Tickets on sale now: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/collective-impact-tickets-41970452754?aff=es2
Cultivating Hope and Well-Being
Tickets on sale now: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/collective-impact-tickets-41970452754?aff=es2
“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose, and if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows, LIKE A LIGHT BULB!” This past Wednesday students and parents on the Walking School Bus wrapped up the month of December singing Christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate served by leaders from local houses of faith in the Bester neighborhood. Members of Emmanuel United Methodist Church, New Life World Ministries, St. John’s Lutheran, Hagerstown Church of the Brethren and Cumberland Valley Baptist Church all came together to support kids and families. As the students arrived to their “bus stop”, a Bluetooth speaker played classic holiday songs, and one of the students arrived and said, “I had to come today because of the hot chocolate!” There were also smaller connections between community members and parents. We heard, “If you like to volunteer, swing by the church sometime, we’re right up the road.”
With the arrival of winter, the month of December saw a significant change in temperatures during the Walking School Bus, especially on December 13th when the wind chill hovered around zero degrees. Fortunately, it was the same date that we distributed hand warmers as well as new hats and mittens to all participants, made possible thanks to grant funding and local donations from the Young family and handmade offerings from The Quilt Shop at Traditions at White Swan. As we arrived at the school entrance several other kids were huddled up and shivering in the cold so kids turned to the neighborhood ambassadors and asked, “Do you have more?” Luckily there was an abundance so all who needed them were able to receive them.
Throughout the month of December kids couldn’t contain their excitement for the upcoming holiday and the activities reflected the season with a Christmas tree cup stacking speed challenge and Cookie Face, where you place a Christmas cookie on your forehead and attempt to eat it hands free! One of the kids at Frederick Manor shouted, “This is hard! You try it!” This month we had four raffle prize winners of select sporting goods items to encourage healthy play: Kaydence Plummer, Ayden Robey, Josiah Davis and Maleana McDaniel. Way to go! Next month we’re excited to be able to give away two new fitness trackers and have activities themed around the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the more you walk the more chances to win on the Walking School Bus!
The Walking School Bus is a monthly parent-led effort managed by Bester Community of Hope (BCOH) and sponsored by a generous grant funded by the Washington County Health Department. BCOH is an initiative of San Mar Family & Community Services and is possible due to the generosity of many partners, including the Fletcher Foundation, the Washington County Department of Social Services and Casey Family Programs. If you have interest in helping, we’d still like to hear from you and find ways we can partner to help kids and families get connected! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-513-6370!
This past Saturday, close to 250 people filled Bester Elementary School to celebrate young families at Babypalooza 2017! The event was planned by a committee comprised of staff from Bester Community of Hope, Early Childhood Advisory Council, Washington County Safe Kids, and the Towson University nursing program at USMH. The focus was on supporting and celebrating families while providing information on parenting, child development and family living in the neighborhood. The event was possible due to ongoing financial support from the Washington County Department of Social Services and the Fletcher Foundation.
Special guest host for the event was WDVM news anchor Tasmin Mahfuz, who connected with kids and families and helped announce various door prizes for the event. Tasmin shared that she “loved being around so many wonderful families and their cute kids!” Thanks to Scholastic, Clifford the Big Red Dog even made a special appearance during lunch, swooping down to meet and take photos with children who often stood back in stunned amazement. The Hagerstown Artists Group was doing intricate face painting as well as belly painting for expectant mothers. One mother getting her belly painted cried tears of joy when her name was drawn to receive a baby basket provided by Meritus Health.
Randy Scott, manager of Chick-Fil-A in Hagerstown, and his crew graciously donated and served 300 boxed lunches to the crowd and vendors for lunch. “Chick Fil A has a reputation of giving and it’s about stewardship. Scripture says ‘to whom much is given much is expected” and in the case of Babypalooza, it’s about magnifying the impact on the community in such a way that if we can help get more people through the door, then more people have the opportunity to learn and be connected with resources to help their families.”
One mother with an elementary age student was at the event celebrating her expectant newborn. She related that she never expected to be pregnant at this point in her life and was in need of some additional support for her child that was due soon. There was a donated stroller provided from a partner and the mother was emotional in sharing her gratitude; she was even able to bond with another parent at her table while eating lunch. They were relieved to make a connection with each other and see that they aren’t alone in their unique parenting situations. Two other parents were already connected on social media, both attended the event and brought in clothes for an exchange sponsored by Children In Need. They ended up trading items unaware that they were both in need of what the other had to offer.
Many attendees were excited to find out about ways to address safety issues in the home. Several related that they were learning about safe sleep for the first time and others expressed surprise to find out that the batteries in some children’s books/toys could burn their children. “I thought it was an urban legend” said one parent. Electric outlet plugs, drawer latches, and other supplies were available to improve the child safety in the home.
No one walked away empty handed as guests filled their bags with information on parenting, early learning, health and safety as well as complimentary items from a variety of vendors. The Knit Wits, a local crocheting group, donated handmade baby blankets and accessories that were also given away for free at each table. Guests were able to connect with local providers, gain valuable information, and had the opportunity to learn about services and supports available in their community. Local parent Robin Hines said, “It was awesome and (there were) so many community resources. Need to do this more often and bring the families and their children together.”
