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FRIDAY FOCUS: Chesapeake Bay Trust

By Stefanie Cusick • July 22, 2016

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The Chesapeake Bay Trust
recognizes the need in our communities for restoration and care of the Chesapeake Bay and other local watersheds and forests. They take considerate care in teaching and supporting the education of our environment and engaging community efforts in order to make a true difference. As this week’s Friday Focus, we caught up with Kelly Swartout, Director of Development and Marketing of The Chesapeake Bay Trust, to learn the many ways you can get involved with this organization and all about one of their current projects happening in Charles County, Maryland.

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

The Chesapeake Bay Trust is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, grant-making organization dedicated to restoring the Chesapeake Bay, local rivers, streams and forests. Legislatively created in 1985, our goal is to engage citizens and increase stewardship through grant programs, special initiatives and partnerships that support environmental education, restoration and community engagement activities.

In 30 years, the Trust has awarded over $80 million through more than 10,000 grants to fund watershed restoration projects, citizen outreach, engagement initiatives and K-12 environmental education programs. Last year, the Trust funded $9.8 million in grants and projects, including administration of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. They reached over 120,000 residents of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington D.C. and the other watershed jurisdictions.

The Trust prides itself on a strong reputation for being fiscally sound. For almost a decade, the Trust has received a “Four Star Rating” from Charity Navigator, placing us in the top 1% of charities nationwide.  Ninety percent of the Trust’s expenditures were directed to its Chesapeake Bay restoration and education programs.  The Trust’s funding comes from the Maryland specialty license plate, Treasure the Chesapeake Bay Plate, donations from the Maryland State income tax check-off for the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund, as well as from individuals, corporations and private/public partnerships.  The Trust collaborates with a host of federal, state and local agencies on its grant programs and specific initiatives, as well as numerous foundation and nonprofit partners to support restoration and outreach programs in the six bay states and the District of Columbia.

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

It would be very difficult to pinpoint a “favorite moment” as there are so many projects that we are involved with that make significant impacts for Chesapeake Bay, its citizens and in the areas in which they live.

There is a new project in the Port Tobacco area that I am personally excited about because it brings together a group of organizations that are working in collaboration to restore and preserve the Chesapeake Bay. The groups involved include the Charles County Watershed Protection and Restoration Program; a faith-based organization, Christ Church; the Port Tobacco Conservancy; and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. This project will construct a publicly accessible meditation garden in a currently unused courtyard on the property of Christ Church, La Plata. The project will include a rain garden and rain barrels and will use plants native to the Mid-Atlantic region. The Church is located on Charles Street, in the main business district of La Plata. The project will incorporate an interpretive panel and outreach to other local congregations, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, school and civic groups and the general public.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

Each and every year, the Chesapeake Bay Trust engages hundreds of thousands of citizen stewards who help further our efforts for clean air and better water quality by planting trees, restoring shorelines, picking up trash and involving our youth in environmental literacy. Despite our best efforts, the demand for grants far exceeds our available funds, leaving the Trust unable to support many worthwhile and much needed restoration, environmental education and community engagement projects that would improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

Kegs and Corks Festival at the Anne Arundel Fair Grounds.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

Everyone can play a key role to further the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts by

  • Plant trees and native plants; install a rain barrel, put in a rain garden.
  • Look for activities that help with water quality in your local streams.
  • Purchase a Treasure the Chesapeake Bay license plate. For $20 you can help drive the restoration efforts to help clean up the Bay.
  •  Making a direct donation to the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Gifts at all levels make a significant impact for a heather Chesapeake Bay and watershed. Did you know that a gift as low as $50 can provide an outdoor, field experience for 4 students?; $75 will plant 7 native trees to improve air and water quality; $100 will buy 200 wetland plants that protect habitat and prevent erosion; and $250 will remove 1,000 pounds of trees from local streams and rivers.
  • Check-off the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund on your state income tax return and show your support for the Chesapeake Bay. Marylanders can make a voluntary contribution through their Maryland state income tax return. The proceeds from this contribution are split evenly between the Chesapeake Bay Trust ant the Wildlife, along with the Heritage Division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
  •  Business owners can become partners through our Plate Perks Programs, corporate philanthropy and/or sponsorships.
  •  Recycle, recycle, recycle!
  • Contact our office at 410-974-2941 to find out about volunteer opportunities for events and other programs.

Tags: Bay, Chesapeake, community, donations, Education, Environment, Focus, Friday, funds, grants, local, Maryland, nonprofit, volunteer