Undergoing an organ transplant can be a lengthy ordeal for both the recipient and his or her family. This week’s Friday Focus organization, Windows of Strength, Limited, seeks to relieve some of the financial stress for transplant recipients and their caregivers. We caught up with founder, Sandy Walker-Samler, who shared more information about the positive impact her organization has had on the lives of those in need.

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

A: Windows of Strength is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization assisting organ transplant recipients and their caregivers with non-medical costs that are not covered by insurance, government programs or other organizations during their transplant process. These costs include transportation to and from follow-up doctor visits and testing, lodging for caregivers and family members during the recipient’s hospital stay, meals and other needs that may arise that do not fall under medical classification.

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

A: We have helped organ transplant recipients and their caregivers in many ways. Each time we provide assistance is considered a special moment. There is such a need for this type of support; we wish we could help more. We have aided in areas such as:

  • Providing gas cards for transportation needs to allow recipients to travel back and forth to their follow-up doctor appointments and tests.
  • Providing assistance with lodging and bus transportation for recipients who live out of their transplant clinic area when they must follow-up with doctor appointments and tests after their transplant surgery.
  • Helping to pay for parking fees for the recipients while at their doctor appointments and follow-up tests.
  • Helping with phone and utility bills, homeowner’s and car insurance for recipients in need of assistance due to their caregiver and/or themselves being unable to work after their transplant surgery.
  • Paying rent for the recipients in need of assistance due to the caregiver and/or recipient being on an unpaid leave of absence.
  • Donating to the Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Gift of Life Family House serves as a “home away from home” for transplant patients and their families by providing temporary, affordable lodging and supportive services to those who travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for transplant-related care.

These are the main areas where we have helped; however, there have been other miscellaneous requests that we have granted funding to help with financial assistance

Q: What is your biggest challenge? 

A:   Awareness, Funding, and Volunteers.

Windows of Strength was formed in 2010 and received 501(c)(3) status in 2011. Being a newly formed organization, we are faced with the challenge of growing awareness about the organization and our mission.   We started from the ground up and do not have any statewide chapters or a national umbrella that we fall under to assist with awareness or funding. We are not a “known” name throughout the community. Most of our funding comes from two major events we hold each year: a Mother/Daughter Tea and Fashion Show held the Sunday before Mother’s Day and a Holiday Gift Show held the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We have also held smaller fundraising events throughout the year which has helped in these areas.

In addition, most of the transplant clinics are located in the Baltimore and D.C. areas where there is a larger transplant community to draw from. Here in Southern Maryland, we don’t have transplant centers. Though there are many organ transplant recipients in the area, due to confidentiality and the sensitive nature of a transplant, we do not have the access as the larger organizations do to reach out to this community. With that being said, it has also been a big challenge to find volunteers in the Southern Maryland area to assist with the organization. We know the people are out there, but just need help in finding ways to connect to them.

We continue to make baby steps, however we are excited to report that this year we made huge progress in establishing great partnerships with transplant social workers from the Johns Hopkins Transplant Center and the University of Maryland Transplant Center. In order to verify a recipient’s need for assistance, a grant application must be submitted and signed off by their transplant social worker before submitting to Windows of Strength for funding. We have been able to provide assistance to many of the recipients from these centers, some of which are from the Southern Maryland area. 

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Yes. Our Annual Holiday Gift Show – Sunday, November 23, 2014 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department, North Beach, Md.

We also sell very delicious tea and tasty creamed honey over the holidays. They can be purchased individually or in gift sets and baskets.

Other ongoing fund raising events:

  1. When you shop online at AmazonSmile and choose Windows of Strength as your charity organization, Amazon will donate a percentage to Windows of Strength.
  2. If you like jewelry, check out www.bravelets.com and search for Windows of Strength as your charity.   Bravelets™ will donate $10 from each jewelry purchase to Windows of Strength.
  3. We have partnered with Phoneraiser.com in collecting used/old cell phones and ink jet cartridges. The donation of these items help Windows of Strength raise money for organ transplant recipients and their caregivers, while at the same time protecting the environment by giving old technology new life and keeping it from polluting our landfills. The unwanted cell phones and ink cartridges are recycled in accordance with EPA regulations or refurbished and reused.     

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?  

A: Contact Windows of Strength by phone at 443-951-5125; email at mywish@windowsofstrength.org; or find more information online at www.windowsofstrength.org. Windows of Strength can also be found on Facebook and Pinterest. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 584, Chesapeake Beach, MD 20732.

La Plata Business Association Logo

You’ve heard of Black Friday, but did you know that the Saturday after Thanksgiving is Small Business Saturday? Local businesses are the backbone of so many communities, and each year, shoppers are encouraged to support then as they do their holiday shopping. This year, the La Plata Business Association has been working hard to plan the first-ever “Shop La Plata” celebration, taking place this Saturday. We spoke to Keith Grasso, the Association’s President, who shared some details on the event and why you should be shopping local this holiday season!

