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Community Foundation scholarships exceed $500K

Monday - 6/11/2012, 6:00am  ET

In a record-breaking year for The Community Foundation of Frederick County, more than $500,000 was presented to about 260 students Sunday at the organization's annual scholarship reception.

According to foundation President Betsy Day, this is the first year that the scholarship awards have exceeded a half-million dollars.

At the event, people seeking a higher education were able to meet those who helped them fund their post-secondary goals.

Angela Phillips attended the event on behalf of the C.G.F. Francie Billotti-Wood Scholarship Fund, which is named after her sister, her nephews and her niece, who were all killed in a tragic Middletown familicide in April 2009.

C, G and F were the children's initials, according to Phillips.

"These students are replacing the opportunity we don't have for her children," she said.

In honor of the community Billotti-Wood loved, only Middletown High School students are eligible for the one-year scholarship, which is worth $2,000. Phillips said students with high grades and a passion for community service are chosen, since Billotti-Wood was very involved with giving back to her community.

"She would be thrilled," Mary Billotti said, speaking about how her daughter would feel if she knew a fund for higher education had been set up in her name.

One of two recipients of this year's C.G.F. Francie Billotti-Wood Scholarship was Katherine Geisler, who plans to attend UMBC and study engineering.

"I was speechless because it's such an honor to be receiving from the Middletown community," she said.

Geisler was chosen from more than 50 applicants, according to Phillips.

Don and Susan Murphy also chose to set up a scholarship fund in memory of a lost loved one. Their daughter, Jessica Murphy, died from injuries she sustained in a car accident in August 1999, right before she was set to begin her sophomore year at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School.

"When something tragic like that happens, people want to give," Susan said. So the couple set up a community foundation fund in her name so people would have someplace to funnel their charitable donations.

In addition to aiding about 20 students with money for higher education over the years, the Murphys said they are free from worry that their daughter's name will be forgotten.

"This kind of ensures that that won't happen," Susan said.

The fund awards two scholarships per year, and applicants must have a clean driving record, Susan said. They always choose at least one of the students from TJ High, and they favor volleyball players, since that was Jessica's favorite sport.

Meghan Stouter and Elisabeth Cutchin, who plan to go to Pennsylvania State University and the University of Maryland, College Park, respectively, were on the receiving end of the scholarships this year. Both said they were thrilled about their awards.

Konnar Miller, a Middletown student who received a renewable $1,000 scholarship, said the fact that awards are made possible by county residents for county residents will help to create a charitable cycle.

"This community has given to me, and it makes me really want to give back someday, too, she said."

Sonja Sperlich, who created a fund in honor of her late son, said she had many reasons for doing so. One of them was her belief in the importance of a higher education.

"It was education that made all the difference in my life," she said. "It really makes you fulfill your own dreams."