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The Spring Dell Center focuses on providing services that can assist people with disabilities and help them integrate within the community, whether in terms of finding a job, joining a group or something most people take for granted, such as walking. They give people with disabilities the opportunity to reach their highest level of independence that they desire. Spring Dell is an inspiring organization to take part in through volunteer, employment or sponsorship; it’s an organization that makes a real difference in people’s lives. For this week’s Friday Focus we spoke to Sheebah Smith, Spring Dell Center and learned all about the grand event they have coming up, programs they offer and true success stories. Are you ready to join Spring Dell?

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

A: Created in 1967, Spring Dell Center has been dedicated to supporting people with disabilities in our community for almost 50 years, advocating for those with more specialized and intensive needs as well as those requiring less assistance. Today, the organization’s programs have expanded to supporting over 200 people. Some of these efforts include job placement, housing, transportation and hand-to-hand training to develop desired skills. In conjunction with providing supports, Hooks & Hangers quality resale stores in La Plata and Charlotte Hall help fund programs provided by the agency.

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

A: There are many life changing moments that can be remembered due to the opportunities and supports Spring Dell Center staff provide. Some include seeing people we support walk for the first time, thanks to our Movement and Wellness program, after a lifetime in a wheel chair. Another is learning how to use communication books and other specialized equipment to have a conversation with someone who is non-verbal. Things, which at one time, could have been seen as impossible. Spring Dell focuses on making possibilities, realities.

Most recently, with the support of our Movement and Wellness Program, program participant Susan lost 100 pounds and has been able to utilize a pacer in order to walk for the first time in years; she was also recognized with a Maryland Association of Community Services Achievement Award this past May! Nicole, in our Day Vocational Program was signed up for Meals on Wheels for the very first time. A little hesitant, she went through training on the first day, learning what to do, how to approach customers and the specifics regarding deliveries. Her second go around, she stood confidently saying “I don’t want help, I got this!” Kristin and Brett, who has utilized our Supported Employment program, secured paid positions at Hampton Inn, where they both work regularly and independently.  Then there is Marsha, who obtained a position as Crab Picker for Thompson Seafood, but her roll quickly expanded to include other duties as needed. The stories of success are endless!

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: There are many challenges that arise, but we are grateful our community is always there to lend a helping hand. As a result, we have positively changed stigmas associated with having disabilities. We have increased skill development through strong partnerships with organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Food and Friends, as well as the Food Harvest Program. We have provided programs that aren’t funded by the state thanks to sponsors such as the Greater Waldorf Jaycees, Community Bank of the Chesapeake, Dennis Anderson Construction Corporation, Guy Motors, Price Financial Group and so many more. With the support of community businesses like Thompson’s Seafood located in La Plata and Hampton Inn in Waldorf, we continue to place those we support in viable positions throughout the county. Yet, still challenges arise.

Currently our biggest challenge is staffing. We love what we do, but lack the amount of staff needed to seek out new opportunities that can further expand our programs. Lately, it has been a struggle due to coverage issues, but the employees who are here do what they can to ensure everyone receives the individualized attention necessary for goal achievement. We are always looking for people who want to join our team. Energetic, patient, personable, creative thinkers looking to help others and make a difference in someone’s life are the characteristics we look for in employees. Once employed, staff can take advantage of many benefits including annual and sick leave, paid training, tuition reimbursement, retirement plan, a FREE $10,000 life insurance policy, paid holidays and so much more. The great thing is there is something for everyone. The agency has entry level to management level positions available and focuses on staff development. There are so many opportunities for anyone who wants to get involved and all they have to do is call (301) 934-4561 or visit the employment section of our website.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We always have something going on and encourage community members to join us. Our next large initiative will be in October for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Then in November we will hold our Annual Auction, known as the agency’s largest fundraising event. Save the Date! It is scheduled for Friday, November 18th at the Waldorf Jaycees Center and includes over 200 auction items placed throughout live and silent sections. Past items included Hopper Passes to Disney’s Theme Parks, a three night stay at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, V.I.P. Passes to Maryland International Raceway, golf packages, antiques, event tickets, sports memorabilia, additional trips and much more. There are many ways to get involved whether you want to give a donation, sponsor the event or simply attend. This year’s theme is “Maryland, My Maryland” and with approximately 400 attendees year after year, it will be an event you won’t want to miss.

