Casey Family Programs recognizes the work of the Bester Community of Hope, a San Mar Initiative, with a video highlighting our efforts, as well as a story in it’s signature annual report, read more here: https://www.casey.org/hope/
Pouring rain didn’t stop countless families from attending Family Day on this Good Friday at the new Bester Community of Hope offices in Hagerstown, Maryland. This year’s theme “Wild About Families” transformed the community office into a jungle of activities centered around family photographs and activities about thriving families. “Our goal every year is to have fun, make connections and celebrate all the things that make families strong by promoting the protective factors,” explained Bester Community of Hope Director Jennifer Younker. The protective factors encompass five priorities for families: social & emotional competence of children, concrete supports in times of need, social connections, parental resilience and knowledge of parenting & child development.
Upstairs in the social connections station, families took a quote about belonging from author Jane Howard and created unique posters with hand prints comprising of all members of the family. Neighborhood Partnership Coordinator Kerry Fair explained, “Social connections matter because we are all part of the same community and when we know each other we can help each other.” As one parent completed her poster she shared, “Before I got involved here, I wasn’t very social because I have social anxiety. But now it’s easy because I know people.”
At the social and emotional competence of children station, children built mindfulness kits and took home the book “Greedy Steve” to learn all about making healthy choices. Local Community Resource Officer Alex Routhier was at the event helping at the concrete resources in times of need station, and noted, “It’s great to see how families worked through all of the activities together. Kids are really honest, they know what they need and what they don’t need.” Routhier wasn’t able to finish his thought as a child, Kimaya, ran into him for a bear hug from their past positive connections in the neighborhood. Knowledge of parenting & child development was demonstrated through a variety of games families attempted that highlighted exploration, discovery and strategy. Lead Family Support Worker Teri Conrad explained, “Kids learn through play and it can help build the relationships between parent and child.”
Parental resilience was showcased in two different stations, parents identified the strengths in their family system, and then took a moment to receive a massage from licensed massage therapist Ola Jones. San Mar volunteer Tim Harrison noted, “I’m seeing a lot of smiling faces and happy people. I also see that a lot of love went into preparing for this day.” As one family was leaving for the day, a mother noted, “We were in a rush, so I didn’t get a chance to get a massage.” Her daughter interrupted, “Don’t worry mom, I’ll give you one when we get home, that’s why I’m here. I’m here to help!”
Bester Community of Hope and activities like Family Day are made possible by the generosity of our core partners: the Washington County Department of Social Services, the Alice Virginia & David W. Fletcher Foundation and Casey Family Programs. To learn more about how you can get involved in the work to improve well-being for families, school and neighborhoods in the South End of Hagerstown, Maryland, get in touch at email@example.com or 240-513-6370.
A diverse group of 450 community stakeholders came together today to learn from national speakers at “Unconditional Care” on the campus of Hagerstown Community College at the Kepler Theater. Hosted by Bester Community of Hope, a San Mar Initiative, this event was the sixth installment in a series of trainings focused on beliefs and strategies for social progress, and this event placed a particular emphasis on self-care and understanding the impact of caring for others. Bester Community of Hope Director Jen Younker, LCSW-C explained,”Those who work taking care of others often disregard the need for self-care until signs of distress arise. Even then, we still may not recognize the signs as maladaptive or troublesome. If we take a preventative approach by taking care of our nervous system, we can mitigate the effects and keep our A game strong.”
Tonier Cain, founder and CEO of Healing Neen Inc. in Annapolis, Maryland, brought to the audience her amazing personal story of resilience. Overcoming profound trauma and devastating challenges, including drug addiction and living life on the streets, Cain was eventually able to address the root causes of her behavior and use it as a launching pad for her worldwide success. “When my belief system changed, is when my thoughts changed.” She revealed deeply personal moments, and reflected on her journey to recovery, “I remember the moment that I thought things may have changed. I was in a program and someone snapped a photo of me playing with my daughter. And I saw her smile.” As a living success story, Cain urged the audience to consider her when thinking of others they support, “If you don’t believe in the people we serve, how can they have hope for themselves!”
Brothers Ali and Atman Smith along with Andres Gonzalez came together to share their work from the Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore City, a comprehensive program focused on teaching mindfulness practices to communities as a tool for both self-regulation and helping others. The trio took the time during the presentation to show the work in action, by leading audience members through a variety of breathing and mindfulness practices. On different occasions the audience fell silent as they were lead through different approaches, with the hope that this first hand practice experience would be useful tools for both professionals and those served.
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, Founder and Director of the Trauma Stewardship Institute, brought humor and research to lead a focused dialogue on developing insight on the personal toll of working to care for the needs of others. She blended that dialogue with some common sense responses, including focusing on your purpose, to ensure helpers weren’t headed towards a destination of burnout. “Why am I doing what I am doing everyday? As long as you’re honest, you can remind yourself of your why! Our lives are not being done to us; we are co-creators.”
Noteworthy contributors also included longtime San Mar psychiatrist Dr. Ira Lourie, a thought leader in developing effective systems of care. San Mar Family & Community Services CEO Keith Fanjoy also used the occasion to deliver the 2019 Jim Casey Building Communities of Hope award to the Community Free Clinic of Washington County, as well as recognize long-time San Mar board member Susan Peterson for her dedicated service.
The Bester Community of Hope initiative is made possible due to a significant investment of resources from the Washington County Department of Social Services and the Maryland Department of Human Services, the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation and Casey Family Programs, along with a network of active partners.
Learn more and buy your tickets today at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/unconditional-care-self-at-the-heart-of-service-tickets-55195824196
Contact our offices at 240-513-6370 for group rates, don’t miss it!
Babypalooza 2018 was the place to be for young families in Washington County on Saturday, with close to 800 individuals entering Bester Elementary School on a cool autumn day, close to four times more attendees than the same event in 2017. Now in it’s third year, Babypalooza was created as a community baby shower to support expectant parents as well as young families with children from newborn to five, helping to develop community connections and obtain supportive resources.
“I think it’s an awesome experience for the community,” explained Amy Palfrey, CPNP of the Children’s Doctor. Her co-worker Miranda Turnblacer, CPNP agreed, explaining, “We want to show families that there is good pediatric care here and available in their community.” The school was packed with families taking advantage of all the opportunities, including local parent Leticia Diaz. “I’m here for support and resources. Maryland Excels was here so I’m thinking about daycare options for my kids which will help me work and support my family without stressing because I’ll know they’ll be taken care of.”
Towson University nursing students from the Hagerstown campus were present in big numbers to provide resources on birth control, postpartum depression, as well as providing safe sleep demonstrations and teaching swaddling techniques. “The turnout was a lot bigger than I expected,” explained Towson Nursing student Madison Null. “There were a lot of pregnant moms, or those with young kids who were asking about our information. I think it was very helpful and useful because we were being asked lots of good questions.”
The Family Center of Washington County joined to provide opportunities for families including educational supportive services, with their staff members Anthony Bostic and Jamie Matthewson onsite. “I think it’s an awesome opportunity to get connected to community resources and for agencies to get the word out about what they do,” Matthewson explained. The Community Free Clinic of Washington County was also present and able to offer a variety of resources, and commented on the positive engagement with so many thankful participants. CFCWC Board President Major Warren explained, “We identified a lot of parents and mothers who were lactose intolerant, so we were able to respond by bringing 28 cases of formula specific to the need, and we were able to give it all away to very appreciative parents.”
Aside from a variety of great information and resources, there were also activities such as face painting, a clothing exchange, a diaper giveaway, family photographs and a meet & greet with Minnie & Mickey Mouse to go along with lots of door prizes. Valued partner It’s a Blessing to Be a Blessing was onsite feeding the community at no cost. On the way out of the event, grandparent Theresa Marshall was pushing a stroller and explained, “I’ve never been to this before, so I came with my daughter and grandchildren. Although we didn’t win any of the prizes there was still lots of great information here.” Local parent Kayla Shetler celebrated with her friends and family after winning one of the five grand prizes, a basket with pillows, blankets and camping gear. “Oh, she’s [my daughter] gonna love my prize!”
Jessica Burton, a parent who took the opportunity to get a photograph of her children with Mickey and Minnie Mouse (above) explained why she took the time to participate, “It’s a great opportunity to bring the community together and support each other as families. It’s important.”
At the third annual South Side Community Block Party, the San Mar initiative Bester Community of Hope brought together a massive celebration focused on families and neighborhoods at beautiful City Park. Fall temperatures and the first dry Saturday in weeks brought a constant stream of close to 2,000 children, families and members of the general public. The event offered something for everyone, but the primary goal for organizers was to create social connections in the neighborhood. Bester Community of Hope Director Jennifer Younker explained, “Life is stressful and raising a family is tough. This event is about coming together as a community and having fun! Having our community providers present allows us to build a network of support that is important for every family.”
Headlined by musical act The Soul Rebels from New Orleans, and The Chuck Brown Band from Washington D.C. performing at the Peter Buys Band Shell, there was a constant stream of eclectic music for audiences to enjoy “I think of one of the great things about this event was the diversity and the togetherness was truly beautiful,” explained Soul Rebels touring manager Anderson Ireland. Almost forty community resource vendors were present sharing various information on resources available to the public that ranged from social services, health and neighborhood coalitions of community residents. Anthony Bostic is an active resident in his neighborhood through a variety of personal and professional affiliations, and he was onsite providing resident’s information regarding the program Dad’s Connection as a part of the Washington County Department of Social Services Family Center. “This is the best one yet. It’s the right place, the right lay out. You guys took over City Park!” Community organization “It’s a Blessing to be a Blessing” prepared and served a free meal to close to 1000 people. Director Dierdre Norris, Hagerstown’s own version of Bea Gaddy, brought her mission of love and support to the event for the second straight year to the delight of those eating her prepared tasting plates.
Bester Community of Hope staff and South Hagerstown High School volunteers manned a variety of carnival games including a dunk tank, sledgehammer, speed pitch and a very popular laser tag course. “I liked playing the games,” Jaydin explained, while his mother Amber continued by saying the best part was, “Spending time with my family.” Nearby, members of Old Line Garrison 501st Legion volunteered two Star Wars Stormtroopers, and combined with a meet and greet with members of the Paw Patrol, kids and adults alike were star struck! Hagerstown Police Department community resource officer Mark Morris explained, “This is a nice event because there was a lot of opportunity for people to come out and see what is available to them. And I got to take pictures with Storm Troopers! Doesn’t get much better than that!” The event covered a large area of City Park, including allowing free access to the City Park Train museum with barrel rides, as well as free paddleboat rides on the City Park Lake facilitated by River & Trail Outfitters.
Mr. Anthony of the Boy Scouts was onsite as a community vendor and is known for his booming voice, the kind you need to wrangle lots of high energy kids. “This right here is my favorite table at this event (bike helmet giveaway)! You guys take an amazing community day and give it purpose and that’s why you matter in this town.” San Mar CEO Keith Fanjoy explained, “We’ve been involved in a formal partnership with families of this neighborhood dating back to 2014, and we’re so excited to see the continued growth and revitalization of this corner of Hagerstown. When you take the time to listen and genuinely respond to what the community desires you see the success of activities like today. There is no question that the South Side is on the rise.”
Photography provided by Kevin Gilbert
A broad coalition of 650 community stakeholders came together today to learn from national speakers at “Collective Impact” at the Maryland Theatre. Hosted by Bester Community of Hope, a San Mar Initiative, this event was the fifth installment in a series of trainings focused on beliefs and strategies for social progress within families, schools and neighborhoods. Targeted grant funding from the Community Foundation of Washington County, Washington County Department of Social Services and Casey Family Programs made this event a reality.
“Are your expectations high enough? It can be done,” explained Geoffrey Canada, President of the Harlem Children’s Zone. Canada, a prominent national figure in education reform and social change who has been at the forefront of innovation, and whose work has led others to replicate his efforts including President Obama through the Promise neighborhood program. He had the audience regularly laughing as he told stories of raising money, trying to work with politicians and developing a plan for the success of the neighborhood. He also emphasized, “No one is coming to save your kids. If you don’t do it, it’s not going to get done.” His call to action also highlighted, “and if you don’t believe something, you are not going to do it.”
At past events BCOH screened the films Resilience and Paper Tigers along with their Director Jamie Redford, the latter of which highlighted the efforts of school Principal Jim Sporleder and the amazing outcomes happening at Lincoln Alternative School in Walla Walla, Washington. Sporleder joined today’s event where he described his transformation from using traditional discipline practices as an administrator and a self-described “relationship guy” to using a trauma informed approach to working with young people. “When I realized that what I was doing was hurting kids it was like I was struck by a bolt of lightning and it changed my life.” He was able to walk through a variety of research and practical examples both personal and professional explaining how to shift the dialogue towards restoration. He described a situation recently when he engaged with former struggling students whom he reconnected with in the community where he told them, “If I knew then what I know now, I would have done it differently. I want to ask you for forgiveness.” They said, “Well, we were no angels you know!”
Dante DeTablan, Vice President of the United Way of Central Maryland at the Ben Franklin Center for Community Schools, shared his personal parenting journey prior to becoming a Community School Coordinator in Baltimore City. He then explained how this process not only gave him empathy for populations being served but instilled in him a bold vision for where the community could go. He found that there was great pessimism and trauma in the area, with one longtime leader saying, “Dante, don’t raise my expectations.” But since that time milestones have included the mobilization of 80 community partners to support the school and neighborhood, “and our job is to be air traffic controllers.” Today, Ben Franklin High School continues to make significant progress by focusing on relationships.
Retiring Chief Executive Officer Bruce T. Anderson of San Mar Family & Community Services opened the day by sharing lessons from his 33 years as the leader of the social services organization. “I have often said that I can’t change a person, but I can create an environment where they want to change. I was wrong. The research says that for the kids we serve it takes just one caring adult to change their brain structure.” Anderson also introduced BCOH Director Keith Fanjoy who will begin the role of San Mar CEO on April 2nd. Other special guests included: Steven McAdams of the Governor’s Office on Community Initiatives; Washington County Teacher of the Year Carolyn Holcomb and Tim Morrow, Principal of Antietam Academy and Strong Schools Maryland.
Bester Community of Hope is made possible due to a significant investment of resources from the Washington County Department of Social Services, the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation and Casey Family Programs, the latter of which supports a national demonstration effort entitled “Building Communities of Hope”
Tickets on sale now: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/collective-impact-tickets-41970452754?aff=es2