In honor of Black History Month 2021, we want to shine the spotlight on five term Laurel City Council member Valerie Nicholas by resending an article we wrote about her in July of 2019.
Since this was written, In November of 2020, Ms. Nicholas became the first African American female to serve as Council President.
Take a moment to read this tribute and feel proud of President Nicholas for all she does for the city-- not just this month, but every month.
Laurel City Council Member Valerie Nicholas Saves a Life and Receives Hero Award
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.
( Note: Ms Nicholas now works as a patient advocate for the Adventist Healthcare System.)
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.
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.”
Editor’s note: Because of Ms. Nicholas’ timely action, the hospital volunteer who she stepped in to save lived another 10 months. He passed away on May 30, 2020. We send condolences to his family and friends and all who loved him.