Local Volunteer Wears Many Hats

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Pasadena resident Shawn Ashworth has always been dedicated to helping others.

For years she has juggled being a mother, grandmother and a full-time employee while holding leadership roles in multiple organizations, running a nonprofit and volunteering. She uses her background in counseling to understand and advocate for minorities, the homeless and low-income families.

“I’m an advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves,” said Ashworth. “That is what I have been called to do. I can retire in five years and my goal is that I’ll have enough money to retire and do this advocacy work full-time.”

Ashworth has worked for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) since the early 1990s. She has been a counselor, a special educator, an assistant principal, a principal and more. She currently works out of the Office of Safe and Orderly Schools to handle code of conduct and professional development centered around teachers, school culture and classroom management.

She has a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, a master’s in school counseling and her doctorate in educational leadership.

During her undergraduate experience at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Ashworth was involved with Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority that is part of the “Divine Nine,” a collective name for the nine historically black Greek-letter organizations. She is now the president of the North Arundel Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.

“Our organization is based on service and that is the foundation,” said Ashworth. “We do a lot of service projects in the Brooklyn Park, Meade and Glen Burnie areas.”

Within the sorority, Ashworth works with MBODI Boys Leadership and Mentoring Academy at the Boys and Girls Club of Freetown. The MBODI program recently won Delta Sigma Theta a regional award for excellence.

She sits on the board of directors as the secretary at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park, where she focuses on outreach and getting families involved in the arts. She is also the AACPS representative on the board for the Community Action Agency of Anne Arundel County, which exists to reduce poverty within the community, and serves on the advisory board for Art Empowered Minds Initiative as a representative of Delta Sigma Theta.

“I help whoever needs it,” said Ashworth. “That is my ministry.”

She began working with the Asbury Church Assistance Network (ACAN) two years ago when she learned about the homeless community that stays at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) from fellow ACAN volunteer Rhonda Jackson.

“Ms. Rhonda, who works at the airport, had talked about how she feeds the homeless when she gets off at 1:00am,” said Ashworth. “She said, ‘I’m going on a cruise, and I need you to visit my people at the airport. Take care of them.’ So, one night I went just to kind of see.”

From that day on, Ashworth consistently visited the airport on Thursday nights at 11:00pm and was inspired to create a nonprofit organization, Food 4 Thought Community Outreach Services.

“The 4 stands for food and nutrition, housing, counseling and job skill development,” explained Ashworth. “I’m still working, so currently I am only operating the food piece.”

Ashworth said all she needs is two vans and a building near a bus line to complete her vision.

Food 4 Thought has fed 80 to 95 homeless men and women at BWI on a weekly basis, and a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs allows her to provide one hot meal a month. She has also provided meals, snack bags, toiletries, clothing and whatever else the men and women need.

“I also try to connect them with our homeless office in Anne Arundel County and other agencies,” said Ashworth. “Really, the goal is not for them to live permanently in the airport. I try to supply the outreach and support services that I can. Any opportunity I have to help people, to provide for those who can’t help themselves, I am there.”

Food 4 Thought celebrated a huge success with its pre-Thanksgiving dinner on November 24, when Ashworth and her team of 52 volunteers fed 91 homeless families.

“It was just absolutely wonderful,” said Ashworth. “This one lady that came couldn’t stop crying. She was so grateful. I just love those moments when I have provided some peace, or some love or comfort for someone who is having trouble finding joy in their life.”

When her son went away to college, Ashworth began writing him special messages, which she calls “spiritual nuggets.” What began as a simple gesture to encourage her son became more than she ever imagined.

“Before I knew it, I was sending it to hundreds of people, including my ‘peeps’ at the airports,” said Ashworth. “Every Sunday, I write a spiritual nugget, and I write a life message mixed into the word of God. In 2014, I took many of those and wrote a book.”

“Spiritual Nuggets: Prayers for Your Daily Walk with God” is an extension of Ashworth’s mission to encourage and help anyone she can.

“I feel like I probably do a lot, and I don’t know that I’ll slow down,” said Ashworth. “I have been placed on this earth to help, and I pray to continue to have the energy to do that.”

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