Friday Focus: Anathoth House

As the cold winter months approach, organizations like Anathoth House, Inc. banathoth houseecome especially important to the community. This all-volunteer initiative reaches out to individuals in need to provide sustenance, support and spiritual guidance. We spoke with Tracey Alston, a representative of Anathoth House, who shared a little more about the organization’s mission.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: Anathoth House, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We provide meals, clothing, survival kits and emergency food packages to the homeless, needy and other persons in crisis. We combine our efforts with local agencies and churches in the hope of promoting the self-sufficiency of those we serve.

Along with physical restoration, we purpose to bring about spiritual renewal to those we come in contact with through prayer and ministering the written Gospel. Assisting others through physical means is beneficial, but we know that to be only a short-term solution. The true bread of life is the continuous application of the Word of God; as it is long lasting and a key ingredient needed to transform lives from brokenness to victorious living. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Our organization has no paid staff and all donations go towards those in need.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A:  I have two. The first is when we were delivering food to a senior who lives on very little income. She was very grateful for the holiday basket of food that was given to her. After giving her the food, our volunteers spent time talking and praying with her. The senior then asked if she could go with them to church, as she recognized she needed spiritual food more than natural food. She said that was needed most. So our volunteers picked her up and brought her to church the following Sunday.

My second favorite moment was when I learned one of the women who was living out in tents in the woods, had landed work. To date, she is still working and living in a studio apartment. She is facing health challenges, but she is out of the woods.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: The biggest challenge is attaining the opportunity where we can sit down and gather with those we serve. Our goal is to establish an ongoing relationship with them to prove ourselves trustworthy. As we go about accomplishing that, we slowly teach them basic fundamental skills that so many of us take for granted. Many we serve are victims of circumstances and/or have not been taught basic life skills.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have our holiday food giveaways and in 2015, we hope to resume our workshops, where we invite the women we serve. We have an awesome time of fellowship where we minister the Word of God and have brunch.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization? 

A:  They can reach us through our website, AnathothHouse.org, or call us at 301.751.4870. We have many people who want to volunteer. We like to first meet those interested in helping first; there is also an application and, depending on the project, we do background checks.

Friday Focus: Windows of Strength

Undergoing an organ transplant can be a lengthy ordeal for both the recipient and his or her family. This week’s Friday Focus organization, Windows of Strength, Limited, seeks to relieve some of the financial stress for transplant recipients and their caregivers. We caught up with founder, Sandy Walker-Samler, who shared more information about the positive impact her organization has had on the lives of those in need.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.) 

A: Windows of Strength is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization assisting organ transplant recipients and their caregivers with non-medical costs that are not covered by insurance, government programs or other organizations during their transplant process. These costs include transportation to and from follow-up doctor visits and testing, lodging for caregivers and family members during the recipient’s hospital stay, meals and other needs that may arise that do not fall under medical classification.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)? 

A: We have helped organ transplant recipients and their caregivers in many ways. Each time we provide assistance is considered a special moment. There is such a need for this type of support; we wish we could help more. We have aided in areas such as:

  • Providing gas cards for transportation needs to allow recipients to travel back and forth to their follow-up doctor appointments and tests.
  • Providing assistance with lodging and bus transportation for recipients who live out of their transplant clinic area when they must follow-up with doctor appointments and tests after their transplant surgery.
  • Helping to pay for parking fees for the recipients while at their doctor appointments and follow-up tests.
  • Helping with phone and utility bills, homeowner’s and car insurance for recipients in need of assistance due to their caregiver and/or themselves being unable to work after their transplant surgery.
  • Paying rent for the recipients in need of assistance due to the caregiver and/or recipient being on an unpaid leave of absence.
  • Donating to the Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Gift of Life Family House serves as a “home away from home” for transplant patients and their families by providing temporary, affordable lodging and supportive services to those who travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for transplant-related care.

