Dorchester County’s Hometown Heroes 2024

Meet the community winners from Stars of the Banner

By Laura Walter
Posted 6/15/24

Each year, the Dorchester Banner celebrates its readers' poll, Stars of the Banner. A special part of that is the Hometown Heroes who go above and beyond to make Dorchester County a better place. …

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Dorchester County’s Hometown Heroes 2024

Meet the community winners from Stars of the Banner


Each year, the Dorchester Banner celebrates its readers' poll, Stars of the Banner. A special part of that is the Hometown Heroes who go above and beyond to make Dorchester County a better place. These groups and individuals were nominated by people in the community who have seen the difference a good deed can make.

See event photos here:,137646

Read the keepsake Stars of the Banner special publication, including hundreds of categories' worth of winners here:,137646.

Now, here are interviews with the 2024 Dorchester County Hometown Heroes, who were recognized at a special event in June: the All4Love nonprofit, Bernard Johnson, Hugh Middleton, Michael Wheatley, Pastor Steve Bloodsworth, Anne Watts and John Lewis.


“We knew something needed to be done … We can’t wait. We’re Generation Z, and we’re serving Generation Z. We’re not afraid to go where kids are, just connect with kids however we can.”

When two young men saw the worst kind of community pain, they decided that Cambridge couldn’t wait for action. All4Love is a not-for-profit organization that helps guide and mentor teenage boys, thus earning the 2024 Hometown Hero recognition.

All under age 25—cofounders Khail Johnson and Lucas Thorpe, plus staffer DaJawan Jackson—are making a positive difference for people not much younger than them.

Thorpe and Johnson have been best friends for over a decade, since they were teenagers in Dorchester. Several years ago, they started spending time with a family, just to be a good influence and help keep an eye on three boys when their mom was working long hours. “We kept on hanging out with these kids … and then it expanded to their immediate friends, and then we started going to the trampoline park and just having fun, just out of love—and that’s where our name comes from,” said Thorpe. One day, watching one of the boys’ baseball games, another neighborhood mom asked Johnson and Thorpe: “‘How can I get my son in your … program?’ That was that first moment where we realized what we’re doing is super important, and we need to elevate this and take it to the next level.”

All4Love was officially founded in August of 2022, focused on mentorship, community engagement, athletics and academics. Adult mentors meet with teen boys several times a month, in and out of school. “Ninety percent of the kids we work with are single-parent, fatherless homes. We get to have conversations about health, wealth, situations in the community, if there’s a fight, we’re talking about it.” They’ve already partnered with countless groups to plan safe events for kids: movie night, flag football, music production camp, fun weekend outings, group dinners, college visits and more. Offering kids activities that are fun, interesting and enriching can make it easier for kids to choose that option over unsafe or unhealthy activities.

“We’re showing kids that they can defy that narrative [of negativity]. We want the community to see that these kids are worth something,” Thorpe said.

“Khail and I knew something needed to be done. We’re watching kids die … and we also have kids dying in hope … Khail and I both dropped out of college to start All4Love. All4Love was a retirement plan for me; I was going to be a teacher, ‘I’ll start it when I’m old and have money.’”

But that mission has to happen now. “We can’t wait. We’re Generation Z, and we’re serving Generation Z. You don’t see a lot of organizations that serve youth that are run by youth. We’re not afraid to go where kids are, just connect with kids however we can.”

Thorpe wants to build up young people to be leaders, from the next batch of 20-somethings who could become regular mentors, to the high school seniors who are now mentoring elementary schoolers.

It’s important for young people to see outside of Dorchester County, but positive change can come from the people who ultimately call it home, Thorpe said. “I’ve got faith, and we’re building it, and we’re moving towards it…our heart is here long-term…our slogan is to ‘serve people and shape culture,’ however long it takes, we’re doing it.”

Learn more about All4Love, including opportunities to donate, volunteer or mentor, online at

Bernard Johnson

“I just want to leave my mark on my community because I love it here! I have a passion for this place.”

Bernard Johnson’s dedication to Dorchester has shown though in his personal time, plus his approach to entrepreneurship—all of which contributed to his 2024 Hometown Hero recognition.

“My goal is definitely to make every place and every person better when they have contact with me,” whether it’s his employees at Johnson’s Cleaning Service and Car Cleaning King, conversations with neighbors or guest talks at local schools. “When I finally lay down on my deathbed, I hope I made an impact, to make my community better.”

Born and raised in Dorchester County, Johnson has experienced hard times during his past. Now, he started the car cleaning business to help provide young men a solid working environment, where they could make money and gain skills, and it’d be one less young man out in the street.

