Freedom Federal Credit Union Donates Face Masks and Thermometers to Harford County Public Schools

August 11, 2020Freedom Donates 6000 Face Masks to HCPS

Harford County Public School (HCPS) and Freedom Federal Credit Union leadership and staff representatives gather on the steps of HCPS Headquarters to showcase the new masks that will be distributed to HCPS employees across the school system.
Seated (Left to Right): HCPS Transportation Coordinator Tina Hockaday, representing HCPS support staff, and Halls Cross Roads Elementary School Teacher Laura S. Pohlenz, representing HCPS teachers.
Standing Left from Freedom Federal Credit Union (Front to Back): President and CEO Michael MacPherson, Business Development Director Lisa Snodgrass, and Senior Vice President of Marketing Carmen Mirabile.
Standing Right from Harford County Public Schools (Front to Back): Superintendent Dr. Sean Bulson, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Jean Mantegna, and Chief of Administration Eric Davis.

Freedom Federal Credit Union, in partnership with Harford County Public Schools (HCPS), is providing all teachers and support staff with protective, reusable face masks for the upcoming school year. Six thousand masks will be distributed to all teachers, office workers, food service staff, facilities staff, transportation staff, teacher substitutes, and new hires.

Additionally, 30 infrared no-contact thermometers have been donated by Freedom for use in all HCPS school buildings and offices to supplement similar thermometers already available in each school’s health suite. The $26,000 contribution to purchase the masks and thermometers is intended to show appreciation for every HCPS employee’s contribution and dedication, and to provide critical protective equipment to help support HCPS protocols to keep all HCPS employees safe and healthy during the upcoming year.

Freedom Federal Credit Union was originally slated to sponsor the HCPS Annual Employee Service Recognition Program and Awards Dinner, which they have sponsored since 2013. The program recognized hundreds of employees annually who had reached 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 years of service milestones. Due to the statewide closure of schools, and social function restrictions, the 2020 recognition program was cancelled. Freedom, working closely with school administrators, believed that the face masks would be a great way to show appreciation for all HCPS staff- both in and out of the classroom.

Prior to the decision on whether or not the upcoming school year would resume in person or virtually, both Freedom and HCPS administration recognized that many hundreds of staff members will continue to be required to report in person either regularly or periodically, and that all staff, including those working remotely, would continue to need face coverings for use in any public setting.

“In the best of times, we have always made it a priority to show our teachers that we care about their well-being and appreciate their dedication to the children in our community,” stated President and CEO of Freedom Federal Credit Union, Mike MacPherson. “In what now feels like the worst of times, we know that the pressures our educators, and all those who support our education system, face, will be great, and we hope this sponsorship will show our appreciation for all they do while supporting their health and safety.”

Invited to represent HCPS teachers in a photograph showcasing the new masks, Laura S. Pohlenz, a vocal music teacher at Halls Cross Roads Elementary School, recently completed her 30th year teaching for HCPS. Ms. Pohlenz expressed, “I am happy to represent teachers in this partnership with Freedom Federal Credit Union, and would like to personally thank them for this generous gift of face masks to the school system, in an effort to ensure the safety for our students and staff during this time.”

Representing HCPS support staff in this partnership, Transportation Coordinator, Tina Hockaday, who has been with HCPS for 14 years, remarked, “We are extremely grateful for our partnership with Freedom Federal Credit Union. Thank you for thinking of the safety of our students and staff.”
In the July 29, 2020 Superintendent’s Bulletin, Dr. Sean Bulson, acknowledged the contribution. “This year, FFCU has chosen to recognize all employees of HCPS by donating a protective face mask for every employee. By means of this generous contribution, they would like to honor and show their appreciation for the work done by every HCPS employee as we continue to educate the students of HCPS, while maintaining a safe and protected environment for staff and students. We hope that you will join us in expressing our appreciation to Freedom Federal Credit Union for this generous contribution!”

About Freedom Federal Credit Union

Freedom Federal Credit Union is a community-chartered federal credit union offering consumer financial services to those who live, work, volunteer, worship, attend school, or have family in Harford and Baltimore Counties. Additionally, Freedom offers a full-line of banking services for all businesses, associations, and other organizations that are based in Harford and Baltimore Counties. To learn more, visit

About Harford County Public Schools

The mission of Harford County Public Schools is that each student will attain academic and personal success in a safe and caring environment that honors the diversity of our students and staff.  The vision of the Board of Education of Harford County is to inspire and prepare each student to achieve success in college and career.

2019 Golden Apple Recipients

Freedom Federal Credit Union SELECTS Three Harford County PUBLIC SCHOOLS Teachers to Win Golden Apple Awards

Winners Were Honored at a Reception Held on July 29, 2019

Three female teachers holding golden apple award trophies in front of Freedom banner
Freedom Federal Credit Union awards grant funds to its 2019 Golden Apple Annual Education Award recipients (L to R): Alisa Janiski, Tanya Zelwalk, and Jess Wilson.

Bel Air, MD –At a reception on Monday, July 29, Freedom Federal Credit Union honored Tanya Zelwalk, as the grand prize recipient of the Credit Union’s 2019 Golden Apple Annual Educator Award grant competition. Ms. Zelwalk, who is the Learning Together classroom teacher at North Bend Elementary School, won the top $2,000 grant for her plans to better serve her special needs students, provide additional resources to their parents, and to become certified as a children’s author. The Learning Together Program serves 3-5 year-old special needs children in an inclusive and educational setting that adapts the current pre-school curriculum to the unique needs of these young learners.

