Bester Community of Hope’s Collective Impact continues to educate community

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.

The speakers

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 or call 240-513-6370

Source article:

Issues & Insiders: Longtime San Mar CEO stepping down (Part I)

Part I of CEO Bruce Anderson’s interview regarding his upcoming retirement

I&I: Longtime San Mar CEO stepping down (Part 2)

Part II of Bruce Anderson’s interview with WDVM news regarding his upcoming retirement

San Mar CEO to retire at the end of March

CEO Bruce Anderson is interviewed by WDVM following his retirement announcement, check out the video!

Created to give: Longtime CEO of San Mar Children’s Home Announces Retirement

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.

Shifting services

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.”