City of Frederick gains a new ‘sister’ at ceremony tonight

Brazilian mayor to visit Frederick today to make agreement official

Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006

Over the years, Sharma Musser has heard many requests for adding another ‘‘sister” city to Frederick’s Sister Cities Association.

Since she became president of the organization five years ago, Musser has never heard a request quite like the one that came last year from Dirci Borelli Marquart, a Frederick businesswoman.

‘‘Immediately I was fascinated just because it was Brazil,” Musser said.

Marquart, president of GranTops, a company that sells granite and marble to homeowners, wanted to make the Brazilian city of Aquiraz a ‘‘sister city” to Frederick.

The Frederick Sister Cities Association is a local, nonprofit organization dedicated to citizen diplomacy and fostering cultural partnerships between Frederick and international cities. The organization already has two ‘‘sister city” partnerships with the German cities of Schifferstadt and Morzheim and offers annual cultural events and trips to Germany.

In September, the Board of Aldermen approved the partnership between Frederick and Aquiraz, Brazil. Frederick Mayor W. Jeff Holtzinger (R) and Aquiraz Mayor Ritelza Cabral will seal the agreement tonight in an official ceremony at City Hall.

‘‘Our whole idea is people to people,” Musser said. ‘‘We want to learn about the Brazilian culture, its food and language and its many ethnicities.”

According to Marquart, 80 percent of the world’s granite comes from Brazil. Marquart wanted to give something back to the Brazilian communities she purchases granite from and founded MissionServ.

As the ‘‘socially responsible arm of the business,” MissionServ is an international nonprofit organization that hosts mission trips to poor and developing countries. Every month, more than 10 volunteers from across the country embark on trips to teach music and English, to build homes or provide medical expertise in Aquiraz. Marquart noted that many volunteers are doctors and medical professionals, college students, families and church groups.

Many people suggest adding a sister city to Frederick’s Sister City Association, Musser said, but don’t realize the amount of volunteer work it takes to make it a reality. With Marquart’s knowledge, commitment and staff already working hard to establish commercial and cultural ties in Brazil, the Frederick Sister Cities Association added Aquiraz to its list.

Being a part of the Frederick Sister Cities Association complements and creates greater public awareness of GranTop’s mission and goal, Marquart said.

Musser said including Aquiraz into the club of ‘‘sister cities” would provide the Frederick community with opportunities to be citizen diplomats and learn about another culture.

The Frederick Sister Cities Association already has plans to hold another ‘‘Brazil Day” in July 2007. More than 100 residents participated in a similar festival in July, Musser said, which featured Brazilian crafts, food and drink.