By Amy Kawata

TIMONIUM, Md. (WJZ) — Catholic Charities of Baltimore is celebrating a Baltimore County grandmother for her decades of volunteer service.

For nearly three decades, Geri Olsen has dedicated her life to helping children with significant emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges at St. Vincent’s Villa in Timonium.

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Now, she’s being honored with Catholic Charities of Baltimore’s Distinguished Service Award.

Charity and volunteerism are nothing new for Olsen, who demonstrated selflessness even while she was a teen attending Franklin High School.

“They said ‘If you had $1 million to spend on Christmas, a gift, what would it be? And who would it go to?'” Olsen recalled. “Back then, my response to that was, ‘I would fill every child’s Christmas wish list.'”

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Not much has changed since then. Olsen’s life still revolves around lifting the spirits of those fortunate enough to have her company.

“I try to treat people like I would like to be treated,” she said. “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘It’s nice to be nice.'”

She works tirelessly all year long to bring potential donors together to provide for children, staff and families at St. Vincent’s, a residential treatment center.

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“Geri’s a hometown hero, an unsung hero,” said Ezra Buchdahl, a St. Vincent’s administrator. “She’s a guardian angel really over all of us, she makes sure that the children have a special Christmas, and you just can’t underestimate the impact that has.”

It’s not the first time Olsen’s been recognized by Catholic Charities. In fact, she was the recipient of the same award in 2001.

“It’s breathtaking for one thing, because what I do, I don’t consider the fact that I have done this by myself,” she said. “I have an army of family and friends.”

Bill McCarthy, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the goal of the organization’s awards is to recognize outstanding volunteers and say thanks for their service.

“Absolutely an amazing person who over a quarter of a century of doing this out of love for children,” McCarthy said of Olsen.

For her part, Olsen hopes the tradition will continue for years to come. She wants to inspire future generations to give their time and energy, too.

“It’s been such an inspiration we have for our family,” she said. “We have three generations that are now involved.”

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Catholic Charities of Baltimore is Maryland’s largest provider of human services. The group serves children and families experiencing homelessness and poverty, immigrants, individuals with intellectual disabilities and seniors.