In 2023, he estimates doing 30-plus sponsorships through the businesses, whether donating services, money or speaking time. He sponsors youth basketball teams and also gives guest lectures to kids at local schools, students at UMES and youth at regional juvenile detention centers.

“My first passion is people—empowering people, and I just want to leave my mark on my community because I love it here! I have a passion for this place…I want to know that I had a part to pay in the success of these young men and women.”

Johnson also helps mentor youth in a program “geared around young men without fathers because I grew up without my father. So I wanted to turn around and give back,” from tying neckties to writing resumés and other life skills. “That was a big thing for me. I didn’t realize the value of those things until later in life when I needed it. So I wanted to give back … I want them to know that someone here cares.”

Dorchester County “is a great place. It’s off the water, it’s rich in history. I would love people to just understand they can stay here and be okay, and make a living, they can stay here and grow.” Johnson encourages people to stay here. “Let’s build what we have to, so people can stay right here. I want people to know they can have careers … and be great here … and I want to have a part in that.”

He felt honored to be recognized with a service award for work that is so close to his heart. Johnson gives a shoutout to his business team who help support his projects; his godmother who gave him shelter; Jesus Christ, “who allowed me to be among the living”; and his wife, Danielle. “She has been an inspiration to me. I’m proud of my children, they’ve inspired me to be more. And I’m proud of myself! I should have been a statistic, but I pulled through, I took every reason why I should have been something else and turned it around. You’re responsible for how your life turns out,” he tells students.

Hugh Middleton

“If what we do prevents even one person from taking their life, then we’ve done our job.”

Hugh Middleton’s efforts toward military veterans, including his work at Patriot Point, have led to his receiving 2024 Hometown Hero honors.

The 294-acre retreat opened (in its current form) in 2016 in Madison a respite place for wounded veterans, families and caregivers. Middleton is employed as the VP of Operations & Development. His wife, Joy Middleton, works as the Guest Services Coordinator. Living onsite full time, they are the caretakers, tour guides, chefs or whatever role is needed for each guest group.

It can be a lifetime process to heal from military-related wounds, mental or physical. But this place helps.

“We’re … surrounded by the water, which is just a naturally healing thing. The people are friendly, it’s slower pace, and that’s what our guests are looking for. They’ve been running hard for a long time in the military. A lot of them have suffered injuries … and [it’s invaluable] to come to a place where you just unwind and relax.”

Guests feel a tranquil atmosphere here almost immediately.

“Sometimes it takes less than an hour—the physical and just overall difference in individuals is remarkable. You see they’re standing taller, laughing, joking. There’s brightness in their eyes. They’re relaxed. Their blood pressure’s lower. Our tagline is ‘Healing begins at the front gate,’ said Middleton.

Guests generally include anyone who has been impacted by military service: those who were wounded or ill from their service; their families or caregivers; and their children. As an organization, Patriot Point partners with military-related nonprofits who identify those who would benefit from visiting.

Guests from across the U.S. enjoy fishing, kayaking, hunting, target shooting, gym days, walking trails, crabbing and more. Plus, “we’re trying to foster a farm-to-table experience and a mind-body-soul recovery” with a new chicken coop and greenhouse.

Nature is healing. Good food energizes the body. Camaraderie from similar life experiences helps people to heal together. Fundraising helps them to attend this retreat without the stress of bills afterward.

“It’s the most rewarding thing that my wife and I have ever done in our lives,” he said.

“It’s pretty amazing [to be nominated for Hometown Heroes] because it seems like there’s a lot of people who don’t know anything about us. It’s great because I think we’re finally getting the message across,” Middleton said.

Between Hugh, Joy, the volunteers and fundraisers, “It’s a group effort. Dorchester County should be very proud that Patriot Point is in their backyard.”

Following the theme of veteran support, Middleton also serves on the board of the Grand National Waterfowl Association, which sponsored him years ago in a hunting trip toDorchester County. He’s a lifetime member of the VFW, including a local officer, and a member of the American Legion.

“Our wounded veterans deserve it … it’s part of my giving back,” Middleton said. “My wife and I both believe in it. We see the results. If what we do prevents even one person from taking their life, then we’ve done our job.”

This is a big deal because the rate veteran suicides is a concern in the U.S. The team at Patriot Point want to provide a place of rest and retreat along people’s path of recovery.

Over 2,600 individuals have enjoyed the retreat’s hospitality since its founding in 2016. Patriot Point is a nonprofit project of the Military Bowl Foundation Learn more at

Michael Wheatley

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a person or a committee … when you’re done with that project, you’ll feel good about it, and it’s for the betterment of the community.”

Over the years, Michael Wheatley’s volunteer work has covered an incredible number of Dorchester County organizations. It’s all part of his being named a 2024 Hometown Hero.

“I could not serve in the military, so I wanted to give back to the community I live in,” he said. “I just started volunteering. One thing led to another.”

During his own health challenges, “the only thing that made me want to continue [was] I saw volunteering as my therapy … It doesn’t matter if it’s a person or a small committee … when you’re done with that project, you’ll feel good about it, and it’s for the betterment of the community.”

He encouraged young people to volunteer, too. “Put together a few of your peers, put something together and make a difference.” You’ll feel amazing every time you remember the people you helped, besides gaining real-world skills, like problem solving, communication and networking.

“I highly recommend if you can volunteer when you can,” and there are so many ways to chip in. “I was not able to serve my country, but I do anything to serve my community. Over the years I helped with many committees and boards that have made to be a better person.”

He is an assistant secretary for Rescue Fire Company, chairperson of the Cambridge Ethics Commission, an Ambassador for Dorchester Chamber of Commerce, board director for the Rotary Club, member of the Lions Club and member of the New Birth Ministries Church.

He’s also president of the Care & Share Fund, Inc., a nonprofit that helps vulnerable people (such as children, the elderly, those with disabilities or those experiencing homelessness) to remain safe and healthy at home (think medical bills, emergency utility bills, supplies and much more).

He’s also served with the Church Creek Volunteer Fire Company, Cambridge Police Department board, Cambridge Main Street, local election departments and the beloved RFC Train Garden each Christmas.

That’s all in between his day jobs in grant writing, property management and as a certified medication technician and residential living counselor at the nonprofit Chesapeake Center.

Collaboration is the best way to accomplish things, Wheatley emphasized.

“We don’t need to recreate the wheel. We have plenty of organizations; it’s time we all come together and help officials to make and keep Dorchester County stronger and better than ever.”

Although honored as a Hometown Hero, “I feel as if I’m doing what God has called me to do, help do what I can … that’s the legacy I want to leave,” Wheatley said.

He is grateful to all the organizations he serves; to his family and friends (“Honestly I would not be here if it wasn’t for them”), plus Cambridge and Dorchester itself for the opportunities he has received over the years.

“It just feels good to be able to do the right thing. I see a lot of the potential that Dorchester County has. If we really work hard, and organizations help each other out, I think we could accomplish way more … I always believe if you help people, they’ll be willing to give back in whatever way they can.”

Steve Bloodsworth

“From the time I was a little kid, my mother always used to say, ‘Steve, love isn’t love until you give it away’ … that’s a truism for sure.”

Steve Bloodsworth is a pastor, principal and teacher. His life is built around service to the community, especially at Open Bible Church and Academy in Cambridge. But his approximately 45 years in service and education contributed to his 2024 Hometown Hero recognition.

“I have honestly always looked at what I do as being a messenger for God in the community. The nursing homes, the hospital visits, the home visits—I like worshiping on Sunday, but what really is important to me is the outreach in the community. … So I’m real active in the nursing homes and hospitals. I go and I visit, sometimes just walk the halls and visit people. I have discovered that when you go, it’s hard to walk by rooms with people staring out at you … I stop in any room and just try and visit and bring a little comfort to people.”

He was drawn to religion around age 19. “I had, I guess you could say an epiphany. I had an encounter with God, I grew up in the hippie era, and he showed him how much he loved me. I told him how sorry for what I had done in my life. My life changed and I felt personally called.”

Bloodsworth didn’t get ordained that very moment, but his journey began. He earned his degree from a Bible college and got involved with Open Bible Church during its founding as an offshoot from the Wesleyan church. Bloodsworth said he was always an unofficial leader and Sunday school teacher, a teacher for about 45 years and then an official pastor for about 10 or 12 years now.

As an educator at a small private school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, Bloodsworth wanted to help build the foundations of children’s learning and spiritual lives. “The most important thing that I always try to teach children is accountability and responsibility. We all have free will, but I try to teach children that you have to make decisions that are the best interest of yourself, even when it’s hard. [And during tough times] I think it’s easier when you have someone you can call on, i.e. prayer.”

His life is full of work responsibilities, like weddings, funerals and student summer camps. But he also tries to help in small ways, like picking up litter in the town he loves. “I don’t do it for any other reason, but I live here. Little things like that have an impact,” he teaches the kids.

And he loves the region, especially the Choptank River, so his hobbies include paddleboarding, crabbing, rollerblading, plus some guitar and singing (plus a passion for vintage vinyl/stereo equipment).

“His fun-loving, carefree spirit has always made children of all ages gravitate to him,” read his nomination. “From a spiritual perspective, the children and adults now have watched his example in his daily life, and it has drawn them in to the church and has given many a desire to know and understand what makes ‘Mr. Steve’ tick.”