THANK YOU to each organization and partner who made this event a first class experience for families, we hope to see you again next year!
Special thanks to all of our wonderful community partners who joined us as vendors to provide education, linkages to local resources, supplies to take home as well as provide some on site entertainment: WCPS Birth to Five; Head Start of Washington County; YMCA of Hagerstown; The Washington County Department of Social Services, the Family Center of Washington County, Washington County Healthy Families, Maryland EXCELS, Washington County Health Department, Washington County Free Library, Meritus Labor and Delivery, Priority Partners, Southside Pediatrics, The Children’s Doctor, Bright Eyes Early Learning Center, Maryland Physicians Care, New Covenant Church Independent Fellowship and the Towson University Nursing Program
Several vendors were also donors of special door prizes along with other community partners including: Dr. Browns’; Shop N’ Save; San Mar Pajama project; Safe Kids; Southside Pediatrics; Hagerstown Artists Group; Community Free Clinic of Washington County; Hub at USMH; Chick Fil A; Family Healthcare; New Covenant Fellowship Independent Church ; Priority Partners; Birth to Five; Kids First Swim School; Pediatric Movement Center; Holly Luther; PNC Bank; the Knit Wits; Ready at Five; Otterbein United Methodist Church; Children in Need; Connie Connolly; Meritus Health; Mental Health Association – Healthy New Moms; Discovery Station; Frederick Pediatric Dentistry and Wells Fargo Bank.
Don’t miss Babypalooza 2017 on November 4th, 2017, celebrating young families!
Register today for the chance to win great prizes: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/babypalooza-2017-tickets-37729296341
If you haven’t noticed, there’s a movement happening in the south end of the city of Hagerstown, and it was on full display as close to 2,000 people attended the 2nd Annual South Side Community Block Party at Bester Elementary Field on Saturday.
The legendary Chuck Brown Band from Washington D.C. and Washington County favorites Staff Infection provided the music, local artist Spencer Jackson helped emcee and manage the stage, South Hagerstown High School’s men’s basketball team played against area kids on the court and also volunteered in the dunk tank, Life House Church provided a never-ending supply of snow cones and popcorn, It’s a Blessing to be a Blessing provided endless free prepared food and snacks, and close to 50 community resource vendors, community groups and kids activities were onsite to provide resources and build connections.
People from very different backgrounds joined together in the bright sunshine of the first weekend of fall to create lasting memories in the heart of their neighborhood. There was a tangible sense of unity and community pride, and today only one thing was clear, we belong here.
In a short time, this event has become a tradition, but the ripple effect will continue long after the activities are over, because the world got just a little bit smaller because people took the time to listen to each other and celebrate together. Our hope is families are able to establish partnerships with providers in their community who can help them become stronger, residents can collaborate with their peers, and children can strive for excellence in their schools and neighborhoods.
We invite you to join us and get involved as we continue to lift up local neighborhood leaders and support children and families in the Bester neighborhood. The future is bright because there is greatness here, we hope you’ll consider joining us on the journey.
This event is made possible in part due to the generosity of the Washington County Department of Social Services, Fletcher Foundation and Casey Family Programs. Want to get involved? Give us a call at 240-513-6370 or email at email@example.com.
On Friday morning at Kepler Theater on the campus of Hagerstown Community College, Bester Community of Hope continued its training series focused on trauma informed practices with over 350 attendees present for “Healing Communities”. The much anticipated event brought two nationally renowned speakers and a panel of local and regional leaders to discuss what the research currently says about the impact of adverse childhood experiences on our community, what is currently being tried in our region to respond to social needs, and creative approaches nationally that have proved successful over time.
Leading the event, Dr. Robert Anda, co-principal investigator of the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, expanded on information provided at previous trainings by discussing the direct correlation between trauma experienced in childhood and many of the social problems we experience in communities. He focused on how common ACE’S are in the general population and the call to action that the data represents for community groups to build self-healing communities. It is in those communities that the service sector can be a stronger partner to individuals who have traditionally been viewed primarily as the recipient of services, and shift towards empowering these individuals to be the agent of change in their neighborhood.
Anda followed his presentation by facilitating a dialogue with community leaders who discussed their beliefs in the best approaches to strengthening communities and where they’ve had success in working with children and families. The panel included Rebecca Jones-Gaston, Executive Director of Social Services Administration of Maryland; Carolyn Holcomb, 2017-2018 Washington County Teacher of the Year; Del. Brett Wilson, Washington County (R-2B); Andy Smith, Brothers Who Care and Hagerstown Chief of Police Victor Brito.
“Credibility is the key,” explained Andy Smith, “People don’t question my intentions in the neighborhood because they know I’m consistently there.” Chief Victor Brito added that he built credibility with Andy Smith as a neighborhood resident by taking the time to get to know him and that this was not just professionally, but personally. “We’re family now.” Looking at the issue from an education perspective, Carolyn Holcomb sees the need to move towards trauma informed schools across Washington County. “We have kids coming to class that are hungry or are experiencing major situations at home or in their neighborhood. In some situations they’re not able to learn until we take a moment to allow them to be heard and acknowledge their feelings. It doesn’t take long, sometimes we can accomplish this in 30 seconds and it can make the difference.” The audience had the opportunity to engage with panelists, and one gentleman explained that he grew up in public housing in difficult circumstances and, “what is needed is consistency. Professionals can come into a community and decide to work on a couple things for a while and then they move on. Trust comes from being there over time.”
