soar logo
Check out this week’s Friday Focus, The SOAR Foundation! The SOAR Foundation helps provide our youth generation the tools to be successful and make an impact. We caught up with Kimberly Harris, President of the SOAR Foundation, to hear some of the foundations favorite moments, biggest challenges and exciting events coming our way.

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

A: The SOAR Foundation advances the social and economic empowerment of youth through engaging them to reach their fullest potential by developing leadership responsibility and life skills through extensive learning programs and positive youth development approaches.

The foundation is dedicated to provide scholarships, internships and career workshops to promote entrepreneurial skills to disadvantaged youth who don't necessarily perform well academically in school, BUT possess a hunger for business and drive to continue their education.

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

A: My favorite moment was being able to give funds to some well-deserving families in the area.  Our team visited one of the local homeless shelters and was fortunate enough to give to five families over the Christmas holiday.  The smiles on the faces of some of the recipients were the best thing we could have ever asked for.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge we currently face is trying to change the mindset of some of our students.  Many feel as if the odds are against them and sometimes give up on their dreams and aspirations.  It then becomes our job to convince them otherwise and to strive for what they believe is impossible with their current resources.  Since we are a small organization, sometimes our funds are limited but we strive for excellence in all that we do and with what we have. We teach our students to adopt that same philosophy.  Our motto is: “If we keep moving forward, nothing can stop us!”

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have our Annual Scholarship Crab Feast Fundraiser coming up on June 4 at the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Stadium here in Waldorf, Maryland.  The event is to help raise funds to provide scholarships for local students.  It is an All You Care To Eat Event where ALL are welcome! There will be fun, games, prizes and much more!

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: People can get involved with The SOAR Foundation by contacting us online.  To get involved, you can visit us at www.youthcansoar.org or reach us by email at info@youthcansoar.org.


“All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” This simple but powerful quote by Helen Keller sums up perfectly what Operation Warrior Refuge, Inc. strives to promote. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to helping local veterans, active duty military, first responders and their families overcome the emotional wounds brought on by serving our country. While speaking with Julie Devine, LCPC, licensed mental health professional of Operations Warrior Refuge, Inc., we learned how therapy with horses and natural settings can help influence our warriors to overcome the many challenges they may face and their PTSD after service.

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

A: Operation Warrior Refuge, Inc.’s mission is to provide licensed mental health therapy to local veterans, active duty military, first responders and their families free of charge. We are not connected with the VA or The Wounded Warrior Project. We are Southern Maryland local people who saw a need to create a program for local veterans and first responders to get the therapy they need and have trouble finding.

We provide licensed mental health therapy in the form of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. This means we conduct our therapy sessions outside in a paddock or arena with one or more horses. Clients interact with and do activities with the horses, facilitated by two licensed mental health professionals, both of whom have years of horse experience. All activities take place with clients' feet on the ground – there is no riding involved. Activities are designed to bring about powerful and thought provoking experiences that relate directly to events, patterns and issues in the clients' lives. We treat anxiety, depression, PTSD, family issues, trauma, challenges with reintegrating into civilian life and more.

We are lucky and thankful to work out of The Greenwell Foundation in Hollywood, Maryland.

We hope that our form of outdoor therapy, taking place in a beautiful farm setting, which requires less talking and direct interaction than regular “office therapy,” will be appealing to our local community of veterans and first responders. Our Mental Health Professionals, Dr. Jamie Spohn, PsyD, and Julie Devine LCPC, are trained in this therapy through the international organization EAGALA – The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.

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

A: It is truly incredible to see the changes brought about in a person, in family dynamics in just a few therapy sessions. We can't give any details as all sessions are confidential. We can say that we have seen this therapy make a positive difference in some of the most difficult situations imaginable.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge right now is funding. We do our own fundraising to be able to pay our licensed mental health professionals for the work that they provide. Each therapy session costs $200, all of which is currently paid for by fundraising. We are in need of donations and fundraising opportunities.

