Beautiful farms, Chesapeake Bay vistas and one boat and two cars in every driveway are often what many people picture when they think of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. While some towns are touted as “The Hamptons of the Eastern Shore”, the reality is that surrounded by this beauty and bounty is poverty. In fact, six of the 10 poorest counties in Maryland are located on the Eastern Shore.
For 34 year’s Saint Martin’s Ministries (SMM) of Ridgley has come to the aid of individuals and families living in poverty by helping them meet their most basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. In mid-October, Saint Martin’s board of directors appointed Deborah Hudson Vornbrock as Executive Director. Stepping down as Chief Executive Officer was Jean Austin who was with SMM since 2011. Along with a newly appointed Executive Director, Saint Martin’s has completed the initial phase of renovations to its transitional housing and enhanced its case management services to better serve more people as it looks to 2018.
Deborah Hudson Vornbrock had been Director of Development at Sant Martin’s since August 2013, and has extensive non-profit leadership and fundraising experience. She previously served in several executive leadership positions at SOAR! Support Our Aging Religious, Inc., Washington, D.C., and also was Operations Coordinator at The Nature Conservancy, Central America Division, Arlington, Va..
As this year closes and a new year begins, Deborah approaches the leadership of Saint Martin’s with energy, enthusiasm and gratitude. “I have a great deal of respect for the good work that has been done by my predecessors in partnership with donors, volunteers and staff,” she says. “Our work to help our friends and neighbors who are struggling is overwhelming at times. What we can do as an organization to meet these needs is to stay current so that we can be nimble as the needs change and to access all the resources available,” she adds.
Although Saint Martin’s has always had a commitment to tackling poverty and homelessness, their new tact is to apply a multi-disciplined approach instead of simply taking care of the immediate need. “Yes, if someone is hungry, we give them food, satisfying the emergency need. However, if they can’t afford food because they are disabled and can’t work, then maybe they need additional resources,” says Vornbrock. “If we can get to the root causes of their situation we can more effectively serve our clients and better support them as they become self-sufficient,” she adds.
In an effort to systematically tackle the tough issues of homelessness and poverty SMM hired a part-time Case Management Aide this year. “We used to operate more like a silo,” says Linda Pangalos, MSW, Director of Case Management Services at Saint Martin’s. “With our expanded and dedicated case management staff we are going to be more successful at meeting the needs of our clients,” she adds.
Saint Martin’s receives 10 to 12 calls a day from people needing help. When it comes to issues related to poverty and homelessness there are no easy fixes. “While we do respond to their immediate needs like avoiding eviction or getting their electricity turned back on, what we really want to do is to help our clients move away from the precipice of homelessness toward a more stable living situation,” adds Vornbrock.
Financial support in the form of donations and grants are important to the organization as well as material donations such as food for the pantry and clothes, household goods and furniture for The Barn and Thrift Shop. To learn more about Saint Martin’s or how you can support its program, contact Deborah Hudson Vornbrock at (410) 634-2537, x 102 or by email at DHVornbrock@StMartinsMinistries.org. You can also visit SMM online at StMartinsMinistries.org or connect with them on Facebook (St. Martin’s Ministries).
Saint Martin’s Ministries of Ridgely, Maryland, is a non-profit organization that has provided a safety net for individuals and families living in poverty for more than three decades. SMM’s mission is to help meet basic human needs for impoverished people on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, to respect and affirm their dignity, and to address the root problems that perpetuate the cycle of poverty. SMM provides an array of services through a single point of entry, with a dignified case management approach, to address immediate and long-term needs. Its four assistance programs are its Food Pantry, Homelessness Prevention, Transitional Shelter and Thrift Store.