BCOH Highlighted in “At Home Places” magazine

Bester Community of Hope was recently highlighted with an extensive story in the holiday edition of “At Home Places”!

Check out the full story here:  AHP Holiday 2019 Bester Article


BCOH promotes health and assets on Walking Loop


Getting exercise outside in Hagerstown just got a little easier.

The new South End walking loop officially was finished in early October and is ready for walkers.

“It’s so great to have a path laid out for you,” said Kerry Fair, neighborhood partnership coordinator for Bester Community of Hope. “It’s easy to navigate, and gives the community a fun way to exercise.”

The 3-mile loop was created by Bester Community of Hope with a grant from the Washington County Health Department in support of the group’s walking school bus initiative.

Fair said it was created in an attempt to find a way to connect bus stops in the South End and make them more accessible.

“When we looked at the number of stops and how to connect them, we discovered that it came out to be almost a 5K,” Fair said. “We thought it would be great to just make it a walking loop to help promote and encourage exercise.”

To help bring information to the community in one place, the project includes four boards where local updates will be posted.

The boards will include fliers for upcoming events, a calendar of activities, and useful tips and information for members of the community. They will be maintained by Bester Community of Hope and the Neighborhoods 1st groups of Hagerstown.

“We thought that the boards would be a great way to connect with the community, including those who may not have access to the internet or a smartphone,” Fair said.

During their journey on the South End loop, walkers will pass historic local sites, including City Park and Rose Hill Cemetery, as well as a mural on West Memorial Boulevard and the Mural of Unusual Size on the Hagerstown Cultural Trail.

Fair and Bester Community of Hope have created a bi-weekly walking group for those looking for some company to try out the new loop and get some regular exercise.

The group is open to everyone and begins walking every Tuesday and Friday morning at 9 a.m., starting at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown. The walk will go around the entire loop, which takes about 45 minutes to walk.

“We hold each other accountable, and it’s a great way to get our steps in,” Fair said.

But those looking to lose some weight have one obstacle along the loop.

“If you’re walking the trail in the evening, it does take you past Krumpe’s Do-Nuts, which can be tempting,” Fair said.


“South End walking loop organizers look to promote community health with new path” – By Valerie Bonk here: Herald Mail Article

San Mar Accepts Human Rights Award

Church Women United of Washington County held its fall fellowship, human rights celebration and annual meeting Sept. 23 at Zion Baptist Church with 46 people in attendance.

Keith Fanjoy, CEO of San Mar Family and Community Services, addressed the group and accepted the Human Rights Award for the agency and a donation of $278.23.

Church Women United is a racially, culturally and theologically inclusive Christian women’s movement to celebrate unity in diversity and work for peace in the world.

As seen in the local paper “San Mar CEO addresses Church Women United meeting”: Herald Mail Story

San Mar welcomes Lowe’s Heroes crew to revitalize campus for kids

WDVM news story by Kelsey Jones available here: Lowes store extends a helping hand to a foster home

Lowe’s store extends a helping hand to a foster home

“This is just more proof of what we’ve done as our Lowes family comes out to our community and we build and bond with another family”

BOONSBORO, Md. (WDVM) — The San Mar foster home received the Lowe’s Hero award, giving it a new and improved basketball court, swing set, and playground.

“San Mar is family,” Lowe’s store manager Doug Thomas said. Thomas and other Lowe’s employees choose what organization they want to partner with every year to receive this award.

Thomas adds, “It really makes us feel good for what I do every day. To get out here and actually, you know, pull together my team, and how we can achieve anything.”


BCOH South Side Community Block Party a hit for families

Full article from Mike Lewis of Herald Mail Media available here: South Side Community Block Party, Fall Fest fill City Park

Block Party, Fall Fest fill Hagerstown City Park Saturday

Near one end of Hagerstown’s City Park on Saturday, people took in a bit of history at the Jonathan Hager House, which dates to about 1740.

Meanwhile, near the other end of the park, others used high-tech toys to play laser tag.

In the middle was a little bit of everything, from arts and crafts to paddle boat rides, from health information to games, and from country tunes to R&B/soul music.

The park hosted the annual City Park Fall Fest from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and the fourth annual South Side Block Party, organized by Bester Community of Hope, from noon until 3 p.m.

“This is the first year we’ve partnered with the city and did (the party) at the same time as Fall Fest and Porchfest,” said Jen Younker, director of Bester Community of Hope.

Bester Community of Hope is an initiative of San Mar, which focuses on positive outcomes for children and families in the Bester Elementary School neighborhood.

Younker said the idea behind the block party is to provide family-oriented fun as well as access to information and resources people might need. The party is a way to build relationships not just among neighborhood residents, she said, but also between residents and those resources.

