A short video celebrating the work of St. Elizabeth School and our relationship with them
In celebration of our 40th anniversary year, the Knott Foundation is releasing three short video stories about our grantees.
This video features St. Elizabeth School, a Catholic school for students with special needs.
By Kelly Medinger
Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) uses Catholic activities grant to help Towson University students find fulfillment through faith and friendship
Four out of five people who leave the Catholic Church do so between the ages of 18 and 23. Meanwhile, the American College Health Association routinely reports widespread unhappiness among college students in this age range. So how does the Church find those who are lost and ultimately show them a path to a more fulfilling life?
Connecting College to Christ
Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) is the largest and fastest growing apostolate dedicated to the evangelization of college students. Its purpose is to engage a generation of young adults – those most at risk for disconnecting from their faith – as active participants in the Church through small group bible studies, large group leadership training, one-on-one discipleship, and social gatherings.
Founded in 1998, FOCUS missionaries now serve more than 100 college campuses across the United States, including four in Maryland: Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, the University of Maryland in College Park, the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, and most recently, Towson University.
In just two short years at Towson University (and a grant from the Knott Foundation), FOCUS has helped the Catholic community expand from a handful of students involved in planning their own activities, to a group of more than 70 students, missionaries, and student leaders engaged in community outreach, interfaith dialogue, religious practice, and social events. In the words of a vice president in administration at the college: “It’s great that Catholic campus ministry has awoken again.”
A Home Away from Home
“When you go to college, you want to belong somewhere,” says Nan Leahy, Philanthropy Officer. “FOCUS provides that environment for these students and becomes their support system outside of their family.”
Amber Cybulski graduated from college interested in the field of college ministry but unaware of FOCUS. She learned about the organization from a friend, applied to become a missionary, and then took part in an intensive 5-week training program for new staff. Today Amber meets with Towson students one-on-one and helps to lead the Newman Center’s campus ministry activities. Through this discipleship, she has witnessed positive developments in students’ friendships, compassion, willingness to lead, and ability to make good choices.
“So much comes down to good choices,” adds Father Matt Buening, Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at Towson University. “Having the guidance of faith, a community to support them, and good friendships to help them make good choices is so important during college.”
A Time for Conversion
“In a way college is actually the easiest time for conversion,” shares Cybulski, “because you are not yet tied to a spouse, children, job, profession, or way of life, and perhaps for the first time you are charged with making decisions without the influence of your parents.”
Indeed, the culture of FOCUS has proven to be a powerful catalyst for conversion and discernment. Fr. Matt was recently contacted by an unbaptized student interested in exploring the Catholic faith. Simultaneously, FOCUS has inspired two recent Towson graduates to enter the seminary.
“When you fall in love with Christ, it just transforms everything,” says Fr. Matt. “This growth in the human person then translates into effective servant leadership, renewed dedication to the important things in life, a true commitment to helping the community, and a more fulfilling journey through life.”
By Kelly Medinger
CASA of Allegany County uses human services grant to be a voice for more foster children
“While the number of children in foster care is declining in Maryland, the number in Allegany County has nearly doubled over the last four years, largely due to the drug epidemic,” says Misty Raines, Executive Director of CASA of Allegany County. Citing one of many examples, Raines shares the story of a young mother in Cumberland who recently died from an overdose, leaving her two young children with no options other than foster care.
Located in rural western Maryland, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Allegany County was founded in 2012 by two local citizens who had seen the results and benefits of CASA programs in nearby towns in West Virginia. The organization hired Raines as Executive Director in 2013, and in 2014 their first CASA was appointed by the court.
CASA of Allegany County has trained approximately 40 CASAs since its founding. These volunteers are currently advocating for approximately 25 foster children, speaking to everyone on the child’s behalf in order to create the best life situation for them – whether that is adoption, kinship care, or other living arrangements.
“People in Allegany County are really starting to recognize our program and see the benefits,” comments Raines. “We actually had to waitlist a number of volunteers at our most recent training, because interest was so high.”
Being There for Kids
The Knott Foundation has awarded CASA of Allegany County two grants since it opened its doors. “When I think of where we were in the very beginning with our first grant – wondering what the next year would look like for all these kids in the foster care system – to where we are today with so many active CASAs, it is a testament to all the great people who have worked so hard to make a difference in our community,” shares Raines.
CASA is a serious volunteer commitment in the life of a child, and volunteers are trained accordingly. CASAs go through a rigorous 5-week training program based on a national curriculum. All are asked to commit to 12 months of service, or the life of the case to which they are assigned. For some volunteers, this can mean several years of service.
Such is the case for CASA Don, who has served his child for three years. Once or twice a month, CASA Don drives more than three hours to visit the child in a special group home setting. They go out for lunch, shop for things the child might need, see a movie, or celebrate birthdays together. CASA Don is his only visitor; the boy’s mother died of cancer, his father was his abuser, and he has no siblings.
CASA Roni Ringler sums it up like this: “Albert Einstein said, ‘Only a life lived for others is worth living.’ Through my decades of adulthood, I have tried to live by this – as a teacher, crisis counselor, friend, and now, a CASA. Becoming a CASA has made me a better person, a more determined person, with the hope my child will be reunited with parents, foster parents, or adoption that will regain a stable and happy home life for them. It is my honor to be a CASA and I am thankful for this.”
By Kelly Medinger
St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore uses human services grant to upgrade information technology across 13 program sites serving the poor
As one of the region’s larger human service organizations, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore provides a path from poverty to self-sufficiency for many residents of Baltimore. A continuous focus on program quality recently led the organization to investigate ways to use information technology to enhance the services delivered to those in need.
About St. Vincent de Paul
St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore’s mission is to ensure those impacted by poverty have the skills and resources to achieve their full potential. More than 150 years after its founding at the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore, St. Vincent de Paul’s programs remain inspired by its Catholic roots. Today, in the tradition of its founder, Frederic Ozanam, the organization continues to help people move beyond hunger, homelessness, unemployment, and childhood poverty.
With 13 programs – including a homeless resource center, Head Start, housing services, family homeless shelters, and employment training – St. Vincent de Paul reaches thousands of men, women, children, and families each year, moving them beyond poverty to achieve a better future. These numbers represent significant growth over the past decade: In that time, St. Vincent de Paul has doubled its number of employees and added multiple new site locations and programs.
Such exponential growth creates challenges and opportunities. “We recognized that in order to be a better, higher functioning, more informed organization, we needed to put some time and resources into information technology,” states Matthew Kurlanski, Director of Foundation Relations & Grants and a member of the Information Technology Architecture Steering Committee.
Technology as a Tool
The Knott Foundation awarded St. Vincent de Paul a grant in 2015 for the first phase of its technology upgrade. “Very few funders will support the back-office infrastructure that enables the front-line case managers and program staff to do their jobs better,” remarks Kurlanski. “If we hadn’t received the Knott grant as a first investment, we wouldn’t have gotten the momentum we needed to get the project off the ground.”
Grant funds were spent on upgrades to the network infrastructure at 13 program sites, on a virtual Chief Information Officer, and on a network backup solution. The changes, however small, have begun to increase cross collaboration between programs and have made St. Vincent de Paul’s operations more streamlined and cost effective. For example, during a Baltimore City audit last year, documentation about programs was collected electronically utilizing the Office 365 cloud functions from multiple sites. This lessened the burden on front-line staff to sort and organize large volumes of paper and helped auditors to quickly and thoroughly review the organization’s program performance.
Future efforts include transitioning from using four different data management systems to track progress across all programs, to a single tracking and evaluation system. “Our goal is to use information technology to lay the foundation for becoming a more collaborative, more unified, more outcomes-focused organization,” concludes Kurlanski.
By Kelly Medinger
University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center uses health care grant to renovate and expand Mother Baby Unit
Special deliveries arrive each day at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center: more than 2,200 babies are born at the Catholic hospital in Towson every year.
St. Joe’s recently completed a campaign to renovate and expand its Mother Baby Unit, where the arrival of new life is celebrated in fine fashion. “Each birth is a sacred event,” describes Judy Rossiter, MD, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Perinatal Center. “The mother is an integral part of the team and decisions are made with her input. We do what is best for the baby and the mother, in body and spirit.”
About the Hospital
For more than 150 years, University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center has provided loving service and compassionate care to the greater Baltimore community. Notably, the 238-bed hospital in Towson is the only Catholic hospital in Baltimore County providing obstetric services.
“That is what sets us apart – our commitment to our faith-based mission,” states Jill Huey, Executive Director of the UM St. Joseph Medical Center Foundation. Daily prayers are said over the intercom. Brahms Lullaby plays every time a baby is born. A memorial service is held for all babies who are lost each year. “Our faith sets the tone for everything that happens in this institution,” Huey recounts.
In 2012, the hospital became part of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). Because UMMS is a privatized system, St. Joe’s was able to remain a Catholic hospital operating under the ethical and religious directives of the Church. “After nearly four years in UMMS, we have returned to profitability, have received numerous awards for excellence and, most importantly, our patients have come back, drawn by the loving care they experience,” comments Senator Francis X. Kelly, Jr., Chairman of the medical center’s Operating Board.
Raising Standards… and Money
That loving care is especially evident in the Mother Baby Unit. Yet the physical space has not always matched the superior level of service that families receive. Until recently, parts of the unit had remained untouched since the hospital was built in 1965.
In 2015, St. Joe’s embarked on a capital campaign, Building For Our Future, to address the facility’s needs. The total cost to renovate the Mother Baby Unit was $2 million, and all $2 million was raised from public and private support – in just one year. The Knott Foundation awarded the largest foundation grant to the campaign, funding the design schematics for the renovated space.
When finished in 2017, there will be a new welcome area with better signage, improved triage space, renovated postpartum rooms, and a bereavement room for families who experience a loss. With these enhancements, the hospital will be able to provide enhanced care for families, including a faster and more private experience for expectant mothers when they arrive at St. Joe’s to give birth.
In the meantime, more special deliveries arrive each and every day as St. Joe’s joins new moms and dads in celebrating the birth of their children.
