Towne Salute: Stephanie Walder
Oct 01, 2018 12:00PM
● By Brian Saucedo
By Riley Rubiano
Everyone wants to feel included. And Stephanie Walder, an eight-year volunteer with Bello Machre, does the most she can to make everyone think that they are.
Walder, originally from Philadelphia, lives in Linthicum Heights with her husband, Stan, and children, Jaden and Gabrielle. She works for Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation as an engineer. She spends much of her free time volunteering for Bello Machre, which provides residential and support services to developmentally disabled children and adults.
The 49-year-old Walder discovered Bello Machre when she attended a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, which showcased volunteer opportunities in Anne Arundel County. She began volunteering with them in 2010.
“I was drawn to the all-inclusive way Bello Machre supports people with developmental disabilities,” Walder explains. “It’s truly about human kindness and it is truly a model for integration, not separation. I always try to count my lucky stars, and while I don’t have anyone with special needs in my family, I can’t imagine how they do it alone. If they found a place like Bello Machre, I would think how lucky they are to have agencies like that to support them in the way that they do.”
Walder, a volunteer veteran, has also put the time in with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Habitat for Humanity. She began working for her community ever since she was old enough to volunteer on her own.
“Volunteering for others makes me feel good about what I have and if I didn’t volunteer, then maybe somehow I wouldn’t have what I have,” Walder says. “That’s the truth.”
Another positive of working with Bello Machre? The organization has a young age limit to start volunteering.
“Bello Machre is one of the few places children under 13 are encouraged to volunteer,” she explains. “I also want my kids to learn how important volunteering is and I didn’t want them to be excluded, so it was perfect.”
Walder’s role with Bello Machre includes in-house support visits, assisting with mural painting, as well as attending and volunteering at the annual Every Step Counts 5K walk, bike, and run.
“In comparison to other 5Ks we all hear and see Facebook posts about, this one is about directly seeing the people you are supporting,” she says.
Walder also assists with an annual art show, which is held for Ed Dober, a resident of Bello Machre. His artwork is sold at the event.
“Volunteering for the annual art show is a testament to how someone can make a difference,” Walder says. “When I found out that I would be doing it the first time back in 2014, I was nervous.”
When Walder first saw Dober’s work, she began taking pictures right away. She decided to create a calendar of his work, which Bello Machre now gives as a gift to art show attendees.
“I’m glad I found Bello Machre,” Walder says. “They are really organized so you can volunteer anytime, year-round. It’s not like you volunteer in a large group and end up just standing around. You can stay connected and do something you get a lot out of.”
For more information on Bello Machre, visit Bellomachre.org