Savoy lent a ‘compassionate heart’ to San Mar’s foster care program

By Dave McMillon, Herald Media

Some children and youths face trauma in their lives.

And Ellen Savoy was there to help many of them by connecting the kids with caring foster parents.

Now Savoy, former director of treatment foster care at San Mar Family and Community Services near Boonsboro, has decided it’s time for someone else to take the reins.

Savoy retired from her job effective Oct. 30, culminating 32 years of looking out for the futures of youths.

San Mar, a private, nonprofit organization, used to serve as an orphanage, then it began serving girls through a group home. Savoy thought the program could do more for girls by connecting them with caring foster families in the county.

San Mar ultimately obtained a license to operate a foster care program, and it branched out to serve boys, too.

Savoy estimates San Mar has served close to 500 youths through the program over the years.

Savoy said the foster program was crucial to the development of youths, particularly as they began to “age out” at 18 years old. Savoy said girls in the program, for example, might feel they are ready to move in with a boyfriend at that age, but they are not always ready for that transition.

The foster program offers the older youths the ability to stay connected with their foster families to help them succeed in their life transitions, Savoy said.

Many of the foster families are in the Boonsboro and Sharpsburg area. The families are within a 30-mile radius of the center, Savoy said.

While the kids were developing, so was Savoy.

Savoy and her husband, Jim, were foster parents through San Mar and they also adopted a girl who was 2 1/2 months old when she came to them. She’s 41 years old now.

“And I don’t know how that happened,” Savoy said, smiling.

Separating children from their biological family can have a significant impact on the individual, and Savoy said raising her daughter was a tremendous learning experience for her. Regarding San Mar’s foster parents, Savoy said she was better able to “walk their journey” with them thanks to her life with her daughter.

Savoy, who lives in Hagerstown, said she is satisfied knowing she retired because she believes it was time to hand over the position to a younger person.

“This has been my baby all these years,” she said.

Keith Fanjoy, chief executive officer of San Mar, said when he arrived at the center 15 years ago as a treatment foster care case manager, Savoy was his supervisor.  Fanjoy said he had worked in other human service organizations, and when he arrived, Savoy reignited his belief that change is possible for kids through an organization like San Mar.

“One of the most valuable gifts someone can give to others is their time and love. The children and families we serve have always experienced Ellen’s patient faith, compassionate heart and the immeasurable benefit of her knowing firsthand what it means to be a foster and adoptive parent. Her fingerprints are all over San Mar’s core programs,” Fanjoy said in an email.

Original story link here: 

COVID Brings Out the Good Stuff


San Mar Family & Community Services has a 137-year-old history of meeting the needs of the community, with foster care programming, mental health services and community based resources to strengthen families. Like many organizations, when COVID-19 arrived in March, San Mar had to remain flexible and adapt to the changing needs of children and families. In the spirit of making lemonade out of lemons, faced with a lack of personal protective equipment, they found creative safety materials for families and then went the extra mile and developed their own hand sanitizer product: The Good Stuff.

In the Spring, all registered families at their Bester Health Center program in Hagerstown received a variety of PPE during different phases of the early months of COVID 19 including kid-friendly cartoon face shields, disposable gloves, and DIY mask kits to go along with various educational resources. These resources were delivered at a distance, door to door, to local families in the Bester school district by the Bester Community of Hope (BCOH) team. In addition, Proper Cloth, a New York based mask manufacturer donated 5000 medical grade masks to be distributed throughout the organization and community for staff and clients. As these hundreds of boxes of supplies were being distributed throughout the Spring and Summer another process was underway, a five-month journey to design, and ultimately produce local hand sanitizer.

San Mar CEO Keith Fanjoy explained, “It was as simple as identifying the need and responding to it, but from there it was a much more complex undertaking. We ran the gamut of all the needs of creating a new product, from scientific research for a formulation, risk management, supply chain and logistics during COVID, and ultimately safe manufacturing and distribution. The hand sanitizer we manufactured is a functional and safe product that we believe will support families to minimize potential risk to the COVID-19 virus.”

All levels of San Mar worked together during the creation of the product, completing the initial run of close to 3000 16 oz. bottles, almost 1500 liters of hand sanitizer, with a formulation that includes 70% isopropyl alcohol, aloe and lemongrass oil, being distributed at no cost to organizations, partners and families specifically located in South End neighborhoods of Hagerstown. Recipients included local houses of faith; elementary, middle and high school teachers; the Community Free Clinic; children and families enrolled through the Bester Health Center; children and families enrolled through Community Triage Services at BCOH; local food distribution efforts and remaining product going to local healthcare and social services efforts.

Health promotion and concrete resources are some of the various community based efforts under Bester Community of Hope, the initiative of San Mar focused on stronger families and communities, and the ability to provide COVID-19 supplies for local families is made possible through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and their Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children Program through the Maternal & Child Health Bureau, as well as the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation

Jerica Washington LCSW-C, Director of the Center of Well-Being at San Mar and HRSA grant liaison for the effort shared: “This is one small step in meeting needs during a time of uncertainty. We were happy to put ourselves in a space where we could do something in the area of physical health to ensure the well-being of our community.”

To find out about the work occurring at San Mar Family & Community Services, learn more at