Baltimore County Announces Community Heroes Award Winners

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced the awardees of Baltimore County’s inaugural Community Heroes Awards, recognizing seven individuals from across the County who have made significant and meaningful contributions to their communities.

“At the center of Baltimore County’s network of strong, vibrant communities are dedicated individuals who commit their free time to advocating for their neighbors and neighborhoods,” said Olszewski. “We are proud to honor these exceptional community heroes whose selfless work positively impacts our residents and makes Baltimore County a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

The inaugural Community Heroes Awards recipients for eastern Baltimore County are:

District 5: Julie Gaynor, Middle River

Gaynor served more than 40 years as a teacher for students with visual impairments at the Maryland School for the Blind and Baltimore County Public Schools. Now retired, she mentors students and is actively involved with “Space Camp for Visually Impaired Students” and the national Braille Challenge. A longtime Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce member, Gaynor has spent “countless hours” supporting the Chamber’s Annual Secret Santa and Christmas Angels project for underprivileged students is co-chair of its Workforce Development Committee. Gaynor also serves on the Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities and is an active member of the Wilson Point Civic Community Association.

District 6: Noel Acton, Parkville, The Tender Bridge

Focused on getting kids off the street and into sports programs, Noel and his team provide all levels of assistance including equipment, transportation, and meals to help the kids be active and engaged. The Foundation also runs the Baltimore Banners and Junior Banners hockey teams, a safe space for at-risk youth to not only increase their chances of survival, but to become a positive influence in their community. Noel was the winner of the NHL’s 2022 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, and has been featured in The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Magazine, on and in The New York Times for his efforts.

District 7: Cliff O’Connell, Essex

Described as “an incredibly humble, kind, generous and caring person who is passionate about his community,” O’Connell helped spearhead the effort to revitalize Essex by boarding up and cleaning up vacant properties; fighting for and securing a rat control and treatment pilot program with Baltimore County; serving on the County’s Code Enforcement Improvement Work Group and working with Code Enforcement to eliminate graffiti, trash and overgrowth in neighborhoods. Advocating for those in need, he volunteers at local schools and supports community charities and fundraising efforts.

Rest of the winners throughout the county:
District 1: Otis Collins, Halethorpe
District 2: Dawn Seestedt, Gywnn Oak
District 3: Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Towson
District 4: Anie Polastre, Owings Mills

The winners announced will be recognized at Baltimore County’s second annual Community Leaders Summit on Sept. 28.

B.J. Joseph

Benjamin Joesph has covered news in Eastern Baltimore County since 2006. He started as a reporter with the original East County Times in 2006. He started East Baltco News and later in 2022.