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Halloween brought us pumpkin carving and a movie night for Marian House I. With the help of some new volunteers, the Marian House families celebrated with outdoor Zumba, treat bags and socially distant activities for the kids.
Our Thanksgiving dinner, usually celebrated with dozens of staff and volunteers, was a much smaller event this year. We are grateful to many of you who provided gift cards, meal supplies and yummy treats to help the ladies cook in their respective homes, buildings and programs.
Christmas in a pandemic also brought new challenges. Many of our circle of faith and corporate partners were unable to assist us in the same ways this year because remote work and worship do not provide the same ease for managing a giving tree or gift drive. Despite these challenges, we were blessed by many new donors and returning elves to help us shop from holiday wish lists for all the women and children of Marian House. Many of you chose to shop safely online and ship direct to us, all the while helping us receive some extra financial support through the Amazon Smile Foundation (where you can select Marian House to receive a percentage of your purchases on Amazon).
Despite fewer and smaller celebrations, we still had the kind of observances that fed our souls. With your help, Marian House was able to provide gifts for over 140 women and their families. The staff and ladies were overwhelmed by your generosity and the way the larger community surrounded us with love and support. Thank you for sharing your blessings with Marian House this season and always!
Katie is an avid camper as well as a Girl Scout troop leader and agreed to take a small group of residents on an overnight camping trip in early October. Equipped with tents, sleeping bags, and plenty of food, a group of 10 took the Marian House bus to Patapsco State Park in Baltimore County.
Once they arrived at the State Park and set-up their camp, they took a long hike, accompanied by Katie’s dog Piper. Most of the women had never been camping before and some had hesitations and fears about wildlife that they might encounter. Once they pitched their tents and started a campfire, they felt more at ease. Some residents and staff did not spend the night but participated in the hike and campfire before heading back to Marian House. This could become an annual excursion!
The mission of MWHC is to achieve positive change in the lives of Marylanders by recognizing and documenting contributions of women to our social, political and economic order, and promoting opportunities and equality for women and girls.
The MWHC has been searching for a new location from which to operate its programs and house their continuing and changing exhibits about individuals, organizations, events, and special topics related to Maryland women. Programming ideas for the future of MWHC include interactive exhibits, seminars on women’s issues, a gift shop with unique gifts by Maryland women, and much more.
“MWHC is thrilled to have a new home with such a deep and rich history in the community. It is a natural fit for our organization to begin a new chapter at the historic building” said Diana Bailey, Executive Director of MWHC.
Marian House is proud to collaborate with another women’s organization to help honor the history of the building and all the work and business that has happened in that space over the years.
Don’t forget, we still need your input as we move forward to explore more long-term goals for all the commercial spaces in the WIE building. Please share your ideas and express any unmet business and service needs in the community by filling out our online survey at surveymonkey.com/r/DSWH5VZ.
Despite a tumultuous year, we are grateful for all the good we have experienced in 2020. It is the year that Marian House continued to expand, as we acquired the Women’s Industrial Exchange (WIE) building in June. This exciting opportunity allowed us to add seven more apartment units to our housing portfolio, many of which are already occupied by Marian House alums! We also established a new partnership with the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center, now located in the storefront space of WIE at 333 North Charles Street. Marian House also recently purchased a property on Greenmount Avenue, giving us five more apartment units in which we can place Marian House women and children.
This year we showed our resilience and adapted in ways we never imagined! As you may know, our annual Race to Embrace Independence 5K went fully virtual. While we missed seeing you in person on race day, you “showed up” nonetheless and helped us meet and even exceed our fundraising goals. This was just one way our dedicated supporters showed their faith in and support of our program in this pandemic!
You are the main reason that 2020 was a good year for Marian House. Your support and generosity throughout the year ensured that we could pivot during this pandemic, without compromising the services that our women and children need and deserve. We appreciate your prayers, notes and donations. We are truly blessed to have you in our fold.
In this newsletter, we share more positive highlights from 2020, including the first Marian House camping trip. We also highlight the Smolen family who have generously given their time and talent to us in different ways, as well as a resident whose story highlights how your support changes lives!
We know the challenges we all faced last year will not simply disappear in 2021, still, we are grateful for another year to provide housing and support services to women and children in need. With a focus on the future, we are already planning a 40th Anniversary celebration for April of 2022! Please stay tuned for details.
We wish you a year of health, happiness, and hope for 2021. We look forward to the same.