Although a pastor doesn’t rush to collect community service awards, Bloodsworth emphasized his gratitude for his life and joy when he hears from past students.

“I have focused on service above self, and that’s the way I have lived my whole life,” he said. From the time I was a little kid, my mother always used to say, ‘Steve, love isn’t love until you give it away.’ So, I have always tried to include that for life, because it’s a truism for sure.”

He thanked the people who supported the community and church in many ways, from the school staff to the parents, educators and community volunteers.

Anne Watts & John Lewis

“So many parts of the community can be segmented … but people will cross those lines for art, for history, for culture, and it’s been amazing to do these things.”

Art seems to be part of everything Anne Watts and John Lewis do. Their dedication, not just to creating, but truly sharing art, led to their joint honor in the 2024 Hometown Heroes.

The Cambridge couple “donates time and energy to our community on a regular basis through the Arts Center and WHCP, but also by sharing their artistic and musical talents and their caring spirits unselfishly on a daily basis,” read their nomination.

They’ve been married about 27 years, “and that’s the best collaboration I’ve ever been a part of,” Lewis laughed.

“I really was just raised that art is everywhere, and that it’s really just a matter of cultivating it. That’s what gets me stoked! cultivating it in someone else the way it was cultivated in me,” Watts said. “To me, there’s only one way to digest what’s happening to me and to us as humans … and that’s to make art. Art saves lives.”

She uses the example of a young piano student (of whom she’s had many) who is suddenly heartbroken, for instance, at the loss of a grandparent. “Put it in the piano,” Watts said. “That’s what the piano is here for. It will take your sadness and turn it into something beautiful and make somebody feel better,” especially if that music is shared at the celebration of life.

They’ve both hosted radio shows on the WHCP station (he does “Inna Funk Radio,” she does “Women Wattage”).

She just recently published a book of art by John Englehart, an elderly institutionalized Baltimore resident, where she once worked. Watts continued helping him and other overlooked people to share their stories and create art.

“That one relationship changed the course of my life so radically. I give that man and the spirit of that man credit for everything that came afterwards, including landing here [in Cambridge].”

The book itself is published by Dorchester Power and Light, which is John Lewis’s umbrella website to gather his writings and projects under one domain. He is a longtime writer, in news and magazines, particularly in Baltimore.

A composer and musician, Watts is active with both the professional Baltimore band, Boister, and the Chorus of Dorchester. She’s taught for decades, including performance to school kids, piano to all ages and homeschooling her own children.

With the Friends of the Dorchester County Public Library, she helps bring guest performances locally. “John and I have always enjoyed facilitating those kinds of things,” she said.

Watts also fundraised to bring a Steinway piano to Cambridge. Steinway creates some of the finest instruments in the world, and now, it can be heard at a downtown venue, whether for children building their confidence at recital, at church services or for professional guest artists. It’s a tremendous opportunity for all.

“So many parts of the community can be segmented by things, race or economics,” Lewis said. “But people will cross those lines for art, for history, for culture, and it’s been amazing to do these things in Dorchester County because people are so receptive.”

He has volunteered with the Dorchester Center for the Arts, even curating shows. Now he’s part of a new nonprofit, the Choptank Arts and Culture Exchange (CACE), aiming to provide art grants in Dorchester and Talbot.

Lewis was a cofounding trustee of the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance since 2010, which manages the Handsell historic site near Vienna. The mission has expanded from preserving an old brick European-owned house, to embracing and uplifting the histories of the Black individuals who lived, died and were buried onsite, plus the Native American heritage through the Chicone Village area.

In Dorchester, Lewis also loves to drive through the Neck District. “My Uncle John used to have a country store down there … it’s probably where I developed my love of stories, listening to the watermen. But it’s such a gorgeous drive.”

They absolutely love the community and the region. “There’s so many stories, so many characters, there’s just so much here,” Lewis said. “If you really want to develop a sense of optimism, step out and work amongst people in your community, get involved.”

“I really personally have thrived here because of the natural world, because there’s a heron on the rooftop, or a bald eagle over my head—and we care about what we have here, environmentally speaking, coupled with our specific history” linked to the spirit of the Underground Railroad. So Dorchester people need to preserve its natural beauty and continuous thread of independence, she enthused.

Lewis was stunned to be nominated as a Hometown Hero, partly because the couple always seems to have a project, so it leaves less time for contemplation. Watts was also grateful for the connection to the community. After all, humans put their work and selves into the world to make a connection.

They both honored other Dorchester Countians who make a difference and demonstrate change in the community. “We’ve got to use our creativity and power to visualize, to dream of what we can do next,” Watts said.

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