About three dozen booths were set up by a range of organizations and services, from the Washington County Health Department to the Washington County Free Library.

At the band shell, two musical groups performed.

Kerry Fair, neighborhood partnership coordinator for Bester Community of Hope, said she met people from New York and Ohio during the event.

“They’ve come from far and wide to see The Swon Brothers,” she said.

A country music act from Oklahoma, The Swon Brothers are known from the TV show “The Voice.”

The opening act, the Washington, D.C.-based R&B/soul group The Chuck Brown Band, also attracted a crowd.

Judy Harris of Washington, D.C., said she came to hear the group. And Audrey Gaines-Terrell of Hagerstown was at the park with her husband, Tony Terrell, and 4-year-old Amaya Terrell. Audrey said her husband is from D.C. and is “a longtime fan.”

Ayesha King of Hagerstown stopped by a booth set up by Family Healthcare of Hagerstown near one of the park’s playgrounds. She said she came to the park with her children, Ayma-jee Calhoun, 9, and Ayziah Wells, 5.

“I brought the kids,” she said. “They’re going to play and enjoy themselves.”

Ten-year-old Nathan Wayner enjoyed a game of laser tag. His team won its contest.

His mother, Jennifer Webber, said the family lives in Chambersburg, Pa., but makes the trip to Hagerstown often.

“We come to City Park usually every other weekend,” she said.

The annual City Park Fall Fest traditionally offers a fusion of arts, entertainment and history.

To that end, various family-friendly activities took place at the Jonathan Hager House, the City Park Train Hub, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and the Mansion House Art Museum.

At the museum of fine arts, 8-year-old Shaelynn Farrow of St. Thomas, Pa., tried her hand at spinning wool.

“She loves art,” said her mother, Shonda Farrow.

In addition to the City Park Fall Fest and the South Side Block Party, Saturday’s events included the annual Porchfest in the 100 block of South Prospect Street. For part of Saturday afternoon, a shuttle was available to take people from one event to another.

Porchfest was scheduled for 2-6 p.m. It featured a variety of musicians playing on porches of historic homes, as well as food trucks and a kids’ porch.

30th Anniversary of The Great Bicycle Tour raises $86k for kids and families

Full story from Herald Mail Media available here: Great Bicycle Tour Raises 86k for San Mar

Great Bicycle Tour raises $86K for San Mar

San Mar Family and Community Services’ Great Bicycle Tour of the C&O Canal last month raised $86,792 to support the agency’s programs. July 13–16.

The 184.5-mile tour began July 13 in Cumberland, Md., and followed the C&O Canal Tow Path for four days, ending at mile marker 0 in Washington, D.C., on July 16.

More than 100 riders joined this year’s fundraiser to support children, families and communities in the region served by San Mar’s programs including Treatment Foster Care, The Bester Community of Hope and The Jack E. Barr Center for Well-Being.

The riders are supported with meals, lodging, and transportation included.

Local sponsors that helped make the ride possible through donations to cover expenses include lead sponsor The Nora Roberts Foundation; gold sponsors Bitner-Henry Insurance Group Inc. and the Loats Foundation; and a variety of local organizations including Hagerstown Ford; Wheel Base; Sign Here, Inc.; Aircon; First United Bank and Trust; Racine Multisports; PepsiCo; Smith Elliott Kerns, Inc.; Keller Stonebraker Insurance; Weiss Bros., Inc.; and Lions Club chapters from Boonsboro, Hancock, Hagerstown and Cumberland.

A few weeks remain to collect additional donations through rider giving pages, where donors can support their favorite rider at www.SanMar-TGBT.org.

The event has raised well over $1 million for San Mar programs over the past 30 years.

Next year’s Great Bicycle Tour of the C&O Canal will be held July 11 through 14, 2020. Registration will open Nov. 1 at www.SanMar-TGBT.org.

Villa Maria Mental Health Team Joins San Mar

Full Herald Mail story by Julie Greene available here: Villa Maria Mental Health Team Joins San Mar

San Mar brings some of Villa Maria’s Therapists under it’s umbrella

San Mar Family & Community Services hired four therapists from the recently closed Villa Maria of Washington County facility, helping to narrow the gap in mental-health services left with Villa Maria’s closing.

The therapists started with San Mar on Aug. 1, a day after Villa Maria closed, San Mar officials said. San Mar also hired a longtime administrative assistant from Villa Maria.

Since then, San Mar’s Jack E. Barr Center for Well-Being has already experienced substantial growth in the number of clients it’s serving, said Jerica Washington, the well-being center’s director.

The therapists’ clients had the option of continuing with their therapist at San Mar, Washington said.

The well-being center was averaging 80 to 100 clients before taking on the former Villa Maria therapists, Washington said. Since then, San Mar is averaging 150 active clients and that could expand to 200 or 250, she said.

