Written By Sherwood Kohn

Megan Webb is very talented and very grateful.

For openers, the 30-year-old, tall, wiry Westminster housewife and mother of two, who has only a high school education and hardly any formal training as a writer, is a prize-winning essayist.

But her greater, deeper gift is as a survivalist. And her genius extends far beyond her persona.

Let’s put it this way: If Webb was dropped off in the jungle without any tools or weapons, she would not only survive and thrive, but she would probably emerge from the forest as its queen; or at the very least, owning all of its natural resources.

As it is, she was dropped into the suburban jungle last winter, when her husband, Steven, a Marine veteran of Desert Storm and the owner of a tree service called Steven The Tree Man, was injured on the job and unable to work for four months.

Webb not only coped with that, but also sustained her family by tapping into Carroll County’s support system. She asked the Department of Human Services for help and the community responded generously.
“My community really stepped up and helped,” said Webb.

She also entered contests on the Internet and won $3,500 worth of merchandise from Tiffany’s, $2,000 from Cartier’s and a string of other prizes, including a year of monthly bouquets from Flowers by Evelyn, by writing essays based on her own experiences.

Which brings us to the ice cream party.

Webb is one of the 1,500 winners this year of the Neighborhood Salute essay contest sponsored by Edy’s Slow Churned Ice Cream. That means that Edy’s, a division of Nestle’s, will provide 10 one-and-a-half quart cartons and 36 individual cups of ice cream, plus enough cups, spoons, scoops, aprons, wipes and an ice cream stand to throw a party in the neighborhood that the contest winner – in this case, Megan Webb – highlighted in her 150-word essay.

So on August 8, Webb will throw, not only an ice cream party, but also a full-fledged luncheon for more than 200 people at the Westminster Fire Hall. It will be, she said, a thank-you for all the people and organizations that helped her in her hour of need.

But that does not begin to describe the event. Webb has persuaded at least 30 local businesses to provide, among other items, enough pit beef sandwiches, pizza, meatballs, cole slaw, buffalo wings, wraps, cheese, pasta salad, pretzels and potato chips, rolls, sodas and water to feed representatives of a score of social agencies, community and charitable organizations that she has invited to the party.

Webb began writing last winter, after the Carroll Technology Council, through the Shop With a Cop program and the county’s Department of Human Services, gave her family a recycled Dell computer. She started looking around on the Internet for something to do. And then she discovered (1) on-line essay contests (Webb says she could enter eight or ten a day on line) and (2) on-line coupons.

Her coupon search calls for a specific set of skills; primarly patience and a determination to ferret out bargains that suit her needs. In other words, she is a Super Shopper.

“It’s my game to see how much money I can save,” she said. And she has done very well at it, on occasion saving more than half of her grocery bill – sometimes over $100 – by searching the Internet (mysavings.com is a favorite) for coupons.

Along the way, she also found that she liked to write. While the rest of the family were sleeping or watching TV, Webb surfed the web and wrote. She writes every night.

“Writing is a release for me,” she said. “It’s my escape from reality. My husband says I should write a book.”
Like any accomplished essay writer, Webb knows that she must get the attention of her readers in the first sentence; what is known in professional circles as the “grabber.”

“You’re trying to sell an idea,” she said. So she reaches down inside of herself and pulls out that portion of human interest that she knows will generate empathy.

“You’ve got to get them in the first sentence,” she said. “Otherwise, because there are so many entries, they won’t bother reading further.” -S.D.K.