Our second biggest challenge is spreading the word about the work that we do, so that folks in need of services can find us.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have a number of events in the planning stages coming up this spring and summer.  Last year we had a great time with our Poker Run in July and Blue Crabs fundraiser in September.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Visit our website – www.OWR22.org. Donate and spread the word! We have partner and sponsor opportunities available. You can also find us on Facebook/OperationWarrior.

anne arundel county literary council
Can you imagine not being able to read? To pick up the newspaper and not understand the words? To have your child ask them to read you a bedtime story and not be able to? To pick up a menu at a restaurant and not know what it says? These examples are how thousands of adults live each and every day. That’s why the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council is dedicated to providing free reading, writing, math and speaking skills for adults and out-of-school youth. We spoke to Lisa Vernon, Executive Director of Anne Arundel County Literacy Council, for this week’s Friday Focus. She shared how they have impacted hundreds of lives through their commitment and passion to help improve the reading level of individuals in the community.

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

A: You may be surprised to learn that there are an estimated 70,000 adults in Anne Arundel County who do not have the basic literacy skills needed to obtain a GED. When these same adults increase their reading, writing and basic math skills, even before passing the GED, they are more likely to lift themselves out of poverty, contribute to improved health care costs and find/keep employment. Undoubtedly, this has a positive effect on families, on Anne Arundel County and on society as a whole.

The Anne Arundel County Literacy Council (AACLC) addresses this need by providing free, individualized reading, writing, math and speaking English instruction for adults and out-of-school youth in Anne Arundel County who have low level literacy skills. There is no charge to the student for the books, tutoring or assessments they receive. They can meet in any public location in the county, which includes all 15 county libraries and over 17 community agencies.

Imagine…

  • Having to pretend you can read and living in fear that you may be found out.
  • Not being able to read the warning labels on your children’s prescriptions.
  • Not being able to find work because you can’t read the classifieds or complete a job application.
  • Not being able to read written instructions, the newspaper, road signs, etc.

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

A: Howard is one of 218 adults and out-of-school youth who received free reading and writing instruction from the Literacy Council last year. Due to severe dyslexia, Howard could read two words when he came to us for help – Orioles and Ravens, his two favorite sports teams. "I got tired of having to have someone go with me to doctors' offices to help me fill out the paperwork. I wasn't able to read a menu so I stayed away from restaurants because I was embarrassed. I was never able to vote," Howard said.

After years of trying to cover up his low reading skills, he determined that he would learn to read. He searched for someone to teach him but found that there were no state-sponsored reading programs. Fortunately, he discovered the county's Literacy Council program. He was matched with volunteer literacy tutors who have faithfully met with him twice weekly for the past three years. The result? Howard is now at a 4th grade reading level, he registered to vote and voted for the first time, he reads the newspaper every morning and he can now read road signs, menus, written instructions, etc.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge is securing revenue so that we can continue expanding our free literacy program in Anne Arundel County.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Our next two-day tutor training will be held on April 9 and 16 at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, Maryland. If interested in attending this training, please email Anita Ewing, Tutor Coordinator, at ewing400@gmail.com or call our office at 410-269-4419 and leave a message.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: We are always looking for volunteers who can help us with fundraising, marketing, grant writing and event planning needs. If interested, please call the office at 410-269-4419, leave a detailed message and we will return your call.


Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and yet it is 80% preventable?The American Heart Association strives to build healthier lives to prevent cardiovascular diseases and strokes. To increase awareness of their organization they have created a campaign called Go Red For Women and Today is National Wear Red Day! To support the American Heart Association we put on our red shirts and caught up with Annette Fisher, Senior Communications Director, to learn how they help strengthen our hearts.

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

A: The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world, cardiovascular diseases #1 and stroke #5. We team up with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. Our company is based in Dallas and is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.

We serve the Maryland region in Baltimore and I’m the Senior Communications Director promoting 37 AHA initiatives.

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

A: My favorite moment is when someone called last week about CPR training. I was able to assist and they are now certified CPR trained. I love to provide customer service to the citizens of Maryland.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: My biggest challenge is working with limited resources. I wish we could help everyone who calls with a request.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We are the midst of February’s American Heart Month! Kudos to our ambassador’s, we have a series of events happening around the Baltimore region. We are excited about Nutrition in March and National Start Walking month in April. To learn more about these events check out http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Affiliate/Baltimore.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: We are always recruiting volunteers to support the mission! Call 410-246-6726 or go to our website at heart.org.