Following the award ceremony in which he was named Moorestown’s 2012 Citizen of the Year, Douglas Sell was approached by a woman who told him she had no idea all the charitable things he’d done.
To which Sell responded, smiling broadly, “Well, that’s the way I want it.”
Though friends and dignitaries lavished praise on him with speeches and proclamations, the Citizen of the Year dinner—sponsored by the Moorestown Service Club Council—was in many ways a monument to Sell’s tremendous humility.
Afterward, he admitted all the attention had made him a bit uncomfortable.
“This recognition is very flattering and it’s a little bit embarrassing,” he said. “Tonight is sort of a guilty pleasure for me.”
Longtime friend Bill Holden described a conversation he’d once had with Sell about all his good deeds—his mission trips, his work with inner city youth—but it wasn’t a topic Sell was particularly keen on pursuing.
“Doug began to tell me, if he just mentioned in an indirect way, something that he had done for others, it was being prideful,” Holden said, “and that pride ruined the good deed for him … Doug is a humble man, with simple beliefs of doing good things for others—above and beyond what any of us would consider doing and not feeling the need to tell anyone.”
Fortunately for the crowd gathered at The Merion in Cinnaminson Wednesday night, Sell was willing to let others do the bragging for him.
Another friend, Tom Kulp, told perhaps the most awe-inspiring story about Sell—how he helped launch a boat-building program (through UrbanPromise) for urban youth in Camden, and during the course of the program met a 16-year-old boy named Luis, who Kulp described as having “enough life experience to teach a graduate-level course on city drugs and violence.”
“Luis was instantly likable and soon showed himself to be the most interested and diligent boat builder in the class. He was a sponge,” Kulp said. “He was well-liked by everyone, and especially Doug.”
Luis lived in Camden though, and, while “looking out for some of (his) friends,” got caught up in a drug sweep, Kulp explained. As this was not his first offense, the judge was threatening seven years in juvenile detention. Testimony from teachers and administrators with UrbanPromise got that knocked down to two; but that would still derail all the progress Luis had made, Kulp said.
The judge said if Luis was removed from his environment, taken out of Camden, he’d reconsider the sentence. But attempts to find somewhere for Luis to live kept falling apart.
That’s when Sell stepped in. He and his wife, Candy, took Luis into their home in Moorestown and made him a part of the family. It was a decision Sell admitted surprised many people, but was easy for him to make.
“It was very easy to invite him to live with us, largely because of my thorough conviction that God had put Luis and me in that boat-building class for a much more important reason than to build a canoe,” said Sell. “Becoming Luis’s guardian has been one of the most rewarding and profound experiences that Candy and I have had.”
Luis, now 17, attended the award ceremony Wednesday and said he wasn’t surprised in the least when he learned .
“He earns it … He changed my life tremendously. He made me a better person, put a lot of opportunities in my life,” said Luis. “Like the father figure, I never had that. He’s my father figure.”
senior Christina Burias was also named Student Citizen of the Year during the awards dinner.
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