People to Watch
Each year, the members of our “People to Watch” class are selected because they dazzle us in various ways. Their talents could be showcased on the job, in the community or among our cultural outlets. Their backgrounds might be different—in fact, they almost always are—but their passion and work direct them to a common mission: to make Frederick County a better place. The class of 2023 is no different—driven, creative and earnest. Each person is worth watching for the next year and beyond.
By Guy Fletcher and Nancy Luse, Photography by Turner Photography Studio
Kaili van Waveren
Bereavement Services Supervisor, Frederick Health Hospice
Kaili van Waveren’s path has a few turns. The California native first moved to Maryland to attend Johns Hopkins University and eventually made her way to Frederick in 2013. She found work as a writer, but what was paying the bills was a clothing business specializing in vintage couture, wardrobe curation and personal styling. While the fashion industry was fun, it ultimately wasn’t gratifying to her, so Kaili decided to redirect her life into service to others. She discovered the thanatology program at Hood College and, while working toward a master’s degree, began interning with Hospice. She joined the bereavement team immediately after graduation.
FM: Tell us about your work in expanding grieving services for teens and others.
Kaili: Five years ago, our bereavement program consisted of two counselors who ran the annual camp for grieving children—Camp Jamie—and provided limited grief counseling and support groups. Today, we have a team of six clinicians. Camp Jamie has expanded from an annual event to a continuum of care that includes multiple events throughout the year and bridges the support we now offer within Frederick County Public Schools, where we provided 119 hours of care last month alone. We are continually looking to our community to see what the needs are and how we can meet them. All services are provided at no cost, assuring that grief support is available to everyone in the community who needs it.
FM: How rewarding is your work?
Kaili: Honestly, I was not prepared for the psychological and emotional challenges of grief counseling, and it took me a while to develop the self-care strategies and boundaries necessary to do this work and to be well doing it. Years into this, there are still hard days, and some of the stories we hear are utterly heartbreaking; no way around that. At the same time, it is difficult to imagine work that would be more rewarding. It’s an honor each time someone allows you to come alongside them when they’re experiencing the deepest anguish they’ve ever felt and trusts you enough to share their grief journey.
FM: Why is death so hard for people to discuss?
Kaili: Talking about death taps at our most primal fears. We all want knowledge and control, but death is unknowable until we experience it, and we have very little control over where, when and how we die. Most people fear their own deaths, whether because they’re unsure of what happens after we die, or because they fear the actual process of dying and the potential physical pain that may come with it. Yet, what I have found, is that most people are far less anxious thinking about their own deaths than about the deaths of their loved ones.
FM: Tell us about your other interests.
Kaili: Besides thanatology—the study of death and dying—and writing, I also love nature. I spend as much time as possible outdoors, walking through the woods, backpacking, kayaking and observing the plants and animals. I am also passionate about suicide prevention and co-lead the postvention subcommittee for the Frederick County Suicide Prevention Coalition. Lastly, I love educating! I taught at Hood College and continue to advise and contribute to curricula for the thanatology master’s program and jump at any opportunity to provide grief education and training in our community.
Calling someone a serial entrepreneur is practically a cliché these days, since so many people dabble with side hustles and other forms of work outside of work. But Darren Sheffield is the real deal. His line of Making Individual Dreams A Reality (MIDAR) businesses include fashion, beauty, automobile sales, entertainment, beer and wine, and even cigars. A native of Washington, D.C., Darren discovered Frederick the same way many others have: the military. Darren first served in the U.S. Army in Germany, where he was a witness to history when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. But that was followed by an assignment at Fort Detrick. Years later, when he was looking to purchase a home in a comfortable environment, he recalled Frederick County and moved to Brunswick in 2019.
FM: Tell us about your many businesses and how they got started.
Darren: MIDAR started as one company, a record label and entertainment company. My mission was to share my past musical knowledge and experiences to develop up-and-coming recording artists and producers. Also, I wanted to mentor like-minded people interested in becoming future music executives.
FM: But you did not stop there. Why so many businesses?
Darren: The expansion kind of happened unexpectedly. All my businesses accomplish the same thing, which is making people feel good. All my businesses are mood changers.
