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Towne Salute: Martha Austin, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Jan 13, 2016 04:11PM ● By Becca Newell
With some free time on her hands, Martha Austin could’ve acquired a part-time position with a number of local businesses in her hometown of St. Michaels. Instead, she decided to volunteer at one of her favorite nonprofit organizations: the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

“I appreciate the quality [education, outreach, and events] that the museum offers to tourists in St. Michaels and I appreciate their mission,” she says. “I’d like to see it continue to succeed.”

A longtime member of the museum, Austin spends her weekly volunteer hours assisting in the administration office, helping with membership. But her role isn’t simply clerical. She’s also a member of the Friends Board, established last year by CBMM Executive Director Kristen Greenaway.

“Kristen has brought together a diverse group from the community and beyond to meet quarterly with her. We discuss what we hear, what we see; we share ideas and news,” she says. “We’re the eyes and ears for the community.”

In addition to offering feedback to the museum, Austin says the 15 or so members of the Friends Board are tasked with various projects throughout the year—all endeavors to help strengthen CBMM’s existing partnerships and develop new ones.

One project she’s particularly fond of is the Rising Tide After-School Boatbuilding Program, created in collaboration with the YMCA of the Chesapeake. The six-week session, held twice a year in the museum’s Boatyard, teaches middle-school students basic boatbuilding skills.

“We’re working with [the YMCA] to bring the sixth graders of Talbot County into the museum,” she says. “It’s great.”

Furthering on its mission to embrace the community and its members, CBMM will host a block party next year on Sunday, May 22nd. The event will boast free admission and boat rides, along with lots of family activities, live music and entertainment, food vendors, and more.

“I imagine a beautiful, sunny Sunday spent with our neighbors,” she says. “We want to encourage people in our community who might have never been here before to walk through the doors.”

The museum isn’t the only place fortunate enough to receive Austin’s enthusiastic dedication. She also is active in her church (Christ Episcopal Church in St. Michaels) and sits on the board of the Children’s Home Foundation, which grants college scholarships for career training. Additionally, she volunteers with Eastern Shore Endurance Events and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Run—the groups that organize the St. Michaels Running Festival and Across the Bay 10K, respectively.

“I just love the group of people,” she says. “In every one of these organizations, the people I come into contact with are inspiring.”

Do you have a volunteer to nominate? Email Becca Newell at Bnewell@WhatsUpMag.com