“Unconditional Care” sparks dialogue on personal impact of serving others, best practices


A diverse group of 450 community stakeholders came together to learn from national speakers at “Unconditional Care” on the campus of Hagerstown Community College at the Kepler Theater. Hosted by Bester Community of Hope, a San Mar Initiative, this event was the sixth installment in a series of trainings focused on beliefs and strategies for social progress, and this event placed a particular emphasis on self-care and understanding the impact of caring for others. Bester Community of Hope Director Jen Younker, LCSW-C explained,”Those who work taking care of others often disregard the need for self-care until signs of distress arise. Even then, we still may not recognize the signs as maladaptive or troublesome. If we take a preventative approach by taking care of our nervous system, we can mitigate the effects and keep our A game strong.”

See full story at www.besterhope.org/unconditional-care-sparks-dialogue-on-personal-impact-of-serving-others-best-practices/ 

San Mar Family & Community Services receives major grants for Bester, Hicks

San Mar Family & Community Services CEO Keith Fanjoy announced two significant grant awards to expand existing efforts at Bester Elementary School and provide future programming at E. Russell Hicks Middle School. Bester Community of Hope (BCOH), a San Mar Initiative supported by the Washington County Department of Social Services, Fletcher Foundation and Casey Family Programs, focuses on addressing the comprehensive needs of children and families in the south side of the City of Hagerstown. While the broader BCOH efforts have an emphasis on child welfare outcomes, these new grants will focus more specifically on components related to health, education and afterschool resources.  Fanjoy explained, “Over the past several years, San Mar Family & Community Services has worked tirelessly in the south side of Hagerstown to improve the lives and outcomes of children and families. Our notification of these grants is validation to all of our staff members and partners who dedicate their lives to humbly serving others. It’s also an early measure of success on the long-term journey we’ve committed to through the Bester Community of Hope initiative.”


Access to quality educational opportunities

In late 2018, the Maryland State Department of Education sent notification to San Mar that the Bester Community of Hope Initiative’s grant application for “South End 21st Century Community Learning Centers” won a significant annual award of $400,000.These funds are designated to support expansion of free afterschool programming and school based supports at Bester Elementary School and catalyze the creation of new afterschool opportunities at E. Russell Hicks Middle School in 2019. The grant process, which was led by Kerry Fair of San Mar includes the hiring of eleven employees, including a Director of 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a site coordinator at Bester Elementary and Hicks Middle, and eight part-time afterschool support staff members. San Mar has begun recruitment for key positions with targeted hire dates in the next month. “We are very thankful for our partnership with Bester Community of Hope,” says Dr. Kristen English, Principal at Bester Elementary School. “Our students are having enriching and productive afterschool experiences, which contribute to academic successes and positive social interactions.” Dr. Jana Palmer, Executive Director of Elementary Instruction added, “The 21st Century grant has the potential to provide a safe place for our students to go after school with a focus on extending learning opportunities.”


Bester Community of Hope began demonstrating the work by providing various free afterschool clubs at Bester Elementary starting in the Fall of 2016 and prior to this award was averaging over 100 students in Fall and Spring seasons to participate in varied academic and enrichment offerings under the title of BOOST, or Bester Out of School Time.


Improving Health Outcomes for South Side children

In 2018, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) also notified San Mar of a grant award, totaling $250,000 over five years, to expand and sustain existing efforts to provide free acute health care services to families with the students attending Bester Elementary and to create a new school based health center at E. Russell Hicks in the Fall of 2019. As a part of the process, key partners including Meritus Health, The Community Free Clinic of Washington County and Washington County Public Schools, worked with San Mar to increase standards to become a certified school based health center under the Maryland State Department of Education umbrella. The updated Memorandum of Understanding was finalized in January of 2019, and free acute health services will begin once again at Bester Elementary in the coming weeks. The grant represents a multi-year effort, written and led by Jerica Washington LCSW-C of San Mar, to sustain and expand the ongoing health needs in south side neighborhoods.  Washington stated, “We are excited to continue promoting child health in this innovative program that helps with early intervention. Our aim is that children are in school ready to learn and their wellbeing is supported by the community.”