John Smolen is a Marian House volunteer and his connection to us dates to 2008, a connection he describes as “hanging out in Katie’s circles.” (Katie Allston, Executive Director). At the time, John was on the board of the Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP) and knew about Marian House from running into Katie at Cub Scout meetings. Katie’s son Quinn was in the Cub Scout pack with John’s son, where John was Scout Master. Katie’s husband Paul grew up in Kansas City, about one mile from where John Smolen grew up. Talk about six degrees of separation!
John is a lawyer at the prestigious firm of Ballard Spahr LLP, where they have a very strong “pro bono culture” and where John holds the 2020 Pro Bono Honor Roll Gold recognition. The firm’s belief is that a charity’s money is better spent on their mission than paying for legal services. Marian House was the beneficiary of Ballard Spahr’s generosity when we learned about the acquisition of the Women’s Industrial Exchange (WIE) Building and had a need for legal services.
Marian House had the pleasure of working with a team of five lawyers and paralegals: John Smolen, Teri Guarnaccia, Alyssa Domzal, Marybeth Orsini and Kate McDonald. John stated, “the Ballard Spahr team is super supportive of pro bono work and this was no exception. This was a fairly routine real estate transaction and was a teaching opportunity for some of our younger lawyers and paralegals.”
John’s wife Jenny is the business manager of the Catholic Community of South Baltimore, a combination of three churches in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore.
Jenny was able to direct financial donations to Marian House from the church collections. John and Jenny are also personal donors to Marian House and have participated in our 5K Race for many years.
Felix Smolen, John & Jenny’s son, attends Mt. St. Joe’s High School and recently volunteered at Marian House to meet some of his service hour requirements. John and Jenny’s daughter, Rae, attends The Catholic High School and is planning to do some service hours at Marian House as soon as she is able.
When asked why the Smolen family is so devoted to Marian House John replied, “the Catholic connection was definitely a part of it. I have a deep- rooted Catholic faith and have an aunt who is a Sister of Mercy. The fact that Marian House was founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Sisters of Mercy made it easy for my family to connect with Marian House.”
We are grateful to the Smolen family and the team from Ballard Spahr for their support of the Marian House mission.
For the women and children that we serve at Marian House the holidays can be quite challenging, bringing on more severe depression, sadness, and painful memories of the poverty, isolation and trauma they have experienced. Marian House strives to combat this sadness by providing our women with a loving home and the support they need to get to a new year.
You have been a wonderful supporter of Marian House and for that we are truly grateful. With blessings all around us, we invite you to support Marian House at this time, when we need it the most.
Your gift will directly impact women like Tyona Patterson. Tyona Patterson came to Marian House 11 months ago from a residential recovery center. When Tyona contacted Marian House, she was told there was a waiting list and Tyona said she would wait. She waited 3 months and called every day until a space was available for her.
Tyona had been at the treatment center for 8 months on this occasion but had been in recovery multiple times in the past. She is committed to her sobriety today, “I was tired of the revolving door in and out of recovery for so many years”, stated Tyona. “I started using drugs at age 16 and had been in and out of addiction for 19 years. I’ve had enough!”
Tyona lives at our Mercy Residence where she was able to reunite with her 3 children, 14-year-old twins Labria and Labron, and her youngest daughter 9-year-old Aliah. Tyona has three bedrooms for her family and shares the kitchen and other common areas with other Mercy residents.
“It has been wonderful living in the Marian House program”, says Tyona. “I have taken advantage of every opportunity that the staff has suggested, not just because they recommended it but because I honestly believe that is what I needed if I wanted to succeed.” Tyona continued, “the children have adjusted very well, and I work to make them as comfortable as possible because I made them uncomfortable for so many years. I want to be the best mom they deserve.”
Tyona is doing so well that she is ready to move into her own house, having qualified for a re-entry program Section 8 voucher. She has been working at Flagger Force for 5 months and received a promotion to Crew Leader after just 3 months on the job. She also has access to a truck she uses to commute to and from the job. Tyona is very optimistic about the future for her and her children. “If you are patient and work hard to improve your life, good things will happen,” said Tyona.
We can fulfill our mission to provide housing and support services to homeless women and children with your donation. Your gift in any amount can make a difference. You can restore hope and provide joy this holiday season and all year long to the women and children in our care.
Thank you, and may you enjoy the holiday season.
God Bless You.
Katie Allston, LCSW-C Executive Director
We are always amazed at what we can accomplish and the impact we make on the women and children that we serve at Marian House. The first six months of the fiscal year were outstanding and we were set to exceed many goals we had established. The early months of 2020 brought us into unfamiliar territory with the arrival of COVID-19 and the impact it could potentially have on congregate housing settings. We are thrilled to say that we have no cases of COVID at Marian House. We have remained diligent in continuing the services and support that we are known to provide, updating our technology with tele-health services and following all CDC recommended procedures.