Celebrated each March, National Professional Social Work Month is an opportunity for social workers across the country to turn the spotlight on the profession and highlight the important contributions they make to society.

United Way social workers work in our 15 Family Stability sites providing homelessness prevention and shelter diversion for families, for the 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline, and in the partner schools operating our On Track 4 Success education program.

Every day the nation’s 650,000 social workers act as advocates, champions and leaders who make our society a better place to live. At United Way of Central Maryland, we have 21 employees and seven interns with an undergraduate degree, advanced degree and/or licenses in fields of social work. This committed group of people are making a meaningful and measurable difference in the lives of families and individuals across our region.

Let’s meet some of them.

 

Auna Cooper, LGSW
Family Stability Lead Case Manager

Licensed for two years with a total of 11 years of experience in the social work field.

“My favorite part about being a Social Worker is assisting diverse people and families from all walks of life, hearing their stories and learning about their resiliency despite adversity.”

 

 


Jamie Meyers, LGSW
Assistant Director, Impact Strategies

Licensed for two years.

Background in program management addressing issues related to homelessness, veterans and the criminal justice system.

“My favorite thing about social work is meeting people where they are and empowering them to see their best potential.”

 

 


Dante de Tablan, LGSW and PhD student
Vice President, The United Way Ben Franklin Center at Brooklyn/Curtis Bay

Area of expertise: Resource, Program and Community Development

“We can change the world.”

 

 

 


Sue Poandl, MSW
Volunteer Coordinator, 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline

In the field of human services for 21 years.

Focus: Families and children.

Background: Volunteer management, school social work, child welfare training, technical assistance implementation, domestic violence and transitional housing.

“I believe that we all do better when we can join together to lift each other up. I enjoy connecting with people and partnering with them to change things.”

 


Amanda Benjamin, LGSW
Social Worker, On Track 4 Success

Licensed for 1.5 years.

Experience with youth and families, self-care, mindfulness practices, restorative practices, service learning and program development.

“My students are some of the most inspiring, resilient and hilarious people I’ve ever met. I feel really honored to get to witness their journeys and watch them grow.”

 

 


Emily Brzezicki, LCSW-C
Family Services Coordinator, The United Way Ben Franklin Center at Brooklyn/Curtis Bay

Licensed social worker for 10 years, LCSW-C for 7 years.

Areas of Expertise: Trauma focused care; attachment and parenting; infant, child and adolescent mental health; crisis management

“I love that I can work with multiple generations at a time (children, young parents and grandparents) and support them in growing and reaching their individual and family goals.”

 

By: Franklyn Baker, President and CEO, United Way of Central Maryland

Across Baltimore and around the region, we are living different experiences depending on our zip code. There are zip codes enjoying growing prosperity at the same time that others are sinking more deeply into poverty. Too many of us don’t cross paths with our neighbors who live in circumstances different from our own, making it challenging for many to envision a region where all of our neighbors thrive. We embrace the values of shared prosperity, but often don’t connect to the actions we can take to propel progress.

The reality is that it does require us – all of us – to take action. To listen, learn, innovate, commit and move forward. All the while remaining agile and ready to respond to neighbors in immediate need.

In my first year as President and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland, I have witnessed families who were once homeless become housed; children who were slipping academically get back on track; and individuals who were once hopeless for the future, regain that hope. This did not happen in a vacuum. This was a result of people and organizations fighting together to improve entire communities…one family, one child, one person at a time. These small victories should be celebrated, yet we must remain committed to bigger goals.

Last year, we released a report that showed fully one-third of working families can’t afford the state’s high cost of living. This report was a resource, rich with data, that helped us educate stakeholders about the scale of the challenge for working Baltimore-area residents. Last February, we relocated our headquarters to Montgomery Park in South Baltimore, moving us out of downtown and closer to communities in need; and allowing us to save more than $2.5 million to reinvest back into these communities over the next 10 years. We, along with partner agencies and organizations, volunteers and donors have made great strides to propel change—continuing our fight for the education, financial stability and health of every person in every community.

But, quite simply…it’s not enough.

We are proud of our history and approach to uniting the community around service. But we risk becoming irrelevant if we aren’t constantly challenging ourselves to make a bigger impact and engage more partners in the fight for the stability that all central Maryland families deserve. Our role in the community, the needs of the community and the way people give back are evolving rapidly. And so, we too, must position the organization for a revolution in our approach.

To do that, we need to be impatient and determined while, at the same time, self-reflective and committed listeners.
This is why, over the next several months, we will transform our organization in partnership with community residents, partner agencies and other stakeholders. United, we will work to identify where and what the biggest needs are, to identify groundbreaking approaches to our most intractable problems and to develop big, measurable community goals.

This initiative, “1,000 Voices,” will include intimate listening sessions and larger community conversations across the region over the next four months. Each community, each neighborhood, each family and individual that wishes to participate will be invited to engage with us.

We don’t have all the answers, but are confident that in partnership with the community, we can marshal our collective intelligence and ingenuity to move the needle for Maryland families. Your input will be the foundation for defining and acting on future goals. Whether you are a long-time supporter, or barely know us, we invite you to join us on this collaborative journey.

United Way unites. We bring together people, communities and neighborhoods. We bring together volunteers, donors and corporations. We bring together resources, experts and non-profit partners. We create the forum and platform for the change we need and want, in Baltimore City, and Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Carroll and Anne Arundel Counties.

