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Sandra Panchalingam, 2020 MLK Jr. Community Service Award Recipient

Sandra Panchalingam, 2020 MLK Jr. Community Service Award Recipient

Sandra has been volunteering with nonprofit organizations in Maryland for nearly 20 years.

Sandra Panchalingam started working as a research program manager in the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing’s Office of Science and Innovation in 2019, where she co-chairs the Research Restart Committee, sits on a doctor of nursing practice project ethics review committee and helps arrange seminars for faculty members and students. But her work in Baltimore started well before her time at Johns Hopkins. After moving to Maryland from the United Kingdom in 1998, Panchalingam connected with two nonprofit organizations through her church, and has been volunteering ever since.

“I’ve always thought to myself, ‘What if I didn’t have a pair of shoes or food to eat,’ so when I see an opportunity to help people, I just jump in and do it,” she says.

For the past 18 years, Panchalingam has volunteered with Adopt-A-Block, Inc., a nonprofit coalition of churches, city government, the police department, community services and businesses that works to restore Baltimore City neighborhoods, block by block. She has helped renovate abandoned houses for veterans and first-time homeowners, hosted block parties and donation drives, and volunteered at the organization’s food distribution program, which feeds 43,000 families a month. She also served as treasurer for five years and regularly writes grant proposals on the organization’s behalf. She is currently working on a grant for a food truck to enable the organization’s food program to better provide nutritious, warm meals to members of the community who may not have gas or electricity, or know how to cook.

Panchalingam is also a long-term volunteer with The Hiding Place, a nonprofit residential facility in Towson, Maryland, that assists young women facing crisis pregnancy, domestic abuse, substance abuse or homelessness. Since 2011, she has provided support by writing grant proposals, volunteering as treasurer and spending time with the women at the facility.

“After work, I switch into volunteer mode,” she says. “I can’t take these women to hospital appointments during the day when I work, and I cannot volunteer at Adopt-A-Block during business hours, but I can use my talents and expertise to find ways to help when I can.”

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