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Submitted photosFrank Hollewa, left, current executive director of the Greater Waldorf Jaycees Foundation, and Jaycees members Bud Humbert and Andy Andrews pose with the Harold Marks Award for being the best chapter in the nation in 1980. The organization also won the honor in 1979 and 2006 and was named the No. 1 chapter in the world in 1979 and 1981.
It's hard to believe a group formed by a few guys who only wanted to play some pool and basketball has evolved into an organization that has raised millions of dollars over the past 40 years.
The Greater Waldorf Jaycees — established in 1969 — has dotted the landscape of the county with buildings and playgrounds and ball fields and subsidized senior citizen apartments that offer programs funded by nonprofits that rely on the organization to help keep them strong.
The group is essential in Charles County for programs to help disabled people, youth, senior citizens and to assist police officers in fighting crime.
From a humble beginning where a few newcomers to the county in the early 1970s used to meet in the basements and top floors of now defunct hotels and restaurants to a small building that had to be torn down to make way for the widening of a county road to a sprawling community center located in the heart of Waldorf, the Jaycees is a family that has vowed from the very beginning to help those less fortunate in the community.
The organization has succeeded in a big way.
The early years
The Waldorf Jaycees was established when the Crescent City Jaycees of Marlow Heights and the Western Charles Jaycees under the leadership of Bill Drapler decided to form a chapter of the nonprofit organization in Waldorf with a membership of only 35 men.
The early pioneers in the organization say that they would like to take credit for wanting to join the Waldorf Jaycees for an altruistic reason but the plain truth is four of the founding members — Frank Hollewa, Gary Harshberger, Dick Gregory and Paul Andrews — admit that they only wanted to play pool, softball and basketball in a league.
And, up until that time the Jaycees did not have a much of a winning league, joked Gregory, the chairman of the board for the Waldorf Jaycees Foundation who served as its president for 17 years. He also served as the chapter's president from 1974 to 1975.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Gregory wound up in Charles County 42 years ago after serving in the U.S. Air Force.
"I've told this story for 40 years," he said, laughing. "When a person joins a civic organization there's usually an altruistic reason for joining. I shot pool and Frank Hollewa called me and said that the Jaycees had a lousy team and that he needed me to join up. Once I got in and found out what can be accomplished it was amazing."
"I joined when I was 25 years old," said Hollewa, referred to as the "godfather" by the older members of the organization. Hollewa serves as the executive director of the Waldorf Jaycees Foundation. "The only reason that I joined was to shoot pool in the league. The Jaycees had a terrible team back then. Then I became so enthusiastic about what the organization was doing that I just stayed."
"I joined to play basketball," said Andrews, who is the president of the Waldorf Jaycees Foundation. "We all joined to play sports but we ended up staying and doing a heck of a lot more than we ever could have imagined."
It took a few years to get the organization rolling but once it gained steam there was no stopping the men — and at first it was only men — from jumping in feet first to help needy causes in the county.
"We were just a group of very sharp guys from all walks of life," Gregory said. "Back in the early days we used to argue incessantly about giving $250 to an organization. What really got us going was when we came into $10,000. We didn't really know what to do with it. We didn't know what the problems were in the community so that we could spend the money wisely."
Gregory said the organization decided to take a survey to find out what were the greatest needs in the community.
"We advertised in the paper — help us spend this money,'" he recalled. "We visited anybody who would talk to us."
The organization finally came up with areas that the members would focus on — senior citizens, the developmentally disabled, community and youth groups and crime prevention, Gregory said.
Of those focus areas helping the developmentally disabled topped the list, Gregory said, adding that the mindset of folks about mentally and physically challenged people several decades ago was a lot different than it is today.
"I remember when we were trying to get a special exception for Melwood [a caregiver to developmentally disabled people]," he said. "They asked me how big the fence was going to be that we were going to build around the facility. They wanted to be sure that the people there wouldn't get out and terrorize' the area. It just shows the mindset of people back then. The chapter is most proud of the programs that we sponsored that helped to change the way that developmentally disabled people are treated."
In the first few years, women who wanted to serve with the organization became Jaycee-ettes, Gregory said. The group served as a sort of auxiliary to the Waldorf Jaycees chapter from 1971 to 1985.
The women did their own fundraising during those days, said Julie Andrews-Walker, a nearly lifelong member of the organization who co-chaired the organization's 40th anniversary committee with another long-time member, Erin Rice.
Andrews-Walker said that she remembers her mom, Sharon Andrews, selling doughnuts and coffee to people who waited in the extremely long gas lines that formed in the early 1970s at local fuel stations.
