For this Friday Focus, we caught up with marketing specialist, Kim Cullins, who shared some anecdotes about life at the Museum Division. 

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

A. The St. Mary's County Museum Division is a division of the SMC Department of Recreation and Parks that manages and maintains the St. Clement's Island Museum, Piney Point Lighthouse Museum & Historic Park, the c. 1820 Charlotte Hall One-Room Schoolhouse, the c. 1890 Drayden African American Schoolhouse and the Black Panther U-1105 German submarine dive preserve in the Potomac River.  Our mission is to preserve, interpret and share these sites and facilities with our visitors, community and taxpayers of St. Mary's County.

The Museum Division has a non-profit "Friends" organization that manages and operates the museum stores, memberships and fundraisers.  Proceeds from each of these come to the museums to support education programs, historic preservation projects, matching grant funds, etc.

Q. What would you say has been your favorite “moment” working for the museum?

A. Museum staff are always so busy with administrative tasks—planning and implementing programs, marketing initiatives, etc.—that when an opportunity arises to do something really "museum" oriented, it really gets us excited!  My most recent favorite "moment" was the special exhibit last summer at the St. Clement's Island Museum where we exhibited the personal Presidential memorabilia collection of the Roberto Lizama family.  Mr. Lizama had an incredible story of being a Guamanian immigrant who ended up working for three Presidents in the White House.  His story and the precious items of the collection caught the attention of the Washington DC television news stations, two of which came to the museum to shoot a story about it!  The exhibit was also open to the public and those who came truly enjoyed it.  There was much behind-the-scenes preparation involved in something so meaningful...and priceless.  Each of our staff rallied in their museum roles to present this exhibit in such a meaningful and professional manner.

Q. What is your biggest challenge?

A. My biggest challenge as the marketing specialist is to come up with creative ideas and inexpensive marketing strategies to get visitors to our museums. Most everyone can agree we have to stretch our dollars in this day and age.  Social media is a wonderful way of getting the word out!   Offering fun and interesting events and partnering with businesses and other organizations addresses this challenge and also helps make programs possible.  Both of our museums are located “off the beaten path”, so that is an additional challenge.

Q. How can people really help?
A. There are many ways people can help!  Volunteer!  We need people with time, talent or interest to help museum staff with group tours, visitor services, special events, museum store operations or behind-the-scenes help.  You can choose the area of your interest or talent!  You can truly make a difference in your community by helping our museums thrive!

Become a Member!  Joining the Friends organization supports funding of our museums!  You also benefit with free museum admission, receiving the museum newsletter and enjoy discounts at the museum store and fundraisers.

Support with action!  Come to our museum events and activities!  "Like" the St. Mary's County Museum Division on Facebook!  Share our information and offer word of mouth about the fun things to see and do right here in your own back yard! Be an advocate!

Contact me at kim.cullins@stmarysmd.com or call the Museum Division main number at 301-769-2222 for more information!

Q. What advice can you give someone looking to work at a non-profit?
A. My advice to anyone considering working at a non-profit is this: Whatever way you want to work for a non-profit, know you will make a difference!  Time, talent and passion are invaluable assets!

Q. What events do you have coming up at the museum?
A. In September, the Friends offer an interactive murder mystery dinner fundraiser at Olde Breton Inn called "Murder at the Class Reunion." Also in September, both museums will participate in the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge (Sept. 21 and 22) and then we'll be gearing up for the holiday exhibits both museums will offer for the month of December.

spring dell center logo
This week’s Friday Focus takes us to Spring Dell Center, Inc. in La Plata, Maryland. We spent some time talking with Sheebah Smith about the work Spring Dell does to assist individuals with disabilities in our communities.

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

Spring Dell Center, Inc. has been dedicated to assisting individuals with disabilities in achieving their highest level of independence since 1967, by providing support and opportunities for the quality of life they desire within their community. Programs were initially developed with a focus of meeting specific needs for children with severe and multiple handicaps. In the early 80's the Charles County Board of Education implemented a full inclusion program for children with disabilities, regardless of the severity, and they began to attend local schools, no longer needing supports in segregated settings. With the development of public schools programs for children with disabilities, Spring Dell Center’s focus transitioned to providing supports for adults. Currently the center supports over 200 adults, in Charles County, Maryland, with intellectual and physical disabilities, in addition to other very challenging diagnoses. The organization offers a number of services, ranging from residential assistance in 19 homes throughout the county, transportation and employment services, as well as social skill development and hands on vocational training. Aside from the Agency’s main services, the Hooks & Hangers Quality Resale Stores were established as training facilities used to educate individuals in the retail field as well as gain employment experiences. The revenue from the stores directly supplements program services.

