I have talked before about the need for community involvement and collaboration in order to provide resources more effectively for children. Once while I was participating in a judicial training, a family court judge from California told me what the large foundations in her community had done to encourage collaboration among nonprofits that were seeking financial support for the important work that they were doing.
Not unlike Cambridge and Dorchester County, the nonprofits in her community were not working together well. The solution for the five largest funders in her community was to tell the nonprofits that in the future they would only fund applications that were submitted together for joint projects by at least two nonprofits. The change that they and the community saw through the nonprofits working together was exactly what they had hoped for – breaking down the walls between the organizations that were doing good work but were not being as efficient and effective as they could be.
When we arrived on the Eastern Shore, I came to know that the challenge of providing fun and productive resources for children in Dorchester County had been left up to a few nonprofits and the County Government. From the point of view of government, the Dorchester Department of Recreation and Parks maintains “eight park sites encompassing nearly 200 acres of recreational space. These unique locations feature a public swimming pool, Athletic fields and courts, a walking/running trail, fishing, picnic areas, playscapes, and open spaces for residents and visitors of all ages to enjoy.” Most of the sites are in or close to the City of Cambridge. It also provides “numerous recreational programs … available to engage a range of interests”. The sites that are used a great deal are the swimming pool in Cambridge and the recently purchased tennis club building on Leonard’s Lane in Cambridge.
One of the new nonprofits in town that is using a portion of the property on Leonard’s Lane is the Boys & Girls Club that has established itself here as a needed and growing resource for the children of this community. On March 17th at the Pine Street Elks Club, it held an event in collaboration with the Empowerment Center, Harvesting Hope, New Beginnings and Miriam Moran, an artist who moved to Cambridge from Staten Island and is the full-time Club Coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club. These groups had come to see the value of working together to benefit children as the children they are serving are the community’s children.
The event that was held was “Our Lucky Charms” and combined celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day and Women’s History Month to honor special women in Cambridge who have been parents, advocates, mentors, and inspirations to children and adults over the years. The children participated in an art project led by Ms. Moran. Last summer, she completed a mural entitled “Just a Kid from Cambridge” on the side of a store at the gateway to Cambridge’s Greenwood Avenue corridor.
Ms. Moran wanted to begin to collaborate and coordinate the work of the Boys & Girls Club with other nonprofit organizations here in the city that had been doing this work for a long time. She reached out to Dr. Theresa Stafford, Omeaka Jackson, and the leadership at the Empowerment Center to see what might be able to be done. “Our Lucky Charms” was the result.
Her aim was to celebrate some of the good things that are happening here, to have the children create art, and for everyone to have a fun time. There were over one hundred youth present at the Elks Lodge on Pine Street that day with it being 50-50 between boys and girls. They came from different elementary and middle schools in the city.
Ms. Moran set the theme for the day as a crown like one worn by a queen and let the students take that idea wherever they wanted to go. The results were wonderful and full of imagination by the students. As Ms. Moran said, “They did the art from their hearts.” Following the time for art, everyone played family unity bingo that was an enormous success.
Ms. Moran works for the Boys & Girls Club in Cambridge and will be helping with the development of clubs in Salisbury that opened March 31st, and Pocomoke. In Cambridge she supervises the Youth Development Coordinators and oversees programs at the club on Leonard’s Lane. She helps address the emotional needs of the children while also assisting the manager of the program here.
She is a children’s advocate, leads the STEM program at the club (more is coming in April), and works with the Cambridge Police Department to develop relationships with them so that they and the children can come to know one another and develop their own positive relationships.
In addition to the above work she also leads the club’s “Power Hour” where she helps with homework and mentors some of the children. The club is intended to be a safe haven for the children as are the schools. The community and the children are faced with the efforts by some older youth who are in gangs or are trying to start gangs and are trying to recruit the younger children to join them.
The Boys & Girls Club is one of the several programs here that need the financial and in person support of the community as volunteers to provide an alternative for all of the children in the community and especially for those who are trying to pull our younger youth in the wrong direction. It is not just about supporting those “good” children. It is also about intervening with the “bad” children who can now be redirected with the growing number of positive programs that are being developed here. Let’s do that rather than wait for them to become involved with the law and have fewer alternatives available to change their behavior.
Thanks for Reading. Please be in touch.
Judge Rideout is the former Chief Judge of the Alexandria, VA Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (1989-2004). From 2004 until the present he has consulted in different states to support their efforts to improve their child welfare systems. From 2016 to early 2021, he was the Ward 1 Commissioner on the Cambridge City Council. Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for improving the lives of children in his and other communities. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.