The Bester Health Center was created in the Fall of 2016, and initially was an unfunded commitment from the Community Free Clinic in collaboration with Bester Community of Hope to provide free acute health care services to any child attending Bester Elementary when a parent completed a basic consent form for treatment, no insurance required. Over the past two years as the program developed, over 50% of school students were registered, and a variety of acute health services were offered including but not limited to writing prescriptions for illnesses and providing concrete resources such as lice shampoo, over the counter medications and nebulizer treatments. The intent is to improve access and convenience for families, ultimately reducing stress for families juggling many responsibilities and targeting attendance as a key outcome by expediting treatment. In addition to direct clinic services, Bester Community of Hope uses the grant to promote and create activities and resources that increase opportunities around health education. Nicole Houser, Executive Director of the Community Free Clinic shared, “The Community Free Clinic is happy to be part of this collaboration. As the healthcare provider at Bester Elementary we can quickly meet the students’ needs and help in reducing absenteeism. We look forward to creating the same partnership with E. Russell Hicks students and their families.”



San Mar receives national award in Seattle


Members of the Bester Community of Hope team were recognized in Seattle, Washington on January 15th as winners of the Jim Casey Building Communities of Hope award.

Pictured above from left to right are: Casey Family Programs Board President, David C. Mills; San Mar Family & Community Services CEO, Keith Fanjoy; Director of the Washington County Department of Social Services, D. Michael Piercy Jr.; Executive Director of the Fletcher Foundation, William P. Young Jr.; Director of the Bester Community of Hope, Jen Younker; Principal of Bester Elementary School, Dr. Kristen English; Executive Director of the Maryland Social Services Administration, Rebecca Jones-Gaston and Casey Family Programs CEO, Dr. William C. Bell.

Full press release provided by Casey Family Programs can be found here: https://www.casey.org/ceca-2019

San Mar Family & Community Services announces leadership appointments

This past Thursday, November the 8th, marked the 135th anniversary of San Mar Family & Community Services opening its doors for the first time and Chief Executive Officer Keith Fanjoy used the occasion to announce a series of recent leadership appointments and new additions to the senior leadership team. San Mar is comprised of three core programs: treatment foster care services, the Bester Community of Hope initiative and outpatient mental health services at the Jack E. Barr Center for Well-Being. With a mission of cultivating hope and well-being for children, families and communities, San Mar continues to be an innovative leader with a long standing history in the best approaches to address social issues for families.

Jerica Washington has been promoted to the Director of the Jack E. Barr Center for Well-Being at San Mar. An employee of San Mar for three years, she was a part of a core team that helped to create the program in October of 2016 and today she is responsible for overseeing all center operations and providing public outreach on mental health services the center provides.

Washington, a certified clinical social worker, graduated from Hood College with a Bachelor’s degree in social work, and completed her Master’s in social work from University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore, with a specialization in maternal and child health. She has experience with school based case management and community connections efforts, as well as clinical experience with health providers in hospitals and community clinics in Maryland and Tennessee. “I’m excited for this new role in the outpatient mental health clinic and the unique opportunity to work for an agency that provides unconditional care by bringing care coordination and mental health together.”

Jennifer Younker has been promoted to the Director of the Bester Community of Hope, San Mar’s community initiative to support families and neighborhoods.  A certified clinical social worker and an employee of San Mar for the past seven years, Jen previously held role of Director of Residential Services until 2016, and most recently the Director of Community Triage Services at Bester Community of Hope. Jen graduated from Frostburg State University with her Bachelor’s degree, followed by her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland.  “Our strong shift to a family-driven approach, operating within the context of the community, has encouraged us to think outside the box and welcome barriers as opportunities. We are in an exciting position to truly act in the best interest of families. It has been an honor to be welcomed into family’s homes, the community and the school, working alongside people with a mutual goal of safety and well-being for children. And the momentum continues to grow!”

