Spirit of Saint Nicholas Inspires Fund to Benefit Local Students

women posing with man

John George, Ph.D., right, poses for a photo with scholarship recipient Autumn Parson, center, and Community Foundation trustee Linda Morgan at the Community Foundation’s scholarship reception, June 2023.

The Community Foundation of Frederick County holds close to 800 charitable funds, and each one of those funds comes with a unique and inspiring story of a person or organization committed to making life better in Frederick County. Since we are in the throes of the holiday season and also the end of the year, which for many is the giving season, it seems fitting to share the story of The St. Nicholas Children’s Scholarship Fund.

Saint Nicholas, thought to be a bishop in the 4th century, was known for his generosity and kindness, which gave rise to legends of miracles he performed for the poor and unhappy. His reputation made him popular across Europe, and his story has inspired people for centuries.

Even if you’re not a religious person, you might be familiar with Saint Nicholas as he was the inspiration for someone we all recognize – Santa Claus. According to the History Channel, by the Middle Ages, the Saint’s fame had spread across Europe, and in the Netherlands he took on the Dutch-friendly spelling Sinterklaas. He was known as a tall, white-bearded man in red clerical robes who arrived every December to leave gifts or coal at children’s homes. It is thought that Dutch families took the tradition of Sinterklaas and their feast day of Saint Nicholas with them to New Amsterdam (New York) in the American colonies, beginning as early as the 17th century.

This story of a man who lived long ago, and who was dedicated to making life better for the poor and unhappy, is alive and well today. It was in the spirit of Saint Nicholas that John C. George, Ph.D., created The St. Nicholas Children’s Scholarship Fund with The Community Foundation of Frederick County.

“Saint Nicholas has long been among my favorite saints, it is appropriate to honor his living presence,” George said.

George, a career educator, was a teacher, administrator, and curriculum specialist with Frederick County Public Schools from 1968 to 2002. He was also an adjunct professor at Hood College for 17 years, and then full-time professor, including six years as chair of the Education Department.

The fund George established provides post-secondary scholarships for FCPS graduates. In the spirit of Saint Nicholas, whose legacy of helping those in need lives on today, George’s commitment to education and devotion to students will become a part of his legacy through this fund.

“After 47 years as a Frederick County educator, having taught public school children, as well as undergraduate and master’s degree candidates at Hood College, I want to continue to make a positive difference through education,” George said. “The idea of still serving students after my retirement, and after my earthly life, is very appealing.”

Since it was created in 2019, The St. Nicholas Children’s Scholarship Fund has distributed more than $10,000 in scholarships to local students. Frederick County is fortunate to have so many saints living among us, generous donors and volunteers who support local charitable efforts and the vital work of our many nonprofits. As we celebrate our blessings this holiday season, let us also honor the spirit of Saint Nicholas and those who are committed to helping people in need.