By Kelly Medinger
Dyslexia Tutoring Program uses education grant to help low-income children learn to read
“One of the things we always say is, ‘If you can’t read, you can’t do anything,’” states Marcy K. Kolodny, CEO of the Dyslexia Tutoring Program. “Many times children come to us in the third grade and have already started to lose their self-esteem simply because they can’t read.”
An estimated 15-20% of the population is dyslexic or has a language-based learning disability (International Dyslexia Association). Couple that statistic with the fact that only half of all third graders in Baltimore can read at grade level, and the need to intervene becomes clear.
Dyslexia Tutoring Program (DTP) was founded in 1982 by a group of concerned citizens who sought to demonstrate that with a small investment of time and energy, the chain of dyslexia could be broken.
DTP works with approximately 200 children and adults in Baltimore and surrounding counties who are dyslexic or have a language-based learning disability and can’t afford private tutoring. DTP’s volunteer tutors are trained in the 22-hour Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading, writing, and spelling. They come from a variety of backgrounds including lawyers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, retired men and women, and business people. And they all want to give something back to their communities.
“As far as we know, we’re one of the only organizations in the country to provide these services free of charge,” Kolodny says. Private tutoring can cost between $70 and $100 an hour, far out of reach for students and their families.
Providing Opportunity and Hope
“A lot of our students are very bright. It’s just that they can’t read,” Bob Morton, Program Director, says. To learn to read, a student meets with his or her DTP tutor for one hour at least once a week. DTP then re-screens the student after every 30 hours of tutoring to measure improvement in areas such as word identification, word attack, spelling, fluency, and comprehension.
While assessments and scores can show a student’s improvement throughout the school year, the greater impact comes later and is perhaps more difficult to measure: “By increasing a student’s reading ability, research says you increase his or her self-esteem, develop character, and create skills needed for future success in high school, college, vocational school, the workplace, and other life endeavors,” says Kolodny.
Ten of DTP’s students are now in college, and three just graduated. Of the five DTP students who finished high school this year, all of them plan to attend college.
One of the program’s students, Tavon, called one day to ask if Kolodny could help him get a part-time job. The Marriott Waterfront Hotel offered him a job as a busboy. He then became a waiter and was accepted into their management training program, where he soon became a Captain, and last summer was promoted to Assistant Manager of the Catering and Events Department. “If it were not for DTP,” he says, “this would never have happened.”
By Kelly Medinger
Art with a Heart uses arts and humanities grant to prepare formerly homeless youth for the workplace
Fifteen new employees – all formerly homeless youth – are seated in an art studio for their new job orientation. “This is not just about making art. It’s about job readiness,” says the orientation director. She explains that they will be learning many different artistic techniques throughout their employment, but if they are late for work by only ten minutes, they will not get paid that day. “Punctuality is important on the job, and docking your pay may seem harsh, but at least you keep your job.”
About Art with a Heart
Founded in 2000, Art with a Heart provides classes in visual arts to underserved Baltimore area children, youth, and adults. Their mission is to enhance the lives of people in need through visual art.
Part of Art with a Heart’s programming includes the Youth Entrepreneurship Program, which employs cohorts of youth in the spring, summer, and fall to create marketable art to sell in Art with a Heart’s retail store, HeARTwares. Youth complete a variety of art projects, such as designing table and chair sets in teams and learning other artmaking skills like wire and beading, wood burning, ceramics, and mosaics.
Teaching Soft Job Skills
In 2015, the Knott Foundation supported the Youth Entrepreneurship Program’s expansion from summer to year-round programming. This has not only grown the number of youth participating, it has also helped 83% of older youth working in the spring and fall cohorts to secure part-time or full-time employment after completion of the program.
Moreover, by partnering with Youth Empowered Society, a drop-in center for youth age 14-25 experiencing homelessness, Art with a Heart is able to engage at-risk teens and young adults in the HeARTwares space for a real job experience. The youth make marketable art for the store and help run the retail operations.
“Often this may be their first work experience,” mentions Christina Ralls, Director of Workforce Development and Social Enterprise for Art with a Heart, “so we’re all about teaching soft job skills they will need now and in the future.”
Overcoming Barriers to Success
“Art with a Heart is one of the most effective workforce development programs for youth in Baltimore City,” proclaims Maia Gibbons, Workforce Development and Education Coordinator for Youth Empowered Society.
“Many programs focus on hard skills such as learning a trade or teaching how to format a resume, but fall short on the soft skills development that our youth need – social skills, time management, conflict resolution, and communication skills,” explains Gibbons. By employing compassionate and committed educators to lead and mentor the youth, Art with a Heart creates a consistent connection with them and helps instill habits that translate into other areas of life.
“The artmaking is therapeutic for our youth,” Ralls says. “All of them are hard workers. All of them want to work. But there are obstacles for them to even get to work. Art can help them process traumatic experiences and overcome those obstacles to become productive employees and leaders in their communities.”
By Kelly Medinger
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur use Catholic activities grant to care for aging Sisters
“It is a gift to be a part of an international order. You can’t be on the side of the poor only in your head. To have their firsthand experience is just such a gift and very moving,” reflects Sr. Carol Lichtenberg, SNDdeN, Provincial of the Ohio Province for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
About the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
More than 175 years ago, eight Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur came to the United States from Belgium to help teach immigrant children. They brought with them their dedication to making known God’s goodness, especially among the poorest and most abandoned.
Since then, the Sisters have served the poor on five continents – in classrooms, in halfway houses, in inner-city community centers, and in rural village communities. The Sisters have taught in hundreds of schools across the United States. They arrived in the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1934 and have staffed 15 different schools, reaching thousands of students from kindergarten to college.
“One of the things we often say is, ‘Where any Sister of Notre Dame is, each of us is,’” explains Sr. Carol. “So you feel like you are able to be helping in that place in the Congo, or in the new school in the Nigerian province, no matter where you are ministering.”
Caring for Others… and for One Another
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur receive no support from any diocese where the Sisters live and serve. This means they are entirely responsible for their mission and ministries, which includes caring for the frailest Sisters.
Last year, the Knott Foundation awarded a grant of $100,000 to support the retirement needs of the approximately 30 elderly Sisters residing at the Villa Julie Residence in Stevenson, Maryland where the median age is 85. The residence was purchased by the Order in 1947 as a place to care for Sisters who were sick and is now used as a facility for retired Sisters before they require skilled care.
With a portion of the grant funds, the Sisters purchased reclining chairs with electric lifts for each room at Villa Julie. The chairs are designed to help with mobility, comfort, and overall health. When asked about the new chairs, one sister smiled widely and proclaimed, “They’re great! I sleep in mine too much!”
For women who have dedicated their lives to serving others, it is only fitting that they receive the same love and attention in their own times of need.
Sustained and Persevering Efforts
“Our foundress St. Julie Billiart’s most characteristic virtues were simplicity, obedience, charity, and confidence,” states Sr. Carol. St. Julie was a strong woman and followed God’s call to serve others with conviction, saying: “God asks of us not promises, but efforts – sustained and preserving efforts.”
Today the Sisters continue to embody the virtues of their foundress and live out the charge of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in their work as teachers, as ministers to the poor, and as prayerful ambassadors. They remain humble servants of the Lord who accept “the grace of the charge” with incredible passion and joy, from beginning to end.
By Kelly Medinger
Everyman Theatre uses arts and humanities grant to find new ways to serve deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons
“What we strive for on stage is truth – finding a way to present something that is authentic,” proclaims Jonathan K. Waller, Managing Director of Everyman Theatre in Baltimore.
That sense of authenticity reached new heights in Everyman’s production of Tribes in 2014, where a deaf actor portrayed Billy, a deaf protagonist, in a coming-of-age story about being deaf in a hearing world. Notably, the show came to represent a coming-of-age for the Theatre itself and an opportunity for them to reach new audiences.
A Locally Grown Gem
Founded in 1990, Everyman Theatre has grown significantly over the past decade. In 2012 Everyman moved from an old converted bowling alley on Charles Street to the Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District. Today, the Theatre brings six productions to nearly 50,000 patrons each year.
Amidst this tremendous growth, however, Everyman remains deeply rooted in Baltimore’s local landscape: they employ a professional, equity-level resident company of actors who live in City neighborhoods, who send their children to neighborhood schools, and who are very much a part of the fabric of the community.
Technology as a Connector
For a number of years, Everyman experimented with ways to better serve deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons. Providing live sign language interpretation for select performances and investigating full service captioning for the entire theatre were two such options. As a small, local theatre company, the challenge became finding a more permanent and sustainable solution.
Everyman leveraged the production of Tribes to do just that. With a discretionary grant from the Knott Foundation and support from individual donors, the Theatre licensed cutting edge closed-captioning software, purchased 20 iPod touch devices, and began offering closed-captioning for all theatre performances.
“Closed captioning is definitely a game changer in how numerous people can experience live theatre, whether they are deaf or hard-of-hearing,” states Waller. Patrons now have a direct experience with the actors, instead of having to rely on an interpreter who is often positioned away from the main action of the stage. And Everyman’s commitment goes beyond technology to encompass staffing, training, and culture shifts. For example, an employee has been added to the Theatre’s production staff exclusively to operate the captions during each performance, and the Theatre teamed up with the Hearing and Speech Agency to help train house staff on basic sign language skills.
Strengthening Community Engagement
“The whole experience with Tribes has really become a case study for Everyman in how to reach new audiences and enhance inclusivity,” shares Alexandra Price, Director of Development. “Since then we have created a whole new department around community engagement with a dedicated staff position.”
Adds Waller, “Everyman Theatre’s name harkens back to the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, England, which was founded on the principle of taking stories of kings and queens and making them accessible to the masses. In that tradition, our mission to make theatre accessible to everyone was pushed forward in a significant way with Tribes.”
In the meantime, Everyman Theatre continues to bring truth to the stage. The only difference is more people are able to join in that experience.
By Kelly Medinger
Marian House uses human services grant to create a brighter future for women and the world
When Marian House opened its doors 33 years ago, their vision was to provide a brighter future to homeless women coming out of the prison system. Today, while Marian House has expanded to serve homeless women coming from multiple avenues, that vision has stayed true: to transform society by unlocking the potential of women who need a supportive place to live and heal.