Ellen Savoy has been an integral part of the success at San Mar for over 30 years predominantly in a leadership role in Treatment Foster Care and most recently as the Deputy Director of San Mar. After recently considering retirement, she has committed to return to her passion of supporting Treatment Foster Care as its Director. Ellen holds a Bachelor’s degree from Bowie State and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Maryland. She will continue leading the staff and families through the process of foster care placements and treatment planning, for the ultimate success of the children entrusted to the agency. “Being an adoptive parent, I am very excited to continue this work. Any child who can’t be home should be in the next best place, a place where she or she feels safe and loved. That’s what San Mar strives to do for the children we serve.”

Fanjoy explained, “The commitment of employees like Ellen, Jen and Jerica are a reflection of their tremendous character and love of serving others and I am proud to work alongside them as partners. Often times in the non-profit world there are long hours and great challenges, and San Mar can thrive today because of these dedicated leaders. We are so fortunate to have each one of them on our team and to be able to promote from within; I am excited to see where they will take us in the future. ” In addition to the leadership appointments of staff that were already a part of the organization, San Mar also created two new positions, a Director of Finance and a Director of Marketing & Development, which were hired from the community.

Niccole Rolls has joined as the Director of Development and Marketing and she will be primarily responsible for directing fundraising and development activities as well as some communication efforts for the organization. Niccole graduated from the University of Maryland University College with a degree in management. Prior to joining San Mar, she served as the Director of Donor Relations and stewardship at Shepherd University and prior to that worked on the Daring to Lead campaign at Mercersburg Academy. Niccole brings experience and a proven track record of success in the fundraising and donor engagement. Rolls said, “I’m so fortunate to have the opportunity to do this work that makes a difference in the lives of children. I’m excited to work with the San Mar team and hope my contribution adds to the amazing outcomes they achieve!”

Tim Harrison, CPA, has joined the team as the Director of Finance, a part-time position managing the finances for San Mar’s core programs. Tim is a graduate of Loyola University, and started his working career on the audit staff of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Baltimore. Afterwards, he held significant financial management positions with two Fortune 500 manufacturing companies – American Standard and General Instrument Corporation, followed by a role as Budget Director for the Johns Hopkins Hospital. After an extended career supporting the financial management at top private schools in Baltimore and Washington D.C., Tim has been in Hagerstown for the past six years as the President & CEO of Tele Medico.  Harrison said, “I’m thrilled to be one of the newest members of the San Mar management team, a team committed to being good stewards of the financial resources received from a multitude of grantors and donors.  It pleases me to be part of an organization with a long history of providing excellent services to youth in our community.”

Fanjoy explained, “The Board of Managers at San Mar have made sustainability and fiscal clarity a top priority for the organization as we move forward. I believe Niccole and Tim bring the important skills that will help us operate from a strong foundation and position us for long-term growth. They have caught the San Mar vision and have already hit the ground running. It’s an exciting time of forward motion for the organization. ” Are you interested in learning more about San Mar Family & Community Services and finding ways to become involved? Contact Niccole Rolls at nrolls@SanMarHome.org or at 301-733-9067 x250.

Bester Community of Hope puts focus on babies

By Mike Lewis, Herald Mail Media

Booths about babies were the focus Saturday as Bester Community of Hope hosted its third Babypalooza.

“Babypalooza is a fun event for caregivers. We’re celebrating families and bringing resources to moms and dads who are either expecting or (who have a child) up to the age of 5,” said Jen Younker, director of Bester Community of Hope. “It’s my favorite event.”

Bester Community of Hope is an outreach of San Mar Family and Community Services. It develops and offers strategies for positive outcomes for the children and families of the Bester Elementary School neighborhood. Among other things, it sponsors Babypalooza and the annual South Side Community Block Party.