FM: Tell us a little bit about all those
Darren: There are:
• MIDAR Fashion. When you put on a new outfit you instantly feel awesome. You can tackle the world.
• MIDAR Beauty Bar. Nothing like the feeling of a fresh haircut or hairstyle.
• MIDAR Cigars. What better way to end your day than with a nice cigar in an awesome environment with good people?
• MIDAR Beer and Wine. A delicious glass of wine alone or with friends is priceless.
• 1st Exodus Construction. Walking into your freshly painted house is definitely a feel-good moment.
• MIDAR Motors Preowned Vehicles. New car smell! Need I say more?
• MIDAR Entertainment Group. Music makes the world go around and is eternal!
FM: How rewarding is your work?
Darren: My businesses are very rewarding. My vision is to mentor and develop entrepreneurs under the MIDAR umbrella as well as partnering with them to establish their entrepreneurial vision and goals. I want to help them with the necessary tools to make their dreams a reality and to succeed.
FM: Is it challenging?
Darren: Although I have awesome business partners and a great team that is more like family, it can be challenging keeping up with our rapid growth. But, trust me, I’m not complaining!
FM: Tell us about your interests outside of work.
Darren: I love sports, music, art and spending time with family. I am also a lifelong learner. I enjoy learning new things and being a part of community fellowship and building events.
Owner, Key City Compost
A Shepherd University internship as a photographer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife department struck a chord with Phil Westcott, compelling him to focus on environmental science, sustainability and conservation. It was a passion that took him to the Mariana Islands of the South Pacific where he documented species conservation and to Alaska with the National Park Service to study climate change. These experiences led him to founding Key City Compost, a business that collects residential and commercial food waste, turning it into material to enrich backyard gardens and farmland.
FM: When and how did Key City Compost get off the ground?
Phil: In 2016, Frederick County started an initiative to study waste and polled the community on ways to improve its waste management practices. Food waste, a huge portion of material that is trucked out of county each day, was a common topic. I have a long history of composting in my backyard, so I weighed in on how easy composting is and encouraged both individuals and businesses to take part.
I recognized there were few young people in these county meetings and even fewer people with any interest in composting—you know, the getting your hands dirty part. I thought that if nobody wants to compost, I should start a business.
FM: What steps did you take?
Phil: My goal was to start in 10 years or so. I was afraid of starting something new, of failing, so saying, “I’ll do that someday” got me off the hook for immediate action. But things just continued to line up. I heard from the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a D.C.-based nonprofit. They advertised a composting conference in Los Angeles. I applied, received a scholarship and attended. It was here that my 10-year plan turned into a 10-day plan. I built our website while at the conference, launched our residential service, and purchased a Facebook ad to announce our five-gallon bucket composting service. I returned home to a launched business and customers, all due to the stars lining up and learning that there are risks in business for sure, but no reason to be afraid. I started Key City Compost with absolutely no idea what it would become.
FM: What do you like (and don’t like) about the business?
Phil: My favorite part is watching our team members get deeply involved in our work, grow, and thrive together as a team. I feel blessed to be surrounded by people that enjoy their work. My least favorite part is when things break. It’s a capital-intensive business to run a composting facility and a trucking company at the same time. Lots of expensive tools are required, and when they break it takes a lot of cash and very handy people to get everything back to normal.
FM: What are some things people may not know about you?
Phil: Through middle school and high school I toured in a family blues rock band called the Westcott Brothers Band. I spend as much of my off time as possible mountain biking in our beautiful Frederick Watershed. I didn’t come from an entrepreneur family, but I did come from a family of artists and musicians. I think these life paths are very similar. Business and service really is an art. You have to mold it and constantly reshape it. And if you’re not having fun while doing it, it probably won’t look the way you or others will positively respond to.
Owner, A&S Construction
Sandra Hofmeister’s journey started in Lima, Peru. The daughter of a Peruvian mother and Spanish father, she grew up to become an accountant. Her father was her hero, and after his diplomatic career, she watched him construct buildings and plan infrastructures as a civil engineer. Sandra immigrated to Florida in 2006 and worked in accounting, then to Frederick in 2010. A few years later, she proudly became a U.S. citizen. Today, she is not only a successful construction company owner, but a force on the local business scene, serving on various panels related to her industry.