Additionally, we are gearing up for our 50th anniversary in 2017! So, mark your calendars because there is much more to come. To learn more about all the events coming up simply join our mailing list.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: The agency and its staff will always strive to find various ways we can connect the people we support to the community or different employment opportunities, regardless of the severity of their disability. Maybe you are going out to the movies or fishing and want some company. If you are a local business, you may have an employment opportunity that is just right for someone in our employment program. You may be involved in an activity which would be perfect to help build skills needed to get someone to the next step of their goal development success. Any opportunity provided that can contribute to our mission of offering life changing experiences are welcome. Simply giving your time or providing an experience for someone is gratifying for all, including YOU! What might be something small to you could be the very opportunity someone has been hoping for.

This is just the start. Other options include sponsorship opportunities and activities where we need the help of community volunteers. If someone wants to help but doesn’t quite know how, we would love to sit down with them and come up with some ways that will benefit everyone involved. Just let us know!

broadway musical
Wouldn’t you like to enjoy a night under the stars watching an amazing show? The Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre brings a unique experience to the Annapolis community, though its live production of musical theatre every summer! This non-profit organization provides a one-of-a-kind sensation, including live music and talented volunteers. In this week’s Friday Focus, we caught up with Communications Director, Lauren Winther-Hansen of Annapolis Summer garden Theatre and learned some of the challenges it takes to run an outdoor theatre, along with some of their favorite moments! Don’t miss out on supporting this fun and energetic organization.

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

A: An outdoor community theatre led by volunteers, Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre produces musical theatre (featuring live music) in a unique, intimate setting in historic Annapolis every summer. Founded in 1966, the theatre is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016. Annapolis summer Garden Theatre has no paid staff. We rely on our community’s patronage, volunteerism, and charitable support to fulfill our mission: To provide opportunities for the community to learn about and experience live theatre under the stars.

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

A: I’ve been volunteering with Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre since 1988, so I have many favorite moments! It’s always a joy to hear of Annapolis Summer Garden theatre’s alums who have gone on to work professionally and many have—on Broadway, off-Broadway, in national and international tours and regionally. And of course it’s a thrill when a show is well-received and our audiences leap to their feet to give the cast and crew a standing ovation. But my favorite moments relate to community and friendship. It’s very rewarding to watch a creative artistic team, committed volunteer actors and crew, dedicated Board members, and our loyal patrons, donors, business sponsors and volunteers accomplish something together. One can make great friends along the way. Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre is nothing without our community’s support.

 Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Where to begin?! Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre has no paid staff, so finding and retaining team members is critical. We’re always looking for more volunteer help. People are busy, their lives change and they move on—it’s understandable. So we’re constantly recruiting new volunteers. Also, we’re very lucky to own our historic building on Compromise Street, but maintaining a historic property is no small challenge for a small, volunteer-led nonprofit. And at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, our stage and seating are outdoors under the stars, which is challenging in many ways. Imagine rehearsing in the 90 degree heat, or monitoring approaching storms to know whether you’ll have the show, or keeping an eye out for the duck that lays her eggs in the theatre every spring. Other theatres don’t have to worry about these things! But when the sun sets and the stage lights come up, our outdoor space is magical. It’s all worth it.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Sure! Our hit production of “The Producers” ran through September 4 and we presented a special anniversary musical from September 9-18 to celebrate our first 50 years. We go dark in the fall but we’ll pick up again next spring with pre-audition workshops, auditions and rehearsals/performances of our 2017 season, which we’ve not yet announced. But trust me…it’s going to be another stellar season of musical theatre!

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Visit summergarden.com and click on Get Involved to learn the many ways you can participate. Fill out the Volunteer Form on the Volunteer Opportunities page to get started. You can always e-mail volunteer@summergarden.com with questions. Plus, our Board meetings are held on the third Tuesday of the month and all are welcome to attend to learn more about Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre. Whether you’re interested in volunteering a couple days a year or joining our leadership team, we’d be thrilled to have you.