On Saturday, vendors at the third annual Babypalooza with information on health care, safety and other services set up exhibits at Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown and talked with children, their parents and other caregivers. Some booths handed out treats, such as candy or small bags of pretzels, and others offered activities for children, such as face painting or using rubber stamps.

Within the first 30 minutes, more than 300 people had filed through the doors, organizers said.

Younker said she was pleased not only with the turnout, but also with the community-building aspect of the event.

“This is truly a depiction of what it looks like when the community comes together,” she said, referring to about 30 “community partners” who helped make the event possible.

She said individuals also come together at Babypalooza.

“Every year, we have people who make friends here,” she said.

Jessica Lerch of Hagerstown was among the hundreds who were looking for information. She’s due to deliver in January, she said. She spent a few minutes talking with Dr. Mutsa Nyakabau, a pediatrician with Family Healthcare of Hagerstown.

“I’m just learning a lot that I need to know to take care of a baby,” she said. “There’s a lot of information, that’s for sure.”

Source article: https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/local/bester-community-of-hope-puts-focus-on-babies/article_cc2e4df7-0670-5c2e-aae6-038f8210e14c.html

The Greatest Bicycle Tour is open for registrations November 1st!

Get Set! Ready! Register! Registrations and sponsorship will be open November 1st. Visit sanmar-tgbt.org to learn more on how to participate and help a great cause! Read more

Projects help revitalize Hagerstown’s South End

By Julie E. Greene, Herald Mail Media

A community tree grew in a railroad underpass over the weekend, and a field by Bester Elementary School was planted to attract butterflies.

The tree was a mural painted along the north wall of the West Memorial Boulevard railroad underpass less than a block from the school.

Both projects in Hagerstown’s South End show great things happen when people and organizations in the community work together, said Keith Fanjoy, CEO of San Mar Family and Community Services. The nonprofit oversees the Bester Community of Hope, which was involved in both projects.

The butterfly garden and mural are part of a long-term effort to revitalize the Memorial Boulevard corridor, Fanjoy said.

Volunteers from Hagerstown Artists Group, Community of Hope and the South End Neighborhoods 1st were working on the mural Sunday. The underpass was closed most of the weekend to allow for the work.

Hagerstown Artists member Charlotte Whalley, 25, of Hagerstown, came up with the design that included community input.

The tree signifies growth in the community and provides a welcome feel, Whalley said. Behind the tree is a sun over water. The neighborhood group wanted the design to include water because the underpass gets flooded during heavy rains.

Words like “hope,” “love,” “friendship,” and “together” appear in English, German or Spanish to reflect cultural heritages in the area. Volunteers were getting ready to paint the words early Sunday afternoon in some of the larger green bubbles that represent leaves.

Lesley Whalley, founder of Hagerstown Artists, said the group wanted to do a mural and ended up working with Fanjoy and the neighborhood group.

The Community of Hope helped fund the mural. Neighborhoods 1st President Melanie Pepple said the group used money the City of Hagerstown provided for neighborhood improvement projects.

Pepple said the group had been looking for a project for its northern boundary, and the mural brightens up an area that looked “grungy.”

Up the street, Community of Hope and Ladders to Leaders joined forces to plant the monarch butterfly garden that will become an outdoor classroom for Bester students, Fanjoy said. Wildflower seeds will be added to the area off South Potomac Street.

The Monarch Alliance and Community Foundation of Washington County funded the plantings, Fanjoy said. Community of Hope worked out the public-private partnership with Washington County Public Schools.

Eva Gillard, program administrator for Ladders to Leaders and whose daughter attends second grade at Bester, helped with the planting.

The project is a good idea not only for the students, but for the community, Gillard said.

Source article:  https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/instant/projects-help-revitalize-hagerstown-s-south-end/article_07056eda-ca7d-11e8-989e-3fcd1aaf8fe2.html

Bester Community of Hope celebrates good things happening in Hagerstown

By Alicia Notarianni, Whats NXT

For the third consecutive year, Bester Community of Hope will celebrate the good things happening in the South End of Hagerstown with the South Side Community Block Party.