Ms. Zelwalk’s request, detailed an inspirational vision to help these young learners, who have a trying journey ahead, learn socialization, empathy, communication, behavioral, and pre-academic skills that will shape their future as older students and then as productive members of society in their adult lives.

Freedom noted that, although a record number of submissions were received this year, it was Ms. Zelwalk’s thoughtfulness and consideration for how the award could affect positive change for her students, their parents, and for her own professional development that made her application standout from the rest.

Additionally, two other recipients were awarded grants: Alisa Janiski, Gifted and Talented Resource Teacher at Church Creek and Roye-Williams Elementary schools, and Jess Wilson, Adapted Physical Education Teacher at the John Archer School. Both Ms. Janiski and Ms. Wilson will receive $500 each to fund initiatives at their respective schools.

Turning ordinary days into extraordinary opportunities for learning is Ms. Janiski’s specialty at Church Creek and Roye-Williams Elementary Schools. As a Gifted & Talented Teacher, Alisa Janiski, champions creative and memorable learning opportunities for her students.

Ms. Janiski asked Freedom to imagine walking into a classroom for a normal day at school, just to find that it has been transformed. Teachers are wearing surgical masks, desks have become operating tables, and nametags are preceded with the title, Dr.   It is now up to the students to save their patients with an exciting day of practical reading and math applications. Ms. Janiski’s Ron Clark Academy-inspired Room Transformations, allow students to experience immersive learning scenarios where they might find themselves immigrating to America at Ellis Island, surviving on a deserted island, or camping in the woods.

As the full-time Adapted Physical Education Teacher at the John Archer School in Bel Air, Ms. Jessica Wilson works with students ages three to twenty-one. All of her students have developmental disabilities, in conjunction with either a medical or physical limitation, or both.

Ms. Wilson has accepted the challenge to adapt Harford County’s Physical Education curriculum to her students’ unique needs and abilities. Like any children, the students at John Archer want to enjoy activities accessible in their community, such as miniature golf, but often need help learning the basic psychomotor skills to participate.

Ms. Wilson came to Freedom to ask for help in purchasing miniature golf equipment that could be appropriately modified to compliment the skill progression of her students as they learn to use the equipment, so that they too might enjoy the game in their youth and for years to come. When the equipment is not being used at John Archer, it will be available for use by other students with special needs around the county.

Mike MacPherson, President and CEO of Freedom Federal Credit Union, emceed the reception and congratulated the recipients on their achievement.  ”We value all of our members, and it is a special day when we can celebrate and support teachers from among our membership. They have set out to make a real and actionable difference in the lives of our Harford County youth, and it is our honor to play a part in supporting them and their ongoing initiatives.”

Jean Mantegna, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources at Harford County Public Schools (HCPS), attended the reception on behalf of Dr. Sean Bulson. “The Golden Apple Award recognizes teachers who continuously seek new and meaningful ways to deliver instruction to our students. Thank you to Freedom for providing this opportunity to honor great teachers and create a positive and lasting impact in the classroom,” said Mantegna.

The annual competition is intended to support Freedom Federal Credit Union members who are employed at a Harford County school and have a creative vision for education that can only be met with community support. All applicants were asked to submit an essay demonstrating how their idea would serve their students, class, school and the Harford County community. Entries were judged by a panel of Freedom employees, board members, and community leaders.

County Teachers Win Golden Apple Awards

Golden Apple Awards Reception Held June 22

Freedom Federal Credit Union President and CEO, Mike MacPherson, with 2018 Golden Apple Annual Education Awards recipients
Freedom Federal Credit Union President and CEO, Mike MacPherson, with 2018 Golden Apple Annual Education Award recipients. (L to R): Jacob Bennett, Kathleen Ford, and Tara Recor

Freedom hosted a reception at the Credit Union’s Park Avenue branch to celebrate this year’s Golden Apple Awards winners. Kathleen Ford, a music teacher at the John Archer School won this year’s grand prize. Ms. Ford received the $2,000 prize for her plan to better connect students with disabilities through music and song. One of Ms. Ford’s goals is to purchase a complete set of Music K-8 magazines and CDs. Her entry also calls for adapted instruments, assistive devices and software. These items will better enable students with severe physical challenges to produce music independently.

Although we received a record number of submissions this year, Ms. Ford’s thoughtfulness and creativity in considering how the award could affect positive change for her students, school, and community made her application standout.

Additionally, two runners-up were selected: Jacob Bennett, Kindergarten Teacher at Havre de Grace Elementary, and Tara Recor, Gifted &Talented Resource Teacher at Prospect Mill and Halls Cross Roads Elementary schools. Both Mr. Bennett and Ms. Recor will receive $500 each to fund initiatives at their respective schools.

The Golden Apple Educator Award benefits Freedom members who work for HCPS and have a creative vision for education that can only be met with community support. Contest applicants must submit an essay demonstrating how their idea would serve their students, class, school and the Harford County community. A panel of Freedom employees, board members, and community leaders judges each year’s entries.