This week’s Friday Focus takes us to Calvert County, where the United Way is nearing the final days of preparation for its annual Mardi Gras event. As the organization’s largest fundraising event of the year, proceeds from Mardi Gras will go toward the United Way’s mission of helping to end poverty and provide relief to struggling families and individuals in the community. United Way President and CEO Kelly Chambers took some time this week to share her organization’s story with us and gave us a sneak peek of what Mardi Gras revelers can expect next weekend at Annmarie Garden.
Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)
A: The United Way of Calvert County was established in 1980 and is governed by a group of local volunteers who serve Calvert County with a mission to engage the community in making a meaningful difference to improve people’s lives.
United Way of Calvert County brings people and organizations together to address the underlying causes of crisis issues like poverty, hunger and homelessness in our community. We are working to break the cycle of poverty by investing our resources in education, financial stability and health programs. By pulling our partners (both agencies and businesses) together to focus on these areas, we believe our community will become stronger.
What we do on a daily basis is provide opportunities for giving, advocating and volunteering. Sometimes that may mean we are hosting a large event, sometimes that may mean we are on the phone with a struggling family and giving out resources, and sometimes that may mean we are working with an agency representative.
United Way of Calvert County works with over 30 partner agencies and local non-profits. We wear many hats, from fundraisers to community facilitators to grant funders.
Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
A: Having been with the organization so long, there are many great moments. I would have to say that the most meaningful moments have come from our Day of Caring. Day of Caring is a partnership between businesses and United Way where businesses give their employees the day to volunteer in a United Way agency. I do believe the volunteers get even more out of it then the people they are helping. It was extremely meaningful for me to have one of our volunteers stand up and give testimony about her Day of Caring experience – she spoke of a desperate time in her life having to use the homeless shelter, Project Echo, for herself and her daughter. She wanted to give back and chose to work there for her volunteer project. She spoke of how grateful she was that the shelter was there for her and that United Way funded it. And she was so happy to be able to give back through painting and cleaning and sprucing the place up, a place where she had been able to put her life back together. It was extremely moving and she remained a faithful volunteer for many years until she moved away.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Most challenging is getting the general public to understand all that we do in the areas of education, financial stability and health. Equally challenging are the limited resources available to accomplish all we want to do to break the cycle of poverty we see in Calvert County. We partner with over 30 non-profit organizations, the public schools, county government, health department, social services and local businesses. We are unable to fill the requests from all our partners when we receive proposals and this is disheartening when there is so much need.
Q: Are there any upcoming events?
A: Yes, March 1 we are hosting our largest fundraising event of the year, Mardi Gras! It is our 15th Anniversary of this event and we are celebrating it at Annmarie Garden Arts Center. Jeannie Stone and Chris More will be crowned King and Queen in an elaborate crowning ceremony. Guests will enjoy creative cuisine with a classic New Orleans flair by Maryland Country Caterers. We have a new band this year, the Moonshine Society, an East Coast WAMMY-nominated rock and blues band fronted by the sensational pinup girl and power house singer, Black Betty, alongside talented members of the Blues Hall of Fame. We are so excited to have them, as well as Lauryn Ricketts of the WJLA Stormwatch7 team, who will emcee the evening and live auction. Our strolling performers will include a taste of the past and some new and exciting experiences. Of course, we will have the famous Maertens Jewelry Razzle Dazzle raffle; the winner will walk away with over $8,000 in jewelry!
We are almost sold out, but Mardi Gras sponsorship packages and tickets are available online at www.unitedwaymardigras.com or by contacting the United Way of Calvert County at 410-286-0100 or at 443-968-2731.
Q: How can people get involved with your organization?
A: You can get involved with our organization in many ways! You can volunteer for one of our Impact Councils in the area of education, financial stability or health. We also have other committees you might be interested in, like our golf committee or Mardi Gras committee. You can participate in Day of Caring as a volunteer or business (it is the second Wednesday of September every year).You can start a payroll deduction campaign at your office, participate in our Spirit of Giving Campaign, or create your own fundraiser for United Way of Calvert County.
Or you can contact us and we can talk to you about other ways to get involved! Visit our website at www.unitedwaycalvert.org or call us at 410-286-0100.