Located alongside the Patuxent River, Greenwell State Park provides St. Mary’s County residents with year-round opportunities for recreation and leisure. While the land itself is managed by the state of Maryland, the programs offered by the park are coordinated and funded by the Greenwell Foundation, a nonprofit organization. This week’s Friday Focus interviewed Cara Fogarty, Director of Communications for the Foundation. Cara spoke with us about the Foundation’s work and some upcoming events, and also shared her favorite story about how Greenwell’s summer camp program was able to touch a local family in a special way.
Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)
A: The Greenwell Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing accessible and inclusive programs, services and facilities for all community members, with and without disabilities, in Southern Maryland. The Foundation operates in Greenwell State Park, a 600-acre property located along the lower Patuxent River in Hollywood, Maryland.
The Greenwell Foundation offers therapeutic and recreational horseback riding, summer camps, nature programs, veterans’ programs, accessible site rentals and regularly develops new programs—often in collaboration with area agencies and nonprofit organizations—to meet community needs. All programs are designed to be inclusive, allowing people with disabilities to fully participate. Additionally, the Foundation serves veterans, at-risk children and transitioning youth with disabilities.
Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
A: There are several, but one that sticks out in my mind comes from a family with three children. One of the children has Down syndrome. The mother discovered that he could attend Camp Greenwell alongside his two sisters. She didn’t have to put him in a “special” camp. She didn’t have to undergo an interview/intake process. She could simply sign him up as easily as she did her other two children. For the first time in his life, she said he was treated equally and given the same opportunities in the same environment as every other child. Our mission is to create this environment that allows all children to play and experience camp together.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: There are many challenges, but I would have to say that funding is perhaps the biggest. Many people think because we are in a state park that we are funded by the state of Maryland and that their tax dollars support us. In actuality, the Greenwell Foundation is a small, private foundation that relies on donations, memberships, program fees, grants and facility rental fees. We receive no funding from the state of Maryland. The state takes care of the park itself, but the Greenwell Foundation runs the programs. We have an excellent relationship with the Department of Natural Resources/Maryland Park Service, but we are on our own! A nine-member Board of Trustees and an executive director oversee the work of the Foundation. We maintain a very small permanent staff and add a seasonal staff. This is purposeful to help us maintain costs.
Q: How can people get involved with your organization?
A: We have an active and growing volunteer program. Volunteers are the heart and soul of Greenwell. Our volunteer coordinator helps people find the right fit, whether it is volunteering with the Therapeutic Riding Program, Vets Helping Vets, gardening, construction projects, etc. We also have a Camp Buddy program for 13-16 year olds who volunteer with our summer camps. It’s valuable experience for the young teens and a tremendous asset to our campers.