The center’s programs also focus heavily on promoting the concept of “Community First” when delivering all supports and offering real experiences in the community. Programs have expanded to not only supporting individuals enrolled in the programs, but supporting critical needs of the county at the same time. Weekly, program participants and staff can be found supporting Meals on Wheels programs, coordinating pick-ups and deliveries for local food banks, assisting community senior programs and supporting many other non-profit ventures.

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

My favorite moment has to be attributed to our Movement and Wellness Program. The program is about five years old, but since day one, it was easy to see the changes and strides it has made in the lives of the individuals supported by Spring Dell Center. There is nothing else like it in the county! The program focuses on providing first time experiences with ambulation and exercise for those with the most severe disabilities. It promotes healthy living for individuals who lack mobility. The program is designed to enhance each person’s physical, emotional, spiritual and social life. It has been a privilege to see it work first hand.

My first experience with the program was witnessing a man who had been in a wheelchair his entire life, take his first steps at the age of 54. Shortly after, I had the opportunity to witness a 53-year-old woman stand up without her wheelchair and walk down Spring Dell Center’s hallway for the first time utilizing specialized mobility equipment purchased through the program. Walking past her in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t realize she was almost 6 feet tall. As I walked up to her with excitement, she quickly realized my small 5’2” stature and said “I could eat off the top of your head.” We then laughed, I congratulated her on her achievement and she continued walking off with a large smile, anxious to show others her accomplishment. These are the moments that not only bring tears of joy to your eyes but let you know everything you do to support these programs and the individuals utilizing them is worth it.

* What is your biggest challenge?

Currently one of the biggest challenges in the community is finding and securing employment for the individuals we support. Just as other businesses in the community, Spring Dell Center’s has felt the effects of a downward spiraling economy. Several of our individuals have been laid off and it has been hard to gain new employment. As the economy begins to once again regain its stability, we hope to find community business willing to give our individuals an opportunity. Job coaches have been working diligently to acquire connections and placement opportunities for individuals supported by our Supported Employment Program. As our community continues to strengthen its ties, we look forward to finding opportunities of growth for both surrounding business and the individuals supported by our programs.

* How can people really help?

It is the agency’s continuous goal to have individuals connect to the community and employment opportunities regardless of their disability. Therefore, any opportunity provided that can contribute to our mission of offering life changing experiences are welcome. What might be something small to you, such as going to the movies or fishing, could be the very opportunity someone has been hoping for! Providing a work experience or social opportunities that lead to friendships, is the key to self-fulfillment for all of us, to include people with disabilities. Additionally, volunteering and simply giving your time or providing an experience for someone is also gratifying for all, to include you!!! There are many other opportunities! We have fundraising events, sponsorship opportunities, and activities where we need the help of community members. If someone wants to help but doesn’t quite know how, I would love to sit down with them and come up with some ways that will benefit everyone involved.

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

Think about what you enjoy doing. What makes you happy? Take those interests to a non-profit organization. Know their mission and see if it fits yours. There are many organizations with a variety of causes. Find an organization in which you have a passion for or for an opportunity to learn. I can’t explain how much I have learned from the individuals and staff at Spring Dell Center. Yet, I assure you what I have learned has been life changing.

cedar lane
This week’s Friday Focus takes us to Cedar Lane Senior Living Community in Leonardtown, Maryland. We spent some time talking with VerNitta Tyson about the work her organization does to provide living assistance to the elderly and disabled in the community.

Q: Tell us a little about Cedar Lane. When were you founded and who do you serve?

A: Cedar Lane Senior Living Community is a collaboration of 501 (c)(3) non-profit organizations serving seniors and disabled adults in Leonardtown, Maryland since 1977. We serve both the elderly and disabled residents by providing retirement living, assisted living and respite care in 209 private, studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Two of our three buildings offer HUD-subsidies which affords low-income seniors and the disabled an option in today’s housing market. Our third building offers market-rate units that allow low- and moderate-income residents to age-in-place in a community that features a full range of convenient activities and services.

Unlike traditional HUD-facilities, Cedar Lane offers our residents a wide range of services and activities to help them age in place with maximum health and quality of life.  In fact, in many ways, Cedar Lane serves as a community senior center for our residents providing daily meals, as well as wellness, educational and socialization activities.

We are really focused on helping seniors stay in their homes for as long as possible and avoid premature placement in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. Between our convenient location, a host of on-site amenities, and a wide range of free and fee-based services, residents are able to maintain their independence with the comfort of knowing they can access supportive care if and when they need it.

Q: What has been your favorite moment working for Cedar Lane?

A: With a 36-year history, it’s really hard to pinpoint a favorite moment. It’s more about the experience of witnessing seniors and families as their lives are transformed: We get to witness how having secure housing, food and a community of friends transforms seniors who were stressed and anxious into happy, active, thriving members of the community. Having that piece of mind from knowing that their needs for housing, meals, and care are going to be taken care of, allows our residents to relax and open up; they take up new hobbies, pursue new interests and find new friends.

