The Greatest Bicycle Tour of the Historic C & 0 Canal 2018 in the news! Thanks to all our riders who joined us this year!
By CJ Lovelace, Herald Mail Media
This year has been one of transition for San Mar Children’s Home.
The agency has a new name, a new chief executive and a new direction that involved the closure of its longtime residential services to focus on a new strategy of meeting local families and youths in their homes and communities.
CEO Keith Fanjoy, who took the reigns in April following the retirement of Bruce Anderson, recently sat down with Herald-Mail Media for a wide-ranging interview about the agency’s future plans and goals in Washington County.
Herald-Mail: Bruce Anderson retired in March after 35 years. Talk a little about your experience with San Mar.
Keith Fanjoy: I’ve been an employee of San Mar for about 12 years and I’ve had a variety of roles with the organization, starting out as a caseworker for treatment foster care, then as an admissions director overseeing all of the case management and clinical interviews of all incoming female residents to our group homes, then, ultimately, as the deputy director of the agency about four and a half years ago. I helped to develop a new community-based effort under the San Mar umbrella called San Mar Community of Hope and I’ve been there since the fall of 2015, then, most recently, transitioning into the role of CEO as of April 2.
HM: You mentioned Bester Community of Hope. That’s kind of where the organization is headed now, correct? Can you talk about how the San Mar of old has changed into the San Mar of today?
KF: San Mar’s core values and our priorities have not changed. We still put a tremendous emphasis on children and those children in need. It’s our strategy that’s changed. We have made a strategic decision to move away from residential programming and try to put more energy into wrapping supports around families in their communities, or when a child can’t be safely managed in their home or community with caring and supportive adults. Our three anchor programs at San Mar are, first of all, Bester of Community of Hope. It’s our newest program. We also have a relatively new outpatient mental health center called the Jack E. Barr Center for Wellbeing. Then, at this time, our most mature and acute program which is our treatment foster care program, where we place children who have high intensity needs in caring and supportive families to hopefully stabilize them, meet their needs and help them return to their biological families, if possible.
HM: Are you still operating as San Mar Children’s Home or has the name changed with the different programs?
KF: In the past year, as we closed our residential programs, we changed our name officially to San Mar Family and Community Services to ultimately reflect the areas of focus for our organization that kids are still our top priority, but it’s the way we work with them through their family and their community that we believe is the most effective way to making a difference.
HM: So you have done away with your residential programs now?
KF: Yes. As of July of 2016, we went through a multi-year process ending in July of 2017 where we closed our various residential programs as we began opening more outpatient or community-based programs. So the shift was away from congregate care settings to focus more on meeting people in their environment. A lot of the shift and strategy comes from thinking of the child in the context of their family, in the context of their neighborhood. One of the things in this legacy of care that Bruce Anderson was able to implement at San Mar, there was no question that all the children who lived there had all their needs met. … The challenge ultimately became as the children were transitioning back to their family of origin, what we were as an agency to do more to support maintaining them in a community-based setting? This moral imperative kind of pushed us to seek answers, and as we found options that were creative and innovative, ultimately, it was the impetus for change for the organization.
HM: What’s been the reaction to the changes … from parents, from kids?
KF: Our community-based programming has been very positive overall. And we are very excited about the direction of being able to provide the same level of support to children in the context of their home environment with their whole family, not just one child. For those of us that have been in this work of residential and foster care, serving people earlier is so rewarding because we feel like ultimately the work that we’re doing is preventing people from having to go deeper into these foster care systems. … There is a sense of loss around the end of our residential programs, but as people come to understand how we’ve adapted our focus and are still putting kids front and center around that strategy, they get really excited. I think anytime an organization with such a long, rich history as San Mar goes through a change like this, there is a process to help the public understand what that looks like. The more people who come to understand it and become comfortable with it, they can really see that San Mar as an agency is very similar to what it has always been.
HM: Can you elaborate on the thought process that helped bring this new strategy to life?
