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!

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.

Friday Focus: Barstow Acres Counseling and Children’s Center

This week’s Friday Focus takes us to Prince Frederick Maryland abarstow acresnd the Barstow Acres Counseling & Children’s Center. The Center is the vision of Executive Director Sonia Hinds, APRN-BC, RPT, a registered nurse specializing in mental health nursing and a clinical specialist-psychotherapist. Ms. Hinds recognized the need for additional quality mental health service for young children and families in a family setting, with specific modalities for children such as play therapy, art therapy and sand tray therapy. We caught up with Ms. Hinds for this week’s interview, who shared more information about the many ways Barstow Acres helps children and their families.

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

A: We serve children and families, including those at-risk, underserved and in need of mental health services. We provide a wide variety of mental health and developmental services, as well as enrichment programs for both children and adults.

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

A: Our summer camp program gives us most of our memorable moments. We provide a safe place during the summer for children with socio-emotional challenges who would otherwise be at home alone watching TV or playing video games all day. Children with ADHD, Asperger’s, anger and behavioral challenges benefit from the therapeutic camp experience. The children are taught coping skills and encouraged to take responsibility for their behavior while receiving support and feedback from their peers and staff.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Funding is our biggest challenge. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we are always in need of operating funds. We accept monetary donations of any amount in order to provide services at a reasonable rate to the families we help. Checks can be made payable to Barstow Acres Children’s Center. We also collect used cell phones and empty ink jet cartridges.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Social Skills Groups for children and adolescents starting the week of September 22, 2014! Group members learn pro-social behaviors such as how to behave in a social setting, how to read social cues, making friends, anger management, yoga, Brain Gym® and art therapy.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: The biggest way people can get involved is by donating through the United Way. Another method is to sponsor a child for our therapeutic summer day camp via the “Adopt a Camper Campaign.” Our summer camp is a huge undertaking and we always need donations of volunteer time, supplies, and funds to ensure its success. We also have volunteer opportunities during our fundraisers, namely our Fashion & Talent Show and Annual Parent/Professional Empowerment Conference which educates the community on mental health issues.

Friday Focus: Dahlgren Heritage Museum

dahlgrenAt the foot of the Nice Bridge in King George, Virginia is the Dahlgren Heritage Museum. Overseen by the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, the Museum’s mission is to preserve and promote the rich military history of the Dahlgren base and surrounding community. This week’s Friday Focus caught up with Foundation president Ed Jones, who shared some personal favorite moments and gave us a sneak peek at some upcoming events at the Museum!

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

A: The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation was founded three years ago to tell “the Dahlgren story”: how over the last century, a swampy piece of King George County farmland became a Navy base that is one of the crown jewels of our national defense. It’s a story about research, innovation and community, both on and around the base, both military and civilian. We tell that story through our museum on U.S. 301 at the foot of the Nice Bridge; through community forums about the history, present and future of the base and surrounding community; through our website,  dahlgrenmuseum.org; and through support for area students who are studying science and technology. Though we have strong collaborative ties with the Navy, we are a community-based, private, nonprofit organization. All of our funds come from memberships, contributions and grants.

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

A: One of our favorite moments was when we christened the exhibit on “Women in Science” at the University of Mary Washington’s Dahlgren campus. It tells the story of the base, with special emphasis on the role that women have played at Dahlgren over the years. Thousands have seen this exhibit on the walls of the lobby and hallways.

Another favorite moment was the opening late last year of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum in the former Welcome Center at the foot of the Nice Bridge. Currently on display are artifacts dealing with the little-known aviation history of Dahlgren, including a bombsight developed at Dahlgren that made a crucial contribution to U.S. airborne forces in World War II.

Yet another moment was our sponsoring of the school buses that allowed area students to attend a science fair in Washington that rates as the nation’s largest.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Spreading the word about our many activities, raising funds to lift us to the next stage of development before the 2018 centennial of the base, and encouraging more people to become active members of the museum.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: There are many! Join us for our second annual Fine Art and Memorabilia Auction at UMW/Dahlgren on Saturday, September 6. The preview begins at 5 p.m., with the auction starting at 5:30. Great bargains and great fun. The $25 tickets include refreshments and wine, and are available on our website, dahlgrenmuseum.org.

