NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Mentorship does not require special training or certification, but best comes by sharing experiences and a willingness to act, according to Adrienne Somerville, President of the Carolyn E. Parker Foundation. Somerville was recently recognized with the March of Dimes’ Public Sector Heroine Award at its 17th Annual Heroines of Washington gala.
Inspired by her grandmother who taught her to be someone’s miracle, Somerville established the foundation in 2013 soon after Parker’s passing. The organization provides afterschool meals; holds cyber bullying, self-empowerment, financial management, etiquette training, college and career panel seminars to those in need throughout Southern Maryland. It is also active in Project Warm, a local community effort to provide shelter and meals to the homeless during the winter months. Somerville, who is Commander, Fleet Readiness Center’s (COMFRC) business operations director, said its founding was driven by a passionate belief that everyone has a responsibility for one another during troublesome times.
That strength and focus of purpose inspired Oda Solms-Baruth, owner of Southern Maryland Woman magazine, to nominate Somerville for one of seven 2017 March of Dimes Heroines of Washington award categories that recognizes women in the D.C. Metro Area in their areas of industries.
“Ms. Somerville is doing great work in the community,” Solms-Baruth said. “She actively fundraises for the Southern Maryland Alzheimer’s Association and she runs Project Cinderella—a drive that collects dresses for young girls so that they can attend and feel special during those milestone events, such as school proms and other formal occasions.
“As a publisher, I work closely with The March of Dimes. When I heard about the award, I knew Ms. Somerville would be a perfect candidate for nomination,” Solms-Baruth said.
Somerville’s passion and energy caught the March of Dimes Heroines of Washington selection committee’s attention, said Bevan Bello, development manager at the March of Dimes and award coordinator. “The selection committee, comprised of past winners, reviewed many outstanding nominations this year. The rigorous process speaks volumes about the quality of nominees we received,” she said. “All of the women gave of themselves above and beyond their careers and families, but Ms. Somerville enthusiasm and dedication to the community was unmatched and inspiring.”
Somerville is now counted among the more than 101 “heroines” honored by the March of Dimes since 2001, to include directors, chief executive officers and other high-level individuals from local corporations and government agencies.
Somerville credits her grandmother with being the first of many mentors who set foundation of her resiliency. “When I was 10 years old, I lived in New York but spent the summer with my grandmother in Virginia before I unexpectedly went to go live with my cousin in Maine. Before I left Virginia, she told me that sometimes you have to look within yourself and to take steps forward in the hope that you will find clarity. She encouraged me to read, pray and know that I would find an inner strength to get through every day. I wanted to share what she had given me to enable others to do so as well.”
The foundation is a venue for community leaders to take active part in their community and an opportunity for Somerville put her personal philosophy into practice: to live a significant life in which energy, time and resources are invested in people and not in pursuit of the acquisition of things. “As professionals and community members, it’s important to shape lives all around us and be influential leaders, demonstrating our compassion and responsibility for each other’s success,” Somerville said. “This communal commitment has always inspired and motivated me to go beyond, do more in partnership and in support of others.”
Somerville first realized how much of her work influenced others during a presentation by Leonardtown Middle School science teacher Keri Gray at the Carolyn E. Parker Foundation’s 5th Annual Gala held last September. Gray described how a professor once told her that teachers must be the person they needed when they were younger. For the girls at her school, she said, Somerville was that person.
“Honestly, to know I am ‘that person’ to the girls I mentor and support in our community was indeed a defining moment for me,” said Somerville. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and to be a cultural transformational leader, enabling someone else’s ability to create, plan and execute their vision, with the intent of living, learning and working in their story. I delight in the fact that my public service will influence today’s youth and their course for generations to come.”
“I accepted this award in celebration of and thanks to my mentors,” she said. “With mentorship, I continue to prove that your history does not define your destiny.”