The organization has come a long way since the early days. Several women have served as the president of the chapter, including Del. Sally Y. Jameson (D-Charles), the organization's first woman president, who served from 1989 to 1990.
"I never would have made that step into the political arena without the things that I learned in the Jaycees," she said. "The organization teaches you things that you need to know about leadership and the business world."
To be a member of the chapter a person must be 21 to 40 years old, Gregory said. The organization also has a Junior Jaycees chapter that enlists young people ages 12 to 18, he said. The Junior Jaycees has a board of directors and the members participate in their own community projects such as Toys for Tots, Destination Imagination and the Charles County Teen Court.
Once a member reaches the ripe old age of 40, he or she is encouraged to serve with the Waldorf Jaycees Foundation, Gregory said. The foundation was formed in 1986 and consists of past presidents, the current president and members who achieve Jaycee senator status. The nonprofit foundation is the fundraising arm of the chapter.
The chapter has about 150 members and the foundation has 80, Hollewa said, adding that membership is very strong. Hollewa served as the chapter's president from 1972 to 1973.
"As long as we have people who are willing to contribute and put forth an effort unselfishly and unpaid we're bound to continue," he said.
The Jaycees celebrated 40 years of service in the community last month at the organization's community center in Waldorf.
A continuous slide show played during the event that put the spotlight on the many programs and projects that the organization has established or contributed to over the years.
It would be impossible to list everything that the Jaycees has done for the community, but some highlights are the contributions the group made in establishing the Spring Dell Center and F.B. Gwynn Educational Center in La Plata, Melwood Retreat Center and Kamp A-Kom-Plish in Nanjemoy and the Charles County Special Olympics.
"The national Special Olympics had started but there was nothing going on in Charles County," Gregory recalled. "We were young and na‘ve in those days. We went out and got a stopwatch and a tape measure and staged our first mile-run. Those kids didn't know what a mile was. They got halfway around the track at Thomas Stone High School before they ran out of gas."
The Jaycees built all of the original buildings at Melwood, Gregory said.
"We started out teaching those folks how to pot plants and now they're working in grocery stores and fast-food restaurants and doing landscaping," he said.
The Jaycees introduced the first subsidized housing for senior citizens in Charles County with the opening of the Jaycees Apartments on Ell Lane in Waldorf in 1980.
Several years ago, the Jaycees partnered with a regional developer to build the Victoria Park Apartments in St. Charles and last year the group opened the Walldorf Astor senior apartments, also on Ell Lane. In all, there are 202 subsidized apartments in the county for seniors, Gregory said.
The organization is also heavily involved in the Meals on Wheels program and sponsors the Senior Prom at the Jaycees center every year where young and old gather for a night of dance and conversation.
In addition, the organization expanded its community hall for a senior citizens center where four senior clubs meet weekly.
The Jaycees have also contributed a lot to youth in the county. The organization sponsors sports teams and helps booster clubs raise money with bingo sponsored at the community center, Gregory said.
The Jaycees partnered with the Waldorf Little League to build the Robert Stethem Memorial Park on Piney Church Road in Waldorf and was instrumental in building a playground for handicapped children at Laurel Springs Park in La Plata.
The organization's next youth project is the "Jaycees Field of Dreams" — a baseball field for children with special needs at Laurel Springs Park that will have a rubberized surface, handicapped-accessible dugouts and a protective fence.
The Jaycees also awards $100,000 a year in scholarships, Gregory said.
Other projects the organization has been involved in include helping Archbishop Neal School in La Plata rebuild after it was leveled by the 2002 tornado and helping establish the Charles County Crime Solvers and Center for Abused Persons in Waldorf. The group is currently working with the Charles County Sheriff's Office on a program that tracks elderly Alzheimer's disease patients when they wander away from their caregivers.
The Jaycees regularly provides catering and the free use of the organization's hall so that nonprofits in the community can hold fundraisers, Gregory said.
It is an astounding and seemingly endless list of accomplishments that the organization takes in stride.
"Over the years we've had such a good relationship with the county commissioners, businesses and the community that we get instant credibility whenever we want to start a new project," Gregory said. "They know that we're not in this for ourselves. We're in this to help the community become a better place."
The organization's good works have not gone unnoticed.
The chapter received the Harold A. Marks Memorial Award in 1979, 1980 and 2006 for being the best Jaycee chapter in the nation and was honored for being the No. 1 Jaycees chapter in the world in 1979 and 1981, Andrews said.
All in the family
Today there is a second-generation of men and women who are members of the Waldorf Jaycees chapter. They recall growing up as "Jaycees brats" and attending functions that their parents helped to sponsor for projects in the community.