Our fight has only just begun.

 

One Thousand Voices logo

 

Learn more about this initiative here and on the United Way of Central Maryland Facebook page.

A place to call home is one of the most basic of human necessities, but one that is sadly out of reach for many of the most vulnerable in our region.

Tackling daunting social issues such as homelessness and access to safe, affordable housing has long been United Way’s charge, so when we learned of a supportive housing community to be constructed near our new headquarters in West Baltimore, we knew we had to help.

And so did a group of passionate, committed and connected donors and volunteers: members of United Way’s Leaders United. They answered our call, activated their networks and launched The Way Home Project to support the future residents of Sojourner Place at Argyle, a 12-unit living community that will house individuals and couples who are transitioning from homelessness.

This group project has been steadily raising funds to outfit each of the apartments with the items that make a house a home, including bedding, towels, curtains, dishes and kitchenware, rugs and lamps. Shortly before Sojourner Place opens its doors to its first residents this fall, Leaders United members will shop for and furnish the apartments with the household goods.

“The way this group has stepped up to help the future residents of Sojourner Place has been amazing. We’re only about $2,300 away from reaching our goal, and it’s been fun and rewarding to come together as a group at events like our QG fundraising happy hour as well as visits to the construction site,” said Matt Beck, Leaders United chair and vice president and managing director of the executive search firm, StevenDouglas.

Want to join Leaders United and United Way in supporting this critical project that focuses on quick placement into permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness? You can make a gift by visiting The Way Home Project fundraising page or by texting LUTHEWAYHOME to 41444. To check on our progress and to see a list of those who have made a gift, visit our results page.

Sojourner Place at Argyle is an Episcopal Housing Corporation development and is located at Argyle and Lafayette avenues in west Baltimore.

Leaders United is a network of 3,500 leaders in the community who contribute $1,000 or more annually to United Way of Central Maryland.

 

In May, more than 400 young game changers gathered for United Way of Central Maryland’s Emerging Leaders United (ELU) Young Professionals Conference.

The sixth annual, day-long conference was a sell-out, and featured a series of panels, workshops and presentations based on advancing personal, professional and social change.

The President of Johns Hopkins Hospital and founding Co-Chair of ELU, Redonda Miller, kicked off the day and urged attendees to embrace their unique position to drive change both within their corporations and as individuals.

“The potential of our Millennials is enormous. You are socially connected and engaged. You embrace diversity. You are confident and know how to make yourself heard,” said Miller.

According to one attendee, “The ELU Conference provided me with the ‘ah ha’ moment to reignite my passion and drive to give back to the community and to stand up to make a difference.”

A diverse and energizing array workshops covered topics including social innovation, entrepreneurship, advocacy, goal setting, networking, time management, community outreach and more.

“When energetic and hopeful professionals convene in one place, the passion is palpable. This is what happens every year at the ELU conference,” said an attendee.

The day’s final event was a panel discussion on the rise of an innovation economy in Baltimore. Panelists included Plank Industries’ Tom Geddes, Innovation Village’s Richard May, Emerging Technology Centers’ Deborah Tillett and Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ Christy Wyskiel.

“It’s been terrific seeing so much learning, networking, and philanthropy all under one roof today. That’s what ELU’s all about. We all have our own paths, and ELU is where these paths converge to create something powerful,” said Whitney Harmel, ELU Vice-Chair.

United Way of Central Maryland also recognized the “Philanthropic Five” award winners—five young game changers who are leading the way for social impact in their communities through volunteering, mentoring and philanthropy in central Maryland. This year’s winners are:

  • Jenna Laube of Groundwater and Environmental Services
  • Sonny Tannan, formerly with UPS and now United Way of Central Maryland
  • Matthew Riggin of Morgan Stanley
  • Dr. Stanley Andrisse of Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Andrea Jones of the Maryland Army National Guard

Congratulations to the winners, ELU members and all attendees for their willingness to change the odds for the better in their communities and beyond. “If you’re worried about Baltimore’s future, be encouraged. What’s coming is unstoppable and destined. It’s us,” said conference attendee, Heidi Klotzman.

Special thanks to the event sponsors: CareFirst, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Loyola University, Comcast, Wells Fargo, BrightView, The Shelter Group, BGE, M&T Bank, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Saul Ewing, Ayers Saint Gross, First National Bank, GBC, PNC Bank, WR Grace, Venable, Kastendike, Transamerica and Randstad.

As we begin to prepare for fall, let’s take a moment to recap some of the amazing work United Way of Central Maryland volunteers did this summer.

  • 175,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables harvested for families at five Harvest Helpers events across Central Maryland.
  • 5,400 people fed from 450 casseroles made at three large scale Stone Soup events.
  • 750 bagged lunches and 375 sandwiches made and delivered to the homeless or families and individuals in need.

It is because of our volunteers that men and women living on the streets will now have a warm meal, a child will have a fresh casserole instead of cereal for dinner, homeless veterans will leave a shelter with a bagged lunch packed with care, and urban families will have fresh vegetables on their dinner plates.

No one can create change alone. That’s why we need U! Check out the United Way of Central Maryland Event Calendar and sign up for an upcoming volunteer event.

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For more than 90 years, United Way of Central Maryland has been improving lives in the communities it serves: Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County, Maryland.

United Way of Central Maryland is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization! | Tax ID: 52-0591543