KF: As we studied best practices across the country, as we were developing our community of hope model, we started to identify innovative ways to respond to children and families earlier. With that, that pushed our board of directors and senior leadership to make this bold new direction about how to support families earlier in a preventative capacity. … People think of San Mar and they say “the orphanage.” It’s because of our 130-plus-year history serving children in a residential capacity. Most recently, in the past 35 years under Bruce Anderson’s leadership, they would say the girls at San Mar, and those would be adolescent girls who needed residential care between the ages of 12 and 18. And really now today, we’re serving such a wide range of ages, of children and their parents, as well as whole neighborhoods. It’s a much broader approach to making a significant impact in the lives of children.
HM: When you talk about best practices, is one of those reaching children and families earlier to mitigate problems before they get worse down the road?
KF: We’ve just focused on moving up stream a little bit. Again, there will always be some level of need for acute services for children in great need, but we just want to do our part to ultimately contribute to reducing the amount of children that are impacted by systems of care.
HM: Is there a specific criteria for kids or family situations where San Mar gets involved?
KF: Each of our programs has a little bit of a different criteria for services, but for treatment foster care, we receive referrals from state agencies, primarily social services. Those are newborn children all the way up to age 21, boys and girls, who primarily are not able to be safely maintained in their home environment because of some type of abuse, neglect or a problematic family situation. Our goal, as we bring those children into licensed and certified families, is to provide for them and meet their basic needs, but also make sure that these families that they’re living with have a deep understanding of the trauma these kids have gone through so they can respond in an effective way to their behaviors. For the outpatient mental health center, it’s open to the community. We accept referrals. … The primary location for those services are at our Boonsboro campus. However, therapists who are working with a client who may have certain needs of meeting in closer proximity to Hagerstown, we can arrange that kind of service.
HM: In your time with San Mar, have you seen an increase in families in crisis?
KF: I think life is a lot more complicated today than it was even 20 years ago, but I do think that the needs, the stresses that are put on families and the lack of availability of nearby relatives, nearby community supports make it very difficult for families, especially those who are in low-income situations or impoverished communities. As far as an increase in need for mental-health services or those that are being impacted by drugs and those things, I think today we just look at those things a little bit differently. We spend a lot of time as an agency and doing trainings and talking to the public about trauma-informed practices, so that when we see these problematic behaviors from children or adults, it starts with what do we believe and see happening there. The three things we regularly talk about as a staff are to be trauma-informed, strength-based and solution-oriented. To break that down a little bit, being trauma-informed means we’re going to take the time to listen and understand what someone has gone through. Once we do that, we don’t want to spend a whole lot of time focusing on all the things wrong, so we have to be strength-based, which allows us to build momentum from the places where someone has had success. If we’re able to start doing that and motivating those people who are in some level of struggle or crisis, it’s only after those two things have happened that we can start talking about some solutions.
HM: What’s the biggest takeaway for the community about San Mar’s new scope of work?
KF: One of the things we talk about when we talk about individuals moving toward independence, we actually use the term interdependence because none of us have longterm success in life alone. We’re all in this world together, and there’s a certain level of desire for folks to figure it out, but until we take the time to really understand their experience and help them move through something, they’re not going to be able to do it. So as far as San Mar as an agency, I’m really excited about the long-term directions the board of directors and our senior leadership team has committed to. We’re committed to innovation and moving in a strategic direction that allows San Mar to be a 21st century human-services organization. … My hope longterm as we think how to address community needs, especially in the city of Hagerstown and beyond, is thinking how we can partner with others who are doing this work instead of duplicating efforts. … San Mar is alive and well, and we plan on making a major impact on Washington County in the coming years. We’re excited to be able to share our story with the community and look forward to traveling on that journey together.
For more information about San Mar and its programs or how to get involved as a volunteer, foster family or donor, contact the main office at 301-733-9067.
By Alicia Notarianni, Herald Mail Media
During 2015, a coalition of community organizations came together to form Bester Community of Hope.
Since that time, the organization has brought to the Washington County area a series of nationally recognized speakers, offering trainings and models for addressing community needs and creating a positive social impact.