These are the main areas where we have helped; however, there have been other miscellaneous requests that we have granted funding to help with financial assistance

Q: What is your biggest challenge? 

A:   Awareness, Funding, and Volunteers.

Windows of Strength was formed in 2010 and received 501(c)(3) status in 2011. Being a newly formed organization, we are faced with the challenge of growing awareness about the organization and our mission.   We started from the ground up and do not have any statewide chapters or a national umbrella that we fall under to assist with awareness or funding. We are not a “known” name throughout the community. Most of our funding comes from two major events we hold each year: a Mother/Daughter Tea and Fashion Show held the Sunday before Mother’s Day and a Holiday Gift Show held the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We have also held smaller fundraising events throughout the year which has helped in these areas.

In addition, most of the transplant clinics are located in the Baltimore and D.C. areas where there is a larger transplant community to draw from. Here in Southern Maryland, we don’t have transplant centers. Though there are many organ transplant recipients in the area, due to confidentiality and the sensitive nature of a transplant, we do not have the access as the larger organizations do to reach out to this community. With that being said, it has also been a big challenge to find volunteers in the Southern Maryland area to assist with the organization. We know the people are out there, but just need help in finding ways to connect to them.

We continue to make baby steps, however we are excited to report that this year we made huge progress in establishing great partnerships with transplant social workers from the Johns Hopkins Transplant Center and the University of Maryland Transplant Center. In order to verify a recipient’s need for assistance, a grant application must be submitted and signed off by their transplant social worker before submitting to Windows of Strength for funding. We have been able to provide assistance to many of the recipients from these centers, some of which are from the Southern Maryland area. 

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Yes. Our Annual Holiday Gift Show – Sunday, November 23, 2014 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department, North Beach, Md.

We also sell very delicious tea and tasty creamed honey over the holidays. They can be purchased individually or in gift sets and baskets.

Other ongoing fund raising events:

  1. When you shop online at AmazonSmile and choose Windows of Strength as your charity organization, Amazon will donate a percentage to Windows of Strength.
  2. If you like jewelry, check out www.bravelets.com and search for Windows of Strength as your charity.   Bravelets™ will donate $10 from each jewelry purchase to Windows of Strength.
  3. We have partnered with Phoneraiser.com in collecting used/old cell phones and ink jet cartridges. The donation of these items help Windows of Strength raise money for organ transplant recipients and their caregivers, while at the same time protecting the environment by giving old technology new life and keeping it from polluting our landfills. The unwanted cell phones and ink cartridges are recycled in accordance with EPA regulations or refurbished and reused.     

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?  

A: Contact Windows of Strength by phone at 443-951-5125; email at mywish@windowsofstrength.org; or find more information online at www.windowsofstrength.org. Windows of Strength can also be found on Facebook and Pinterest. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 584, Chesapeake Beach, MD 20732.

Friday Focus: Humane Society of Calvert County

Helping stray animals find permanent, loving homes is the mission of this wecalvert humane societyek’s Friday Focus organization. The Humane Society of Calvert County works to place animals in responsible homes, increase awareness through education and outreach, reduce animal overpopulation and eliminate cruelty. They serve as an advocate for animals by promoting humane standards, and seek to enhance the relationship between animals and people. This week, we spoke with the Society’s Kirstyn Northrop Cobb, who talked with us about her organization’s work.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The Humane Society of Calvert County is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in placing homeless animals into loving homes throughout Southern Maryland.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: A few years back, we brought in a very thin dog. He had been left chained out in the back of an abandoned home. He was thin, malnourished, hairless and had obviously lost hope. We brought him into our organization, fattened him up, made him healthy again and found him an amazing home. This is a story that repeats itself all the time within our organization and each and every time, it is special to us, but this guy really stood out as he was one of the first that I took part in.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge, by far, is the constant frustration that there are still so many animals in need of homes and we are unable to take them in due to space limitations. We look forward to a day when there are no more homeless pets.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have many upcoming events! Our annual Rock ‘N Roll for Rescue is coming up. We have “Home for the Holidays” in December and November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization? 

