• Story by Katie Willis | Photos by Caroline J.

Love Thy Neighbor - The Deaton Family

The needs of a neighbor often can feel like the needs of family and friends if you grew up in one of the communities on the Mid-Shore.

Everyone has the ability and desire to give in different ways, whether it is donating money; giving your time through volunteering; lending your shoulder or a listening ear; cooking or delivering meals to those in need; or lending your voice to a cause you are passionate about.

Ralph and Darryl Deaton of Chestertown are hands on when it comes to giving back, and that sense of community is a driving force for them.

“I think (giving back) is important cause, I mean, when you're doing the roll up your sleeve type of giving back, you're right in there with the nitty gritty,” Ralph said. “And more than likely, you probably know somebody who is really in need, because you're probably not too far from it yourself.”

Ralph grew up in Church Hill and is a veteran with the U.S. Army. He said he grew up watching his parents help members of the community get on their feet by giving them jobs or letting them stay with them while they rose up from their circumstances.

Ralph was instrumental in beginning the Kent County Christmas Basket program and food drive in 1968, working on the committee through his work with the Kent County Social Services Department. Ralph and other members of the team helped to pack the boxes and deliver them to those in need.

Ralph said he often would have to take vacation time to get everything together for the program and deliver the boxes, and he said he would take his kids with him on these trips. He helped with the program until the 1990s.

Darryl, Ralph's son, said he helped deliver Christmas Basket program boxes for about 15 years and being in the trenches when it comes to helping his community has helped him stay grounded, and remember where he came from.

The Christmas Basket program since has grown and now is run by the Lions Clubs of Kent County, delivering more than 500 boxes of food to those in need each season.

Ralph also coached church-league basketball from about 1973 to 1983, and Darryl has helped with youth sports, as well, coaching for nearly 20 years.

Ralph is a member of the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown hospital auxiliary, working to provide needed supplies to the hospital, and is a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee in Queen Anne's County, helping to give college scholarships to local high school students, as well.

He also is active with the Friends of Janes UM Church in Chestertown, which is attempting to raise money for the church's much-needed roof replacement, and Darryl helps to cook for the church during its fundraisers.

Darryl said he grew up being taught to value the community he lived in.

“When something was happening, or somebody needed something done, we'd all pull together as a community,” Darryl said. “You didn't see color, you saw your friends.”

That same sentiment was echoed by all the families — the needs of the community, your neighbors, and your family outweigh any barriers, real or imagined, that society can put in front of you.


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