On Thursday, March 29, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Maryland Theatre, Bester Community of Hope, a San Mar Initiative, will continue its efforts to share visions of success for children and families through its fifth large community training, Collective Impact. The event will feature three national experts in education and community change, each of whom, the event flyer reads “have accomplished seemingly impossible outcomes, with common sense approaches you can implement in your organization.”
The speakers are Geoffrey Canada, Jim Sporleder and Dante DeTablan.
Keith Fanjoy, director of Bester Community of Hope, said the concept of sharing ideas in a practical way is key to the mission of the group.
“Really, the goal of these events if to capture the hearts and minds of people that live and work and try to make a difference in Washington County,” Fanjoy said. “We believe that helping to share beliefs around these major issues, people start to ultimately ask, ‘What is it that I can do to make a collective impact where I live? What are some specific things that I can implement?’”
Fanjoy, who is incoming chief executive officer of San Mar, said the partners involved in the organized efforts in the south end of Hagerstown are helping to “continue a dialogue of the most effective ways to serve children and families, that honors their history, builds on their strengths, and moves toward solutions.”
“We make the biggest impact through working with partners to get clarity around our shared beliefs,” he said.
Fanjoy said it is rare to be able to “bring in the caliber of speakers we have been able to bring in over the past few years.”
Canada is a leader in the field of social reform nationally, according to Fanjoy. He is renowned for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem, N.Y., as president and chief executive officer of Harlem Children’s Zone, and for his involvement with Promise Neighborhoods, a program designed to improve outcomes for children in distressed communities. Canada has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and one of Fortune’s 50 greatest leaders.
“He is a voice that I think Hagerstown and Washington County can learn a great deal from about looking at insurmountable challenges in a very different way. Not looking at the problem and saying how unsolvable it is, but in maybe thinking about what it would take to make it happen, no matter what the obstacles are,” Fanjoy said.
Sporleder, best known for Trauma Informed Consulting, teaches that while traumatic experiences in childhood statistically result in increased behavioral and psychological risk factors, those factors can be offset by the presence of one dependable and caring adult. His service as principal, along with that of staff at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Wash., is featured in the film “Paper Tigers,” which was previously screened by a Hagerstown audience.
“What’s exciting about his training is that it is not just for people with an education background. The principles people will learn at the event can apply to every organization working with children and families and trying their best to make our neighborhoods a better place to live,” Fanjoy said. “It shows how when you work with an unconditional care platform, you can achieve extraordinary results even with those challenges.”
DeTablan is vice president of United Way Ben Franklin Center at Brooklyn/Curtis Bay which offers programs in education, health, housing and employment needs in south Baltimore.
“When we think about the things that are happening in our communities, there is a lot we can do, but it starts with us asking questions, about our organizations, our daily practices,” Fanjoy said. “Trainings like this ultimately can give us tools we need to make the impact that we are looking for.”
San Mar Family and Community Services, based in Boonsboro, began organizing a community improvement effort during 2014. That effort formally began as Bester Community of Hope in the South end neighborhood.
San Mar had posed a question to institutional leaders across Washington County, Fanjoy said, asking where, geographically, were the greatest amounts of needs, as well as momentum and opportunity for impact.
“There was a unanimous vote that this part of the community in the south end presented the greatest overlapping social need,” he said, “and also the greatest momentum, (in part) because of the strategic investment by the school system to build a big, beautiful, brand new school (Bester Elementary School).”
Bester Community of Hope’s first large scale training in 2015 was about Trauma Informed Care.
“It’s really the idea and practice around taking the time to listen and understand the experiences of the people we serve,” Fanjoy said.
Other Community of Hope events focused on Building Resilience and Healing Communities.
Pervious speakers have included “Paper Tigers” director James Redford, and Lonice Bias, mother of deceased All-American basketball player Len Bias.
Bester Community of Hope is part of an effort based in Seattle, Wash., and is one of 14 national sites receiving funding from Casey Family Programs. Part of that group’s goal is to reduce the number of children placed outside of their home.
Funding for speakers at area trainings is underwritten through local and national philanthropy and support. Sources include the Community Foundation of Washington County; Washington County Department of Social Services; Casey Family Programs; Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation; and other strategic partners, Fanjoy said.
