Legacy of Service

Meet the recipients of the 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards.

Published in Dome - January/February 2016

Carla Beckford

Manager, Employment Services
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Carla Beckford says her parents instilled in her the values of education and a strong work ethic—lessons she passes on by volunteering with the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. In this work, Beckford visits various local high schools to talk to students about the importance of education. “If I can get through to one child in that classroom, I’ve done my job,” she says.

She also serves as a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and uses her human resources skills to facilitate resume training and job coaching classes for the unemployed through a program sponsored by her church.

“Some people like to close up shop when they leave work, but I love what I do,” says the five-year Johns Hopkins employee. “Through all of my volunteer work, the end goal is empowerment, knowledge and self-determination.”

April Holmes

Medication Technician
Hopkins ElderPlus

For the past seven years, Thanksgivings at the Holmes house have been quiet. April Holmes is too busy volunteering, redistributing hot meals, and handing out food and clothing, courtesy of the Bea Gaddy Family Center and the O’Donnell Heights Tenants Council.

“I find it more rewarding to give back,” says Holmes. After work, Holmes also helps mind and feed children three days a week at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore’s O’Donnell Heights branch. And every year, she spearheads a school supplies fundraiser for  local students.

Lee Keagle

Application Coordinator, Epic
The Johns Hopkins Hospital

As a Florida vacationer, Lee Keagle has made the 100-mile drive between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach numerous times. Last April, however, she biked that route while making an eight-day trek from Baltimore to Key West, Florida, as part of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults’ Key to Keys fundraiser. Her 34-member team, including seven cancer survivors, raised over $150,000 in support of the organization’s programs for young adults battling cancer.

Keagle got involved with the Baltimore-based nonprofit as a triathlete and marathon runner. Now, she coaches women who want to get into those forms of racing through the Iron Girl Training Program. 

“It’s rejuvenating to see these women—many of them cancer survivors—cross the finish line after working so hard,” she says.

Keagle is also part of B-More Engaged, a local Meetup group that brings young professionals together to volunteer. Activities include cleaning and repainting city classrooms, and serving breakfast to homeless veterans and cooking meals at housing facilities for families of Johns Hopkins patients.

Joe Smith

Director, Local Government Affairs
The Johns Hopkins University

Joe Smith has been giving his time to help others for nearly half a century. Still, there are two endeavors he holds closest to his heart: his work with the Bethel AME Church scholarship ministry and with the Y in Central Maryland’s Baltimore City Community Leadership Board. His 20 years of ministry work have provided critical mentoring and financial support to Bethel students; $40,000 worth of scholarships were distributed last year alone. Smith’s six years of YMCA volunteering and fundraising have also supported mentoring and jobs for young people. Smith grew up in rural Georgia, where he was born to a 16-year-old single mother, graduated high school at 15 and—after writing a 25-page letter to the president of Morehouse College—attended the school on a full scholarship. “When you grow up in poverty and rough neighborhoods, you easily see the value of being helpful to others,” he says.

Kekoa Taparra

Ph.D. Candidate, Cellular and Molecular Medicine
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Kekoa Taparra dedicated his career to cancer research after 10 members of his own family were treated for various forms of the disease. Now a fourth-year cellular and molecular medicine Ph.D. student in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences, the native Hawaiian volunteers weekly at the Hackerman-Patz Patient and Family Pavilion, which houses Johns Hopkins oncology patients and their families. There, he connects on a personal level with some of the very same patients he encounters in his daily work.

As an elected council member of the American Association for Cancer Research, Taparra represented the organization recently in Washington, D.C., defending the importance of National Institutes of Health funding to policymakers. He also received grant funding to host a summer program for graduate students through the Biomedical Scholars Association, for which he is an active volunteer mentor and community service chair.

Annie Umbricht

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Since 2002, Annie Umbricht has been donating weekly primary care services for people visiting Shepherd’s Clinic, a local nonprofit that serves those who can’t afford commercial health insurance but who are nevertheless ineligible for government assistance. “It’s my way of filling the gaps in the system and practicing medicine that helps patients develop resilience,” says Umbricht, who has a joint appointment in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. In 2009, Umbricht helped open the clinic’s Joy Wellness Center, where patients can access integrative treatments, like acupuncture and massage.

Corey Williams

Manager of IT Clinical Operations and eRadiology Center
The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Corey Williams credits his father, Ted, another MLK award winner, with building his sense of community commitment. During the 22 years he has worked at Johns Hopkins, Williams volunteered for programs sponsored by his church, including helping to build a senior home for widowed members of the congregation and a new child care center for low-income families. His affiliation with Choo Smith Youth Empowerment, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of Baltimore youth, began when his daughter attended the group’s basketball camp. Most recently, he served as co-chair of the fundraising committee. His dedication to motivating youth carries into his work at Johns Hopkins, where he co-leads the Dunbar Young Scientists program. This eight-week summer session provides hands-on experience and exposure to health care careers for Paul Laurence Dunbar High School students.

Jelani Zarif

Postdoctoral Fellow, Urology
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Every Saturday before 9 a.m., Jelani Zarif heads to West Baltimore’s Delta Lambda Foundation Outreach Center to mentor Baltimore City juniors and seniors as part of the Beautillion Scholars Program. The program helps prepare young African-American men for college, careers, relationships and community service. Zarif also mentored a student with Medical Education Resources Initiative for Teens, a program encouraging underrepresented high school students to become health care leaders. He says he benefited from mentors during his own formative years and is a strong believer in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “I think everybody can serve and be great,” says Zarif.