A Positive Transformation
The women living in Marian House’s transitional housing program are more than residents; they help run the organization. Residents staff the reception office – answering the phones and greeting visitors at the door – and they also cook dinner for each other every night and clean-up the kitchen afterwards.
“There are so many ways we’re trying to teach the women positive habits, from having dinner together, to recycling, to taking time to focus on their own personal development,” says Katie Allston, Executive Director.
Marian House’s rigorous program starts with an application, interview, and intake process, and women stay for an average of 11 months. “The women who come here are motivated to change their lives for the better,” adds Libby Keady, Grant Writer. “They have to demonstrate a capacity and drive to be a part of a structured program.”
Marian House’s headquarters was built in 1928. It originally was used as a convent for nuns teaching at St. Bernard’s Catholic School across the street. The building now contains 29 single rooms, 4 family apartments, an education center, a commercial kitchen, a meeting room, and a large dining room for the women in Marian House’s transitional housing program, as well as space for approximately one dozen staff.
The Knott Foundation made a grant to Marian House to help install a new roof fitted with a state-of-the-art solar photovoltaic system on their headquarters building. Marian House’s headquarters now produces 75%-100% of its own energy. Any surplus energy is sold back to the power company, thereby creating a new revenue stream for the organization.
The Ripple Effect
Rooted in the Catholic tradition of their founders, the Sisters of Mercy and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the work that Marian House does both to help homeless women and to be good environmental stewards has a broad positive impact.
“The focus of Marian House is to help women get back on their feet again, because women are often the primary teachers for their children. In that way, the ripple effect of Marian House is really quite extraordinary,” states Pete McIver, Director of Operations.
When talking about her time in the program, one resident reflects: “I now want a career, not just a job. It’s the first time I’ve had a chance to do that. ” Marian House has clearly helped her unlock her potential and envision a brighter future for herself.
By Kelly Medinger
Saint Margaret Parish uses Catholic activities grant to replace aging roof
Upon entering Saint Margaret Church, a magnificent prism of colorful stained glass shines over the baptistery. A large portion of the glass was actually closed off to direct sunlight until Saint Margaret replaced its roof and opened up the feature to natural light. “It has made such a difference for the presentation of this space,” proclaims Sandy Laird, Facilities Manager. “It was dark, and now it’s light and much more spacious.”
Lighting the Way
Each weekend, 3,000 people attend Mass at Saint Margaret Parish, a Roman Catholic community with two locations in the heart of Bel Air, Maryland. As the largest parish in Harford County – and one of the largest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore – Saint Margaret serves as the center of Catholic spiritual life for thousands of families.
The pastor, Monsignor Michael Schleupner, explains the overall design of the worship space: “When you’re walking from the narthex into the sanctuary, the surrounding stained glass panels have a water-like effect. It’s as if you’re walking through the waters of baptism, which you need before entering the church to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist.”
Replacing the 30-year-old roof of the church was the first phase of a larger renovation project at Saint Margaret, partially funded by an even larger campaign for the entire Archdiocese. “We raised a record amount of money from this parish for the Archdiocesan campaign, while also raising money for our own capital needs,” shares Monsignor Schleupner.
“While we’re a large parish, we’re still a working class parish,” Monsignor Schleupner states. Support for the campaign is evident among a wide base of donors, who have all contributed what they can to make the church’s dream a reality. Among those donors, Saint Margaret received a capital grant from the Knott Foundation to help replace the aging roof. In this case, the construction project not only fortified the building, but also brought a new element of light and beauty to the entrance of the church.
Community building is an integral part of the Catholic Church’s mission, and the campaign and renovations of Saint Margaret have brought the parish community together in multiple ways. For a time, parishioners attended Mass in the school gym, which the Liturgy Committee transformed into a worship space. People not only continued to come to Mass at Saint Margaret throughout the renovations, but many made personal gifts to the campaign.
With a new roof and other infrastructure upgrades, Saint Margaret Parish has turned its attention to enhancing the feeling of fellowship in the interior church. It is this strong feeling of communion with God and one another that makes Saint Margaret the spiritual home for so many Catholic families throughout Harford County.
By Kelly Medinger
Brook Lane Health Services uses health care grant to construct a new hospital wing for children
When a single mother whose six-year-old son was in need of inpatient mental health services in Hagerstown and there was no bed available at Brook Lane, the child and his mother were taken by ambulance to the next nearest in-patient facility, 75 miles away. Once the child was admitted there, the mother had to find affordable transportation back to Hagerstown, and then negotiate trips back and forth to Baltimore to be with her child, all while keeping her job.
Kids Need Room Campaign
Located in Hagerstown, Maryland, Brook Lane offers a continuum of mental health services for children, adolescents, and adults. It is the only inpatient psychiatric facility for children and adolescents in the Western Maryland region.
In 2013, Brook Lane turned away 732 children and adolescents because all of their beds were full. A child who is turned away must remain in the emergency room until a bed is available, travel an hour or more to the nearest alternative facility, or return home without treatment.
To help kids get the specialized care they need and better serve families in the region, Brook Lane launched the Kids Need Room campaign. The campaign’s cornerstone was the construction of a new hospital wing with 14 single occupancy rooms for children. Brook Lane raised just over $2 million for the project, including a capital grant from the Knott Foundation.
More Room to Help People
When the new hospital wing opened in 2015, the number of beds available at Brook Lane increased from 43 to 57. Twenty-five staff were added to accommodate the growth in patient census and facility upkeep. This extra capacity allows them to care for 400 to 500 more children and adolescents each year, greatly reducing those who must be turned away.
Intakes at Brook Lane are done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, where patients receive crisis stabilization in a safe and therapeutic environment. Kids most often come directly from the emergency room at a hospital with diagnoses of bipolar disorder or major depression, and they stay an average of six to eight days before being released with a treatment plan.
Saving Lives One Room at a Time
Over the past 65 years, Brook Lane has provided education and treatment to improve patients’ emotional and behavioral well-being. “We’re saving lives. We’re making lives better for people who are dealing with mental illness, whether it’s a coping skills issue, a behavioral issue, or a chemical imbalance,” says Kay Hoffman, Director of Development.
“When they find out where I work, people often joke by saying, ‘Save me a room!’” says Hoffman. “I always respond, ‘Do you know how lucky you are that we even have a room?” Indeed, the mother from Hagerstown whose son ended up in Baltimore is a fitting depiction of how Brook Lane can make a difference, one room at a time.
By Kelly Medinger
Notre Dame Prep uses education grant to construct a new center on campus dedicated to science, technology, engineering, art, and math
Two students, Francesca Zink ’16 and Victoria Niller ’16, stand in a room full of students and talk excitedly about robotics. They explain that last year they teamed up and designed a robot named Tank the Shark. While it took only three days to design Tank, it took months to construct him, wire him to a control panel, master how to power his movements, and give him a distinctive personality. This year they have teamed up again, and their robot’s movements are automated by a computer program they wrote. (In a show of Maryland pride, he’s a racehorse with a Preakness theme.)
About NDP and STEAM
At Notre Dame Preparatory School (NDP), a Catholic school for girls in grades 6-12 sponsored by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, students have a multitude of opportunities to interact with the worlds of science, technology, engineering, art, and math, or STEAM.
In 2014, the Knott Foundation helped to fund the construction of a new STEAM center on campus. The center is a glass-enclosed space peppered with state-of-the-art equipment and bustling with activity. “At least once a day someone stops in front of the glass to see what’s happening,” shares Patrick Cusick, Engineering Teacher.
Interest in engineering at NDP has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2012, 11 students were enrolled in Introduction to Engineering. Four years later that number is projected to be 54 students in the introductory class and an additional 12 in Design/Build Engineering, the more advanced course.
Yet engineering is not a singular effort. It is about teamwork, including understanding and communicating the team’s product and process for getting there. Francesca adds, “Engineering isn’t just math and science. It’s also people skills. You really need to explain what you’re doing, and NDP prepares us well for that.”
“Everyone puts their part into the team,” Francesca notes. “I think that’s so cool about engineering. You’re not just in your cubicle; you’re bouncing ideas off each other.”
The teamwork at NDP goes beyond the students and encompasses the faculty and academic departments as well. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, STEAM subjects are incorporated into the humanities (for example, students 3D print the skull of Yorick from Hamlet) and the theatre program, where engineering students conceptualize and construct set designs for the theatre program.
While the STEAM program and center at NDP provide the skills, awareness, and confidence for girls to excel in these subjects, the benefit extends beyond these areas. “What strikes me the most is the joy,” declares Marianne Reichelt, Acting Principal. “The students in the STEAM center are always energetic and engaged. It’s the classroom where the students are the most excited.” Victoria agrees: “The engineering class is the reason I decided to come to NDP.”
By Kelly Medinger
Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore uses education grant to inspire, empower, and nurture scholars to succeed in school and in life
Living up to the organization’s tag line to “inspire, empower, nurture, succeed,” Boys Hope Girls Hope was founded by a Jesuit priest in 1977 to help academically capable and motivated children-in-need meet their full potential by providing them with an excellent education and a nurturing home. The Knott Foundation has supported their work since Boys Hope Girls Hope came to Baltimore in 2002, most recently with a grant to help pay educational expenses for their 16 scholars, including books, uniforms, field trips, and transportation.
Scholars are referred to Boys Hope Girls Hope (BHGH) by teachers, guidance counselors, and social service agencies who see both potential in a child and barriers to their success, such as economic hardship, domestic abuse, or poor supervision. After extensive psycho-educational evaluations, several visits to the BHGH homes, and in close partnership with the child’s parents, the student moves in.
This year, two new scholars joined BHGH. With the encouragement of her middle school guidance counselor, Brianna, now a freshman at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, lobbied her family to allow her to join the program. While she admits it was hard to leave her mom, grandmother and sister, after just four months at BHGH Brianna already feels at home: “I see Boys Hope Girls Hope as a second family. The other girls in the house are my big sisters.”
Once a new scholar moves in, BHGH staff helps identify a private college-preparatory school in the Baltimore area that best fits the scholar’s academic needs and interests. Outside of school, scholars are encouraged to expand their horizons through service, job opportunities, sports, travel, and music.
