THANKSGIVING 2007

From Modest Heroes, Major Deeds

MARY BROWN: The co-founder of Life Pieces to Masterpieces, center, tickles Antoine Harmon, 8, right, drawing laughter from Antonio Cook, 8. She works with about 200 boys weekly to try to provide them with artistic inspiration and a sense of beauty.
MARY BROWN: The co-founder of Life Pieces to Masterpieces, center, tickles Antoine Harmon, 8, right, drawing laughter from Antonio Cook, 8. She works with about 200 boys weekly to try to provide them with artistic inspiration and a sense of beauty. (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)

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By Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 22, 2007

And now, on this national day of gratitude, we pause to give thanks.

Thanks for those who have given of themselves, who have spent time and energy, who have endured inconveniences and hurdles, who have seen a need and met it.

To all the unsung heroes who work to make life better -- better for the unhappy boys of Ward 7, and a group of Eastern Shore high school students struggling to pay for college, and the homeless families of the District who've never held a framed portrait of themselves, and the troops at Walter Reed who inspired a smattering of major leaguers to begin playing baseball for a cause, and the Chinese elders who once spent their days isolated and alone but now have a place to gather -- this we offer to you.

* * *

Taking a Mother's Lesson to Heart

Kevin Beverly grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore, on Taylor's Island, in the Chesapeake Bay. He was the youngest of three sons. His mother, Mildred, raised her boys by herself in a house with no running water and no bathroom.

From the time he was 10, he helped by picking tomatoes, dredging oysters, cleaning chicken houses and wheelbarrowing "the smelliest" piles of crab emulsion. His mother kept steady work picking crabs in the summer, peeling tomatoes in the fall and shucking oysters in the winter.

"And . . . cracking heads when she needed to make sure we were getting the homework done," Beverly remembers.

Mildred Beverly instilled in her boys: "If you ever have the opportunity to give, do." So many times, Kevin Beverly recalls, the family got by because of neighbors who "had excess" and dropped off "part of their catch" -- fish they couldn't sell or sometimes chickens. "If these folks weren't giving," Mildred Beverly said, "we wouldn't have this."

After graduating from Cambridge High School, Beverly left the tiny island. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Maryland and lives in Bethesda. Now 50, he works as senior vice president for a company in Silver Spring and has two sons.

His mother died 10 years ago, and in honor of the woman who taught him how to do right, Beverly began in 2003 to give away college scholarships from the Mildred Beverly Family Fund. He selects students from his high school alma mater, and he tends to look for African American students who are "giving back and engaged in the community and -- this part, unfortunately, isn't so hard to find -- are single-parent kids. . . . I know their plight."

In the past four years, Beverly has given nine $1,000 scholarships.


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