- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Dana Harty never got to have his own big birthday party.
Now, months after the program director for LifeStyles of Maryland unexpectedly died in April, his family and friends from LifeStyles are planning to give him the celebration he never got a chance to have.
Kathi Harty, his wife of just 45 days when he died, said the two had been discussing doing something special for his 50th birthday, which would have been Nov. 26.
“He’s my husband, and I just wanted to honor his birthday,” Kathi Harty said. “We had talked about doing something big for this birthday. Before he passed, we talked about getting him a brand-new car. Now, we’re doing something to recognize and honor him and give people a chance to celebrate. I want to be able to give his clients a piece of him.”
The event for Harty’s birthday, which will be held Saturday at the LifeStyles office in La Plata, will include a giveaway of Harty’s clothing and other possessions.
“I knew I wanted to put something like this together, and I was determined and excited for this event,” Kathi Harty said. “He had such passion and concern for the community. A lot of people really loved and respected and looked up to him. ... I think he’d be excited about this if he was here and able to talk.”
LifeStyles Support Services Director Corae Young said the party in honor of Harty represents the strong bonds he formed during his lifetime, both with his co-workers and the clients he served through the Safe Nights program.
“When people work here, they become a part of our family, as do their families,” Young said. “We still see Dana’s family coming in here, and we want to support their effort to honor him. Even after death, he’s still sacrificing of himself.”
Jamie Reed, the intake unit supervisor for the Charles County Department of Social Services, worked closely with Harty for four or five years, helping to refer people to Safe Nights.
“His passing was totally heartbreaking,” Reed said. “He was an amazing man who put LifeStyles and his clients first. He took care of them like they were his own family.”
Although Harty had invited Reed to tour the Safe Nights program with him during its months of operation, Reed said she never got the chance but has seen his dedication at work in other ways.
“He had put off his honeymoon because he wanted to stay to see Safe Nights through the season, and he died before he got a chance to leave,” Reed said. “That’s how dedicated he was to his clients. I know his clients adored him. A ton of them were at his funeral, and several have mentioned him to me this year during the referral process.”
Long-time LifeStyles volunteer Gina McCullough worked with Harty as a coordinator for the Safe Nights program.
“The biggest thing he taught me was how to dig deeper with our homeless population and our people in need,” McCullough said. “He taught me how to see their stories. They all have reasons for the situations they’re in, and if you know their stories, it makes sense.”
McCullough noted that Harty died on the anniversary of the death of famed activist Martin Luther King Jr., which she saw as fitting.
“He was just so amazing,” McCullough said. “His laughter was contagious. He was always so happy. He was very spiritual, and I don’t think he’d want any of us to be crying. I have no doubt in my mind where he is right now.”
This Safe Nights season marks the first without Harty at the helm.
“There was nobody more dedicated than him, and to his own fault,” Reed said. “He’d go above and beyond, and then some. I think there should be a Dana Harty day. ... He deserves at least that much.”