“The community service we do comes from our foundation of faith,” says Jennifer Meyerhoff, Development Director. Scholars volunteer at local nonprofits including Beans & Bread and First Fruits Farm, and they work at places like Downtown Sailing Center and WYPR. In addition, they take part in many extra-curricular activities. Joshua, a freshman at Gilman School, plays four instruments and also plays lacrosse with a program called Next One Up.
A typical day at BHGH begins with a 6:00 wake-up call. All the scholars leave for school at 6:45. Dinner is at 6:30, followed by two hours of required study time. Lights are out by 9:30 for middle schoolers and 10:30 for high schoolers.
While their days are highly structured, building scholars of character and compassion also comes from nurturing one another. As the oldest of five children, Noe, a junior at Calvert Hall College High School, grew up caring for his younger siblings. “Noe is now a leader among the boys in the house and takes his role as the oldest male scholar very seriously,” says Meyerhoff.
Scholars from BHGH go on to achieve great things in life. Dwayne, a junior at Loyola University Maryland, recently became BHGH’s first scholar to study abroad. Another scholar, David, recently graduated from Morgan State University with a Master’s Degree in Social Work and is working full-time. A current scholar, Cierra, is a senior at the Institute of Notre Dame with hopes of studying engineering in college. She sums up the program like this: “Boys Hope Girls Hope is like co-parenting. It is truly a partnership between the program, the parent, and the scholar.”
Photo Credit: Stevie T. Photography
By Kelly Medinger
Fire Museum of Maryland uses arts and humanities grant to put a spotlight on technology, democracy, and heroism
Standing in front of the new Fire Alarm Office at the Fire Museum of Maryland, a group of school children chant, “911, fire! 911, fire!” They clearly know who to call and what to say when they see a fire.
A Story about Saving Lives
Founded in 1971, the Fire Museum appears to be one of Baltimore’s best kept secrets. It is one of the largest fire museums in the country and holds some of the oldest pieces of fire equipment. “Together our 41 pieces tell the story of American urban firefighting,” shares Steve Heaver, Director and Curator of the Museum. “It is the story of how people help people. How they save their lives.”
Each year more than 12,000 people come to the Fire Museum to tour its collection, conduct research in its archives, participate in a special event, or even celebrate a birthday party. The Museum relies on a team of approximately 25 people, half of them volunteers, to keep things running smoothly.
Even with a small budget and a small staff, Heaver has a big vision: double the number of visitors to the Fire Museum to 25,000. He estimates that they can achieve this goal without increasing staffing or overhead, simply by taking advantage of economies of scale. “It’s not beyond the realm of possibility,” he says with a smile.
A Path of Technological Innovation
Walking through the museum is like taking a step into the history of fighting fire. Visitors follow a path of technological innovation from the earliest years of hand drawn firefighting (1654 – Civil War), through the horse drawn period (1852 – World War I), and then finally the motorized era (1906 – present). Each piece of the collection is cared for and restored by the staff and speaks to the ingenuity of humankind. Many pieces in the collection are even from our own backyard – Baltimore City, Boonsboro, Ellicott City, and the Violetville neighborhood, to name a few.
The Knott Foundation recently helped the Fire Museum renovate lighting for its exhibit space. With this grant and gifts from multiple other donors, the Museum replaced all of its 1971 fluorescent lamp fixtures and installed new LED lights as well as some track spot lights. “The new lights not only save energy and keep the artifacts from fading, they are much more visually pleasing,” Heaver comments.
By telling the story of American urban firefighting, the Fire Museum manages to be so much more than a museum: It becomes a lesson in democracy and making decisions. It serves as an example of technology improving peoples’ lives. And it ultimately stands as a witness to heroism.
By Kelly Medinger
Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital uses health care grant to “grow their own” pediatric specialty nursing workforce
Caring and nursing are synonymous in our society. Yet to be caring specialists for patients, nurses need a support system of their own. That is how the Grow Your Own program at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore got its start.
What is Grow Your Own?
Grow Your Own (GYO) is a pediatric nursing professional development program that includes a year-long residency for new nursing graduates or those new to pediatrics. It includes an orientation curriculum with classes like “Flu and Electrolytes” that utilize case studies and a simulation lab to foster problem solving, critical thinking, and technical skills. Interdisciplinary team building is another component of the program. Once a month, a “Mock Code” takes place in the simulation lab to improve communication between healthcare team members. Finally, GYO supports ongoing professional development for nurses at all levels by providing accredited continuing education courses and preparation for pediatric specialty certification.
“Change is constant in health care,” remarks Sharon Meadows, MS, RN-BC, Director of Education & Professional Development. “There is always new knowledge and new evidence out there to be integrated into practice.” Add to that the hyper-specialized nature of pediatric transitional care, and the need to “grow your own” team of highly-trained nurses becomes even more important.
About Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital
Founded in 1922, Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital was one of the first healthcare institutions in the United States devoted solely to the care of children. In their early years, they saw children suffering from rheumatic fever, polio, and influenza. Today, they serve 7,500 children each year for conditions such as feeding disorders, congenital challenges, diabetes, and more.
In many ways, Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital is the bridge between a child’s stay in a more medically-intensive environment, like the ICU, and the child’s home. This transitional care environment means that the hospital’s medical staff work closely with parents to make sure each child’s healing continues well beyond the hospital stay.
From Pilot to Permanent
Since beginning as a pilot in 2009, the GYO program has exhibited impressive results in helping the more than 100 nurses at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital learn and grow.
During the year the Knott Foundation supported GYO, the 12-month retention rate for new nurses was 100%, compared to just 50% prior to GYO’s founding. Meanwhile, 10 nurses received their specialty certification. These positive results have persisted. The hospital now boasts nursing retention of 100% at 6 months, 95% at 12 months, and 83% at 18 months. Also, the number of certified nurses has grown to reach 30% of their nursing workforce.
With a track record of consistent, positive results, the GYO program has gone from being a pilot program supported by grant funding to being a permanent program sustained by the hospital’s budget. “Grant funding allowed us to build the program and demonstrate success for a few years. We couldn’t have done what we did without grant support,” Meadows recalls.
Reflecting on the GYO program’s impact, Meadows says: “The whole Grow Your Own program has really increased the level of expertise in our hospital and helped us retain our new nurses. This helps improve the quality of care and safety of our patient population – which is really what we aim to do in the education department. We help our staff be experts at what they do.”
By Kelly Medinger
The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton uses Catholic activities grant to build a successful retreat program
“Sacredness is a big part of why people like to come to Mother Seton’s Shrine,” says Rob Judge, Executive Director of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. “That sense of peacefulness and sacredness permeates this place.”
About the Shrine
Located in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the mission of the Shrine is to promote the life and legacy of Mother Seton, the first native-born Catholic American saint, as a source of inspiration and encouragement for all people. The Shrine is home to a museum and historical grounds that pay tribute to the life and work of Mother Seton, and a Basilica where she is laid to rest.
Today, the Shrine welcomes more than 45,000 visitors each year. Additionally, approximately 60 religious sisters reside on the campus of the Shrine. “Through our work, the sisters hope that more people will be drawn to the Shrine, that their experience will bring them closer to God, that they will see Mother Seton’s witness of charity to the poor, and that they will go home and want to live that out in their own lives,” Judge says.
Building the Retreat Program
To further its mission, the Shrine recently expanded its day retreat program with support from the Knott Foundation. From large confirmation retreats with 80 eighth graders, to faculty and staff retreats from area Catholic schools, to small parish groups, the Shrine is now a bustling retreat center.
During the grant period, the Shrine held 29 retreats, up from 6 retreats the previous year. With an average retreat size of 35 people, the program also brought many new visitors to campus. Overall visitorship to the Shrine increased significantly during the grant period. The upcoming 40th anniversary of the canonization of Mother Seton will offer a unique opportunity to continue to grow the retreat program.
Connecting the Dots
“When the groups are here, they’re able to spend time in the museum, watch the orientation film about Mother Seton, take a walking tour through the historic campus, attend Mass in the Basilica, and make private devotions in the chapel,” remarks Erica Colliflower, Retreat Coordinator. Notably, most organizers indicate that they would have hosted their retreat at a hotel, or not at all, if it were not for the Shrine’s retreat facilities.
“Being able to take advantage of all of these different services we offer really connects the dots for our retreatants,” Colliflower continues. “They see the whole picture and are able to walk with Mother Seton along her journey as a convert, a mother, a widow, a foundress, and a saint.”
By Kelly Medinger
Adoptions Together uses human services grant to help foster children in Baltimore City find permanent connections as they age out of the system
Turning 18 is a rite of passage for any young person, but it can be especially perilous for those in foster care.
“Studies show that kids aging out of foster care without a permanent point of contact are much more likely to end up homeless within 18 months, have interactions with the justice system, face lower job prospects, and have fewer future educational opportunities,” shares Jeanette Stoltzfus, Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations.
Adoptions Together and the Family Find Program
With a mission to build healthy, lifelong connections between children and families, Adoptions Together launched a program in 2011 to connect youth in Baltimore City aging out of foster care to a permanent relationship. The program, called Family Find Step Down, intersects the fields of social work, law enforcement, and investigations to produce the best result for a child.
“Every person needs someone to celebrate a holiday with and someone who will support them when they need it,” Stoltzfus explains. Adoptions Together begins that search by asking the child who they want that person to be. Sometimes it is a family member, and sometimes it is a teacher, a mentor, or a friend. For children who have been in the foster system for a long time, locating that person can be time consuming.
The Process of Finding People
Enter Dana Smoot, retired Maryland State trooper and criminal investigator. Through a grant from the Knott Foundation, Smoot was brought on to launch an “extreme recruitment” program where Adoptions Together works with Baltimore City Department of Social Services to link foster children to lifelong family connections.
“Basically, my job is to find people,” Smoot says. “While social workers provide direct services to children and families and law enforcement officers are out on the street, I am at my desk and able to devote my time to being analytical and persistent in locating the right people.” Smoot then passes along contact information of the people she has found to social workers who begin the process of engagement and building a permanent connection for the youth in care.
Her work has paid off. During the year-long grant period, Smoot conducted more than 2,300 searches and provided more than 300 prospective leads to child welfare professionals, which eventually helped to link 50 foster youth to a healthy, lifelong connection. After the Foundation’s funding expired, Adoptions Together, Baltimore City Department of Social Services, and the State of Maryland all recognized the benefits of the position and agreed to invest in the Family Find Step Down program.