Only this year, rather than celebrating in the field at Bester Elementary School, the party will be shifted Hagerstown City Park’s Peter Buys Band Shell.

“The biggest reason is that we had a larger turnout last year, and we know that with the kind of activities we have planned, we need a larger space to accommodate them,” said Keith Fanjoy. “City Park is located in the Bester Elementary School district and it seemed like a good neutral site for hosting the event.”

Fanjoy, who helped create Bester Community of Hope, is the project’s former director and current chief executive officer of San Mar Children’s Home in Boonsboro. Jen Younker took over as Bester Community of Hope director in July.

The community will be treated to free live music, games, local resource vendors, carnival games, train rides, laser tag and more from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22. Bester Community of Hope is a San Mar Initiative with specific strategies for positive outcomes for the children and families of the Bester Elementary School neighborhood. The effort is one of 14 national sites supported by Casey Family Programs for safe reduction of the number of children placed outside the home through building a better community.

“The biggest catalyst when we began doing Bester Community of Hope work was to try to shift the narrative to focus on the good things happening in the South End of the Hagerstown community,” Fanjoy said. “A community block party is a good way to bring together resources and families in the heart of the neighborhood where we are working to uplift and serve families.”

In its first year, roughly 1,000 people attended the block party. Last year, there was an estimated crowd of about 1,700 people. This year, organizers are anticipating even more, Fanjoy said.

“The community has really taken ownership of the activities,” he said. “There is nothing like being in the neighborhood where you live, celebrating all the good things going on, and having a good time while you are getting connected with resources. We will have a large number of community vendors so we can link families with local supports and resources.”

Participating social institutions include Washington County Health Department, and the Washington County Department of Social services, which supports Bester Community of Hope in its preventative efforts.

“We’ll have a lot of quality resources there that might help not just in times of need but just to help people get connected to local services that they may not be aware of,” Fanjoy said.

City Park presented itself as a natural resource in the city’s South End. It features attractions that some families might not yet have connected with on site and nearby, such as the Hagerstown Railroad Museum.

“There will be free rides on Tommy 202. We’ll be able to highlight some of those great local resources and create access and awareness of them,” he said. “There are other activities that will be run by volunteers who are neighborhood residents as well as staff members.”

Featured musical entertainment is the Chuck Brown Band, which also performed last year and performs at similar events in the Washington, D.C., area and beyond.

“They are very popular and we received positive feedback. We are bringing them back in part because they bring this eclectic, fun, urban sound,” Fanjoy said. “But what we really like about them is that they are also committed to a lot of the things that we are trying to do to strengthen neighborhoods and to support families.”

In seeking other acts with common goals, block party organizers found New Orleans-based national act The Soul Rebels. The band played once before in Hagerstown at the 2011 Western Maryland Blues Fest.

“They fit with this event and also bring a fun, exciting sound to Hagerstown,” Fanjoy said.

“The South Side Community Block Party is an opportunity for community organizations and residents and people from outside our area to come together and celebrate all the things that are going well. So often we are not able to do that,” Fanjoy said. “I hope to see everyone there Saturday. Rain or shine, it’s going to be a great time.”

Top photo: Dolores Agrinzonis, left, a volunteer with Horizon Goodwill Industries, speaks with Hagerstown resident Bianca Cook, right, during last year’s South Side Community Block Party event held on the grounds of Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown. (Herald-Mail file photo)

If you go …

WHAT: South Side Community Block Party
WHEN: Noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22
WHERE: Hagerstown City Park, 501 Virginia Ave., Hagerstown
COST: Admission to party is free. Concessions available for purchase.
CONTACT: Go to besterhope.org or go to South Side Community Block Party on Facebook
Source article: https://whatsnxt.com/article/bester-community-hope-celebrates-good-things-happening-hagerstown?fbclid=IwAR1GXuxFbaKR5R_HKfoAw8xeAVMgA-NuoinigPFqFRQBx7lwp4rajJuZv8o

I&I: Tomorrow’s Leaders program

Kerry Fair, Program Manager of Bester Community of Hope discusses our partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County

Resurrected Tomorrow’s Leaders program helps teens, community

By Alexis Fitzpatrick, Herald Mail Media

This summer, the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County brought back a program designed to help get teens ready for their futures, while also benefiting the community.