A: We have many volunteer opportunities available. We are always in need of volunteers to walk dogs or help at events. We welcome visitors and, as always, the number one way to help is to adopt a pet!

Friday Focus: American Red Cross Rappahannock Area

redcross-logoThis week’s Friday Focus organization is part of the world’s largest volunteer network. Active in 187 countries worldwide, the Red Cross plays a fundamental role in the lives of many millions of people. We spoke with Jonathan McNamara, Regional Director of Donor and Media Relations and spokesman for the local Virginia chapter of the organization, about the important role the Red Cross plays locally, nationally and globally.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The American Red Cross exists to provide compassionate care to those in need. Our network of generous donors, volunteers and employees shares a mission of preventing and relieving suffering, here at home and around the world, through five key service areas:

Disaster Relief: The Red Cross responds to approximately 70,000 disasters in the United States every year, ranging from home fires that affect a single family to hurricanes that affect tens of thousands, to earthquakes that impact millions. In these events, the Red Cross provides shelter, food, health and mental health services to help families and entire communities get back on their feet. Although the Red Cross is not a government agency, it is an essential part of the response when disaster strikes. We work in partnership with other agencies and organizations that provide services to disaster victims.

Supporting America’s Military Families: The Red Cross helps military members, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with and respond to the challenges of military service. Emergency communications, training, support to wounded warriors and veterans, and access to community resources help an average of 150,000 military families and veterans annually.

Live-saving Blood: Your donations of blood are what make the American Red Cross the largest single supplier of blood and blood products in the U.S. Each year, nearly 4 million people donate blood through the Red Cross, helping to provide more than 40% of America’s blood supply.

Health and Safety Services: The Red Cross is the nation’s leading provider of health and safety courses, such as CPR, First Aid and Lifeguard training. Each year, more than 9 million Americans participate in our training programs, including first responders, educators, babysitters and people who want to be prepared to help others in an emergency.

International Services: The American Red Cross is part of the world’s largest humanitarian network with 13 million volunteers in 187 countries. Working together, we help respond to disasters, build safer communities, and teach the rules of war. Each year, we reach an average of more than 100 million people across the globe. 

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: Every moment where we help a family is special. From supporting families who have lost everything after a home fire at 3:00 a.m., to reuniting a loved ones seperated by armed conflict, our volunteers and staff work tirelessly to alleviate human suffering.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: We continue to have to adapt to the challenges our communites face. This is why we work so hard to recruit and train volunteers to support our mission. We also work with a variety of partners to commmunicate our vision and work to bring people together to build more prepared and resilient communities.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We are participating in a variety of community events across our area. For more information about upcoming events, or to have the Red Cross at your next function, visit http://www.redcross.org/va/fredericksburg or call 757-446-7700. You can also follow the Red Cross on Twitter @RCCoastalVA or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/redcrossSEVA.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization? 

A: Each year, over one million Americans serve as Red Cross volunteers providing local community needs, such as:

  • Helping people in emergencies and disaster response
  • Teaching people how to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies
  • Teaching first aid and CPR, swimming and other health and safety skills
  • Delivering emergency messages to members of the military
  • Reconnecting families separated around the world through international tracking services, etc.
  • Organizing youth programs

Red Cross volunteers work directly with people, serve on boards of directors, serve as managers, advisors, and provide behind the scenes support. Be a Red Cross volunteer!

Helping others feels good, and helps you feel good about yourself. Your local Red Cross can work with you to provide rewarding experiences, opportunities to utilize your talents, or provide training to help you serve your community.