Closing the program, Father Gregory Boyle arrived from Los Angeles, California to provide a keynote on the power of boundless compassion, reflected in his countless years of work leading the largest gang intervention program in the world. As the Founder and CEO of Homeboy Industries, he kept the crowd laughing, crying and on the edge of their seats as he recalled numerous stories of challenging situations where unconditional love was the secret ingredient to lasting positive outcomes with individuals and families that had not experienced success previously. He pushed the audience to think about how similar we all are, and that, “We’re not separate. We’re one.” He focused on the idea of mutuality and shared experience, to help build connections and relationships, and that a “community of kinship” is what he has worked to develop at Homeboy Industries, focused on essential healing.
Bester Community of Hope, an initiative of San Mar Family & Community Services (previously San Mar Children’s Home), plans to follow-up this event with smaller gatherings of key groups in Hagerstown interested in expanding the awareness of the ACE research and implementing trauma informed practices in school and neighborhood settings. Their 3rd annual community summit titled “Collective Impact” is scheduled for Thursday, March 29th at Hagerstown Community College.
To learn more about the important work of these speakers, explore the following links:
Father Gregory Boyle, Homeboy Industries: http://www.homeboyindustries.org
Dr. Robert Anda, ACE Interface: http://www.aceinterface.com
Just announced! Register today!
We’re excited to announce the next training in our series focused on trauma informed strategies for the community! See the flier above regarding an exciting event we are hosting this Fall with two dynamic speakers and a panel of regional leaders discussing what implementation looks like in their social institutions. Group rates are available for organizations registering ten or more attendees, contact Kerry Fair at 240-513-6370 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange.
Our last two trainings sold out prior to the day of the event, don’t wait to get your tickets!
Buy your tickets today at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/healing-communities-tickets-34807133072
Over the course of the Fall of 2016 Bester Community of Hope undertook the massive task of a neighborhood survey of the district of Bester Elementary, a representative sample of 320 households. We partnered with a variety of experts and used a 26 question instrument from Community Science called the Sense of Community Index (SCI-2) which was administered door to door using electronic tablets. In total the process took close to three months to administer and an additional three months to analyze. The knowledge and relationships developed were invaluable and we are currently meeting with these seven distinct communities to use this as a tool for action. The information within attempts to capture both resident perceptions, county and state level data, historical narratives and local assets. We will use the analysis of these consolidated findings to partner with local residents to drive our neighborhood efforts over the next several years. Read the full report here:
“What a Difference a Street Makes” Data packet (Released 4/24/17):
If you want to partner in the implementation of these action steps, please contact us so we can connect you to local efforts in your neighborhood. To learn more about our work including our neighborhood data collection methodology, explore the centralized data portion of our website here:
Close to 500 attendees packed the Kepler Theater Friday morning March 24th on the campus of Hagerstown Community College for the sold out event “Building Resilience”, an event organized by the San Mar Initiative, Bester Community of Hope. Following two successful events in 2016 focused on trauma informed practices, the training focused on the next steps of a community wide discussion to build greater awareness and implementation of beliefs and strategies bringing positive outcomes for children and families living in vulnerable communities.
The event began with a special screening of the documentary “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope” where attendees could develop a deeper understanding of the theory behind the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study and see practice implementation in a variety of settings. Afterwards, the audience welcomed Resilience director James Redford, who was able to describe his experiences filming Paper Tigers, at Lincoln Alternative High School in Walla Walla, Washington. Redford used the platform to show vignettes of teachers and counselors describing situations where they used common sense relational approaches to get on the level of their students and break through the pain and struggles of their past experiences.
The second speaker was Dr. Lonise Bias, who gave a powerful and stirring speech regarding loss and overcoming tremendous adversity, finding power in the opportunity to serve others in need. Focusing on messages of what is possible and having faith in what can be when serving children, she implored the crowd to have hope and understand that “our children are reachable, teachable, lovable and savable!” Her focus was to encourage audience members to take advantage of their opportunity with families, that “Now is the time, we can’t wait until they fall!”
Closing the event was child welfare expert and pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, New Jersey, Reverend Darrell Armstrong. Over the course of his speech Rev. Armstrong provided important statistics and background information on the implications of race in America and its direct impact on entry into a variety of systems such as prisons and social services. He also told his personal story of survival in the Los Angeles foster care system and his experience as a young child navigating foster homes and being faced with ongoing family struggles. His story was highlighted by the positive impact of a significant relationship, for him that of a social worker, who made the difference in his life as he ultimately beat the odds and graduated from Stanford University and Princeton Theological Seminary.
This event was made possible through the generosity and support of a variety of sponsors and partners including the Washington County Department of Social Services, Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation and Casey Family Programs.