On Saturday, November 15, at the museum, we will offer a German Christmas Market from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. More details are on the website.

And every first Saturday (from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and third Saturday (from noon to 4 p.m.), the museum is open with free admission. Through October, a flea market will be set up in the parking area at those times. Check the website for special opening times as well.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Become a member by going to dahlgrenmuseum.org, or by leaving us a message at 540-663-3680. When you go to the website, be sure to read the latest edition of the DHF Digest, our outstanding quarterly newsletter.

Friday Focus: St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League

The St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League helps cats, dogs and horses by providing SMAWL logoveterinary, fostering and adoption services. This week, we spoke with Katie Werner, President of SMAWL, who shared a favorite story about a particularly special dog and gave us the inside scoop on how you can help an animal find their “furr-ever” home.

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

A: The St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1990 that works to help the homeless, abused and neglected animals in our local community and — in times of extreme need — in our larger national rescue community. Immediate goals include aggressive campaigns to find homes for homeless cats and dogs and to curb pet overpopulation through spay/neuter programs. Future goals include the building of a no-kill shelter in St. Mary’s County. Services provided include pet adoptions, discount spay/neuter vouchers, monthly low-cost rabies clinics, humane education and the Pet Food Pantry. SMAWL is an all-volunteer organization and welcomes new members and volunteers. SMAWL offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, including fostering animals waiting for adoption. To contact SMAWL, call 301-373-5659, send an e-mail to smawl@yahoo.com, or visit www.smawl.org.

The Snowflake Society was created in 2006 as a division of St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) to help horses and other hoofed animals. The mission statement of the Snowflake Society reads: “To provide shelter, care, rehabilitation and adoption services for abused, neglected, and unwanted horses and other hoofed animals; and to promote humane treatment of hoofed animals through education, investigation, and legal intervention.”

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

A: There are many favorite moments and all of our animal adoptions are reason to celebrate, but the most rewarding is when we are able to help those special animals that are considered “unadoptable.” Once such recent rescue is Martha, a blind Beagle we pulled from Tri-County Animal Shelter. We were fortunate enough to find a very special foster home that had a very special cat, Dutchess, who helped Martha adjust to her new home. Within half an hour of her arrival, Dutchess had introduced herself and was taking Martha on a tour of the house. She showed her where all of the water bowls were and the family set one up on the bathroom floor for Martha since she seemed to like that area. Dutchess decided they were sleeping together on the sofa that first night, so that was where they spent the night. Martha had a nightmare and was whimpering and of course her assistant came to get her foster mom and she calmed down when she was held. Martha likes to snuggle against her foster mom with Dutchess against her. The family gated off the bathroom for Martha so that she had a larger area to stay in while they are at work; Dutchess can hop the gate. The two became inseparable!

Like so many of our foster family, Dutchess’ family became “failed” fosters and adopted Martha. Having the ability to rescue animals such as Martha is why we do what we do. We are able to continue our rescue mission because of the support we receive throughout the year from our friends, sponsors and the community at large.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Since we do not have a permanent shelter, our biggest problem is having foster homes for our animals. We are limited in the animals we can take in due to the foster space we have available. Foster homes are vitally important to help in the care and socialization of our animals. SMAWL pays for the veterinary care and asks our foster families, in addition to providing a safe environment for them to live, to transport them to veterinary appointments and to adoption events so that they can find their “fur-ever” homes.

In addition, we do have many other volunteer opportunities such as working at our Rabies Clinics and Adoption Events. We also need assistance in caring for some of our cats who reside at the Petco in California, Md. and at our “Cat Castle” in Callaway, Md.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have Adoption Events at the Petco in California on Saturdays between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and at our “Cat Castle” in Callaway on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. In addition, we have Rabies Clinics on the second Monday of the month between March and November at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds in Leonardtown, MD between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. We also hold adoption events at other locations such as the PetValu in Leonardtown, the Tractor Supply Co in Hollywood and Pepper’s Pet Pantry in Solomon’s. In May we have our Annual Animal Fair, which is a fun-filled day for families and pets with many activities for everyone – one of the most popular of which is the “Woof-It Down” Contest (a “pie” eating contest where dogs and their humans compete).

