Prongas works tirelessly for the land
Prongas has cherished the land, the trees and the water since
she was a little girl. It was a value instilled in her as she
was growing up in England.
Prongas calls Emmitsburg her home, and is well known
countywide for her art. She is perhaps lesser known for her
contributions to protecting the environment in Frederick
Except by those who work with her to protect the
environment, that is.
The founder and president of The New Forest Society,
Prongas, 77, spends 50 to 100 hours per month attending
meetings and acting as liaison between the state and residents
all to protect the water and land of Frederick County
But Prongas is not the stereotypical "tree-hugger" one
Born in New York, Prongas moved to England with her mother
when she was 5 years old, shortly after her father died.
At 14, she went to work in the U.S. Embassy there, doing
secretarial work. It was during the bombings of England in
World War II that Prongas traveled 40 miles by train each way
to get back and forth to her job. At 19, her family returned
home to the United States.
Both her daughters, Deborah Souders and Rebecca Pearl, are
well-known artists in Frederick County.
Prongas appears every bit the lady. Her hair upswept, she
cuts an elegant figure. She is soft-spoken, yet quite
passionate and serious about subjects that interest her.
Remembrances of her love for nature and painting as a
child, or the accomplishments of her children, all bring a
Her love of nature is apparent in her work as an artist.
She specializes in portraiture, but nature is frequently
the subject of her work. And her ability to draw trees comes
in handy sometimes.
Most recently The New Forest Society sponsored a tree
planting by children at Emmitsburg Elementary School. Prongas
found it helpful to be able to draw a tree and the children
loved it, she said.
And while she is involved in many volunteer projects, the
biggest portion of her time is spent with the organization she
founded. When Prongas attended a meeting about the state's
Conservation Resource Enhancement Program, she realized
program participants really needed a support system.
As part of the program, landowners may enroll some of their
land with the state and receive a one-time bonus in addition
to annual rental payments from the state for an easement for
the property. The easement protects the land in its natural
condition, essentially forever. But the landowner does have
responsibilities, such as fulfilling specific maintenance
requirements for the land.
Helping landowners working with the state program is the
role that consumes most of her time, but she is hardly limited
to it. Prongas is also a member and past president of the
Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association, a board
member for the Committee for Frederick County and the
Emmitsburg branch of Frederick County Public Libraries, an
appointed member of the Scenic Monocacy Advisory Board, and a
member of the Route 15 Scenic Byway Advisory Board.
In addition to her work as an artist and art teacher, she
is also a licensed practical nurse, working one night per week
and relief shifts at Homewood Nursing Facility.
Prongas said she volunteers for many reasons, one being her
admiration for the people of Emmitsburg. "I'm very fortunate I
have met wonderful people and most of them just get on with
it," she said, laughing.
By that, Prongas meant that they are always busy doing
church suppers or whatever needs to be done, and she likes
that about the people in her community. People in her
community like that about her, too.
Don Briggs knows well the kind of energy and commitment
Prongas brings to everything she does. He works with her on
Briggs is president of the Catoctin Land Trust, and is on
the board of The New Forest Society.
"If it's anything for the good of north Frederick County,
you are going to meet her there. She's behind every door," he
said of Prongas. "What she does, it has to be good."
"She's terrific. She's indefatigable. She never gets tired
and she's always at the forefront for northern Frederick
County the people first and then the environment," he said.
Prongas said she wouldn't allow herself to succumb to
tiredness or self-pity. "It becomes a way of life. ... You go
at it with joy," she said.