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

A: LPBA provides opportunities for businesses, organizations, and individuals interested in the development, redevelopment and preservation of the downtown business district of La Plata to work together to promote the interest of the La Plata Business community through the sponsoring, marketing and programming of special events and to provide opportunities for advertising and joint marketing development.

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

A: Small Business Saturday® helps small business kick off the busy holiday shopping season. The role of a neighborhood champion is to inspire communities to participate in the day and support local Small Business Saturday celebrations.

This year, LPBA has partnered with Business Alliance of Charles County, Charles County Chamber of Commerce, Charles County Government Economic Development and Tourism, Town of La Plata, and University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center among other neighborhood champions for the “Shop La Plata” celebration on Small Business Saturday.

To date, more than a dozen neighborhood champions have joined together to recognize the day and to commit to serve as ambassadors, encouraging family and friends to shop small at independently-owned shops and restaurants in our neighborhood.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Public awareness is important. LPBA appreciates this opportunity to be featured on Community Bank’s blog to promote public awareness about the “Shop La Plata” celebration on Small Business Saturday.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: LPBA will host an inaugural “Shop La Plata” celebration on Small Business Saturday® to be held on Nov. 29, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the downtown business district of La Plata, Maryland.

Small Business Saturday® is held the first Saturday after Thanksgiving and was original created by American Express in 2010 to help small business kick of the busy holiday shopping season. By supporting independently-owned shops and restaurants on Small Business Saturday® and throughout the holiday season, you are helping to grow the local economy and build a better neighborhood.

“Shop La Plata” for one of the best small town holiday shopping experiences Southern Maryland has to offer.

Streets and storefront windows will be decorated with whimsical holiday d├ęcor. La Plata’s tops chefs at Casey Jones Restaurant & Bar and Charles Street Bakery will fill the air with wonderful aromas of sweet treats and tasty desserts! Shop La Plata for homemade pizza at Pizza Hotline.

Shop La Plata for fine jewelry, fashion eyewear, baby boutique and one of kind gifts, ornaments and chic home decor at Centerpiece Boutique and Home Design, House Boutique, and Joson Fine Jewelry & Home Boutique. Shop La Plata for holistic health and wellness, beauty, spa and yoga holiday specials at Alchemy the Salon, La Bella Viso, Live Out Loud Yoga Studio, New Moon Bodywork & Botanicals, Rejuvenation Medi-Spa, Tangles Hair Salon, The Loft Salon, and World Gym. Shop La Plata for new and hard to find vintage musical instruments at Island Music Company, high quality custom framing for your holiday family portraits and handmade furniture at Bernie’s Frame Shop. Shop La Plata for quality resale clothing at Hooks and Hangers and iPhone, iPad and iPod repairs at Wireless Junkies.

Participating merchants will be collecting canned goods and nonperishable food items on Small Business Saturday to support Southern Maryland Food Bank.

Ask participating merchants how to win prizes, no purchase necessary.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Look for a full page ad in the Maryland Independent “holiday shopping guide” on Wed., Nov. 26 and Dec. 10. The guide will be available from Wed. Nov. 26 through Mon. Dec. 22 at Southern Maryland Newspapers Online web site www.somdnews.com

Stay updated and informed about the event by following the La Plata Business Association Facebook page. For inquiries, please contact Christine Parker, co-chair of the Shop La Plata celebration at 301-751-7553.

HSCC logo
Helping stray animals find permanent, loving homes is the mission of this week’s Friday Focus organization. The Humane Society of Calvert County works to place animals in responsible homes, increase awareness through education and outreach, reduce animal overpopulation and eliminate cruelty. They serve as an advocate for animals by promoting humane standards, and seek to enhance the relationship between animals and people. This week, we spoke with the Society’s Kirstyn Northrop Cobb, who talked with us about her organization’s work.

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

A: The Humane Society of Calvert County is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in placing homeless animals into loving homes throughout Southern Maryland.

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

A: A few years back, we brought in a very thin dog. He had been left chained out in the back of an abandoned home. He was thin, malnourished, hairless and had obviously lost hope. We brought him into our organization, fattened him up, made him healthy again and found him an amazing home. This is a story that repeats itself all the time within our organization and each and every time, it is special to us, but this guy really stood out as he was one of the first that I took part in.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge, by far, is the constant frustration that there are still so many animals in need of homes and we are unable to take them in due to space limitations. We look forward to a day when there are no more homeless pets.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have many upcoming events! Our annual Rock ‘N Roll for Rescue is coming up. We have “Home for the Holidays” in December and November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization? 

A: We have many volunteer opportunities available. We are always in need of volunteers to walk dogs or help at events. We welcome visitors and, as always, the number one way to help is to adopt a pet!