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Pitch your idea, learn more, and see official rules here. #ChangemakerHC

Meet the women who help United Way change lives: Lizzie Devereux, Education Program Manager and Walk a Mile Executive Director; Heather Chapman, Vice President of the United Way Ben Center; and Judge Halee Weinstein, Associate Judge for the First District Court in Baltimore City and founder of the Veterans Treatment Court.

We talked with these inspiring women about the work they do and how it transforms the communities they support—and why other women should consider positions in their fields.

Let’s start with an easy question – what do you do?

Judge Halee Weinstein: The District Court of Maryland hears landlord-tenant cases, motor vehicle violations, misdemeanors and certain felonies. In addition to founding the Baltimore City Veterans Treatment Court, [a court-supervised, comprehensive, and voluntary treatment-based program for veterans charged with misdemeanor and concurrent jurisdiction felonies,] I also founded Courting Art Baltimore, which promotes youth artwork, connects the legal community with local Baltimore City communities, and aims to reduce stress and anxiety for litigants and visitors by beautifying local courthouses.

Heather Chapman: I oversee day-to-day operations for multiple [United Way Ben Center] programs, including a family center, trauma-informed mental health programming, homelessness prevention and workforce development services. I’ve served as Mental Health Clinician at Benjamin Franklin High School since 2011, providing and coordinating trauma-informed services to students and their families.

Lizzie Devereux: I really wear multiple hats. I serve as Site Manager for our On Track 4 Success high school dropout prevention program, which helps students at risk of dropping out of school get back on track so that they can graduate from high school. I direct our Walk a Mile experience, where participants “walk in the shoes” of someone living in poverty. The experience powerfully presents complexities and barriers families face every day just trying to make ends meet.

What drives you? What makes you want to get up in the morning?

Judge Weinstein: My passion to serve the community and help veterans get back on their feet. To get up in the morning, there is nothing like a cup of Tazo Joy tea. Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Heather: We’re all here for a purpose and every day, I want to be sure to fulfill mine. I believe part of that purpose is to make sure people understand that they matter, and that they too have purpose.

Lizzie: The people! From my amazing colleagues at United Way to the incredible students, families and school staff at Maree G. Farring Elementary and Middle School and in the Brooklyn community we serve, I am lucky to be surrounded by kind, compassionate, intelligent, driven individuals who inspire me daily.

Why do you think other women should consider choosing your career path or job?

Heather: One minute I’m working on a million-dollar budget or presenting to donors and the next I’m talking with a student whose sibling was murdered the night before. I encourage other women to take the leap into this career path as we are phenomenal multi-taskers who can complete any challenge with grace, all in the name of making a difference.

Lizzie: I honestly feel that we do our best work when we care deeply about what we’re spending hours doing day in and day out. If you’re passionate about having a positive impact in your community–specifically with our youth–and if you enjoy building relationships with an incredible diversity of individuals, then my career path would be a great fit for you.

Who is a woman who you admire?

Judge Weinstein: Regardless of my father’s military orders, my mother always managed to create a safe, warm and loving home environment for our family. We moved 14 times in 14 years and she never missed a beat with us. Being a military spouse can be very demanding, stressful and challenging, and her strength and resilience throughout the years is something I admire and try to emulate, both personally and professionally.

What aspects of your work or personal life do you feel are transformative?

Judge Weinstein: The Baltimore City Veterans Treatment Court is transforming lives. It’s amazing to witness each veteran’s journey. Because of it, they’ve stopped using drugs, found a place to call home, landed stable employment opportunities, and, most importantly, have been able to reconnect with their families. They’ve also created new bonds with other veterans participating in the program and with community organizations.

Heather: I believe this work transforms you as a person, causing you to always reflect and be inherently aware of the impact of systems on communities and individuals. This ignites a passion to empower individuals and help communities gain access to the tools and information to advance and advocate for themselves. That passion is like a flame; once it gets going, it can transform an entire community.

Lizzie: Professionally, I feel lucky to be part of transformative efforts in all aspects of my job – from working with families and schools; to connecting students to much-needed resources and opportunities; to facilitating Walk a Mile debrief conversations where participants share powerful testimony of the impact the experience has had on them; to serving on United Way’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee in an effort to transform our organization from within.

Last year, a single, working mother called the 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline when she found herself facing eviction. She got help through United Way’s Shelter Diversion program, and her family was able to stay together in their home.

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In central Maryland, more than 319,000 people don’t have access to healthy food*. The average Maryland SNAP (food stamps) benefit awarded is just $30 per week, per person — and typically the cheapest grocery options are not the healthiest.

But some underserved communities will now have access to healthy, high-quality protein foods such as the bronzini fish. The Feeding Individuals to Support Health (FISH) Project, the first public-private partnership of its kind, is spearheaded by United Way of Central Maryland and includes McCormick & Co., the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), University of Maryland, Baltimore County and seafood wholesaler JJ McDonnell.

“In many communities, people don’t have access or the financial means to purchase healthy food, like fish,” said Franklyn Baker, president and CEO, United Way of Central Maryland. “Helping at-risk families become successful is at the heart of our work — and to achieve this, we believe it’s critical that they can get healthy, affordable food.”

The FISH Project is currently growing and harvesting bronzini, a Mediterranean sea bass that can be easily prepared in an oven or on a stovetop or grill. Future growth and harvest cycles could include shrimp.

“This project is just one example of the important work that we are doing at IMET to be sure that our science does not just stay in our laboratories but goes out to be used in useful ways in the community,” said Dr. Russell Hill, Director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology.

“UMBC is proud to be part of this important collaboration, applying scientific innovation in aquaculture to offer a healthy source of food for our local communities,” said Freeman Hrabowski, president, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

JJ McDonnell provides processing and distributes the fish to partner nonprofits including the Franciscan Center and Maryland Food Bank.

A major supporter of the project, McCormick’s Flavor for Life® program also will be providing simple, healthy recipes that utilize low-cost ingredients, which will be distributed to the community along with the fresh fish.

Watch a video about the project.

Brian B., Baltimore MD I found out I had prostate cancer after my father died of prostate cancer. I had to have surgery and 8 weeks of radiation therapy. 5 days a week for those 8 weeks.

Tirell C., Gwynn Oak, MD After having a DNA test performed, I found that I am multiethnic, and my ancestry pretty much comes from every continent with the exception of Antarctica. The social construct of racism makes absolutely no sense to me. If we all go far back enough into our family history, we will find that all of us are genetically related. So why there are such differences in opinion is a mystery to me.

Eleanor H., Baltimore, MD Whatever race, gender, or age, education and the willingness to learn and work hard make a difference.

Charles H., Westminster, MD Many people begin and live their lives struggling to get by in this world. There are daily, difficult choices made about where their limited resources are needed most. It is up to those of us that do not have to worry daily about whether we will have a roof over our heads or food in our stomachs or heat or electricity or a job to help pay the bills to share our excess resources (whether that is money or time or both) so that the difficult choices others have to make might be just a little bit easier. Look at the world through other people’s eyes and walk a mile in their shoes.

Steve J., Elkton, MD

Amahl F., Baltimore, MD Dr. King shared his dream and although we’ve progressed, the dream is yet unfulfilled. The events in Charlottesville, VA this past year showed us hate is still alive in this country! We must collectively understand the “ big picture” and work together to make this country a place where all people are respected. Regardless of your race, creed, religion, socio-economic background or sexual identity, you are entitled to inalienable rights and protections under our Constitution. We have much work to do but I believe that the “dream” is obtainable.

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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.

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