The sun is still hours away from rising. Laurel City Councilwoman Valerie Nicholas can’t wait for it. She’s been up for hours preparing food to deliver to the homeless and families in need. On most mornings, she’s out the door by 6 am.
“I really strive to make an impact on people through service,” she says. It’s more than just legislation for me. It’s been a labor of love.”
A labor of love borne from her personal pain. She’s a survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence and has dedicated her life to sparing others some of what she endured.
“I’ve been a caregiver for 21 years. A lot of people count of me,” Ms. Nicholas says while popping open the trunk of her car which is overflowing with hygiene kits she put together and some that are donated for the homeless families she feeds. Later this summer, school supplies for children will be added in.
She does all of that before she arrives at her full-time job as a Volunteer Services & Patient Relations Coordinator and Pastoral Care at the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center.
Ms. Nicholas is the first African American woman to be appointed and then elected to the Laurel City Council. That was in 2011. Both jobs allow her to feed her real love--connecting people to services. In the last few weeks, she’s helped three families get their lights turned back on.
The people she helps call her a life saver. And in May, for the second time, she truly was.
A hospital volunteer called Ms. Nicholas from a store, and within minutes she realized from the volunteer’s slurred speech and confusion, that the volunteer were having a stroke. Valerie asked the volunteer to hand the phone to the cashier who called 911. She called the emergency room. The volunteer was admitted and treated right away, and thanks to Ms. Nicholas’ quick actions, survived.
“I thank God I was there and could recognize something was wrong and call for help,”Ms. Nicholas said.
Because of her lifesaving actions that day, UM Capital Region Health has awarded Valerie Nicholas its highest honor—the Josie King Hero Award.
In a statement from the hospital, Dr. Trudy Hall, Vice President of Medical Affairs and UM Laurel Medical Center’s Executive Leader says, “Valerie demonstrates compassion and instinctive concern daily. Her most recent “Great Save” reflects those characteristics we have come to rely on.”
Ms. Nicholas good deeds have gotten the attention of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s Office too. She has been nominated for a Governor’s Service Award in the Lifetime Achievement category. She’ll find out in October if she is the winner.
For now, the four term City Council woman will continue putting in more than 20 hours a week at Laurel City Council work sessions and meetings, and community events.
“Valerie has been dedicated to the people of Laurel since she first set foot in the City in 2001,”Laurel Mayor Craig A. Moe says. “It’s more than just a job for her. It’s her passion.”
“I’ll never stop helping people,” Ms. Nicholas says. “It’s just what I do.”
Here is a press release about the Josie King Hero Award from UM Capital Region Health
Great Save – Josie King Hero Award
Valerie Nicholas, Volunteer Services Coordinator
This month, UM Capital Region Health honors Valerie Nicholas, Volunteer Services Coordinator, who “paused for safety” to address a potentially life threatening situation when a hospital volunteer appeared disoriented with slurred speech.
In May, a hospital volunteer called Valerie from a nearby store. During the phone conversation the volunteer displayed confusion with slurred speech. Valerie asked the volunteer to pass the phone to the cashier. Valerie told the cashier to call 911. She then called the Laurel Emergency Room to let them know that the volunteer may be arriving shortly. Upon arrival, the volunteer was admitted and treatment began immediately.
Valerie’s swift recognition of stroke symptoms and communication of her concern to the cashier and Emergency Room staff was essential in delivering timely medical intervention for a potentially life threatening condition.
“Valerie demonstrates compassion and instinctive concern daily,” says Trudy R. Hall, MD, Vice President of Medical Affairs and UM Laurel Medical Center’s Executive Leader. Her most recent “Great Save” reflects those characteristics we have come to rely on. Our patients and volunteers benefit from Valerie’s ability to connect to people with kindness and sincerity.”
We are pleased to acknowledge Valerie for her ability to make a GREAT SAVE and award her with a certificate of appreciation and a Josie King Hero Award plaque which states:
- Thank you for all that you do each day as you care for patients and their families.
- Thank you for listening to them and for answering their questions when they are confused and afraid.
- Thank you for being brave and for never being afraid to speak up when something does not seem right to you.
- Thank you for looking for the near misses finding them and fixing them so that your patients will never be harmed.
- Thank you for the good catches.
- Thank you for inspiring others to be the best.
- By working hard to improve communication and teamwork, you create a culture of patient safety, which is making a difference.
Thank you for being a hero. ~ The Josie King Foundation
For more information on the Josie King Foundation and the Josie King Hero award, please visit: http://josieking.org/jkf-tools/josie-king-hero-award/.