On November 22nd, members of the nonprofit community gathered in the Gold Ballroom at the Tidewater Inn for their annual Mid-Shore Community Foundation (MSCF) Awards Breakfast. Among the honorees was Gail Benjamin, who received a Special Recognition Award for her work with Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS). In addition to her award, she also received two citations from the State of Maryland, presented by Delegate Johnny Mautz and Senator Addie Eckhardt.
Benjamin has been with TIS since its inception, having attended the very first meeting of concerned citizens in 2008. Along with members of other faith communities, she reached out to her congregation at Temple B’nai Israel and they became one of the first hosts of TIS’ rotating cold-weather shelter, which opened in January of 2009. Among her many accomplishments, she has served on the shelter’s board, was head of the Volunteer Committee, and finished a term as Board President in June of 2019.
In his remarks while presenting the Special Recognition Award, MSCF’s Buck Duncan described Gail’s involvement with the shelter, saying, “She’s given her time, she’s given her talent, she’s given her compassion, and she’s acted as a champion for Talbot Interfaith Shelter’s vision. She’s helped it grow, she’s helped it stabilize – she’s helped it be a very important part of our community.”
Benjamin’s reaction to the award is true to her humble nature. “Many volunteers have worked, and continue to work, countless hours to get TIS from our winters in congregational buildings to our present beautiful home at 107 Goldsborough, and our transitional housing program, and our support system,” she says. “I feel that this award is for all of us.”
She has been part of every phase of the shelter’s evolution, which makes it all the more fitting that she received this honor just before TIS celebrated an important milestone – the fifth anniversary of the opening of its permanent shelter facility at former bed and breakfast Easton’s Promise in 2014.
Since opening its doors at Easton’s Promise, TIS has grown from its roots as a seasonal temporary shelter, and has developed a long-term, comprehensive program designed to guide guests from homelessness to self-sufficiency. The organization can now serve up to 40 people at a time, versus 5 people in their rotating cold-weather shelter.
Primarily serving families with children, the S4 Program (Shelter, Stability, Support, Success) incorporates case management, educational opportunities, and a community atmosphere at Easton’s Promise to help guests get back on their feet. Once they have reached a certain level of financial stability, and are mentally and emotionally ready, they are invited to move into one of TIS’ ten off-site transitional apartments.
While in the apartments, guests are still required to participate in case management and educational opportunities. There, they start off by paying approximately $250 per month in rent, and over time, their portion increases until they are able to take over all expenses. They are then monitored for several months to ensure that they are able to sustain the payments before they graduate and move on, returning as productive members of the community.
“We are so proud of Gail, and so grateful for her contributions to our community,” says TIS Executive Director Julie Lowe. “Without her efforts on behalf of our neighbors in need, we would not be where we are today.”
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