Catholic Charities of Baltimore closed Villa Maria of Washington County, its local outpatient mental-health center at the end of July. The office off East Antietam Street was closed primarily for financial reasons, according to Kevin Keegan, director for the Family Services Division of Catholic Charities of Baltimore.

Villa Maria’s local office served between 100 and 200 clients at any given time, Keegan said.

“We are struggling financially in a very significant way in Hagerstown and just can’t sustain (it),” Keegan said in June.

San Mar CEO Keith Fanjoy said Melissa Phillips, Villa Maria’s local program director, contacted San Mar to see if the nonprofit was interested in taking over part of the Villa Maria team.

“Many people need mental-health services,” Fanjoy said.

San Mar’s Center for Well-Being, an outpatient mental-health clinic, provides individual and family therapy, Washington said. The center opened on San Mar’s 8504 Mapleville Road grounds, north of Boonsboro, in October 2016.

The expectation is the new therapists joining San Mar are serving a reasonable amount of families, which will help San Mar offset the additional staff costs, Fanjoy said.

Many of the clinicians affected by Villa Maria’s closing have found other employment opportunities, Fanjoy said.

In taking on the former Villa Maria workers, Fanjoy said, San Mar officials talked with the nonprofit’s local team and identified San Mar’s own needs. San Mar did not take over all of Villa Maria’s staff and services.

BCOH showcased in documentary video

Casey Family Programs recognized the work of the Bester Community of Hope, a San Mar Initiative, with a video highlighting our comprehensive efforts, as well as a story in it’s signature annual report, as a part of our 2019 Jim Casey national award. Read more of that report here: https://www.casey.org/hope

Watch the 10 minute documentary film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWITkQkKIv8

BCOH hosts Recovery Coach Academy community training in Hagerstown

From WDVM Hagerstown: https://www.localdvm.com/news/maryland/new-hampshire-man-shares-experience-of-substance-use-disorder

New Hampshire man shares experience of substance use disorder

After suffering from a 40ft. fall off a ladder, a New Hampshire man uses his story of addiction to help others wanting to guide victims of substance abuse.

Darryl Lennon has substance use disorder after he says he was over-prescribed drugs. In 2009, Lennon fell 40 feet from a house which resulted in him using drugs to suppress the pain.

“From there I was over-prescribed pain meds which ended up becoming addiction in my life, which ended up (making) me become homeless and losing everything,” Lennon said.

Fast forward 10 years later, him along with his wife teach are certified recovery support workers that teach Recovery Coach Academy.

“Recovery Coach Academy is training for people who are either allies to recovery like myself or people that are in recovery themselves who really want to reach back for the next person but seek education to do that,” Michelle said.

About 40 people attended the 5-day training which was sponsored by Bester Community of Hope, Washington County Department of Human Services and Casey Family Programs.

A Bester Community of Hope representative believes that a brighter path is in store for the Hagerstown community.

“Hope is alive, recovery is possible,” Jen Younker said

Spring brings opportunity for foster youth to start anew

Children connected with San Mar Treatment Foster Care came together today for exciting opportunities and a holiday celebration on this Good Friday. A teenage girl in our program, who we’ll call Sarah, had a vision for providing connections and fun for other kids and worked with our case manager Colleen Carter to pull off a fun day centered on the Easter holiday.

In the morning, Sarah facilitated hair, nails and make-up for other young women enrolled in the program, she not only wanted to provide this service for her peers, but also recruited other volunteers to make for a special day. “Kids look good without make-up, but I guess I can appreciate that at times when you might be having one of those days, that doing something like this makes you feel even better,” she explained. Her case manager, Colleen Carter, explained that this is a part of a larger effort the department has had over the past year to build connections between foster youth placed in their care. “A goal for our program is to have more activities so kids can get to know each other and have a support system with each other and give parents a moment to have some respite. Teens in particular can struggle at times with confidence and this was just a great way to bring them together for a fun day out.”

Young women participated in several stations aside from the makeover station, such as before and after makeover photographs, vision boards to set the stage for future goals, and teen boys in the program joined in for other activities including a golden egg Easter hunt with gift cards for a fun night out at movies or local restaurants.

Later in the day, younger children connected to our program went through a series of holiday activities including coloring, painting and hunting for candy placed around the Boonsboro campus. There was even a special appearance by the one and only Easter bunny, who was a big hit! Even those that took a while to warm up to the giant bunny eventually couldn’t avoid the warm embrace. Treatment Foster Director Ellen Savoy explained, “Being around kids makes you feel good and brings the child out of all of us, like spring brings new life.”

Interested in learning more about Treatment Foster Care and opportunities to make a difference in the lives of children in need? Contact us at family@sanmarhope.org or 301-733-9067 x236.