials and supplies are secured through fundraising and the generosity of volunteers and area businesses.
In a community like Allegany County, with a population of just under 70,000 people, mentoring programs can have a significant impact in keeping kids out of trouble. A rural, economically depressed area with little industry, Allegany County has the second highest pregnancy rate in the state of Maryland and the second highest illiteracy rate as well. Through her “Character Kids!” program, Courtney is working to change this by providing positive role models for youth.
Community service is the better part of what the Miss America Organization is all about. As a local title holder, Courtney can reach out to people who may not have otherwise heard her message. Character Education and Community Service is her passion. She is committed to helping young people develop the values and abilities necessary for a successful life.