The Community Foundation of Howard County has announced that A Home of Our Own Howard, Inc. is the recipient of the 2023 Casey & Pebble Willis “Making a Difference” Award. Betty Pearson, founder and board president of A Home of Our Own, was presented with the Willis Award at the community foundation’s Annual Dinner & Celebration of Philanthropy.
The Willis Award celebrates some of the amazing work being done by nonprofits in our community, by showcasing an organization or particular program, that directly impacted residents of Howard County and made a quantifiable difference in people’s lives over the past year. The recipient nonprofit receives a $5,000 grant as the winning organization.
The award was established 21 years ago by the Willis Family to honor Casey Willis, a remarkable woman who was engaged in both civic and charitable institutions throughout our community.
Casey cared about people and loved Howard County. She had an impressive record of service. She represented the county on task forces and commissions. She was a member of the Rotary Club of Columbia, the American Heart Association and the YMCA. She served on the board of her church and The Arc of Howard County, and she helped raise funds for Howard County General Hospital. She was everywhere.
Because she made a difference in so many people’s lives, and was so committed to and passionate about causes she believed in, her family established this award in her memory to recognize her contributions and support the wide variety of causes she considered so important to a thriving community.
Her husband, Dr. Eugene “Pebble” Willis, was an orthopedic surgeon dedicated to providing excellent care and services to his patients and to making a difference in our community. Pebble loved presenting this award in Casey’s memory on an annual basis. When Pebble passed away in 2009, the award was renamed to honor the memory of both Casey and Pebble and their legacy of “Making a Difference” in our community.
A Home of Our Own Howard, Inc. (HOOO) is a nonprofit that provides furniture and household items at no cost, in a timely fashion, to individuals, veterans and families in Howard County who are transitioning from homelessness.
A Home of Our Own is an all-volunteer nonprofit driven by founder and current board president, Betty Pearson. The clients moving into their new homes each week are not the only community members who benefit from the work at Home of Our Own. Volunteers and donors are enthusiastic to be part of the tangible experience of treasured household items being repurposed to help furnish a home and to provide for families in need within our community. Here are few of their volunteer stories:
- One volunteer recalled responding to a request on the FreeCycle site for a toaster. When she delivered the toaster, she realized that the mother and her children needed a lot more than a toaster. The family had no furniture at all, so volunteers were quickly able to furnish the home amid thanks and tears from a grateful client.
- One donor family, whose elder parent was moved into a long-term care facility, was so grateful that Home of Our Own brought the van to the house, volunteers moved the furniture and housewares easing both daunting task of clearing the family home and leaving them with comfort that other families in need would benefit as a result.
Like the story of many organizations, it grew from its founder’s passion project over time into an incorporated 501c3 by 2021. And it’s taken off from there.
By the third quarter of 2023, the organization now:
- coordinates with case managers within 19 county organizations working to end homelessness in Howard County.
- moved into 17,000 sq ft, otherwise vacant office space, provided as generous community in-kind donation by Corporate Office Property Trust (COPT) to store donated furniture and housewares
- has grown its 100% volunteer workforce to 60 individuals, primarily Howard County residents working on average 300 hours/month
- picks up donations from an average of 28 Howard County residences per month during 2023
- and for the last two years – has outfitted homes for 6-8 families each month. Impressive stuff.
Please join us in congratulating Betty Pearson, the staff and volunteers of A Home of Our Own Howard, Inc. on earning the Casey & Pebble Willis “Making a Difference” Award.
Casey & Pebble Willis “Making a Difference” Award History
2023 A Home of Our Own Howard, Inc.
2022 Bridges to Housing Stability (for its Circle of Support program)
2020 Girls on Fire (for its girls mentoring program)
2017 Humanim (for its “Healthy Transitions Program”)
2016 Community Action Council (for services after EC flood)
2015 A-OK Mentoring
2014 Camp Attaway
2013 Domestic Violence Center of Howard County
(for its Sexual Assault Hospital Accompaniement Program (SAHAP))
2012 Neighbor Ride
2011 Linwood Center (for its Linwood Center Boutique)
2010 Community Action Council (for its “One Month’s Rent” initative)
2009 Chase Brexton (for its dental screening & health promotion program)
2008 Rebuilding Together Howard County
2007 Howard County Autism Society
2006 FISH of Howard County, Inc.
2005 Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center
2004 The Health Alliance
2003 Christ Church Link Program