The day began as all LFC days begin… early. We met at FMH Crestwood. For those of you who haven’t been there, one word: WOW! The entire facility departs from the stereotype of stuffy doctor’s offices, complete with community art gallery on the ground floor. We began our day with a presentation by Josh Pederson, CEO of United Way of Frederick County, about the role of nonprofits that serve human service needs in our community.
Health Explorations at FMH Crestwood
Throughout the day we learned about the diverse models and delivery methods of health and human services in Frederick County. We were fortunate to hear about these topics straight from the mouths of Thomas Kleinhanzl, CEO of Frederick Regional Health Systems; Dr. Barbara Brookmyer, health officer at Frederick County Health Department; and Pat Hanberry, CEO of the Mental Health Association, among others. We also explored seated yoga, a tour of the FMH Women’s Center, and individual health assessments performed by Corporate Occupational Health Solutions.
Service Projects at the Frederick Rescue Mission
Later, we made the trip to the Frederick Rescue Mission. At the Rescue Mission we saw firsthand the role of the nonprofit sector in the community in regards to human services. Services provided for many of these organizations can be the difference between life and death. For example, the Rescue Mission provides emergency services, showers, food, and community outreach events. Every year, approximately 70 men go through the Mission’s Changed Life Recovery Program. While at the Mission, half of the Class of 2014 unloaded food from the food truck (generously donated daily by various grocery stores and restaurants in Frederick), and the other half of the class helped with outreach mailings. We concluded our visit to the Rescue Mission by eating lunch with those they serve. It was a humbling experience. The trip to the Mission hit home many of the issues that we discussed earlier in the day and was a good bridge into the afternoon’s activities.
Nonprofit Networking and Poverty Simulation at the Bernard W. Brown Community Center
Our last stop of the day was the Bernard W. Brown Community Center where we met with community nonprofit leaders for small roundtables and participated in an innovative poverty simulation. The roundtable discussions included representatives from Frederick Community Action Agency, Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, Second Chances Garage, Mission of Mercy, Seeds of Life Nursery, YMCA of Frederick County, American Red Cross of Frederick County, Interfaith Housing Alliance, and Community Living.
The poverty simulation allowed members of the class to fill various roles of those living in poverty in Frederick County. Everyone was assigned a role within a family, provided meager resources, surrounded by the temptation of crime and drug use, and tasked with the challenge of navigating the system to meet their needs and better their lives.
If the simulation wasn’t enough to put us in a somber state of reflection, our next speaker, Kendyl Lovelace, took it to another level. Kendyl unabashedly shared the truths of her time living in poverty and her struggle to provide a better life for herself and her children. Her hope and determination brought her to the Advocates for Homeless Families in Frederick where, in her words, she was able to get “a hand up, not a hand out.” Through hard work and perseverance, working three jobs while continuing her education, Kendyl was able to change her circumstances and represent a true success story.
Many of the struggles and frustrations experienced in the simulation were mirrored in Kendyl’s words to the class – the system is difficult to navigate and it is difficult to get ahead while you are worried about where you will get your next meal and night of rest, all while facing the prejudices of society. Kendyl challenged us to give back and to believe that while not everyone wants to change, or will change, people are worth being given taking the chance.
MaryEllen Mitchell (Interfaith Housing Alliance), co-coordinator of Health & Human Services Day, warned us at the beginning of the day that it was going to be an emotional one. She was right. Frederick County has many resources available to help people better their lives, and in some way we can all be a part of that effort. As leaders we are in the privileged position to implement change in Frederick.