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National Service Honoree Candy Montenegro (Statewide)

Candy Montenegro has been an avid volunteer since 1996 and was selected for the Governor’s Service Award in the National Service category. An immigrant from Costa Rica in search for a better life in the U.S., Candy has worked at a local Burger King, an elementary school as a janitor, and later started her own cleaning business with her husband before she retired in 2016. During the past 24 years since coming to the U.S., despite her own hardships, Candy has always been willing to help whoever needed her, whether it be giving them a ride to the doctor, or picking up groceries. In 2017 Candy joined American Red Cross Sound the Alarm and Disaster Response Team, helping people in Frederick, Baltimore, Montgomery and Washington County. Recently, she helped take care of 100 fire victims in Bethesda

Candy has devoted 2,134 hours as an American Red Cross volunteer serving approximately 4,500 people statewide and in neighboring states. As an AmeriCorps Seniors volunteer at Asian American Center of Frederick (AACF), she spent 315 hours volunteering for its weekly Food Drop and Mask Project in an effort to cope with COVID-19, reaching roughly 5,600 people in Frederick County. She worked as an interpreter, took surveys, directed traffic, and delivered food to low-income families. She also volunteered from 7 AM to 8 PM and sewed over 2,000 masks for 700 families. Her efforts have been greatly appreciated by the AmeriCorps Senior Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and AACF staff and by the individuals and families and the Hispanic communities whom she served. 

Candy is no ordinary volunteer. What makes Candy extraordinary is not the number of hours she served but her scope of service. In March 2020, Candy flew to Puerto Rico for two weeks as part of a disaster response team to help the local people find shelter and food. She worked more than 12 hours a day taking care of disaster victims. Candy’s willingness to help, her experience as an American Red Cross volunteer as well as her language skills have enabled her to be a versatile volunteer whom people can depend on. In addition to her local effort, in 2019 Candy set up Mis Ninos Foundation specifically to help 48 orphans in Uganda to buy food and school supplies. Recently she is sending money to help build an orphanage there so that the orphans can have a healthy living environment. Because of her tender, loving qualities, the orphans call her “Mommy Candy.” “I love to help people. I’m happy when they are happy,” said Candy with a grin and a twinkle in her eye. 

Recently Candy signed up as a AmeriCorps Seniors Across Ages Mentor who works with one or two underprivileged middle school students from local middle schools. Candy will not only work with her mentee who makes transition from elementary school to middle school but also help the mentee’s family to cope with the hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not an easy job but Candy is ready to make a difference.

Written in large part by Hongwei Xu, Nominator and AmeriCorps Seniors – RSVP Program Manager at the Asian American Center of Frederick

Watch her video talking about her service, here.