Their children are now becoming involved with the organization, as well.
Erin Rice said her parents, Jim Hoke and the late Kay Hoke, spent a lot of their time working on community projects on behalf of the Jaycees.
"That was my life," she said. "My parents were very active in the organization. The Jaycees is a very family-oriented group. Whenever my parents did projects in the community my brother and I went along with them."
Rice said her daughter, 13-year-old Victoria, is a member of the Junior Jaycees.
"It's a good environment; I like raising my daughter in the Jaycees' environment," she said. "I like to teach her that she can't always take. She needs to know that there are people out there who are less fortunate."
Andrews-Walker said her sons, Andrew, 11, and Alex, 8, are also involved in the organization. Andrews-Walker's parents are longtime Jaycee members Paul and Sharon Andrews. She serves as the treasurer for the organization's board of directors.
"I want them to be a part of it because I want them to get out of it what I got out of it," she said. "I want them to see the reward they get from serving in the community and how that will impact their lives."
The lessons that she learned while serving in the Jaycees will last a lifetime, Andrews-Walker said.
"I learned at an early age about the value of money," she said. "I learned that there are people out there who didn't have money. I learned to not take things for granted."
Dick Gregory's son, Paul, is a Charles County Sheriff's Office deputy who served in the U.S. Army during Desert Storm. He returned to the county and immediately got active with the Jaycees, serving as the chapter's president in 2007.
"My father instilled in me a sense of service," he said. "That's one of the reasons that I moved back here. I want to be part of the community. It's a place where I want to raise my kids. People need to get involved in the community and be a part of it."
Eric and Tatiana Vrem are keeping membership in the Jaycees in the family. Eric Vrem was the organization's president in 2008, and Tatiana is the current president.
"It's unbelievable what you can do by being a Jaycee," Eric Vrem said. "It's a huge organization. It's the one place that you can belong to that helps everybody."
"I look forward to coming to the Jaycees," Tatiana Vrem said. "It's truly rewarding and every little thing we accomplish adds up to an enormous impact. … The Jaycees is truly a life-changing experience and I guarantee that anyone that invests some time in helping the organization will be changed forever."
"The Jaycees has impacted so many lives in Charles County and they do it on a daily basis," said Kevin Wedding, who served as the chapter's president in 2004. "It's an awesome group. It's a good organization comprised of good people who do great things. I can't imagine life without the Jaycees because they have such a huge impact on the community."
At the helm<P> In 1969, the Western Waldorf Jaycees formed a chapter of the Jaycees in Waldorf with a membership of 35 men.
In the early years, women joined the Greater Waldorf Jaycee-ettes. After a while women were allowed to join the organization and so far a total of 40 men and women have served as president.
Presidents of the group were: 1969-1970, John Gregg
1970-1971, Tom Scherer
1971-1972, Jerry Mabry
1972-1973, Frank Hollewa
1973-1974, Gary Harshberger
1974-1975, Dick Gregory
1975-1976, Paul Andrews
1979-1977, Bill Lyons
1977-1978, Ray Trenary
1978-1979, Brian Ramsey*
1979-1980, Andy Andrews
1980-1981, Bud Humbert
1981-1982, Steve Micciche
1982-1983, John Goldsmith
1983-1984, Casey McDevitt
1984-1985, John Calomeris
1985-1986, Paul DiDomenico
1986-1987, Randy Hart
1987-1988, Bob Malone
1988-1989, Bo Boucher
1989-1990, Sally Jameson
1990-1991, James Langley
1991-1992, Karen Guntrum*
1992-1993, Marsha Newman
1993-1994, Frank Poole*
1994-1995, Evonne Day*
1995-1996, Suzanne Wible
1997-1998, Madonna Langley
1999, Kim Lukas
2000, Janine Layman
2001, Stacey Crowe
2002, Pam Thompson
2003, Tim Poole
2004, Kevin Wedding
2005, Karen Poole
2006, Kim Steinbach
2007, Paul Gregory
2008, Eric Vrem
2009, Tatiana Vrem
Presidents of the Waldorf
1971-1972, Delores Gregg
1972-1973, Jean Mabry
1973-1974, Sharon Strausser
1974-1975, Olive Harshberger
1975-1976, Maureen Trenary
1976-1977, Ruth Lyons
1977-1978, Sharon Andrews
1978-1979, Kay Hoke*
1979-1980, Carmen Shea
1980-1981, Sandy Miller
1981-1982, Ann Wood
1982-1983, Marianne Calomeris
1983-1984, Bobby Goldsmith
1984-1985, Evonne Day
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