Seventeen-year-old Daryl entered foster care at age two and is one of Adoptions Together’s clients. Daryl longed to connect with his birth family but didn’t know much about them, much less how to find them. Using a variety of medical records, court documents, and private and public databases, Smoot located Daryl’s mother and three of his siblings. Since then, Daryl and his mother are in weekly phone contact.
Daryl turns 18 soon and is lucky to have a new family to celebrate holidays with: his own.
By Kelly Medinger
St. Elizabeth School uses education grant to purchase SMART Boards
The hallways of St. Elizabeth School bustle with activity as students return to class after lunch in the cafeteria. In some ways, it seems like a typical school, but in other ways, it feels more special than that.
A Special Place
St. Elizabeth School, a ministry sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, opened in 1961. Today, the School serves 120 students in the Baltimore metro area, ages 6-21, who have been diagnosed with disabilities such as autism, traumatic brain injury, emotional disabilities, intellectual disabilities, orthopedic or other physical impairments, or multiple disabilities.
“Every child with special needs deserves an appropriate education, and at St. Elizabeth School, we do more than that,” affirms Christine Manlove, Ed.D., Executive Director. Oftentimes students have struggled in other environments but flourish at St. Elizabeth, benefiting from skilled teaching, onsite clinical and therapeutic services, integrated use of assistive technology, a robust workforce development and transition program, and above all, an atmosphere of mutual respect and a sense of belonging.
Investing in SMART Infrastructure
The Knott Foundation has awarded St. Elizabeth School more than $100,000 over the past decade for capital needs, academic programs, and technology purchases. Most recently, the School received a $45,000 grant to install SMART Boards in seven classrooms, which advanced their focus on integrating technology to improve students’ learning experience.
Witnessing a lesson on the SMART Board, it is clear that the interactive animation and instant feedback that the SMART Board offers captivates the students. “Hearing automatic applause in front of the whole class when choosing the right answer is uplifting and encouraging,” Dr. Manlove observes. “It’s different than a teacher simply saying ‘right answer’ or ‘good job.’”
St. Elizabeth approached measuring the impact of the SMART Boards in their classrooms in a unique way. Through pre- and post- surveys, and comparisons to behavioral incident reports filed through the national School-Wide Information Systems (SWIS) database, they were able to observe measurable improvements in both student behavior and time devoted to educational tasks when the SMART Boards were in operation.
For example, when a SMART Board is being used in the classroom, the number of behavior incident reports decreases by 28.5%. And better behavior means more time focused on task. St. Elizabeth estimates that they earn back nearly seven educational days from the use of the SMART Boards over the course of an academic year.
Dr. Manlove concludes: “Without technology, our students would be isolated from the world in so many ways. No one would know how brilliant they are. Technology has allowed us to give them the tools they need to realize their full potential.”
By Kelly Medinger
The Star Spangled Banner Flag House uses arts and humanities grant to showcase Baltimore’s role in our nation’s history
Sometimes we forget the importance that Baltimore plays in this nation’s history… and sometimes we can forget the role that museums, like the Star Spangled Banner Flag House, play in reminding us of this history.
A Journey Back in Time
Touring the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House is like taking a 200-year journey through time and back again. On the Flag House’s campus in downtown Baltimore sits both a home built in 1793 and a modern museum that opened in 2004. Together, these buildings tell the story of the American flag that Mary Pickersgill sewed, which inspired the poem that became our National Anthem.
“Flags were a very important means of communication,” explains the museum’s docent. “They would signal everything from a company name, to a ship’s cargo, to a country’s land.” The American flag that Mary Pickersgill sewed came with special instructions: make a flag so large that the British could not miss it.
When it was finished, the flag measured 40 feet by 32 feet. Today, the Flag House’s campus contains a two-story Great Flag Window, which is the same size and design as the original.
Visiting the Flag House
Each year 12,000 visitors come to the Flag House to learn about domestic life in early America, the making of the Star-Spangled Banner, the War of 1812, and the writing of the National Anthem. More than half of these visitors are students from Baltimore City and Baltimore County. “In 2012, we saw a large uptick in the number of classes coming to the Flag House due to the bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812. Since then, our numbers have remained high,” shares Annelise Montone, Executive Director.
Over the past several years, the Knott Foundation has awarded the Flag House multiple discretionary grants to support the organization’s general operations and exhibits. The Foundation’s discretionary grant program provides awards between $500 and $2,500 and serves as a way for trustees to support organizations that most interest them – such as telling the story of Baltimore’s role in our nation’s great history to students and families who live here.
A New Exhibit
While telling a story that is 200 years old, the Flag House also has its eyes set on the future. On February 12, 2014, the birthday of Mary Pickersgill, a new permanent exhibit detailing Mary’s creation of the most famous flag in American history will open on campus. “It will be the first of its kind,” relays Montone. “There has never been a museum exhibit exclusively focused on this extremely important moment in history. We think it is high time there was.”
By Kelly Medinger
Shepherd’s Clinic uses health care grant to serve those who need it most
Since 1991, Shepherd’s Clinic has grown from a small medical clinic located in the basement of Seventh Baptist Church to an integrative health center recording, at its height, 18,000 volunteer hours and 9,440 patient visits in one year.
The Clinic serves patients whose income falls below 200% of the federal poverty index, and their catchment area includes the Waverly, Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello, Hampden and surrounding neighborhoods of Baltimore City.
A Mission Connection to Union Memorial Hospital
“The Clinic was originally founded to help the many non-urgent, uninsured patients going to Union Memorial’s emergency department,” shares Melissa DeLong, M.D., Medical Director. The connection to Union Memorial became deeper when Dr. William H.M. Finney, former Chief of Staff at Union Memorial, became the Clinic’s first volunteer Medical Director. “Dr. Finney set the tone for the Clinic, bringing an inspiring spirit of service and steadfast dedication to patient care,” DeLong remarks.
Today, Shepherd’s Clinic’s holistic approach to serving patients is a hallmark of the Clinic. Their campus includes a medical clinic, lab, as well as a full-service wellness center. The Joy Wellness Center offers psychiatric consultations, massage therapy, acupuncture, yoga classes, walking groups, and cooking lessons, among other things.
A Volunteer-Driven Clinic
Notably, all of Shepherd’s Clinic’s direct patient care services are provided by a vast and committed volunteer base. Volunteers range from the enthusiastic pre-med students from Johns Hopkins University manning the front desk, to the pharmacy students from Notre Dame of Maryland University’s School of Pharmacy, to the nurses, primary care physicians and specialists seeing patients every day.
The Knott Foundation has provided Shepherd’s Clinic with more than $180,000 since 2000, largely to support the Clinic’s general operations. During the most recent grant period, the Clinic saw record growth in patient visits – so much that the organization had to reaffirm its service area in the neighborhood to ensure continuation and quality of care as well as organizational stability.
Reform on the Horizon
Healthcare reform will mark another defining point in the Clinic’s growth and history. Many of Shepherd’s Clinic’s patients will be eligible for medical assistance under new federal guidelines, and others will be eligible for products on the healthcare exchange.
Even with these new measures in place, however, it is still expected that patients will experience gaps in coverage. Care will not be seamless, and people will still need an advocate to help them understand the system and reassure them that they will be taken care of. Shepherd’s Clinic will continue to meet the demand for free and affordable health care by adapting into a hybrid model that includes the existing free clinic for the uninsured, a new fee-based clinic, and a navigation service to help people acquire health coverage.
DeLong concludes, “While our model may shift some in the coming years, our mission to provide quality comprehensive care in the community to those who need it most will remain constant.”
By Kelly Medinger
Ignatian Volunteer Corps uses Catholic activities grant to grow the number of volunteers in Baltimore
Love is shown more in deeds than in words,” St. Ignatius wrote. Today, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps lives out this principle by serving the poor, by working for a more just society, and by imparting the Catholic tradition of Ignatian spirituality.
A national network, headquartered in Baltimore, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) provides retired men and women opportunities to volunteer in their local communities while deepening their faith. Volunteers typically work two days per week in a social service agency and also participate in
organized group meetings and spiritual reflection exercises.
Growing the Number of Volunteers in Baltimore
The Knott Foundation made an early investment in IVC to help test their plans for dramatically increasing the organization’s number of volunteers. The grant allowed IVC’s Baltimore regional office – which had been in danger of closing – to hire a Regional Director who, in just one year, demonstrated significant results: Ten new volunteers recruited. Seven partner agencies added. An extra 4,500 hours of service performed. $20,000 in new partnership fees secured. And nearly $13,500 in individual gifts and fundraising event income raised.
These results, along with important data about the retiring population and rising social service needs, led IVC to launch a national campaign to raise $1 million and double the number of IVC volunteers over three years.
Launching a National Campaign
“The Magnify! Campaign recognizes the tremendous talent and opportunity that exists in the growing retired population,” states Mary McGinnity, National Executive Director. “Every day over the next two decades, 10,000 Baby Boomers will celebrate their 65th birthday. IVC is a great outlet for them to stay active, give back to the community, and grow in their faith.”
“Many IVC volunteers have lived their lives without really having known or worked with the poor,” continues Mary. “When they come to us, they are transformed through their experience.”
The Volunteer Experience
One such couple is George and Mary Jean Schuette, married 39 years, who joined IVC last year. George, a former Social Security employee, now works at Project PLASE, a housing and support services provider for the homeless. Mary Jean, a former Catholic school teacher, tutors GED students at Christopher Place Employment Academy, an intensive residential program for formerly homeless men. Each night George and Mary Jean recall the discerning question of their spiritual reflector, “Where do you find God in your work with these men?”
Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH, Baltimore’s Regional Director, sums it up: “Volunteer service in and of itself is wonderful. Volunteer service rooted in faith, like Ignatian spirituality, has a deeper meaning. Prayer and reflection allow our volunteers to take back a new understanding of, and a new perspective to, their work and their lives.”
By Kelly Medinger
The League for People With Disabilities uses human services grant to generate jobs and revenue
Words like “variable data printing” and “tray sequence numbers” are standard vocabulary at League Industries, a program of The League for People with Disabilities. As a full-service print and mail house operation, League Industries utilizes an array of commercial-grade automated equipment and an affirmative business model employing people with and without disabilities to do over $1 million of business every year.
Taking League Industries from Small Shop to Big Business
League Industries was founded in 1933 to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the past 80 years, the operation has evolved from a small workshop where people with disabilities constructed lampshades, to an affirmative, social enterprise that has successfully secured major direct mail and printing contracts from local, state, and private business entities.
The League for People with Disabilities (“The League”) offers individuals the opportunity to gain independence, increase self-sufficiency, and improve their overall quality of life through rehabilitative and support programs. League Industries is a special program of The League that provides employment for skilled individuals with physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities, while also helping to subsidize The League’s general programming.
“League Industries was founded as a way to keep people employed and perform job training. But it’s become a real social enterprise,” shares David A. Greenberg, CEO of The League. Indeed, League Industries’ business has grown 35% over the last two years. It generated nearly $170,000 for The League last year. “Frankly, the financial support from this operation helps us run important programs like our state-of-the-art wellness center and provide more scholarships to Camp Greentop, which are important to both our clients and the broader community,” remarks Greenberg.
How a Grant Augmented the Capacity of the Enterprise
The Knott Foundation has awarded more than $150,000 to The League since 2000. The most recent grant allowed League Industries to hire a Customer Service Representative and purchase commercial-grade mail house equipment, including a high capacity paper cutter, binding machine, printer and envelope inserter.
With the help of the added staff, League Industries was able to focus on more intense business development activities. Thanks to the Knott Foundation’s support, the added staff and machinery enabled League Industries to secure new, multi-year contracts worth over $250,000. Meanwhile, the new staff person was able to implement a more regular billing system, which reduced the number of outstanding account balances four-fold and increased the cash flow of the operation.
The benefits, however, extend far beyond financial subsidies. “Seeing League Industries makes you think about how important work is to life. In the typical workplace, you tend to hear people complain about work. But here, people love to work. Here, work is like gold,” says Greenberg.
By Kelly Medinger
Junior Achievement of Central Maryland uses education grant to build financial literacy among Catholic school students
How many young people can calculate the value of a stock portfolio or define the difference between gross and net income? Nine in ten Catholic school seventh and eighth graders could, after participating in Junior Achievement of Central Maryland’s Finance Park program.
Making Smart Academic and Economic Choices
“At Junior Achievement, we give young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices,” remarks Jennifer Bodensiek, President of Junior Achievement of Central Maryland (JA). JA’s programs are designed to deliver hands-on experiences that give young people the knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.
“JA helps students by supplying a real-world perspective that complements classroom learning,” Bodensiek says. “This approach is especially important given so many young people drop out or perform poorly in school because of boredom. This sense of boredom often stems from a disconnect between the classroom and the skills they perceive needing in the real world. The goal of JA programs and our cadre of trained corporate and community volunteers is to share life lessons to make learning come to life and be that connector between the classroom and the real world,” she adds.
Connecting with Young People
When it comes to connecting with more young people, JA has had great success. The organization currently serves 33,000 students annually in 12 Maryland counties, a 64% increase from the previous year. Over the last 15 years, the Knott Foundation has invested nearly $100,000 to support JA’s work in Catholic schools in particular. Most recently, a grant enabled more than 3,000 middle grade students and 800 elementary students to participate in JA’s two capstone programs, JA BizTown and JA Finance Park Virtual.
JA BizTown is an interactive experience where students visit a simulated town, work at assigned jobs, receive paychecks, buy and sell goods and services, and manage their business and personal finances. When students are older, they participate in JA Finance Park Virtual – a computer simulation where a student receives a unique profile (such as a married woman with two children making $40,000/year) and then plays the game of life, budgeting and investing her own money as various situations arise.
Taking the Program System-Wide in the Archdiocese
Notably, the Foundation’s grant was a key ingredient to helping take the JA Finance Park Virtual program system-wide in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The program is now taught to all seventh grade math students throughout the Archdiocesan school system. Students’ reactions have been positive. A recent graduate of St. Stephens School in Kingsville who took part in JA Finance Park Virtual even told her former teacher, “Keep doing Finance Park because it has already helped me in high school!”
By Kelly Medinger
Mother Seton School uses education grant to educate teachers and students
Some students use the classroom computer to print their homework because they don’t have a printer at home. Others need the computer for assistive technology to accommodate their learning needs. And yet others might use it to access an online dictionary and challenge a friend’s word during a heated Scrabble game. In all cases, students at Mother Seton School in northern Frederick County use technology in the classroom every day.
About Mother Seton School
Mother Seton School (MSS) is an independent Catholic school established by the Daughters of Charity in 1957. The School traces its roots back to St. Joseph Academy and Free School in Emmitsburg, which was founded 200 years ago by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton herself.
Today, MSS serves approximately 300 students in pre-k through eighth grade. The School is committed to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s legacy of providing Catholic education to students from families of diverse economic backgrounds, and as such, tuition is the lowest among all private schools in Frederick County.
From a Technology Grant…
With a grant from the Knott Foundation, Mother Seton School installed interactive ceiling mounted projectors in their remaining four classrooms without this equipment, purchased computer workstations for student use in each of the 16 classrooms, and provided staff development in instructional technology.
“The way I look at our school,” Principal Sr. JoAnne Goecke, D.C. shares, “is that it’s okay to take baby steps. The most important factor is to put real thought and planning into the purchases, and then to foster a culture among teachers of excitement and flexibility when it comes to new technology.”
To a Graduate Technology Course…
During the grant period, seven MSS faculty (which equates to one-third of their faculty) enrolled in a three-credit graduate course through Mount St. Mary’s University called “Integrating Technology into Instruction.” The course was offered on-site at the School. “We realized it would probably be more appropriate for the teachers in this building to have training using the technology they have here,” shares Laura Frazier, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Education at Mount St. Mary’s University and MSS Technology Committee member.
To Technology Utilization in the Classroom
“The class inspired me to use more equipment and not be afraid of it,” one teacher who completed the course comments. Dr. Frazier adds that graduate instruction goes well beyond teaching the technology tools used in today’s classrooms: “We look at how each technology tool enhances student learning, and we talk extensively about instructional decision-making. Using technology for the sake of using technology is not a good reason to use technology,” she affirms.
Sr. JoAnne ends by offering a striking analogy to using differentiated technology tools in the classroom: “It’s somewhat like a chalkboard. Are you going to use colored chalk or plain white chalk? That was the question long ago. Today the question is, ‘What tools are we going to use to help the children facilitate their learning?’”
By Kelly Medinger
The Red Devils use health care grant to support breast cancer patients in need
What does it mean to be a Red Devil?
The name itself references the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin, commonly used in the treatment of a wide range of cancers including breast cancer.
It is also the title of Katherine Russell Rich’s spirited memoir about her own breast cancer treatment entitled The Red Devil: To Hell with Cancer and Back (Metheun, 2002). The book inspired the mother of breast cancer patient Jessica Cowling, and she later adopted the team name The Red Devils for the Susan G. Komen Race. When Jessica and her friend Ginny Schardt died of breast cancer, the organization The Red Devils was founded in their honor.
Serving Breast Cancer Patients throughout Maryland
Ten years later, The Red Devils serves nearly 700 breast cancer patients and their families each year. The organization’s geographic reach has grown from one hospital in Baltimore to 39 hospitals across Maryland. Notably, they are able to serve all of these patients with only two staff members and a network of hospital coordinators, namely nurses and social workers. “It’s a brilliant business model that was created by our founders and has served us well,” shares Janice Wilson, Executive Director, explaining that the organization dramatically limits its overhead by vesting certain decisions with professional staff at the hospital level.
The Knott Foundation has awarded The Red Devils $60,000 in operating support over the past five years, ultimately helping the organization grow from serving 500 patients in 2008 to nearly 700 in 2011. On average, The Red Devils provides each patient or family with $300 for critical needs, including transportation to treatment, family support, and medical costs.
Enhancing the Quality of Life
The support provided by The Red Devils enhances patients’ quality of life and promotes normalcy in a most traumatic time. “The Red Devils made it possible for survival. The pressure that I carried impacted my healing process. Your kindness and thoughtfulness gave me peace to heal,” commented one patient. Another simply stated, “I could not afford to go to my treatments without your support. You were a God send for me as I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
So what does it mean to be a Red Devil? It means a life-giving helping hand to someone in need. It means hope above despair. “Until there’s a cure for breast cancer, we need to be here,” Wilson concludes. “That’s why, for now, it’s great to be a Devil.”
By Kelly Medinger
Sisters Academy of Baltimore uses education grant to support girls well beyond their years at the Academy
In 2004, four congregations of religious women came together to respond to the community’s call for an all girls’ tuition-free middle school in southwest Baltimore. The result was Sisters Academy of Baltimore – founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of Bon Secours, Sisters of Mercy, and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur – which now serves 63 girls in grades 5-8.
Working Together to Foster a Welcoming Spirit
“It has been a once in a lifetime opportunity, to work together as educators and begin something from nothing,” comments Delia Dowling, SSND, President. She describes the collaborative effort of the four congregations of sisters as “the wave of the future and the Church,” in that religious communities are “stepping beyond themselves” to help meet unmet needs in the world. In Sisters Academy’s case, the needs are especially poignant: the students primarily come from west and southwest Baltimore, low-income neighborhoods where nearly half of the adult population has less than a 12th grade education.
A welcoming spirit embodies the Academy. Every morning, the girls begin their day in the gathering space for prayer. One empty chair always sits in the corner. “It is there to show that we always have room for someone else, that we will always welcome a newcomer,” explains Kafui Anthony, an 8th grade student.
The Knott Foundation’s Deeply Rooted Support
Since Sisters Academy opened eight years ago, the Knott Foundation has provided $130,000 to the school in grant support, most recently awarding $40,000 in October 2010 to support three priorities – the graduate support program, technology instruction, and salaries for masters-level teachers.
The graduate support program is integral to Sisters Academy’s graduates’ success, helping them in the selection and application process for high school and college while also guiding them through life after Sisters Academy. Notably, during the grant period, all fifteen 8th graders were accepted to Catholic high schools and received adequate financial aid to attend. In addition, 2012 marks a special year for the school with its first class of alumnae finishing high school. These 10 young women have been accepted to such colleges as Notre Dame of Maryland University, Stevenson University, Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania.
The Knott Foundation’s recent grant also supported the development of an integrated technology curriculum plan with specific learning goals by grade level. This planning helped, in part, to leverage $53,000 more in technology funding from sources such as the Abell Foundation and the University of Maryland BioPark.
Meanwhile, the grant supported two teachers who completed Operation TEACH, a post-graduate service program offered through Notre Dame University of Maryland where teachers earn their master’s degree while working in local Catholic schools. “In addition to developing capable and committed teachers, the program gave me a large teacher support system that doesn’t always exist in schools,” comments Regina Fabbroni, an Operation TEACH graduate who now teaches mathematics and social studies at Sisters Academy.
Transformative Education at its Best
In the end, Sisters Academy is about transforming girls’ lives, one at a time. One student who experienced particular hardships during her time at the Academy recently wrote to Sister Delia: “I look at where I am in my life today – the opportunities I have and doors that are opening up for me, and I ask myself ‘why me?’ …When I analyze just what was the pivotal factor in my life that set my success in stone – I know it was me attending and graduating from Sisters Academy.”
And so Sisters Academy’s mission of empowering girls to become agents of transformation in their families, communities, and society continues each day, with an open chair and a welcoming spirit for all who enter the school.
By Kelly Medinger
Gilchrist Hospice Care uses health care grant to support pediatric hospice
“To live – that’s really what we’re about. We don’t focus on the dying. We focus on enjoying what time remains,” declares Brenda Blunt, Gilchrist Kids Program Manager.
Gilchrist Hospice Care is the largest hospice provider in Maryland and serves 600 patients every day. Gilchrist Kids is a special program that serves pediatric patients. “One of the reasons we deliberately called the program ‘Gilchrist Kids’ and even created a different logo than the one used for our adult program is so that families didn’t have to see the word ‘hospice’ every day,” explains Brenda. Understandably, hospice is associated with the end of life and represents an especially difficult development for any family whose child is suffering from a terminal disease.
A Founding Supporter of Gilchrist Kids
The Knott Foundation was one of the founding supporters of the Gilchrist Kids program when it began in 2010. During the grant period, Gilchrist Kids grew from serving 4 patients to 15 patients per day.
The patients are most often referred from pediatric units at large Baltimore area hospitals such as Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland Medical Center, and Sinai Hospital. Approximately half of them have cancer, while the other half suffer from conditions including congenital anomalies, degenerative neurological diseases, AIDS, traumatic injuries, end-stage organ diseases, or rare genetic disorders.
Kids Just Want to Be Kids
Even though they are ill, most of the pediatric patients “still just want to be kids,” says Brenda.
So Gilchrist’s strong corps of volunteers helps each family to maintain a happy home life and sense of normalcy. A volunteer might decorate a child’s bed, bake cupcakes for school, cook dinner for the family, or even walk the family dog.
Beyond these volunteer efforts, the professional support Gilchrist Kids provides to families is exceptionally comprehensive: 24-hour on-call nursing visits; pain and symptom management; healthcare benefit navigation assistance; medication and medical supply delivery to the home; a child life specialist to work through complicated emotions with parents and siblings; bereavement support; and family and community outreach and education.
Pediatric Hospice Care – A Specialized Operation
It is important to note that the financial burden of running this type of comprehensive program is not light. Gilchrist Kids employs a team that includes a medical director and two medical consultants to oversee the staff: a neonatologist, a pediatric oncologist, and a general practice pediatrician, all with very specialized knowledge.
Moreover, their team of nurses, aides, counselors, and volunteers must travel to each child’s home to provide care. When compared to adults, it is estimated that these visits to pediatric hospice patients are twice as frequent and last twice as long.
The price of pediatric equipment is also very high – a pediatric hospice bed, for instance, can cost $12,000, and specially designed chest vests that help with breathing and secretions are $15,000. To help cover the multitude of uncompensated costs that arise, Gilchrist Kids must raise up to $200,000 every year.
Helping Those Who Need It Most
Yet all of these resources are priceless to each patient and family in the program. Brenda recalls one baby that Gilchrist Kids recently served:
When the baby was born, they didn’t expect him to go home. Two days later, the mom was ready to be discharged but she didn’t want to leave the baby in the NICU. She and her husband decided to call Gilchrist Kids, and we helped them bring their baby home. A couple days later, the mom said to us, “Wow, this is kind of fun – being a parent.” It turns out they had not prepared for being just “mom and dad.” They were first-time parents and were very grateful for all the help the nurses were providing, including education on normal baby care and how to bond with your baby. In the end, their baby lived for 12 days. When he died, the mom hugged me and whispered, “Thank you for taking something that could have been so horrible, and for making it not be.”
And that is the power of Gilchrist Kids: focusing on life and celebrating it until the very end.
By Kelly Medinger
Catholic Community at Relay uses Catholic activities grant to create a new entrance to their church
On the day of First Holy Communion, friends and family of the Catholic Community at Relay bounded up the steps to the small church to see their children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren receive this important sacrament. Yet not all family members were able to climb the stairs, so some used the newly constructed ramp leading to the church’s entrance.
Building the Ramp
As with any church built in 1880, the Catholic Community at Relay (CCR) was peppered with steps and narrow passages until they embarked on a major renovation project to make the church more accessible to those with disabilities. The Knott Foundation helped fund the construction of a ramp leading up to the church’s entrance, which provides people in wheelchairs, with walkers, on crutches, or even those pushing strollers easy access to the worship space.
“A large part of my healing is being back in my faith community,” lifelong CCR member, Elise Cole, proclaims. Due to a knee injury, the young mother of three has relied on crutches for nearly a year, so she is especially grateful for the ramp.
In addition to solving a physical access issue, the construction project served as a community building experience for CCR. All 100 households belonging to the faith community, representing more than 250 individuals in total, contributed volunteer time and/or financial resources to the effort. Notably, CCR exceeded its fundraising goal for the work by 30%. And one CCR member even recruited a local Boy Scout to undertake the landscaping and hardscaping surrounding the new ramp as his Eagle Scout project.
Being an Intentional Eucharistic Community
CCR is an intentional eucharistic community located in the historic village of Relay, Maryland. It is ecclesiastically approved by the Archdiocese of Baltimore but different than a traditional parish. Visiting priests, usually from religious orders such as the Franciscans, Jesuits, or Trinitarians, celebrate mass on Sunday. Beyond that, each member of the community takes full responsibility for running CCR. “An underlying theme is that every member has a vested interest in the church. We are all responsible, from managing the finances, to emptying the trash, to cleaning the church. Volunteerism is something we see in every aspect of what we do,” states Greg Bean, CCR member.
Connie Maas, CCR member, concludes: “The words ‘faith community’ really sum it up. We are bounded by our faith, and we work together as a family to support each other, our own spiritual growth, and our commitment to actively carry out the message of Christ.”
By Kelly Medinger
Second Chance uses human services grant to turn lives around
52,000 labor hours created. $3.2 million consumer dollars saved. 11 million pounds of landfill waste diverted. And that was just in one year!
Founded in 2001, Second Chance provides people, materials, and the environment with “a second chance.” The organization deconstructs buildings and homes, salvages usable materials, and then sells them to the public. The sales proceeds funnel into their workforce development program, which provides job training and placement to those with employment obstacles in the Baltimore region.
Turning Job Training Into Social Benefit
“It was hard to fully appreciate the social benefit of what we do until the first four guys graduated from our job training program,” Mark Foster, Founder and Executive Director, says with emotion in his eyes. “Then I saw what it actually meant – to watch four guys completely turn their lives around.”
Yet the turn is not an easy one. Job trainees must pass a rigorous two-week evaluation and qualifying period, which includes life and safety skills development, and then embark on 16 weeks of on-the-job technical instruction in how to use numerous types of power tools, hand tools, and equipment. Upon completion of the program, qualified trainees receive additional, specialized training in lead abatement and other hazardous materials removal and handling, as well as forklift operation. And those motivated to advance further can go on to receive certificates in carpentry, restoration, manufacturing, plumbing, electrical and masonry. In the end, trainees are placed in green jobs at companies such as Hirsch Electric and Waste Management System.
Expanding All Under One Roof
With funding from the Knott Foundation, Second Chance expanded the capacity of its job training program from 10 new trainees in 2010 to 30 in 2011, and they grew to reach more than 50 in 2012. Even more impressive are the outcomes from the program: During the grant period, for example, Second Chance boasted a 100% graduation rate. Every graduate was placed into a green job, and 97% remained in their jobs after one year. Moreover, ten workforce trainees were promoted, resulting in a combined annual pay increase of $52,000.
Second Chance’s new headquarters located at 1700 Ridgely Street in South Baltimore has brought the organization’s retail operations, job training program, and central office all under one roof – a meaningful achievement for the growing nonprofit and social enterprise. “The general public comes to Second Chance to shop in the warehouse for home furnishings, architectural salvage materials, building materials, and kitchen and bath elements,” shares Foster. “What they may not know is the whole story of our organization – what we accomplish for the universal good of us all.”
By Kelly Medinger
Friends of Patterson Park uses cash flow loan to boost operations
You might see them in chest waders scooping debris out of the lake with pool skimmers. Or mulching trees. Or inspecting playground equipment for safety. In all cases, the Friends of Patterson Park will be helping to steward the resource that is near and dear to their hearts: Patterson Park.
The Past and the Present
The first known resident of what is now Patterson Park arrived in 1669. A lot has happened in the last 340 years, and now Friends of Patterson Park, which was founded in 1998, is working with more than 600 volunteers to preserve and enhance all that the Park offers.
Kathy Harget, who joined Friends of Patterson Park as the new Executive Director in the summer of 2011, sees how the mission extends beyond the physical space: “The green spaces in our city are a perfect connector to bring neighborhoods together. Hosting the right programs can attract a whole lot of diverse people who otherwise may not have met each other.”