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: There are several things people can do to get involved:

• Become a member – membership fees help us continue our mission. Membership fees are:

$35.00 – Individual

$50.00 – Family

$50.00 – Business

$250.00 – Lifetime

$500.00 – Business Lifetime

• Volunteer – there are many volunteer opportunities, from helping at an adoption event to helping to organize our Animal Fair.

• Foster – the more foster families we have, the more animals we can save!

• Have a pet food drive to help keep our Pet Food Pantry stocked.

Friday Focus: Christmas in April* Calvert County, Inc.

Christmas in April* Calvert County, Inc. In a true expression of neighbor helping neighbor, Christmas in April volunteers bring assistance to homeowners in need on their annual workday each spring. In 2013, the Calvert Count chapter of Christmas in April repaired a total of 34 homes, doing everything from cleaning gutters to roofing to landscaping. This week’s Friday Focus is a conversation with Bill Lloyd, President of Christmas in April*Calvert County, Inc.

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

A: Christmas in April*Calvert County, Inc., a United Way partner started in Calvert County in 1991, is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that repairs and improves the homes of low-income homeowners. Low-income homeowners, especially the elderly, disabled and families with children, are eligible to apply for Christmas in April services.  All repairs are paid for by Christmas in April.  Homeowners are not expected to pay for any services provided. Once a home is referred, a home visit is made by the House Selection Committee.  The Board ultimately makes the difficult determination as to whether the house meets the eligibility criteria, is in need and can be repaired by Christmas in April in one day. Homeowners and family members who are present and who are able-bodied are expected to work alongside volunteers on the Christmas in April work day, which is the last Saturday in April every year.

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

A: There are so many “moments” that happen on our workday. Just the look of happiness on homeowners’ faces on the workday is priceless. Imagine going five years without hot water, and then a group of strangers come to your home and not only fix your water heater but also landscape, remove trash and paint the inside of your house. I’m not sure who gets the most gratification, the homeowner or the volunteer. Our volunteers return every year!

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: We are always looking for more “house captains” that can lead a work crew in repairing the homes of our applicants. More donations are always welcome because we are a 100% volunteer organization, with all donations used to purchase supplies for the repairs of the homes. More donations would mean that we could repair more homes.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Yes, our application period is fast approaching. We only review applications during September and October, choosing and visiting the homes in November and assembling work crews in December. Applications received after October will have to wait until the following September to be considered. Applications are available on our website, at the office of aging, at the library, and at most churches. Homeowners that are interested in having their home worked on should have their application in during that time. A lot of work will need to be done before the workday including meeting the homeowner, ordering supplies and assembling work crews. The “work day” is always the last Saturday in April. The Board of Directors works yearlong preparing for that one day. Over 800 volunteers work on up to 32 homes each year.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: People who are interested in making donations or volunteering to work with us on our work day can print or email the relevant form from our website www.christmasinaprilcalvertcounty.org.

Friday Focus: Loyola on the Potomac

This week’s Friday Focus takes us to Faulkner, Maryland, and the Loyola on the Potomac retreat house. Located on Beach photo with chair faded253 acres of scenic riverfront property, the retreat offers a quiet refuge for personal prayer and reflection for people of all faiths. We caught up with Jim Palmer, Director of the retreat house, who talked with us about how his organization impacts the lives of those it serves.

Q: Tell us about your organization. Who do you serve?

A: Loyola on the Potomac is a Retreat House (in the Roman Catholic tradition) that was founded by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and opened in 1958. Loyola is situated on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River. There are 235 acres of woodlands laced with numerous paths for all to enjoy. With its woods, riverfront beach and spectacular sunsets over the Potomac, Loyola has offered thousands of retreatants the opportunity and means of experiencing the joy and serenity of God’s presence.

The retreat house welcomes men and women of all faiths and backgrounds. Programs include Ignatian weekend retreats, mid-week retreats, private and directed retreats and personal days of prayer and reflection. Additionally, we collaborate with schools, social service agencies, volunteer organizations and other Church ministries to provide the opportunity for retreatants to come aside and rest awhile.

The Loyola experience affords our retreatants the opportunity to be conscious of God’s action in their lives and in the world, to deepen their faith, and to renew their commitment to justice.

Retreat programs sponsored by Loyola are conducted in the spirit of prayerful silence, inviting our guests to truly become aware of the presence of God in our world and in their lives. Our facility space is also utilized by local churches, social service organizations and schools who sponsor their own retreat programs.

The main house offers two chapels, comfortable lounges and sitting rooms and 70 individual bedrooms (each with a half bath). In addition, we have one large conference room and six small meeting rooms, a small fitness room, music room and bookstore. Internet access is available in our main retreat house.

Our property also houses Huckleberry House, a historic home that is used by visiting Jesuits and as an overflow space for larger retreats. We also have a lovely Hermitage on the property which features 2 bedrooms, 2 full baths, a full kitchen, living room, prayer room and screened in porch. Our grounds feature well marked hiking trails and two outdoor Stations of the Cross pathways for prayer.

Loyola on the Potomac is also the home of St. Inigoes Youth Camp, an outdoor camping area equipped with a spacious bath/shower facility, two-story barn for group activities and worship, a dining pavilion, fire pit and amphitheater.

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

A: At the end of our Ignatian Weekend Retreats we hold a session entitled “The Gathering of Graces” during which time the retreatants share what has happened in their lives during the course of their retreat. Every session becomes a favorite moment as I become aware of the amazing transformation retreatants experience by the grace of our loving God.

Another favorite moment that gets repeated several times throughout the year is the gratitude expressed by our retreatants who participate in our partnership retreats. Loyola is blessed to be able to partner with the Ignatian Spirituality Project to offer retreats for homeless men and women; Damien Ministries to provide retreats for men and women living with HIV/AIDS; and the San Miguel School, an independent Catholic middle school that provides education to disadvantaged Latino boys in Washington, D.C. It is often overwhelming to hear these retreatants, both young and old, express what their time at Loyola has meant in their lives.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Funding! Like most nonprofits, the fees we collect from our retreatants do not cover the cost of the services we offer. And so, we engage in fund raising campaigns and rely on our benefactors to keep our doors open and ensure that the work and ministry of the retreat house thrives.

Our main house is a large structure and is now more than 50 years old; the upkeep and renovations certainly bring many challenges to our staff, as well as take their toll on our budget.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

Crab Feast and Open House – September 7, 2014 from 2:00 – 5:00 at the Retreat House

Night of Honor Banquet & Auction – October 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm at the Greater Waldorf Jaycees

Christmas Saintly Tea – December 14, 2014 at 3:00 at the Retreat House

Loyola 5k River Run (and 1 mile walk) – June 20, 2015 at St. Inigoes Youth Camp

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Individuals who would like to experience a retreat at Loyola can register on line at http://www.loyolaonthepotomac.com/

Groups and/or individuals that would like to do a community service or volunteer project on behalf of Loyola are invited to call our Development Director, Lisa White, at 301-392-0819.

Financial Donations to support our work and ministry can be made online or mailed directly to the retreat house. All donations made to Loyola on the Potomac are tax deductible to the full extend allowed by law.

Friday Focus: Rappahannock Goodwill Industries

Driven by a mission to provide opportunities and resources to those with barriers to employment, Rappahannock Goodwill Industries is an organizRGI Logoation that is making a difference in Fredericksburg and the surrounding counties! We caught up with Megan Bergen, Vice President, Mission Services for Goodwill, who chatted with us about Goodwill’s mission, shared some personal favorite moments and gave us a preview of the Goodwill Collaboration Zone: an exciting new space and vision for the organization.

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

A: A Methodist minister named Edgar Helms founded Goodwill in 1902. More than a hundred years later, his vision of an “industrial program as well as a social service enterprise” lives on in 165 member agencies around the country that focus on the power and dignity of work. At Rappahannock Goodwill (a member agency), we serve the City of Fredericksburg and a 12-county region. We provide work opportunities and job training to people with barriers to employment, particularly those with disabilities. Operations include a commercial laundry, off-site custodial and administrative services, four Job Help Centers—and, of course, we operate twelve Goodwill stores, a Goodwill Outlet, and numerous Attended Donation Centers. In 2013, we served 3,898 people. 596 individuals were helped in our Job Help Centers, and 369 people were placed into jobs.

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

A: At RGI, we celebrate the successes of our program participants—and we are in the lucky position of having lots of successes to celebrate. Daily, we support people in our Job Help Centers who have not been able to find jobs—a veteran transitioning to the civilian workforce, an ex-offender trying to get that much-needed second chance, or someone who has a disability that has gotten in the way. The greatest moment is when we are able to help that person find a job, so they can experience the power of work which leads to independence and a positive future.

Here’s a recent favorite moment: One of our current program participants—diagnosed in the fifth grade with an intellectual disability and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—was referred to RGI after she graduated from high school in 2007. A previous vocational evaluation had indicated she demonstrated distractibility, inappropriate interpersonal interactions, negative and uncooperative attitude and a slow work pace. Evaluators asked that she participate in a community based assessment/training program to improve these behaviors before being accepted into their programming.

RGI filled this role and has proudly and successfully served her ever since, providing her with the necessary supports to grow both personally and vocationally. She has served as a valuable member of all work teams she has been assigned, and has transformed into a capable and confident young woman with endless potential. If that isn’t a great illustration of the power of work, I don’t know what is.

My recent favorite moment was finding out that starting next week, she will graduate from a high support program to a more independent position, working on an RGI mobile crew that does custodial jobs at another location.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Mission awareness has long been a fundamental challenge for Goodwill. Research conducted ten years ago found that while 90 percent of people surveyed know Goodwill, only 26 percent know the mission behind the donation centers and stores. This is an issue both nationally and locally—to our surprise, last year someone told us that our Job Help Centers (which provide free assistance to individuals looking to upgrade their job readiness and job search skills) were our best kept secret! We are working hard to increase mission awareness, to let people know that by donating and shopping they are creating jobs for people with barriers to employment. In our stores, we’ve begun asking shoppers if they wish to round up to support the mission—it’s another way to start a conversation with individuals in the community about how our stores help us put people to work. The tagline of a national ad campaign launched in 2013 says it all: “Donate Stuff. Create Jobs.”

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: In November, we will celebrate the opening of the Goodwill Collaboration Zone: nearly 10,000 square feet of space set aside to be rented by nonprofits whose visions align with ours. Co-location of RGI staff and the staffs of other agencies will facilitate working together to better serve the people we all serve. The vision is that this collaborative environment will allow us all to help people with a variety of barriers reach their full potential, both on and off the job.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: We are always seeking volunteers to help us further our mission! We have many volunteer positions, from Goodwill mentor (working one-on-one with a particular person in the Job Help Center to achieve certain goals) to literacy tutor to Goodwill ambassador (increasing the general public’s awareness of RGI and its services). We even offer a virtual career volunteer opportunity to accommodate volunteers who are unable to be physically present during Job Help Center hours. People interested in volunteering should visit our website (www.fredgoodwill.org) for details.

Community Bank of the Chesapeake is proud to support Rappahannock Goodwill Industries through its annual Casual for a Cause program. If you would like to donate to Goodwill directly, visit their website at http://www.fredgoodwill.org/donate.

Friday Focus: Calvert Library Foundation

For thousands of years, libraries have been a staple community institution where people could gather and seek out information. Today, the Calvert County Librarcalvert_library_logoy system continues the tradition, providing central hubs that provide not only books, but an endless list of programs and services as well. This week’s Friday Focus organization, the Calvert Library Foundation, plays a vital role in supporting the Library’s mission by providing additional funding. We spoke with Scott Deacon, Vice President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, who shared his thoughts on the many ways the Library benefits the local community.

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

A: Calvert Library Foundation is an enabling organization whose stated purpose is to improve public library services and facilities in Calvert County, Maryland.  The Foundation accomplishes this purpose by securing non-government funding from residents of Calvert County and its surrounding counties in Maryland, businesses and private sources.  These funds are used to purchase resources that will make significant improvements to libraries and their programs not otherwise obtainable through governmental or other institutional funding.  In 2013, the Foundation provided needed funds to the Library for furnishings and for staff training to improve services for County residents. We also conducted a capital campaign and provided more than $225,000 for the outfitting of one branch.  Funds provided by the Foundation help bridge the difference between the Calvert Library being good and being GREAT!

The Calvert Library is comprised of four separate branches throughout Calvert County, Maryland.  In 2013, the library was able to provide the more than 88,500 county residents and residents of nearby counties with a complete range of library services and employed 54 full-time equivalent employees.  They served nearly 600,000 customers in-person, circulated the 265,864 items in their physical collection 1,121,505 times and answered more than 145,954 reference questions.  Their website saw 186,465 unique visitors and the webpage was viewed 904,867 times.  The computers were used 141,507 times.  Additionally, outside groups used the meeting rooms 3,471 times.

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

A: I do not think I have just one “moment”.  Actually, every time I go into one of the library facilities I get a sense of satisfaction.  You can almost feel the wonderment of those who are gaining from all the library has to offer.  When I grew up, we lived in an area that was so rural we did not have a library facility.  Rather, we had an old bus that served as a mobile library and brought books to our area once a week.  So when I go into the library facilities, I look at all the patrons who are benefitting from its very presence and I appreciate all of those who made and continue to make that reality.  For example, the Foundation provided a large flat-screen television in the meeting room which has become a mainstay for presentations, workshops, the cinema café movie nights, and is used extensively by community organizations on a daily basis.  Also, the circulating video games the foundation provided are very popular.  Finally, the Foundation has provided for children’s activity cubes, additional computers for patrons and staff, comfortable library furnishings and foreign language CDs and DVDs.

Q: Why is the Library important?

A: Calvert Library is a hub for members of our community to connect and interact across all demographic groups. The Library hosts a range of activities and social programs that engage our minds and provide opportunities to exchange ideas with other people.  It has numerous partnering agencies (College of Southern Maryland, public schools, Head Start, Workforce Investment Board’s Mobile Job Center, etc.) where its programs complement and reinforce theirs.  The library provides opportunities to bring diverse segments of the population together to have civil discourse about matters of importance.  Their “Choose Civility” programming is just one of many the library offers to address needs in our community.

It is also an important economic equalizer, providing equal access to technology, information and lifelong learning opportunities to all who wish to develop both professionally and personally.  It is a meeting place for those seeking to improve their English-speaking skills. Students and job seekers flock to the library to use computers for schoolwork, research, job searches and many other things.

It also makes green sense (environmental, not just dollars) to have reference materials, databases, literature and media in one place for people to access. Having hard copies to share across a community and online copies of documents shared by thousands of people in our county saves trees from being harvested and waters from being polluted. The Library provides timely, accurate responses to questions.  Its inter-library loan system connects people to the information they seek – all these services are provided free of charge to everyone.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Managing technology.  We need to assist the library in staying relevant to their patrons, young and old alike.  We also need to help the library stay abreast of the emerging technology as it relates to providing access to entertainment and knowledge.  There is a move toward having Maker-spaces in libraries where computers are programmed to manufacture 3D items. By providing cutting edge equipment such as this, the Library helps to ignite people’s imagination and foster the science, technology, engineering and math skills that make America competitive.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Coming up on October 25 is the Foundation’s 2014 Gala Art Auction. This is the second year for the event. Last year’s auction was a great success and raised over $10,000 for the Foundation.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Please visit our website at http://calvertlibraryfoundation.com and look for activities and opportunities to join the foundation in its endeavors.  I should point out that the Calvert Library Foundation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and as such, your contribution is tax–deductible to the extent allowed by law.  Please contact us if you would like to become a member of the Library Foundation Board or if you would like to assist and/or participate in any of the Foundation events.  Finally, there are few—if any—institutions that provide so many free services and programs for people. Your donation will help this great institution innovate and reach out to all segments of the population. Your dollars will enable people to achieve their potential. And, you will know that you are an important part of something larger than yourself.

Community Bank is proud to support the Calvert Library Foundation through our annual “Casual for a Cause” campaign. If you’d like to donate directly to the Foundation, please visit their website.