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United Way of Central Maryland Honors Greater Baltimore’s Top Philanthropists and Volunteers

people at an event

Images of the honorees can be found here.

Baltimore, Md. (October 23 2023) – United Way of Central Maryland celebrated the region’s top philanthropists, Tocqueville Society members – a group of 500+ members that has raised $6 million annually for the community and awardees at the annual event this year hosted by Sheela Murthy, Founder and President of Murthy Law firm. The event was sponsored by Murthy Law Firm, Ernst & Young and The Liotta Osterman Buchinski Group of Merrill Lynch. Among those honored were COPT Defense Properties (Organization of the Year), Fran and Betty Contino (Philanthropists of the Year), Mark and Joanne Pollak (Mark Furst Volunteers of a Lifetime) and Christina Block (Freeman and Jacqueline Hrabowski Distinguished Service Award).

“This group of leaders is uniquely committed to the long-term health and vitality of our neighbors and the neighborhoods they call home,” said Franklyn Baker, president and CEO, United Way of Central Maryland. “With their support, United Way is able to deliver strategic, data-driven programs and services to help people keep a roof over their heads, feed their families, get affordable childcare and jobs that pay the bills, and get the education and training they need to achieve their dreams—on their terms.” 

Each honoree has a well-known commitment to serving the community and continuing to inspire and encourage others to improve people’s lives.

COPT Defense Properties was chosen as Organization of the Year for their commitment to volunteering and investing in the local community. COPT’s CEO Steve Budorick has served as a campaign chair and board member for United Way for many years. COPT generously provided the land and construction management resources for the newest United Way Family Center in Columbia, in addition to the three state-of-the-art sensory playgrounds they championed in United Way’s Neighborhood Zones in Brooklyn, Poppleton, and Columbia.  Over the past 10 years, COPT’s impressive campaigns, corporate gifts, and special events have raised more than $1.6 million to support numerous non-profits including United Way’s direct service impact programming.

Philanthropists of the Year Betty and Fran Contino have been supporters of United Way of Central Maryland for decades. And United Way is just one of their many community organizations they support. The couple’s passion for service has led to the creation of innovative programs and services to help underserved community members.

Joanne and Mark Pollak received the Mark Furst Volunteers of a Lifetime Award. The Pollak’s exemplify United Way’s mission through their remarkable passion and commitment to the health and well-being of the Greater Baltimore community. Over the years, they have fueled United Way’s innovative work and initiatives that promote racial, economic, and social equity.

New this year, the Freeman and Jacqueline Hrabowski Distinguished Service Award honors those whose exceptional volunteerism, advocacy, and outreach make a difference in central Maryland. Honoree Christina Block, vice president of Retirement Plan Services at T. Rowe Price has donated her time and talent to United Way by volunteering year-round, serving on the Tocqueville Society Executive Council. She also participates in the Women's Philanthropic Leadership Development Program.

The evening was about celebrating Central Maryland’s most generous and dedicated citizens, as well as coming together to recognize the work that still needs to be done.

“It’s because of the dedication of these community leaders, and many others, that United Way of Central Maryland is able to tackle the tough challenges our region faces,” Baker added.  “These honorees represent vastly different segments of our business and philanthropic community, but they have one very important thing in common. They recognize that the needs in our community are substantial and they know the power, the potential, and the promise of partnership.”

This year, United Way partnered with a local maker, Keppel & Kismet, and Open Works Baltimore to design a unique award for all honorees that symbolizes United Way's deep roots in the community. 

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United Way of Central Maryland helps the working poor and those in poverty access basic needs like housing, healthcare, jobs, and education. The nonprofit’s programs promote equity, create opportunity and improve the lives of our neighbors and the neighborhoods they call home. For nearly 100 years, United Way has addressed ongoing and emerging needs in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, and Howard counties. Learn more at