The Wills Group earns philanthropy award

The Wills Group employee volunteers and Rebuilding Together Charles County team are pictured with homeowner Mrs. Burton in Indian Head.

Chesapeake Charities of Stevensville announced the honorees to be recognized during its Nov. 15 luncheon, “A Celebration of Charity,” at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club. The Philathropist of the Year award will go to The Wills Group of La Plata, according to a news release.

This year’s event will highlight innovative approaches to breaking the cycle of poverty and Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development secretary, is the invited guest of honor, the release stated.

“The luncheon is a way to raise awareness about issues and solutions that impact our lives and recognize the people and organizations making a real difference. The 2018 honorees are doing incredible work to end childhood hunger, prevent homelessness and provide basic human needs of food, clothing and shelter,” said Linda Kohler, Chesapeake Charities executive director.

The Wills Group, a family-owned company, is being recognized for its community engagement efforts focused on eliminating childhood hunger and ensuring safe and healthy homes. The parent company of several retail, convenience and home comfort business units, including Dash In Food Stores, Splash In Car Washes, SMO Motor Fuels and SMO Energy, The Wills Group has donated more than $2.5 million to various nonprofit organizations since 2006, as well as countless volunteer hours and in-kind donations. In 2016, as part of its 90th anniversary celebration, The Wills Group increased its commitment and deepened its impact in the community through the establishment of the Blackie Wills Community Leadership Fund at Chesapeake Charities. At the inaugural Blackie Wills Golf Classic and Gala in 2017, The Wills Group raised more than $500,000 to carry on its commitment to community and civic engagement, according to the release.

“The nominating committee was most impressed with the way in which The Wills Group leads by example, encouraging its business associates to join forces to eliminate childhood hunger in Southern Maryland,” Kohler said in the release. “For The Wills Group, corporate responsibility isn’t just good business, it is at the heart of every decision they make.”

The Light House Homeless Prevention Support Center in Annapolis, Maryland will be honored as Nonprofit of the Year for their dedication to providing emergency shelter, transitional and supportive housing and homelessness prevention services to empower people as they transition toward housing, employment and self-sufficiency. In 2017 they launched The Light House Bistro, a self-sustaining and revenue-generating social enterprise that supports the ongoing workforce development and housing programs at The Light House. The full-service restaurant in downtown Annapolis provides employment opportunities for graduates of its Building Employment Success Training (BEST) program.

Mark Freestate of Centreville has been selected as Volunteer of the Year for his work with St. Martin’s Ministries, whose mission is to provide a safety net to individuals and families living in poverty on the Eastern Shore.

Sponsorships for the luncheon are available. For more information, go to, or send an email to

Chesapeake Charities is a community foundation that supports over 90 nonprofit funds that impact a range of charitable causes including animal welfare, arts, education, health and human services, and the environment. To date, the organization has generated more than $25 million in investment and grant funding for charitable projects in eight counties: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot.