Click the following link to register for the training: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/476613613147
Click the following link to register for the training: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/476613613147
For the seventh consecutive year, Bester Community Hope (BCOH), an initiative of San Mar Family & Community Services, hosted the South End Community Block Party at City Park in Hagerstown, bringing together the perfect mix of free family fun, a generous portion of community resource providers, with a dash of high quality entertainment. Close to 3000 people were in attendance during the four hour event supported by the Washington County Department of Human Services and the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation.
The event was headlined by national recording artist and performer Supaman, hailing from Apsaalooka Nation in Montana. He brought with him his close collaborator DJ Element from Phoenix, Arizona. During his performance, Supaman brought his unique style of Native American hip hop music and dance, infused with many stories and influences from his culture and upbringing. He shared during his performance the impact of losing his father to suicide at age ten, and entering foster care while his mother experienced struggles with alcoholism. He was able to return the care of his mother and have great success, and as he shared his journey with children and families in the audience he drove home the message, “No matter where you come from, no matter what you’ve been through, you’re in control of your own destiny.”
Opening up for Supaman was local hip hop academy Fresh Academicz, who were the first ever performers at the first BCOH Block Party in 2016 at Bester Elementary field. Now an annual community tradition in the South End at City Park, Academy owner Peter “Bam” Arizmendi led a large group of students on stage who displayed various technical skills in hip hop dance, and the group even returned to the stage to dance during a song during the headlining set. Arizmendi shared after the performance, “It’s great to see the community come together through the positive roots of hip hop. It was great performing with Supaman pushing love forward. This is the hip hop you want everyone to see.”
Over forty resource vendors provided critical community resources in areas such as health, education, community services, child care, basic needs and supplies along with local faith connections through non-stigmatizing and fun opportunities. Local non-profit ‘It’s a Blessing to be a Blessing’ provided free meals for the masses to ensure cost was no factor for families looking to create great memories together. Kids spent ample time experiencing good clean fun, including laser tag, a petting zoo, bubble soccer, and even meeting some of their favorite comic book characters in Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. The actress who was greeting children as Wonder Woman commented, “This is such a cool event. I see a lot of happy faces today.” Other community stakeholders present shared positive sentiments, such as local WCPS teacher Ryan Rau, who explained, ” I think it’s great that staff from local schools come out and interact with their kids and build a different kind of relationship outside the classroom. I even got to play laser tag and competed in archery against a student with her dad, which was a great thing to experience.”
San Mar Family & Community Services CEO Keith Fanjoy explained, “There were so many tangible interactions we can take away from today that will make a difference for local families, but what is special about this event are the things that go unsaid. Kids having access to opportunities, families creating lasting positive memories together even when times are tough, and a clear vision to all present that good things are happening in this neighborhood. It may be harder to quantify, but if you were here, there was no doubt about the impact.”
All photography courtesy of Kevin Gilbert
Bester Community of Hope (BCOH), an initiative of San Mar Family & Community Services, is announcing the installation of four murals throughout the South End as a part of its efforts to support thriving environments for children and families.
Following a generous gift from a private donor, Multimedia artist and graphic designer Matt Long from Frederick, Maryland was selected with the support of a local call for artists through the Washington County Arts Council. Long’s vibrant and colorful work has graced national brands including Sheetz, the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Walt Disney Studios, the Washington Auto Show, and the Frederick Keys.
Long shared, “It’s been an absolute blast working to creatively interpret the surrounding ideas of Bester’s underlying initiatives and I’m honored to collaborate. We’re all excited to see these murals go up and I can’t wait to share them with the city. Back in 2014, my work was selected to grace Hagerstown via my Western Maryland Blues Festival poster artwork. It’s great to be back in the area with some more permanent creative installments. I hope the children and families of the south end community find a little joy in passing these works day to day.”
Through an intentional local process of listening to community residents through the Bester Community of Hope Community Advisory Board, Long was able to identify a variety of themes and concepts. Each piece conveys different messages and themes, as Long explained, “Do you see the spreading of love in ‘Hope’? Do you see elements working together to inspire transformation in ‘Growth’? Do you see a diverse community joining hands to celebrate unity in ‘Better Together’? Do you see the young girl reaching for the stars, hitting it out of the park while ‘Dreaming Big’?”
The four sites of the new murals were provided by local partners at: 101 E. Baltimore St facing Locust St courtesy of Bloom’s Alley, 218 E. Antietam St courtesy of Meritus Health, 527 South Potomac St facing Memorial Park courtesy of the Community Action Council, and 201 E Washington Street courtesy of Legit Management. BCOH Neighborhood Partnership Coordinator Joan Balbuena Hernandez explained, “These murals are beacons of hope, resilience, and community strength. By promoting positivity and creating art that showcases the diverse beauty in our community, we are reminded that hope grows in the South End of Hagerstown.”
Art installations were finalized on Friday, August 19th by local firm Sign Here. Neighborhood efforts at BCOH are supported by the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation, while the collective impact umbrella approach of BCOH is possible due to the continued support and focus on prevention from the Washington County Department of Human Services.
Seventeen South End families completed the Superhero Family Academy on Saturday, June 11th at the Discovery Station in Hagerstown, MD to develop and nurture their protective factor superpowers. Upon arrival, families registered for the academy and activated their superhero wrist bands as Wonder Woman shared the story “Family Is a Superpower” by Michael Dahl and Omar Lozano. Before officially entering the academy, families posed for family portraits to commemorate the event.
The Superhero Family Academy was designed around the five protective factors that strengthen and support families: social connections, concrete supports, social and emotional competence of children, knowledge of parenting and child development and parental resilience. First stop for parents was training with The Hulk as he explored parents’ critical superpower of managing stressful missions and weathering adversity through self-care. Parents identified coping skills and ended the session with a massage. While parents trained with the Hulk, their children entered the world of “Love and Thunder” with Thor and his team. Children explored their social and emotional competence just as Thor learned to identify and manage his superhero strength. Thor’s team read “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, practiced their yoga skills, explored meaningful relationships, and made “Bracelets of Love” to remind them that they are always connected to the ones they love.
Parents and their children then reconnected and entered into Wakanda to explore concrete supports in times of need with the Black Panther. Together, families explored “wants and needs”, budgeting, safety within the community and childcare connections. The children practiced their grocery shopping skills through a simulated mission while parents focused on budgeting and financial preparedness. Families acquired these superpowers from the Wakandian’s as they are masters at navigating their resources and being prepared. Families then traveled to a far away galaxy to develop their social connections superpower with the Guardians. The Guardians know firsthand; we all need each other to navigate life, and everyone has strengths. Families were sent on a mission to collect all the critical social connections infinity stones before moving to their next training session with the Incredibles.
Understanding where our kids are developmentally is the key to unlocking our children’s superpowers and nurturing their development. Mrs. Incredible shared lessons learned in understanding what her children were capable of, as well as understanding their individual unique needs. She guided families through a milestones mission and put their knowledge to the test! All 17 families successfully completed the training academy, received their diploma, and refueled before returning to the community stronger and prepared for future family missions. Each family was provided a wagon filled with concrete supplies and summer activities. One parent commented, “I learned that I can be a strong parent when I take care of myself as I am the one that keeps my family together,” while another commented, “I learned how to better save money and that we are really better together.”
Bester Community of Hope provides support and opportunities to families in the South End of Hagerstown through partnership and funding by the Washington County Department of Human Services. If you are interested in learning more about these efforts and others, please connect with us at: www.besterhope.org, 240-513-6370,or email@example.com.
The 6th Annual Babypalooza, an epic community baby shower, provided families an opportunity to connect with resource vendors while engaging in family fun activities and entertainment. For parents, having a baby or parenting young children may come with an array of stressors and a million decisions to make and we all know that babies and children don’t come with phone apps or handbooks. Bester Community of Hope (BCOH) welcomed over 500 expecting and current parents of young children at Bester Elementary this past Saturday, April 2nd.
This event, historically held in the fall, made its spring debut allowing a timely visit from the infamous Easter Bunny. Babypalooza, facilitated annually by BCOH, fosters community connections and concrete supports in one centralized location to maximize access to resources for families. Over 40 local agencies and business provided support and served as resource vendors engaging families in providing information about their services, concrete items; such as clothing, home preparedness items, baby care needs, home safety education; as well as prizes.
The school Media Room was transformed into the Early Learning Carnival where visiting guests explored the areas of developmental growth in a fun play-based approach. Families participated in story time by Mr. Jeff from the Washington County Free Library, make-and-take activities with the Hub @ USMH, puppet making with The Judy Center of Washington County, and early learning board games and books were provided to each child participating compliments of WCPS Early Learning Program. The Family Center of Washington County, in partnership with Hagerstown’s Sam’s Club, facilitated a sensory walk that included the opportunity for children ages 3 to 5 to make and take their own sensory goody bag. Sam’s Club offered snacks for all children attending the event as well as awarded all Babypalooza participants a free Sam’s Club membership.
Jerica Washington, Director of the Jack E. Barr Center for Well-being, hosted a parent resiliency and self-care oasis designed and dedicated to teach parents self-care and the need to restore, nurture, and regain stability within daily live tasks to provide the support their children need. Free family portraits and lunch were also provided to all participants. Parent Jayla-Mayé Campbell, expressed “I came to connect with resources in the area that could help me and my family”, said the first time participant of the event. Other parents were heard expressing gratitude and some even teary eyed with the overwhelming sense of connectedness and support the event provided them. As it was witnessed, not only guests were benefitting from the positive connections since vendors were also seen visiting each other’s tables to learn more and plan future collaborations. The event culminated with the raffle drawing of 11 big prizes and the open invitation to the annual Block Party in the fall.
Where does HOPE grow? It grows in families that are strong, resilient, happy, and connected. HOPE is alive in Washington County.
Funding and support for Babypalooza and focused South End neighborhood efforts is provided on behalf of the Alice Virginia & David W. Fletcher Foundation, as well as an ongoing partnership with the Washington County Department of Human Services to support stronger families and thriving communities. For more information on Babypalooza or other BCOH events, please contact Joan Balbuena, Neighborhood Partnership Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On January 20th, Bester Community of Hope facilitated a virtual summit to provide follow up data to residents and stakeholders in the South End of Hagerstown. Residents are encouraged to register to participate in the upcoming work sessions to provide guidance for the initiatives logic model which will serve as an active plan for the next three years.
Click HERE to register for a work session.
Did you miss the event? Access the recording here: