Mid Shore Community Mediation Center Welcomes New Board Members

In the continued effort to strengthen our community by bringing peace and resolution to situations with conflict, the Mid Shore Community Mediation Center recently welcomed four new Board Members – Steven Doehler; The Honorable Karen Murphy Jensen; Donald K. Reedy, Esq; and Kelly Simonsen. “We are grateful to add such diverse talents and look forward to the fresh perspective this group will bring to support our mission and strengthen our impact,” said Linda Webb, LSCW, Mid Shore Mediation’s Board President. The new members join Webb, The Honorable Broughton “Bo” Earnest, Deborah Halvis, Jan Hardin, Cynthia Jurrius, Rob Ketcham, Kisha Petticolas and Kason Washington.

L to R: Steven Doehler; The Honorable Karen Murphy Jensen; Kelly Simonsen, Donald K. Reedy, Esq.

The 13-member board is focused on strategic planning and possibly establishing an independent location to accommodate the growth of the organization. In 2016, the Mid Shore Mediation Center conducted over 600 mediation and group facilitation sessions in Talbot, Dorchester and Caroline Counties. “The goal is to facilitate conversations and collaboration, outside of the court system when possible. When people are able to make their own decisions in mediation, they are able to increase understanding between them, and reach solutions that work for them,” said Cynthia Jurrius, Executive Director of Mid Shore Mediation Center. Additionally, approximately 70% of the cases reach agreement.

The Youth and School-based Program is a partnership with the Dorchester County Public Schools, which has expanded to five schools and now annually serves over 500 students, parents and teachers. “Our mediators, staff and board are committed to working together as we create a unique framework for conflict resolution to benefit our entire community,” added Jurrius.

The Mid Shore Community Mediation Center is a non-profit resource for productive dialogue. The Center provides mediation and conflict resolution for a wide range of situations, including parenting plan mediations (child access), parent-teen, elder, workplace, landlord-tenant, neighborhoods, youth and school-related, re-entry from rehabilitation and incarceration, small claims, and public policy matters. To learn more, please visit midshoremediation.org.

Mid Shore Mediation Offers Community in Harmony Concert

Mid Shore Mediation in Easton will host a free concert entitled “Community In Harmony” on Sunday, January 15 at 4 p.m. at Trinity Cathedral in Easton. Mid Shore Community Mediation Center is a community resource for supporting productive dialog of all kinds.  This concert seeks to bring the community together to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of peace. The movements for justice have produced some of our most inspiring songs and stories. The gift of peace to your fellow community members is a service with amazing ripple effects.  

rhonda-ruckerThe concert will feature Sparky and Rhonda Rucker (sparkyandrhonda.com). Sparky and Rhonda Rucker perform throughout the U.S. as well as overseas, singing songs and telling stories from the American folk tradition. Sparky Rucker has been performing over forty years and is internationally recognized as a leading folklorist, musician, historian, storyteller, and author. He accompanies himself with fingerstyle picking and bottleneck blues guitar, banjo, and spoons. Rhonda Rucker is a musician, children’s author, storyteller, and songwriter. Her blues-style harmonica, piano, old-time banjo, and bones add musical versatility to their performances. Over forty years of performing, Sparky and Rhonda have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as NPR’s On Point, Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, and Morning Edition.

Members of the local community will also participate, including members of the Tri-Life Christian Center Praise Team, and the Trinity Cathedral Choir.

Mid Shore Community Mediation Center brings the community together by helping support productive conversations that increase understanding between the participants.  The Center trains and utilizes volunteers from all backgrounds to facilitate mediations, during which individuals in conflict can develop their own solutions to problems, rather than have rulings imposed by a court or outside arbitrator. Among the cases regularly mediated by the Center’s volunteers are those involving parenting plans for parents who live apart, elder and family mediations, re-entry from prison discussions, neighbor conflicts, divorce, and workplace disputes.

This program is made possible by the generous support of the Talbot County Arts Council.

For more information about the concert or about training to become a volunteer mediator, contact the Mid Shore Community Mediation Center at 410-820-5553.

New Mediation Center Board Members Are Striving For Peace

Mid Shore Community Mediation Center has four new board members with a big goal for the small organization—world peace. Judge Broughton Earnest, Deborah Halvis, Jan Hardin and Alisha Johnson all have stepped up to three-year terms on the board of directors, helping to guide an organization dedicated to a peaceful method of resolving conflict, whatever the scope of the dispute.

They join in their board service President Linda Webb, Treasurer James Adams, Secretary Jack Donahue, Members Dion Banks and Kason Washington, and Executive Director Cynthia Jurrius.

Mid Shore Community Mediation Center’s Board of Directors, left to right: Jim Adams, Jack Donahue, Jan Hardin, Cynthia Jurrius, Linda Webb, Alisha Johnson, Broughton Earnest, Deborah Halvis and Kason Washington.

Mid Shore Community Mediation Center’s Board of Directors, left to right: Jim Adams, Jack Donahue, Jan Hardin, Cynthia Jurrius, Linda Webb, Alisha Johnson, Broughton Earnest, Deborah Halvis and Kason Washington.

Now retired after six years on the Talbot County Circuit Court, Judge Earnest has seen that mediation can be a better way to resolve disputes than litigation. He described the process as a win-win situation, where parties at odds are able to resolve problems faster and at less cost than going through the court system. Approximately 70 percent of the cases referred to Mid Shore Mediation from the courts reach full or partial agreement.

“The biggest benefit,” Judge Earnest added, “is that a settlement requires both parties to agree. The agreement can’t be forced on them, which happens with a judge or jury. When they have the ability to decide their own fate and determine their own destiny, they are far happier with the outcome.”

Alisha Johnson brings to the board her experience in helping people reach the common ground that leads to that agreement. A Fine Arts teacher in the Dorchester County Public Schools, she also serves as a building representative for Dorchester Educators, acting as a liaison in bringing teacher and staff concerns to the Board of Education.

She emphasizes the importance of enhancing local awareness of Mid Shore Mediation’s work. “This is a free service to people who truly need it,” she said, adding that, even as a small organization, it speaks to the larger issue of achieving unity and peace within the community and throughout the world.

Judge Earnest, too, sees mediation’s benefits going beyond the individual parties and extending to the community and beyond. He would like to explore ways to broaden the organization’s reach within the Mid-Shore to try to prevent situations like Baltimore’s ongoing violence from occurring here. “Our community is plagued with problems the same as others,” he said. “Mediation can play a terrific role in addressing them.”

A key tool in creating a culture that reaches out for mediation before violence erupts is teaching youngsters the conflict resolution skills that can last a lifetime. Mid Shore Mediation has been working to do that with its “Peace Teams” in the Dorchester County Public Schools, and Judge Earnest hopes to help extend that program to the other school systems in the organization’s service area, those of Talbot and Caroline counties.

Expansion of its services into the other school systems would be one more step in Mid Shore Mediation’s rapid growth since its founding in 2005. In addition to youth and school-related activities, its range of free services to the community now include parenting plan and elder mediations; resolutions of parent-teen, workplace, landlord-tenant and neighborhood disputes; small claims; public policy facilitations and more.

Most of these services depend on the generosity of volunteer mediators in donating their time and passion to the effort. A trained mediator herself for more than three years, new board member Jan Hardin describes her fellow volunteers as “amazing individuals,” adding, “It’s not a job; they aren’t doing it for pay. It’s coming from the heart. I feel privileged to be working with people like these.”

She especially appreciates the positive effects for families from parenting-plan mediations. “It’s wonderful to be able to give this opportunity to people who don’t have the financial means to settle these things,” she said. “We try to work past the hurt, anger and pain so prevalent in parental breakups and help children weather that instability.”

Sustaining the expansion of Mid Shore Mediation’s services requires more than just an increase in the number of those dedicated volunteers. It also requires the financial support of the community it serves.

Happily retired from a 35-year career working in development and philanthropy with various nonprofit organizations and universities, Deborah Halvis is focusing on using her fundraising skills to build that community base of support.

As the new chair of Mid Shore Mediation’s Development Committee, Halvis understands the challenges of competing with more than 400 other Eastern Shore nonprofits for contributions. In explaining how to present the organization’s mission to donors, she said, “If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be? To find a way to resolve conflict. It touches everyone at all levels of their lives, from the individual to the world.”

Board President Linda Webb welcomes the enthusiasm and varied perspectives these four new members bring to Mid Shore Mediation’s board. She applauds the continued efforts to recruit individuals representative of the various communities the organization serves, and who have diverse talents that will support its efforts.

Jurrius added her appreciation for the support. “Our entire staff is so thankful to be working with this outstanding Board,” she said. “They bring great depth and diversity of experience, as well as commitment, energy and heart to this important work.”

Webb noted that goals for the organization identified in recent strategic planning included broadening its sources of case referrals to ensure the organization is addressing community needs; focusing on fundraising from individuals and businesses to supplement grant funding; reviewing operations to make sure there is adequate support for the staff; and engaging volunteers, whether as mediators or in other capacities.

However, the new members also describe a broader goal to their service. As Deborah Halvis explained, “We need to show what an investment in mediation can mean for the community and the country as a whole. We really are raising money for world peace.”

For more information on mediation, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mediator, call Mid Shore Community Mediation Center at 410-820-5553 or visit www.midshoremediation.org.

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Mediation Center to Offer Informational Seminar & Training

In addition to its upcoming basic mediation training for new volunteers, Mid Shore Community Mediation Center will offer an informational seminar for those interested in learning more about becoming trained mediators.

The free seminar will be held on Saturday, January 17, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., at the Talbot County YMCA in Easton. It is open to the public and registration is not necessary. Current volunteers and Mediation Center staff will offer information about mediation, the scope of training and the rewards of volunteering as a mediator. Volunteers from age 14 through senior citizens, from all backgrounds and walks of life, are welcome and encouraged.

Left to right, Dylan North, Perri Smith, Murph Brangenberg and Jenn Williams prepare to practice their skills using a role play format during a mediation training session.

Left to right, Dylan North, Perri Smith, Murph Brangenberg and Jenn Williams prepare to practice their skills using a role play format during a mediation training session.

The six-day basic mediation training itself will take place over three weekends beginning February 28-March 1, at a mid-shore location to be announced. Subsequent sessions will be held March 7-8 and March 21-22. Attendance at all six full-day sessions is necessary to receive certification.

Advance registration is required for the limited spaces available for the training, and a screening process includes an application and interview. Applicants will receive information on session times and locations upon acceptance.

There is no cost for the training, but the organization asks for a commitment from volunteers to participate in the mediation services it offers to Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties.

The 50 hours of intensive and interactive training is led by experienced trainers from Community Mediation Maryland. In community mediation, parties come together with neutral, trained mediators to air differences and arrive at solutions to conflicts. Instead of top-down impositions of verdicts from judges or arbitrators, participants work out their own custom-tailored agreements that each party can accept and feel is fair.

During training, participants engage in role-playing situations with other volunteers, learning and practicing the mediation techniques that allow all parties to voice their sides in disputes and reach resolutions peacefully.

Mid Shore Mediation’s Executive Director Cynthia Jurrius emphasized that, while the training is intense, the skills learned are valuable in many areas of life. “Being a mediator is both challenging and highly worthwhile,” she added. “It is extremely rewarding to be helping others resolve their disputes in a productive manner, without resorting either to courts or to violence.”

Volunteers are trained not to judge who is right or wrong, nor do they give advice. “Mediators are trained,” explained Jurrius, “to provide a confidential process that helps people have conversations that can be transformative for difficult situations.”

Following the basic training, there is an apprenticeship and follow-up sessions where new volunteers work with experienced mediators to become more comfortable with the skills. Additional training may be acquired for specialized mediations, such as parent/teen and workplace mediations, separation and child custody plans, elder care mediations, large group facilitations and more.

Jurrius noted that the Center has been focused on promoting the entire range of mediation services it provides to its tri-county community, and that the use of mediation has grown significantly in the last few years.

“Our volunteer mediators are busy and we need more of them,” said Jurrius, encouraging anyone interested in learning more about the training to call for information.

To register for training, for more information on mediation, or to make a contribution, call Mid Shore Community Mediation Center at 410-820-5553 or visit www.midshoremediation.org.

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Reception Recognizes Mediation Center’s Growth And Success

“Instead of changing the world one ‘peace’ at a time, we’re now changing it lots of ‘peaces’ at a time.” Executive Director Cynthia Jurrius conveyed that message of Mid Shore Community Mediation Center’s growth at a recent reception at Scossa in Easton for about 35 board members, donors, volunteers and staff.

Left to right, Suzanne Hood, Board President Linda Webb and Executive Director Cynthia Jurrius.

Left to right, Suzanne Hood, Board President Linda Webb and Executive Director Cynthia Jurrius.

In its first year, 2006, the mediation center’s volunteers conducted 65 mediation sessions, reported Board President Linda Webb. In its just-completed fiscal year, that number had grown to 543 sessions. She provided further statistics demonstrating the organization’s enhanced effectiveness in converting initial inquiries into mediations and increased number of trained volunteer mediators.

Those statistics have contributed to recent recognition for the organization that was announced by Webb. Mid Shore Mediation has been named a Level Five mediation center, according to the Maryland Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office. Only two other mediation centers in the state have been accorded this designation—Montgomery County and the City of Baltimore.

“This is truly amazing when you consider how we compare in population to those other jurisdictions,” Webb noted. U.S. Census numbers for 2013 show Mid Shore Mediation’s service area of Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties have a combined population of 103,284, while Baltimore City has more than 622,000 and Montgomery County more than a million residents.

Mid Shore Mediation Board President Linda Webb, right, announced recent recognition received by the organization.

Mid Shore Mediation Board President Linda Webb, right, announced recent recognition received by the organization.

Webb also announced that Mid Shore Mediation’s growing school-based mediation program is being used as a model for one being developed by Montgomery County. The number of school-based mediations has more than doubled in the past two years, and Webb recognized program coordinator Jennifer Williams and her team of AmeriCorps members and Salisbury University interns for the program’s success.

In addition to Williams, Jurrius recognized staff members Murph Brangenberg and Megan Timms, along with the past and current board members for their efforts.

Both Jurrius and Webb emphasized that Mid Shore Mediation’s success is a result of the teamwork and commitment of its volunteers, staff and board, along with the support of its donors. They thanked those in attendance, some of whom had been with the organization from its beginning, for contributing to that success, and welcomed their continued participation.

“This is exciting work,” said Jurrius. “We can see the possibility of getting to that tipping point where most people know that conflict can be resolved peacefully and productively. It can make a tremendous difference in people’s lives, and in our community.

“We have a long way to go, but the momentum is building.”

For more information on mediation, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mediator, call Mid Shore Community Mediation Center at 410-820-5553 or visit www.midshoremediation.org.

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Mediation Center Offers Basic Training in March

Mid Shore Community Mediation Center will offer basic mediation training in March for those interested in becoming volunteer mediators. The training sessions take place Saturdays and Sundays on three weekends, March 1-2 in Easton, and March 8-9 and 22-23 at Chesapeake College. Attendance at all six full-day sessions is necessary to receive certification.

There is no cost, but pre-registration is required and the organization asks for a commitment from volunteers to participate in the mediation services it offers to Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties. Registration is limited.

In community mediation, parties come together with neutral, trained mediators to air differences and arrive at solutions to conflicts. Instead of top-down impositions of verdicts from judges or arbitrators, participants work out their own custom-tailored agreements that each party can accept and feel is fair.

The 45 hours of intensive and interactive training is led by experienced trainers from Community Mediation Maryland. Participants engage in role-playing situations with other volunteers, learning and practicing the mediation techniques that allow all parties to voice their sides of disputes and reach resolutions peacefully.

Executive Director Cynthia Jurrius emphasized that, while the training is intense, the skills learned are valuable in many areas of life. “Being a mediator is extremely rewarding,” she added. “You are helping others resolve their disputes without resorting either to courts or to violence.”

Following the basic training, there is an apprenticeship and follow-up sessions where new volunteers work with experienced mediators to become more comfortable with the skills. Additional training may be acquired for specialized mediations, such as parent/teen and workplace mediations, separation plans and divorce, large group facilitations and more.

Mediators come from all walks of life, reflecting the wide range of backgrounds and ages found among Mid Shore Mediation clients.

“Our volunteer mediators are busy and we need more of them,” said Jurrius, encouraging anyone interested in learning more about the training to call for information. The screening process prior to training includes an application and interview. Applicants will receive information on session times and locations upon acceptance.

To register for training, for more information on mediation, or to make a contribution, call Mid Shore Community Mediation Center at 410-820-5553 or visit www.midshoremediation.org.