Roughly 450 people have attended past Bester Community of Hope trainings. Collective Impact will be the group’s first event at The Maryland Theatre, and Fanjoy is hoping for as many as 600 people to participate.
“We get a cross section of all kinds of community organizations. People come from outside the region to learn, and this puts Hagerstown in a position of leadership as a community,” he said. “We are a community starting to make changes for good. Others are coming to Hagerstown to learn from us and to see how we are doing it. That is an exciting premise.”
It is a goal of Bester Community of Hope to remain on the “very cutting edge of understanding the most effective tools and practices to make a strategic impact in the lives of kids and families,” Fanjoy said.
Measurable success happens as other organizations take lessons from community trainings and implement them in their own work to improve the community. This is happening with participating groups, he said, Hagerstown Area Religious Council among them.
“We’ve seen them taking ownership, taking this on for themselves into their work,” Fanjoy said. “The results of the trainings have a ripple effect when people come to the trainings, and go go back to their organizations and ask, ‘How can we best implement these practices in our work?’”
Challenges of each community are unique, and there is not one-size-fits-all approach for success in solving problems.
“There are, however, principles we can follow together under a shared vision for success,” Fanjoy said. “A lot of challenges can be overcome by figuring out how to learn from one another, how we can implement tools, and best strategies and practices right here at home.”
WHAT: Bester Community of Hope’s Collective Impact
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29
WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
COST: $45 person; $30 per person for groups of 10 or more
CONTACT: Go to BesterHope.org or call 240-513-6370
Part I of CEO Bruce Anderson’s interview regarding his upcoming retirement
Part II of Bruce Anderson’s interview with WDVM news regarding his upcoming retirement
CEO Bruce Anderson is interviewed by WDVM following his retirement announcement, check out the video!
February 20, 2018
Herald Mail Media by CJ Lovelace
BOONSBORO — An older man hears a knock at the front door of his home in Franklin County, Pa.
Standing on the other side of the door is someone he had never seen before — a short man with brown hair, a wide smile and kind eyes. Unsure of the visitor’s intentions, the man responds with skepticism.
“What do you want?” the man asks in a gruff voice.
Bruce T. Anderson made the trip to the mysterious man’s home one day in the late 1980s, after learning that he might be planning to give $200,000 in his will to San Mar Children’s Home. He told the man he wanted to confirm the rumor.
At first, the man denied he even had a will. And if he did, what did Anderson, the then-recently hired CEO of San Mar, want to talk about?
“If you did, then all I’d ever see is money,” Anderson recalled telling the man. “And I suspect your life stood for something, but I don’t have a clue what it stood for. I wanted to learn what your life stood for.”
The man finally opened up, saying the money was part of a trust fund. He invited Anderson into his home.
“I sat with him for an hour as he told me his life story,” Anderson said. “And then he picked up the phone and called his attorney. He told his attorney to take $200,000 from another pot and put it into our pot.”
About five years later, the man died with about $600,000 set aside for San Mar, resulting in more than $1 million in accrued interest revenue paid to the organization over the years, Anderson said.
The encounter ultimately led to substantial financial support, but Anderson, who is planning to retire next month after three-plus decades, said his work, and life in general, has never been about money.
He said he simply tried to appeal to a person’s natural desire to give.
“I think we’re created to give,” Anderson said. “… You don’t have a need to give here, but you have a need to give. All I’m doing is presenting opportunity. And if I present opportunity enough, there will be people who will respond to that.”
A fulfilling career
Looking back on the past 33 years, Anderson, 66, described himself as “outrageously blessed” to have worked with a great group of staff members and volunteers.
“It is one of the primary reasons we have been able to see such strong outcomes in the children and youth we have served,” he said in a news release announcing his retirement. “It certainly hasn’t been boring.”
His final day will be March 31, capping off a long career as San Mar’s 10th director, starting in 1985.
“When people talk about San Mar, they talk about Bruce,” said Keith Fanjoy, director of San Mar’s Bester Community of Hope project, who will succeed Anderson.