Partnering with Bester Community of Hope, Tomorrow’s Leaders pays teenagers a stipend to work at the Frederick Manor Club summer camp and arranges volunteer work at the Boys & Girls Club’s Elgin Station.

The Boys & Girls Club runs four after-school programs and summer camps for those 6 to 18 years old throughout Washington County. Bester Community of Hope is an initiative of San Mar focusing on the children and families in the Bester Elementary School neighborhood in Hagerstown.

A version of the program existed from 2003 until a few years ago, but funding issues led to its dissolution.

“Rebooting the Tomorrow’s Leaders is part of our plans to offer more services for our teens, as it is a gateway to official future employment,” Addie Nardi, Boys & Girls Club executive director, said in a news release.

The program, the third of seven weeks of which is finishing up, required the teens to apply and go through an interview before being picked. The job-readiness test they took prior to the program will be compared to one given later to check the effectiveness of Tomorrow’s Leaders.

Four participants are working at the Frederick Manor Club summer camp one day a week each, and three St. James School students are helping out at Elgin Station during two- and three-week shifts.

“It’s going over very well,” said Eric Rollins, Elgin Station area director. “Especially the students from St. James, they’re doing amazing. They have a lot of personality and they just help out tremendously in the program. At Frederick Manor, they live in the community, so it’s a benefit for them to know the staff, know the program and know the kids.”

Rollins was a participant during the inaugural program and said getting to see a new generation of leaders be affected by its guidance has been special.

Kerry Fair, Bester Community of Hope program manager, said she already was asked by the kids if they can expand the program throughout the school year. She said they are trying to work something out to continue past the summer.

“We believe that every neighborhood, every community has natural leaders within it, but sometimes they just don’t have the support, the encouragement, the empowerment, the funding isn’t there; there’s something that’s not able to elevate them to status. We’re really happy to have these kids,” Fair said. “It’s clear that they have something to offer.”

Daily tasks include assisting the staff, mentoring campers and providing a safe atmosphere for the kids.

For the teens, the main draw wasn’t the money, getting in some student service learning volunteer hours or even the work experience. It was the children.

Ashia Jones, 16, was going to volunteer anyway, since her brother is involved at Frederick Manor. The small stipend and other Tomorrow’s Leaders benefits just helped sweeten the deal.

“Children have always been an interest. I love putting a smile on a kid’s face, and knowing that they like me and I’m a cool person. It makes me feel better about myself,” Ashia said. “I would do it every day. I really enjoy coming here.”

Friends Kiandra Houser, 16, and Danielle Wolf, 15, were already involved with the Boys & Girls Club and jumped at the chance to work with kids.

Kiandra said she wants to be a family therapist when she gets older, so the experience she is getting now with Tomorrow’s Leaders is setting her up for success.

Danielle plans to become an elementary school teacher.

“I just think it’s a good opportunity for teens. It’s also a good opportunity for kids … especially a program like this. Sometimes they don’t have people to talk to at home and they might be able to relate more to us than adults,” Danielle said.

Another Boys & Girls Club veteran, Shada Datcher, 16, loves not only working with the children, but gaining experience to help guide others.

“We’re representing tomorrow, the future. We stand out. We are people that are leading the pack, so we’ve got people looking up to us, following us,” Shada said.

Source article: https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/local/resurrected-tomorrow-s-leaders-program-helps-teens-community/article_a300cc56-8a01-11e8-acdd-7b9228ee2fa0.html