On March 1, 2018, the Leadership Southern Maryland (LSM) Class of 2018 participated in the seventh of nine educational sessions – Housing and Human Services – sponsored by the Cherry Cove Group and Ms. Catherine Meyers, executive director for the Center for Children and LSM council member.
The day began with an introduction and welcome by Executive Director Helen Mattingly Wernecke and Lead Advocate Robbie Loker LSM’16 at the Church of the Ascension in Lexington Park. A panel then convened to share information and insights on the topic “Asset Development Approach to Fighting Poverty: Building Volunteer Bases.” Kerry Miciotto, LCSW-C, team leader for the St. Mary’s Department of Social Services, Lexington Park office; Dr. Janice Walthour, retired educator and current board member of the College of Southern Maryland; Sara Martin, church administrator & community ministry outreach liaison for Lexington Park United Methodist Church; Jennifer Neff, LCSW-C, program specialist for adult services at St. Mary’s Department of Social Services; and H. Spearman Lancaster, executive director for Three Oaks Shelter, were on hand to discuss the resources available both at the county government and community charity access points for those dealing with homelessness and poverty. Loker, who previously worked for St. Mary’s Social Services, leant her knowledge and experiences to the day’s discussions. The morning concluded with session sponsor, Cathy Meyers presenting the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) assessment as well as educating the class on how intertwined childhood experiences, poverty, mental health, and homelessness can be and how adverse childhood experiences can affect one’s ability to thrive.
Chris Longmore LSM’09, attorney and partner at Dugan, McKissick & Longmore, led the lunchtime activity and discussion on how we, as leaders, can help with housing and human services issues in our own communities and beyond. Afterward, the class heard from Wanda Digennaro, director of H.O.P.E, an organization based at the Church of the Ascension that has helped over 130,000 needy individuals with electric bills, fuel oil, rent, food, medicine, and other emergency needs in St. Mary’s County, and toured the church’s food pantry which has supplied food for over 22,000 local households since it’s inception. “Little Jack” Woodford was also on hand to share information about Heart F.E.L.T., a Calvert based program that supplies meals to children to bridge the weekend gap for those who participate in the public schools’ free and reduced lunch programs and face food insecurities at home. The session wrapped up with a presentation by Mike Bellis, executive director of United Way of Charles County. Bellis introduced the class to the A.L.I.C.E. report which details financial struggles and hardships faced by Marylanders, many of whom are “one blown transmission away” from financial crisis.
The class wrapped up their day with a networking event that evening hosted by LSM’s Alumni Association at Elements Eatery and Mixology in Lexington Park. Class participants were able to meet and interact with LSM alumni, nearly 300 strong, as well as Leadership Maryland alumni living in the Southern Maryland region.