Fanjoy pointed to the thousands of children who Anderson has assisted and gotten to know personally over the years.
“They remember Bruce,” he said. “He wasn’t just a CEO that raised money and did other things. He was someone who took a personal interest in all the kids that were a part of the program. And I think that really speaks to his character and also his interest in why he’s here.”
After Anderson’s arrival, San Mar expanded its programming to include treatment foster care, outpatient mental health services, prevention services through the Bester Community of Hope initiative, and six residential programs in Boonsboro and Cumberland that focused on the needs of adolescent girls.
Nearly 2,500 children have stayed in San Mar’s residential and foster-care programs during Anderson’s tenure, at a time when many programs were scrutinized.
During that time, San Mar was consistently recognized for maintaining a high standard of care, resulting in national accreditation. Anderson’s efforts were highlighted by a 2005 story in The Baltimore Sun that called San Mar “one of Maryland’s most highly regarded group homes.”
Anderson said the Sun article was particularly memorable, especially because he was unsure the tone the story would have.
“We were acknowledged as a model program in the state,” he said. “We always thought that, but when you had someone standing outside and really looking at it and comparing a lot of the different programs, and they stand back and say, ‘This is a credible program’ … that was pretty good.”
Among his accomplishments, Anderson has led a number of wildly successful fundraisers for San Mar over the years, although he denies he would fit the mold of a “fundraiser.”
In 2008, he raffled off a house, netting $250,000 and garnering international attention. An avid bicyclist, he started an annual ride down the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal that’s now entering its 30th year and generates more than $100,000 annually.
As a result of a shift in community needs and clinical approaches, residential-care facilities have undergone changes in recent years, and San Mar has done so, as well.
In July 2016, San Mar finished phasing out its group homes for adolescent girls, opting to focus more on supporting children and families earlier in hopes of preventing the need for group care later in life.
“If we can have an influence to strengthen families so that their kids never had to come out of those families, how powerful, how life-changing that could be,” Anderson said. “I’m not opposed to residential care … but the way in which the system is changed, funding programs like this are very difficult now. So we’ve made the decision to shift over.”
A similar change happened in the 1980s, when orphanages essentially disappeared. Service providers moved toward a model focusing on clinical and behavioral health services, according to Anderson.
San Mar’s focus now resides in three core programs — foster care for girls and boys, a new outpatient mental-health clinic and Bester Community of Hope, which Fanjoy has headed for a few years.
With Fanjoy’s experience with that program, and others through his 12 years at San Mar, it created a logical point for Anderson to call it a career.
“I have every reason to believe that we will see the organization continue to grow and move forward,” he said. “It’s just the right time.”
Blessing and a gift
When Anderson said he believes all people have a need to give, it even includes those who receive.
For example, Anderson recalled a program at Christmas in which community members were invited to buy gifts for the girls.
One year, a girl received a gift from a woman, but instead of reacting positively to receiving what the giftgiver thought she wanted, the girl pouted and appeared angry after unwrapping the present.
“You could tell the woman was just wounded by this,” Anderson said. “So after it was over, I kind of processed it with the girl a little bit.”
It provided a teachable moment for the rest of the group.
“As we talked about this, I pointed out to the girls: This lady is giving you a thing, but you have the power to give something to her,” he said. “You have the power to bless her. You have the power to make her feel as if what she’s doing is meaningful. That’s in your power. … It was a revelation none of them had ever seen before.”
The girls reacted differently the following year.
The girl who pouted the year before received a jewelry box with a broken door. She opened the gift, found the defect and rather than act upset, she smiled and simply acknowledged that it could be fixed or replaced with a new one.
“We have things to give and we don’t even realize it,” Anderson said. “Our ability to receive in a gracious way is actually giving, and we don’t recognize it.”
Anderson recounted his favorite memory from that day, watching as a 12-year-old girl opened her gift — a blue-jean skirt that she had always wanted — and “she just goes crazy.”
Unfortunately, though, the skirt was entirely too big. But how did the girl react?
“She says, that’s OK. They can exchange it for two of them.”