To join our team visit: http://www.redcross.org/va/fredericksburg/volunteer

Friday Focus: The Calvert Nature Society

This week’s Friday Focus organization invites people to take a break frKLPom the hectic buzz of the technological world and escape to the natural landscape of Calvert County. Working with the local Division of Natural Resources, The Calvert Nature Society (previously known as the Battle Creek Nature Education Society) provides opportunities for appreciation and understanding of the natural world through various outreach initiatives. We caught up with Anne Sundermann, the Society’s Executive Director for this week’s interview.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: Battle Creek Nature Education Society was formed in the late 1980s to support the Calvert County nature parks: Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, Flag Ponds Nature Park, Kings Landing Park, Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm and other natural areas in the county. The Society works in partnership with the County’s Division of Natural Resources to offer nature programs to residents and park visitors. We also support the preservation of the Calvert County’s natural heritage, work to protect lands in the county, highlight the importance of our natural resources, and promote environmentally aware and literate communities.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: The Society has a long tradition of supporting the county in its effort to improve and expand the nature parks in the County. Right now, Calvert County has provided the Society with a grant to rebuild the Fisherman’s Shanty at Flag Ponds. The Flag Ponds fisherman’s shanty is a reminder of the thriving commercial fisheries that were a main component of the economies of our bayside towns. The shanties were in use from the early 1900s until the mid to late 1950s.

The Flag Ponds shanty was destroyed in an act of arson during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. So many people in Calvert responded to our plea for donations of both financial support and for period items to refurnish the shanty. Work will start soon on the new building and we are very excited to be able to have such a large part in bringing this piece of Calvert history back to life.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Time. Our hectic schedules leave little room for downtime and often a walk in the woods gets put on the back burner in the rush to complete errands or catch up on chores. And there are so many distractions, with the constant interruptions from electronic media. As people spend more time online, they can become disconnected from the “IRL” (in real life) opportunities around them. BCNES/Calvert Nature Society strives to re-connect individuals to the natural world. We already provide programs for pre-school to adult, but we want to provide more programming that will catch the interest of middle and high schoolers.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have a full calendar of fall and winter events, including our volunteer events. We have a lot of fun events scheduled for late October/early November. The Nature Photography Mini Camp connects art and nature on October 27. Our Barn Owl Workday is scheduled for Friday, November 7. Calvert Stewards are planting holly trees at the Cypress Swamp on November 1. And there is a dog walk at our newest park, Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm, also on November 1. Most events are free for Society members. See the full calendar at www.calvertparks.org/calendar.html.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Assisting at the Calvert County nature parks is a rewarding way to raise awareness of the importance of our natural lands. Natural Resources staff develops programs that present a continuing stream of environmental action activities at the county nature parks for children, families, and adults.

Our volunteers teach school children the ChesPax curriculum, they plant trees and butterfly gardens, they walk the trails, help monitor wildlife, and in general, provide stewardship for our nature parks. Our Junior Ranger Corps engages youth, ages 12-16 in park projects and teaches outdoor and leadership skills. Calvert Stewards tackles trail maintenance and other park projects.

Our volunteers come from all walks of life and have many different interests, but all use their experience to help preserve the natural heritage of Calvert County. Volunteer opportunities are listed at www.calvertparks.org/volunteer.html

Friday Focus: Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society

Photo credit: Lisa Kane

Photo credit: Lisa Kane

At the southernmost tip of St. Mary’s County is the Point Lookout Lighthouse, a historical landmark that has stood since 1830. Today, the preservation and maintenance of the lighthouse is managed in part by the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society, Inc., a nonprofit foundation started in 2006. As the organization prepares to host its annual “Feel the History 5k” race this weekend, we spoke with Chuck Kohls, Treasurer and Volunteer Coordinator for the Society.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: We were founded to assist in the preservation of the Point Lookout Lighthouse when it was transferred from United States Navy ownership to the state of Maryland. Unfortunately, the state park did not have funding to maintain, let alone restore, the historic structure in Point Lookout State Part at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay in St. Mary’s County.

We hold open houses so visitors can see and learn about this landmark. We also give special tours to groups of interested persons. In addition, we hold ‘preservation workdays’ when our volunteers meet to do a variety of tasks such as cleaning the house, painting, yard maintenance and repairs needed to prevent further deterioration. We also hold fundraising events and have a small gift shop open during open houses to raise funds for the restoration of the lighthouse. Since the lighthouse is considered haunted by many authorities on the subject we also hold ‘Paranormal Investigation’ nights, where individuals and groups have several hours of nighttime access to conduct their own investigations. These are very popular and have proven to be a good fundraiser.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: It sounds so simple but we were able to raise the necessary funds to purchase and install a new flagpole to replace the 50 plus year old wooden pole that was rotting and becoming unsafe. Just seeing the flags fly when we are open brings a big smile to my face.

But, I think our most rewarding moments are when we talk with of visitors and provide them with an understanding of the history and importance of this gem.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Because the lighthouse is state owned we are limited in what we can do with the structure beyond emergency repairs and maintenance until the Maryland Park Service finalizes their plans and the General Assembly provides funding to accomplish the restoration. If we had to go it alone, it would be many years before we could tackle the myriad repairs that are necessary to turn it into a proper museum for all to enjoy. Some such repairs would be a total rewire and replumb of the house and installation of a modern HVAC system.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Open House from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on November 1.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Send an e-mail to volunteer@pllps.org or visit us during an open house and talk to me. We can use all types of volunteers of all ages. Currently, we have two elementary/middle school aged volunteers who come with their grandmother and great aunt. We also have two octogenarians who are regulars.

Community Bank of the Chesapeake is proud to support the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society as a sponsor of their 4th annual “Feel the History 5k” race this Saturday, October 11. Registration for this event is still available online at http://www.feelthehistory5k.com/Register.html. Participants may also sign up at the event.

Friday Focus: Historic Sotterley Plantation

sotterleyOccupying a 94-acre piece of land along the Patuxent River, Sotterley Plantation is one of Southern Maryland’s well-known historical landmarks. As the organization enters the final days of preparation for its ever-popular Riverside WineFest event, we caught up with Sotterley’s Executive Director, Nancy Easterling, who shared with us some information about the plantation itself, and gave us an inside look into what 2014 WineFest attendees can expect this year!

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, etc.)

A: Sotterley Plantation is a National Historic Landmark and one of the oldest museums of its kind in the United States, with a history dating back to the turn of the 18th century.  Many people have called Sotterley home over these many years.  Some came here to prosper; others worked the land, either for wages or under bondage.   Sotterley today consists of almost 100 acres of breathtaking beauty on the Patuxent River that includes over six miles of nature trails, Colonial Revival Gardens, and over 20 historic buildings.  Visitors to Sotterley enjoy a wide range of programming, including award winning education programs, acclaimed heritage tours, and a variety of entertaining and interesting special events for guests of all ages.  This jewel of Southern Maryland represents three centuries of our state’s and country’s history, and has become an integral part of the cultural landscape of our region.  Historic Sotterley, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity with a mission to preserve, research, and interpret Sotterley Plantation’s diverse cultures and environments, and to serve the world as an educational, cultural, and community resource.

Q: What has been your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: There are so many favorite moments for those of us who work here.  For me, however, the best moments will always be when we touch a guest’s life in such a way that our history comes alive for them, and that from their visit they gain a level of insight into our shared past that had not existed until that moment.

One such moment happened years ago when I took a field trip to Sotterley with my son just prior to my starting to work here.  On the way home while riding in the back of the bus, I heard all of the 8th graders talking – not about what new video games they were playing or what sporting events were coming up for them, but they were actually talking about the information they had learned during their Slavery to Freedom program. Yet another student stood up at her 8th grade graduation ceremony and said that her field trip to Sotterley was her favorite 8th grade memory because it was the best field trip she had ever taken – we had made history come alive for her.  Making that same connection to our students and heritage tourists is at the core of our mission, and for me these “a-ha” moments are always the most magical.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Sotterley is blessed to be a community that cares, but adequate and sustainable funding remains the biggest challenge we face.  Sotterley raises all of its funding through memberships, sponsorships, special events, site rental, grants, and other donations.  It is reliant on those who understand Sotterley’s mission and the importance of not only preserving the site for future generations, but continuing to provide such a wonderful cultural resource to our community.  There are ongoing preservation and maintenance challenges that far outstrip our limited budget, but we try to address as many as possible through donations or grant funding whenever possible.  Our hope is to one day have a larger and more sustainable base of operational funding, ensuring that we can always preserve Sotterley’s stories and our shared history for the future.

Q: How can people really help?

A: There are so many ways to help and support Sotterley!  Becoming a member is one of the easiest – our members are the bedrock of our financial support, and we provide our members with special ways to experience the site and its programming.  Businesses can be a part of Sotterley through financial support in the form of sponsorships, memberships, or donations.   Monetary donations are of course critical, but In-kind donations of goods and services  are also invaluable to Sotterley, and range from the time and talents of professionals in our community to the donations of serviceable equipment (from lawn mowers to golf carts to computer printers – the list is endless!).  We also invite everyone to Make History and Volunteer!  Sotterley volunteers are simply the best, and no matter how much time you have to give or your area of interest, there is a place for you in the Sotterley family: from helping the Sotterley Garden Guild, becoming an Interpreter or Guide, working in our Museum Shop, helping with the Hospitality team, or simply coming to support our special events.   No matter how you choose to support Sotterley, know that you WILL make a very real difference!

Q: What advice can you give someone looking to work at a non-profit?

A: Working at a non-profit is one of the most rewarding jobs you will ever have, even though the pay will almost always be limited and often the hours long.  To serve a cause or mission that you believe in, however, is a incalculable joy, and you have the opportunity to work alongside people every day who truly care and who are dedicated to giving back and making a difference in our community.

Q: What events do you have coming up?

A: There is so much to do at Sotterley Plantation in the months ahead!  First of all, our Riverside WineFest at Sotterley is just around the corner on October 4th and 5th from noon until 6pm each day! With over 20 Maryland wineries boasting award-winning wines, an amazing live music line-up, artisan vendors, food and beer vendors, demonstrations, free mini tours of the Plantation House and Colonial Revival Gardens, and fun children’s activities, there is truly something for everyone!  Discounted tickets can be purchased through September 28th, but members old and new can buy at the gate for only $15!

A mere two weeks later we begin our Ghosts of Sotterley tours which will be held on October 17, 18, 23, 24 & 25.  On this walking tour of Sotterley’s grounds, you will encounter inhabitants of the past and those not of this earth during this year’s production: “Reapers in Red Coats: The Ghosts of Sotterley 1814.”   Tickets may be purchased on-line, and advance reservations are required.

But that’s not all!  There will be one more wonderful and FREE Speaker Series event on October 29th, “SPAT: Bringing Oysters Back to the Chesapeake Bay”, and then right around the corner will be our holiday events in December: Family Plantation Christmas, and our expanded Sotterley Christmas Traditions by Candlelight tours.

We hope that all of our guests will remember that by simply coming and having a great time with us, you ultimately also support Sotterley and its mission. Truly a win-win for all!  We hope to see you soon!

Lessons You Can Learn from Recent Data Breaches

Identity theft in word tag cloudIn recent months, several major data breaches have made headlines. Large-scale retailers like Target, The Home Depot, Neiman Marcus and Michael’s have been targeted, leaving hundreds of thousands of pieces of customer information vulnerable.

With a number of recent compromises, you may be wondering if your information will ever be safe. While it’s impossible to know exactly when the next data breach will strike, here are a few lessons you can learn from recent ones to help keep your private information as secure as possible:

A data breach could happen anywhere, anytime and affect anyone.

The fact is, you can be as careful as possible and still fall victim to a data breach if you use your debit or credit card to shop. Identity thieves are growing more sophisticated in their tactics, using complex malware to compromise point of sale terminals, as seen in the Target and the Home Depot incidents. A safe alternative is to use cash when you shop, so no identifying information is used to process the transaction.

It’s important to be proactive.

It is more critical than ever to carefully monitor your monthly statements for your debit and credit cards. Review each transaction and contact your financial institution immediately if you suspect a fraudulent charge. When shopping online, always use a credit card over a debit card, as they are not directly linked to a bank account.

Create unique passwords and logins.

It seems like every website involves a username and password, and while it’s tempting to use the same one over and over, doing so could greatly increase the scope of damage if your identity is stolen. Recent breaches, including the Russian hacking incident, are suspected to have affected billions of username and password combinations. Using the same login information across several websites (e.g. your financial institutions, credit cards, online shopping accounts) could make it easier for thieves to strike multiple places.

Get identity protection services.

In the unpredictable digital world we live in, you can take steps to safeguard your identity by signing up for identity protection services. Community Bank offers ID Restoration Services through Deluxe Provent, a completely customizable suite of monitoring services that will not only help you keep your identity safe, but will also assist you if you find your personal information has been compromised.

At Community Bank, your security is always our priority. Click here for updates on current data breaches and more information on how we are working to keep your information safe and secure.

Friday Focus: The Conservancy for Charles County

The community around us is constantly growing and changing, and in recent years, Charles County has seen stunning levels of growth and development,Charles County Conservancy often at the expense of the natural landscape. The Conservancy for Charles County recognized a need to protect the natural resources, farmland, watersheds and historical sites within the county, and works hard to ensure that these places will remain a part of the community for years to come. We spoke with the Conservancy’s President, Hal Delaplane, for this week’s Friday Focus interview.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: We are an all-volunteer qualified local land trust that is designated a charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit.  We were formed in 1996 by local residents who were concerned with the pace of development and its obvious threats to the environment and our quality of life.  Our purpose is to protect the scenic, natural, forest, agricultural and historic places in Charles County for the benefit of all its residents.

We are the only land trust operating exclusively in Charles County. In partnership with the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET), we have protected over 1,800 acres of privately owned land throughout the county by working with landowners in a voluntary program of donated conservation easements.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A:   I think our coolest single moment came a few years back.  In 2006, we acquired a conservation easement on the 186-acre Mudd Farm tract near Waldorf in a complicated series of transactions.  The farm, which had been in the Mudd family for more than 200 years, surrounds the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House where Dr. Mudd set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865. The house and farm are operated today by the Dr. Samuel Mudd Society as a museum and is Charles County’s most visited tourist site.

When the Conservancy became involved, the farm had been sold to a La Plata developer for development as a subdivision.  The developer generously allowed us time to arrange its purchase by the county with Rural Legacy Program funds.  The county in turn sold the farm to the Mudd Society who donated the easement jointly to the Conservancy and the county.  The process took about five years.

The easement enhances and sustains an irreplaceable historic landscape.  Visitors can look down from Dr. Mudd’s bedroom window on a view of rolling farm fields and Zekiah Swamp that is unchanged from Dr. Mudd’s day. (Pictured in photo).

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A:   We are dependent on membership dues, individual donations and grants.  Like other small non-profits, we are looking for ways to make our funding more reliable from year to year, looking for new members and looking for Board members.  These are all expressions of the same underlying challenge: how do we make ourselves better known and more relevant to the community, especially to the young and to minorities?  How can we better convey our message to them?

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A:   We are exhibiting at the four-day county fair.  Next on the schedule is our only fundraiser of the year– our annual fall dinner meeting next week at the Waldorf Jaycees Friday, September 26.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Anyone interested in being a volunteer, for example to help staff our exhibits at public events or monitor our easements, can contact us through our website, www.conservecharles.org, or email us at info@conservecharles.org.

Friday Focus: Rappahannock United Way

Fueled by a mission to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of the local community, the Rappahannock United Way staff work day in and day outVolunteer_pic_reduc to provide services and resources for those who need them. As the organization celebrates its 75th anniversary and prepares for its upcoming Days of Caring, President Janel S. Donohue took time out of her busy schedule to chat with us for this week’s Friday Focus.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.).

A: Rappahannock United Way (RUW) is a nonprofit organization serving the City of Fredericksburg, Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties. RUW is excited to be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. RUW is committed to advancing the common good by investing in programs that support the building blocks to a better life: education, income, and health.  We believe a quality education leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health.

At RUW, our goal is to create long-lasting change by helping more households emerge from poverty and achieve greater financial stability.  We encourage individuals, companies and organizations in our community to Live United — a call to action to give, advocate and volunteer locally. Rappahannock United Way is an efficient and effective organization.

RUW recently received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, an objective, nationwide nonprofit evaluator. This is the fourth consecutive year RUW has received a four-star rating.  Charity Navigator measures a charity’s ability to effectively manage and grow its finances. Four stars means that Rappahannock United Way “exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its cause.” In fact, only a quarter of all charities rated by Charity Navigator reach the four-star echelon.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: Our favorite moments are seeing firsthand the amazing support and partnership throughout the community among the people, nonprofits, companies and Rappahannock United Way.  Whether you are participating in a Day of Caring, a fundraising event, or a Community Event, the impactful changes made by Rappahannock United Way for those in need throughout the Rappahannock area is evident and inspiring.

A particular favorite moment was watching our 2014 Success Videos that demonstrated how Rappahannock United Way is changing the story for individuals right here in our community. It feels good to see real people solve real problems and achieve long lasting positive change in their life.  This is why we do what we do.

(Watch the videos here: Education: Project Discovery Program; Health: Micah Respite Program)

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: I think our biggest challenge is to mobilize the caring power of our community to go beyond inspiring people to act, but doing it in a way that means we are all working in the same direction. We are blessed to live in a community full of people who constantly give of their time, talent and treasures to make a difference.  However, when the work is thinly spread around to too many different good causes the impact is small.  RUW is designed to mobilize individuals around key issues which are very specific and focused – when we can get everyone to focus, we will have impact.  Mobilizing people isn’t hard — it’s already happening; however, mobilizing everyone in the same direction is the challenge.  That’s what RUW has to do to create long lasting impact.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A:  Rappahannock United Way is excited to promote two very important events in our local community. The first event is the annual Days of Caring.  Days of Caring will occur on September 26 in Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg and Stafford; September 30 in Caroline; and October 3 in King George. Days of Caring provide local nonprofit agencies and schools with volunteer teams from local businesses to complete meaningful projects that fulfill agency and community needs.  Last year, over 330 Day of Caring Volunteers completed over 30 projects in one day.

The second event will be held on Sunday, October 19 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fairgrounds.  This community event is FREE and will be a family fun event to celebrate Rappahannock United Way’s 75th year impacting the community.  Come out to enjoy food, fun and much family entertainment.  There will even be a real Monster Truck on site to take individuals for free rides!

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A:  Rappahannock United Way has a call to action to be a part of the change you want to see in your community. We encourage everyone to Live United: Give, Advocate, Volunteer.  Giving is easy.  You can give through your workplace campaign, give online at www.rappahannockunitedway.org, or send a check to Rappahannock United Way, 3310 Shannon Airport Circle, Fredericksburg, VA  22408.  Volunteering is easy, too.  Just go to our interactive volunteer website to find the latest volunteer opportunities in our community.   We want everyone to find opportunities to make a positive impact in their community.

Rappahannock United Way also has volunteer opportunities from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for its Community Appreciation Day on October 19, 2014.  Contact Terri Center at tcenter@rappahannockunitedway.org for more details.