Transition to the Future
The Knott Foundation stepped in to help Friends of Patterson Park in late 2011 through a Program-Related Investment (PRI). PRIs, also referred to as cash flow loans, provide nonprofits with access to capital at lower interest rates and at shorter turnaround times than might otherwise be available. For Friends of Patterson Park, some of their fundraising activities, including a major event for corporate donors, had been delayed with the leadership transition, so the organization needed a boost to carry them through the fall.
The result? Friends of Patterson Park received a $25,000 loan from the Knott Foundation. With
sufficient financial footing, they were able to meet or exceed all of their fundraising goals, including hosting a corporate fundraiser that brought in $10,000 more than budgeted; receiving increased
annual grants from two foundations; exceeding individual giving goals with the help of the State’s tax credit program; and meeting a $15,000 matching grant from the Meyerhoff Foundation in just 45 days. The year finished with a cash surplus, and the Friends paid the loan back to the Knott Foundation early.
“This is a new chapter in the history of the Friends of Patterson Park,” states Harget. Indeed it is, and the Knott Foundation is honored to be a part of it.
By Kelly Medinger
Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland uses human services grant to feed the hungry and homebound
Imagine if your shopping list included 1,250 lbs. of meat. Every day. That is the reality for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, the largest and longest continually operating Meals on Wheels program in the country.
Feeding Those in Need
The central mission of Meals on Wheels is to feed those in need. Every day, more than 250 committed volunteers deliver a hot lunch and refrigerated dinner to approximately 1,500 people living in the Metro Baltimore area. These include the elderly and chronically disabled, as well as the temporarily disabled, such as those on bed rest during pregnancy or recovering from major surgery. Many times, the client’s only social contact outside the house is the Meals on Wheels volunteer who comes to visit each day during the week.
Fostering Life-Saving Relationships Between Volunteers and Clients
In fulfilling its core mission, Meals on Wheels is often so much more than just a conduit for sustenance – it’s a lifeline to the homebound. On Labor Day this year, a Meals on Wheels driver was delivering lunch and dinner to a woman living at home in a wheelchair. When he arrived at her house, she did not answer the door, and he could hear her crying out for help from inside the house. She had fallen out of her wheelchair on Saturday, and when he found her on Monday, she had gone 48 hours with no food, no water, and no ability to move or reach a phone to call for help. “The sad truth is that she probably would have died there, had it not been for Meals on Wheels,” relates Barbara Levin, Client Services Director.
“The volunteers and clients become quite attached to each other,” explains Ellen Falk, Volunteer Retention and Recruitment Coordinator. Volunteers often shop for clients, bring in their mail, take out the trash, and talk to them about their families. After excitedly telling clients about her daughter’s upcoming wedding, one volunteer brought her daughter and the wedding pictures on her route to share with clients. Then there is the exceptionally dedicated gentleman who volunteers all five days a week. He recently retired, and his wife of nearly 60 years told him he “needed to get out of the house and find something productive to do with his time.” Thank goodness for Meals on Wheels!
Starting in the Kitchen
Yet the good work that Meals on Wheels does out in the community starts inside the warehouse kitchen. In 2010, the Knott Foundation awarded a grant to meet a funding challenge from the France-Merrick Foundation, which enabled the organization to purchase a Cook-Chill System.
This impressive piece of machinery cooks large quantities of food and then chills it immediately. Meals on Wheels uses it to cook almost anything, most recently discovering that it is both cheaper and healthier to cook beans in the Cook-Chill System instead of purchasing the higher-sodium canned varieties. “And the best part is,” shares Kathleen Tinker, Food Services Manager, “the system can even cook overnight when no one is here.”
Meeting Ever-Growing Needs
Even with these advances, Meals on Wheels is still faced with the daunting task of meeting growing needs. With the aging population, the organization is projecting an explosion of demand over the next ten years. “The goal is to double the number of clients served by 2020,” states Toni Gianforti, Grant Writer.
The Cook-Chill System is one way they are increasing their capacity to produce more meals. Another way is through a new tray sealing process, funded by a $100,000 grant from The Walmart Foundation and the Meals on Wheels Association of America. Notably, the grant required a quick turnaround of a 10% match, and the Knott Foundation provided the initial $1,000, with the Board pledging the remaining $9,000. “The Knott Foundation provided the weight and leverage we needed to secure the rest of the funds,” Gianforti adds.
Thus, with an impressive history in Maryland and an ambitious charge for the future, Meals on Wheels continues to help homebound people eat well, live independently, and enjoy peace of mind.
By Kelly Medinger
St. Francis Neighborhood Center uses education grant to empower students
When Shawn came to St. Francis Neighborhood Center two years ago, he was failing the fourth grade. He was a bully at school. And he was generally angry at the world and uncomfortable in his own skin. What he needed was to be given back the power to choose his own direction in life – essentially, the mission of The Power Project, a youth development program at St. Francis.
The Power Project
The past two years in The Power Project have helped Shawn to regain his self-confidence. Surprisingly, he now breezes through his math lessons, thanks in part to his mentor in The Power Project, a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics at Johns Hopkins University.
The Power Project began two years ago with a $30,000 grant from the Knott Foundation and recently received $45,000 from the Foundation earlier this year. With 30 children, the program operates at full capacity and has a waiting list.
“Power is truly the formative word in this program,” shared Sarah Tarighi Murphy, Executive Director. At The Power Project, the Center’s staff works with each child and his or her family to develop a Power Plan to identify a child’s Power Goal (their ultimate life goal; i.e., “I want to be a teacher”), short-term and long-term objectives, and the resources needed to achieve their goals. Participants even eat a Power Snack – a healthy meal that the children prepare alongside volunteers once a week.
A Cornerstone of Reservoir Hill
For almost 50 years, St. Francis Neighborhood Center has been a cornerstone of Reservoir Hill in Baltimore City. Founded by two Catholic churches in 1963 – both aptly named St. Francis – the Center began as a Catholic outreach ministry where young Jesuit priests were assigned to work. Enter Father Tom Composto in 1965.
Father Tom became the lifeblood of St. Francis Neighborhood Center. “He gave the word ‘service’ meaning,” declared Murphy. “He lived it with every action and every word.” Indeed, Father Tom was closely connected to the people of Reservoir Hill and kept his promise to serve them every day of his life.
Sadly, on March 16, Father Tom passed away at the age of 72. More than 100 people attended his funeral in the chapel of St. Francis Neighborhood Center, with crowds spilling out onto the porch, into the street, and down the entire block. Tom Hall, a resident of Reservoir Hill, voiced a touching tribute to Father Tom on NPR’s Maryland Morning: “He’s not an ordinary man who did extraordinary things… He’s an extraordinary man who did ordinary things.”
Leadership in Transition
Sarah Tarighi Murphy currently serves as the Executive Director of St. Francis Neighborhood Center. After initially pursuing a career in the advocacy and public policy arena, she felt instinctively drawn to the positive and powerful feeling inside the walls of the Center. Through her work, she witnesses how people change themselves every day as a result of the Center’s mission.
Being a young leader in the Baltimore nonprofit community, Murphy was honored to participate in the first cohort of the Leaders Circle, which the Knott Foundation founded in 2009 in partnership with Maryland Nonprofits and University of Baltimore. The Circle consisted of nine Executive Directors who met monthly to problem-solve and share stories. “It was amazing how so many different people from different organizations were dealing with the same issues,” expressed Murphy.
So, under bright new leadership, the mission of St. Francis Neighborhood Center to break the cycles of poverty continues. And Father Tom’s legacy lives on in the seemingly ordinary, yet heroic, work that is done. And Shawn, in The Power Project? He is finally able to just be a kid.
By Kelly Medinger
Civic Works uses human services grant to enhance Real Food Farm
“Compost! Wood chips! Hoses!”
It took three tries for the fifth-grade students from Baltimore City’s Green Charter School to identify a component of Real Food Farm that actually cost the organization money. Tyler Brown, or “Farmer Brown” as he is called by the kids, shared that Whole Foods and other companies deposit their trash at Real Food Farm to serve as composting material. And the wood chips came from a tree company that otherwise would have taken them to the dump. But the hoses, well, those did cost money.
Fueled by Volunteers
Real Food Farm is a project of Civic Works, an organization focused on giving people meaningful opportunities to serve their community. The Knott Foundation has supported Civic Works for a number of years, most recently awarding a $50,000 grant to the Real Food Farm Project in 2010.
From farming, to tutoring and mentoring, to learning how to construct a green, energy-efficient roof, Civic Works acts as a bridge between human capital and community needs. While the majority of volunteers are in the 17-24 age range, the organization also employs elementary-age and senior volunteers, and they come from many different parts of the country.
Building Hoop Houses on Real Food Farm
On a sunny April afternoon amongst fields of freshly planted garlic, onion, carrots, and spinach (and four scarecrows!), a group of high school volunteers from Detroit was helping to build a hoop house. A hoop house is basically a low-cost greenhouse. Real Food Farm has five hoop houses and hopes to grow that number to 20 in the future. The hoop houses allow the Farm to cultivate fruits and vegetables year-round and therefore provide fresh produce to the communities of South Clifton Park, Darley Park, Belair-Edison, and Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello on a regular schedule.
Civic Works recently received a van that will be painted to feature Real Food Farm’s mobile produce market. “The great thing about the Farm is that it not only provides fresh, organic produce to the local community, but it also reduces the transportation costs for the goods and provides an educational platform for kids to see how fruits and vegetables are grown and how they can be prepared in healthy meals,” stated Earl Millett, Director of Volunteer Services.
About Civic Works
Founded in 1993, Civic Works is headquartered in Clifton Mansion, a structure dating back to the late eighteenth century that is still being carefully restored by Civic Works and the Friends of Clifton Mansion. With additional resources, Civic Works plans to further renovate the Mansion in order to enhance its programs. Even Real Food Farm would be able to use a renovated kitchen to expand its cooking classes, since not all residents of the neighborhood are familiar with how to prepare fresh produce and preserve the nutrients.
In the meantime, it seems that Civic Works is still operating at full capacity, and the volunteers just keep calling. So many volunteers, in fact, that Millett explained he sometimes must find alternative opportunities for them with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Blue Water Baltimore, Paul’s Place, Baltimore Reads, or Baltimore City Recs and Parks.
If you call and happen to have any garden hoses, however, Civic Works will take them.