Full Herald Mail Media story by Alexis Fitzpatrick can be viewed here: BCOH opens new home on Mill Street
Bester Community of Hope celebrates new home on Mill Street
Scott Nicewarner and his wife consider themselves proud parents of Bester Elementary School alumni, even with fully grown children.
After years of running the PTA and being involved in community, the Hagerstown city administrator said he still has a soft spot for school and the families who go there.
“Bester was our heart and soul for that time. We loved the kids, we loved the parents,” he said. “There was a special feeling about Bester that we are so thrilled. … We are so proud.”
Nicewarner joined representatives from the city, county, state and other organizations Thursday for the official ribbon cutting of Bester Community of Hope’s new location at 356 Mill St. in Hagerstown.
An initiative of San Mar Family and Community Services, the group focuses on helping children and families in the Bester Elementary community. During the last fiscal year, the organization served 115 families, totaling about 200 people.
San Mar CEO Keith Fanjoy spoke of the initiative’s beginning in early 2014, when San Mar began shifting away from its traditional child-welfare model, moving from treatment to prevention to improve the safety of children and their families. He called the transition a “labor of love,” which led to the creation of Bester Community of Hope in 2016.
“That little idea, we planted a seed in other people and they started to join into a process,” Fanjoy said.
He thanked the original investors in the project, some of whom were present at the ribbon cutting, for their support throughout the years, even when others called it a “crazy idea” or questioned how results would be measured.
Bester Elementary’s attendance has improved, according to Washington County Public Schools. The Maryland Center for Character Education named it one of the 2017-2018 Schools of the Year.
“We know it’s working because of where we are today and where we were,” Fanjoy said. “I’m more excited to do this again in five or 10 years when you’re in the south end community center and we’re at the next level.”
Jen Younker, the managing director of Bester Community of Hope, said Thursday’s event marked a new era. She said in the past year and a half, the operation has grown enough that it had to operate out of two offices across the city from one another.
“This is great symbolism for us. It’s our team coming back together right in the heart of where we want to be,” she said.
Proclamations from the city, county, the Chamber of Commerce and the offices of U.S. Rep. David Trone, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Del. Paul Corderman and Sen. Andrew Serafini were read during the celebration.