FM: Tell us about your business and how it got started.
Sandra: When I moved to Frederick, I switched careers and started in construction, a field I had never dared to dream about before. I dove in heart-first and never looked back. After many years working for another contractor, and during the COVD-19 pandemic, I started A&S Construction, a local roofing and siding company.
FM: What does it mean to you to be a female, minority business owner?
Sandra: Being a female and a minority business owner can be a challenge because you are competing with large, established companies. But at the same time, it is an advantage since I am able to give back to the community that I love, connect with customers and deliver great results.
FM: How rewarding is your work?
Sandra: My job is very rewarding. Meeting families and helping them to improve their homes is an amazing feeling. It is very fulfilling to see a project completed, and every time I drive by that house, I feel accomplishment.
FM: Nonetheless, is it also challenging?
Sandra: I am a woman in a male-dominated industry and sometimes it can be challenging to get customers. There is still a pervasive stereotype that women do not do the type of work that I do, and I feel that I am breaking down barriers by doing it. I want to show other women that they, too, can do it.
FM: Tell us about your volunteer work and other interests.
Sandra: I love being involved in my
community. As an active member and ambassador of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce,
I belong to the Women in Business and Business Equity Coalition committees that allow me to work for our community. I am also blessed to be a member of the Frederick County Building Industry Association and president of the Professional Women in Building Council, which allows me to participate in events to benefit charities. I am also a volunteer with the City of Frederick as a member of its
Diversity Advisory Panel.
Lydia Hadfield is a writer, performer and interdisciplinary artist with a penchant for satire. Her sensibility is informed by years of improv training—which began at age 15 in the Maryland Ensemble Theatre’s Ensemble School youth improv troupe. She is delighted to work with the MET again on her most recent play, CraftTown, a comedic retail mystery. Lydia strives to create work that welcomes queer interpretation and delights a wide audience. Above all, she believes that art is integral to human experience, and that any healthy community must value, fund and celebrate
FM: What is your writing discipline? Do you get up early and write at 5 a.m.? Do you write every day?
Lydia: I rarely rise at 5 a.m. if I can help it. I prefer to write at night and as often as I can. The moon is a good creative co-conspirator.
FM: As a writer and a performer, do you prefer one over the other? What are the attractions of each?
Lydia: I like to take an interdisciplinary approach to creative work, including writing and performing. I love both equally. My writing projects usually spring from a playful, performative impetus—I hear a character’s voice and channel it onto paper. Sometimes I sketch or doodle cartoons to warm up before I write, too. Verbal, visual and physical language are all important to me. As a performer, I approach my work first as a reader and critical thinker. Even in improv, my feel for language is an inseparable part of who I am, how I play characters, and how I collaborate during a scene.
FM: How would you like to see theater progress even more in the Frederick area?
Lydia: I’d love to see more theater and more environmentally conscious theater. More theater means more funding, in public schools especially. As a community we need to support what we value. Art is a crucial part of the human experience and needs to be championed as a value. We lose so much when opportunities for artistic self-expression start disappearing from our landscapes.
I think self-expression is key to everyone’s quality of life. The fun, freedom and discipline of theater is something every kid and adult should be able to explore if they so desire. I’d also love to see theaters in Frederick make substantive commitments to becoming more environmentally friendly. The climate crisis is real, and it’s here. Everyone needs to take a look at how their principles and behavior affect our ecosystem, and theaters are no exception. We’re creative people. We can think creatively about what sustainable practices and climate justice means for theater, too.
FM: Was there one play that had a huge influence on you?
Lydia: So many plays have had an outsize influence on me. The first traditional stage play I ever saw was a production of Moliere’s The Miser on my 13th birthday. It blew my mind. Who knew I’d laugh ‘til my face hurt at a 17th-century French satire? Solo writer-performer-interdisciplinary plays by artists like Anna Deaveare Smith and Tim Crouch have likewise rocked my world and transformed my understanding of what theater can be and do.