Chasen left legacy with Christmas in April work -- Gazette.Net


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Mary Ann Chasen, 58, of Lexington Park, who spent decades helping families improve their living conditions through the St. Mary’s Christmas in April program, died Thursday.

Chasen jumped right into the newly formed organization in 1990 after she was recommended as an enthusiastic person to help get the local affiliate off the ground.

John Knight Parlett Jr., who was instrumental in creating the local Christmas in April program, said Chasen was hired as executive director a few years later and she continued to oversee the massive effort of help each year. And, each year she would praise the many volunteers who pitched in to help rebuild steps, fix windows or patch a roof.

“The commitment of the people, the volunteers, was just outstanding,” Chasen said in an interview several years ago after a successful April day that rallied more than 1,500 volunteers.

Christmas in April is an affiliate of Rebuilding Together, a national volunteer organization that helps renovate homes of low-income, elderly and disabled individuals. The group could get as many as 90 applications a year, and Chasen once noted that tough decisions had to be made as the lists are whittled down to about two dozen projects for the late April work sessions.

Often, Chasen would stretch the program well beyond April by coordinating emergency repairs in the heart of winter when a family’s furnace gave out.

“She’s been the glue that holds this organization together,” Parlett said.

Parlett said that during the last 22 years the program has improved 631 homes and 14 nonprofits, adding that more than 35,900 volunteers contributed to $5.2 million of free home repairs.

“That is quite a legacy,” Parlett said.

Ken Ritter, a longtime friend of Chasen’s and board member of Christmas in April, said that she exemplified a “caring and wonderful person” who would give anything she could to help.

“She was the life and blood of Christmas in April,” Ritter said.

Chasen died at Hospice House of St. Mary’s in Callaway after battling cancer.

“The good Lord must have needed someone to organize a big volunteer event up in heaven, and she would be the right person for the job,” Parlett said.

Chasen ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 1998.

For many years she played guitar during services at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Lexington Park.

Brinsfield Funeral Home in Leonardtown is handling the arrangements. A full obituary will be published.

jyeatman@somdnews.com