We’ve seen families build better relationships once the stress and responsibility of caregiving is removed because mom or dad is receiving care and support through our programs. We’ve actually had family members say, “You gave me my mom back.” Once a daughter no longer has to be “the enforcer,” to make sure mom takes her medication or eats, there is less tension and stress on the relationship and both mother and daughter can just enjoy each other. It is a special feeling to be a part of helping families find joy again.

Q. What do you see as your biggest challenge?

A. Funding is always a challenge for non-profits. Cedar Lane’s affiliation with HUD, which provides rent subsidies for our low-income residents, certainly helps. But, rental income does not cover the cost of facility upgrades, meals, resident activities or any of the programs and services we provide to help our residents stay active and engaged and enjoy a good quality of life.

The hardest thing for our staff is to see a need for services or support that our residents simply do not have the funds to pay for. Many of our residents were homemakers or farmers that now have very little income in their retirement years. Even those that worked and saved for retirement are living longer, or have more needs, or have just been hit hard by these difficult economic times. These are people who did what they were supposed to throughout their lives, but still can’t afford all the support they need in their later years. It’s always a challenge to fund the kinds of things that residents need on an ongoing basis, like our dining program and services like medication management. That’s why Cedar Lane relies on donations and volunteer support from the community.

Q: What are some ways that people could get involved?

A: There so many opportunities for people to support their senior neighbors, whether they live in the house next door, or in a community like Cedar Lane. The important thing is to get involved. Check on a senior that you know to see if she or he needs anything. Make a donation to support senior programs and activities like those we provide at Cedar Lane. Volunteer as a companion to accompany a senior to a doctor’s appointment. Get your kids involved so they are not uncomfortable around older, frail people. Cedar Lane always has opportunities for volunteers and for donors to connect with seniors and support our work.

Q. Can you give any advice for prospective non-profit employees?

A. It is really important to have a passion for whatever it is that you do. This is especially true in the nonprofit sector, where the jobs don’t always come with glamorous perks or high-dollar salaries. When you are serving people, you have to have heart. That passion shows through in your work. If you don’t believe in the cause, it’s just not going to work.

adult day care
This week’s Friday Focus takes us to Calvert County, where we had the opportunity to speak to Ruth Lake, the Executive Director of Adult Day Care of Calvert County. She and her staff work hard each day to provide an enriching and entertaining environment for the elderly members of their community.

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

A: Adult Day Care of Calvert County is a safe, structured day program of professional care, compassionate assistance and community-based activities for frail elderly and disabled adults.  The program is designed to enhance the physical, social and emotional health of the participants, and provide some relief to caregivers.  The staff R.N. monitors individual health issues while supporting staff (with frequent help from volunteers) provide assistance, serve snacks and lunch and lead activities.  Door-to-door transportation is provided within Calvert County.

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

A: My favorite story is about one of our participants.  Her daughter, who works full time, was becoming increasingly concerned about leaving her home alone after recent falls and signs of dementia.  After her daughter decided that adult day care was the best option for her, she was brought in for the intake meeting.  Her resistance, though not unusual, was escalated.  First, she would not get out of the car.  Then, when she finally did, she stood with her purse held tight, arm folded and shaking with anger at her daughter for bringing her to a strange place.  The best part of the story was that by the end of her first day, she (the resistant participant) was thanking everyone and looking forward to the next day.  Today, she gets upset when she has to miss a day at Adult Day Care of Calvert County.  She, a very social person, thrives in the community-based setting.  The daughter is very relieved to know that she is well cared for during the day.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: As an independent non-profit organization, our biggest challenge in recent years has been funding.  Although we receive a grant from the state that enables us to offer a sliding scale fee for participants who are on a limited income, it, along with participant co-pays and fees, is not enough to cover program costs.  Adult Day Care of Calvert County depends on community support through philanthropic support, volunteerism and spreading the word about our services.

Q: How can people really help?

A: Adult Day Care of Calvert County has opportunities for volunteers, monetary donations and in-kind donations.  Volunteer opportunities range from student volunteers looking for service learning hours, to help with fundraising and awareness, to community members willing to serve on the board of directors.  Donations can be made by visiting the center on the lower level of the health department building in Prince Frederick or the website at www.adcofcalvertcounty.org. Supporting fundraising events and campaigns is another way to help.  We also accept in-kind donations such as paper, plastic ware and supplies, as well as items to sell at our periodic yard sales.

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

A: The rewards outweigh the compensation!  Sometimes starting out as a volunteer is a good way to determine if an organization is a good fit, and is a good way to gain experience for future non-profit (or for profit) endeavors.  If you care about community, are willing to embrace challenges and wish to feel good about what you do, then working for a non-profit is a great career choice.