2023: REFLECTING ON A YEAR OF EVOLUTION

Our annual report always offers an opportunity for recognition and reflection on the previous year. While there may be a great deal to celebrate, there is also space for continued curiosity and exploration. This challenges us to look past the surface and intentionally dig deeper for meaning and revelation.

In 2023, the Collaboration Council embarked upon an ambitious plan to adopt a new strategic framework. This revolutionary framework sets the tone for our work moving forward. We have adopted a new strategic statement: “Creating collaborative opportunities for people to learn about, understand, shape, and participate in thriving communities across Montgomery County.” With each endeavor we launch, we will be holding ourselves accountable to being in alignment and integrity with our new lens and philosophy.

People matter. While we’ve always taken a thoughtful approach to our work, this understanding ­– that people matter, above all else – guides us as we work with and alongside the people of Montgomery County to amplify community perspectives, enhance the inherent strengths that are the fabric of our neighborhoods, and promote true equity by doing right by people.

This journey into cultivating a more meaningful relationship with community is evidenced by many things shared in this report. This is just the beginning of the future evolution of this organization. We are excited to be a part of the movement as we usher in deeper connections to the community.

We encourage you to stay tuned, as there here will be more to come as we share what this shift means for us and our work. We welcome you to join us during this exciting phase!

Hannah Davis, LMSW, LGSW
Chair, Board of Directors

Elijah Wheeler
Executive Director

CULTIVATING STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMMUNITY

VIDEO: 2023 MoCo ReConnect Pride & Arts Festival

Celebrating Pride with MoCo ReConnect

In June, MoCo ReConnect, our Youth Drop-in center, hosted a Pride & Arts Festival in downtown Wheaton.

This youth-led event celebrated young people, art, and Pride while raising awareness about MoCo ReConnect programs and services. We thank the young people who envisioned and organized this event for their leadership, spirit of determination, and resilience.

Despite a summer downpour, the festival was a joyous celebration infused with youthful energy and positivity – a true highlight of 2023!

The Drop-in Center is a unique approach in Montgomery County as the only dedicated youth space specifically centering the needs of youth ages 16-24, particularly those impacted by housing insecurity and seeking alternative opportunities to traditional education pathways. The Drop-in center brings together a collaboration of agencies providing outreach, case management, education, housing assistance, and employment training. MoCo ReConnect programs and services are provided in partnership with the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) and Sheppard Pratt.

Black, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ young people are disproportionately impacted by systems that lead to disconnection from school and/or homelessness. This is why MoCo ReConnect providers offer culturally relevant programming and LGBTQIA+ service navigators to create a safe and welcoming space for all.

MoCo ReConnect FY23 Outcomes

  • 185 young people referred to programming
  • 76% (141) of referrals enrolled in programming to take advantage of case management
  • 68% (96) of participants reported enrollment in education programming, job training, or obtained/maintained employment

In 2023, we launched a new outreach website for MoCo ReConnect to support the efforts of our Street Outreach Team.
This “mini site” is aimed at youth ages 16 to 24 who may need the kinds of services and programs the Drop-in Center provides. 

VIDEO: Conservation Corps – Earth Day 2023

Montgomery County Conservation Corps

The Montgomery County Conservation Corps provides opportunities for young people ages 17 to 24 to gain hands-on experience in the environmental sector by working on conservation projects in the field.

Corps members work on projects in County, state, and National Parks, as well as working with the nonprofit environmental community, while also pursuing their GEDs. The Collaboration Council administers this program in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and Latin American Youth Center / Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers (LAYC/MMYC).

Highlights of 2023 include an Earth Day Park Clean-up event in Jessup Blair Park alongside the Montgomery County Parks Volunteer Division. In April, Corps members had the unique opportunity to attend the Climate Leadership Gala 2023 in Washington, DC. At this event, which brings together 300 industry leaders from across sectors, Conservation Corps members were acknowledged as stewards of climate justice.

Corps members also partnered with George Washington University (GWU) on an Air Quality For All research project. For six weeks, they received lessons from GWU research students on air pollutants, emissions, social implications of air quality distribution, mapping and spatial data, and data collection. Corps members then collected spatial data on air quality in areas of DC and Maryland and gave presentations about their findings.

FY23 OUTCOMES:

  • 30 Conservation Corps members total, with 21 who did not yet have high-school diplomas simultaneously enrolled in GED classes
  • Field projects conducted across 18 sites
  • 3 Corps members earned their high school diploma, and 6 passed at least 1 to 3 sections of the GED exam, for a collective 26 official GED subject tests passed
  • 17 Corps members attained one or more certifications in the areas of OSHA-10, Traffic Safety, and CPR/First Aid, for a total of 31 certifications

Youth Action Board

The Youth Action Board (YAB) is a collaborative entity supported by Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (Services to End and Prevent Homelessness), the Collaboration Council, Montgomery County Interagency Commission on Homelessness, and the MoCo Reconnect Youth Drop-In Center and its partners.

The YAB consists of community members ages 17 to 24 who have a desire to impact the way their peers and future generations of young people experience homelessness in Montgomery County. These youth are viewed as experts who help hold government and nonprofits accountable for prioritizing the needs and wants of young people.

The YAB played a central role in developing and designing the MoCo ReConnect Youth Drop-in Center, which opened in 2022. In 2023, the seven young people serving on the YAB created a recreation room at the drop-in center, with video gaming, board games, foosball table, and a lounge area.  They also participated in two listening sessions that informed a Youth Homelessness System Improvement (YHSI) grant application for potential submission to HUD. YAB members also supported the MoCo ReConnect Street Outreach team, joining them to connect with young people in shelters and share information about the types of support and opportunities the Drop-in Center provides.

DONOR-PARTNER SPOTLIGHT

You have probably seen promotions by Bombas promising “One purchased = One donated.” Now youth in Montgomery County are benefiting from this corporate commitment to giving back. Through a new partnership with Bombas, in 2023 we received a very generous donation of 10,000 pairs of socks for MoCo ReConnect. Bombas is a comfort-focused, basics apparel brand with a mission to help those in need. The company was originally founded in 2013 because socks are the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters. Underwear and t-shirts are #2 and #3 respectively. While the brand started with and is known for its extremely comfortable socks, Bombas used its expertise in comfort to launch into apparel with t-shirts in 2019 and most recently, underwear in 2021. For every item purchased, a specially-designed item is donated to the homeless community. To date, Bombas has donated more than 75 million items to those at-risk, in need, and experiencing homelessness. Learn more at beebetter.bombas.com

REIMAGINING COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Community of Engagement

The Collaboration Council’s Community of Engagement (CoE) strives to center and amplify the voices and perspectives of people in Montgomery County.

Activities under the banner of Community of Engagement include community forums, listening sessions, community-led trainings for nonprofits and government agencies, and the gathering and sharing of data with community residents. The CoE has been designed as a community-driven approach to advocate for change, providing pathways for residents to actualize their vision of a healthy, aligned, and affirming community.

VIDEO: Dr. Rodney Glasgow: What is Implicit Bias?

Conversations at the Intersection

In January, as a part of the Conversations at the Intersection series, our Community of Engagement (CoE) department hosted a community conversation discussing the intersection of the issues of anti-semitism and anti-Black racism in our communities. Our panel featured Howard Feinstein, civil rights attorney, and citizen-advocate; Dira Treadvance, Chief of Children Youth and Family Services, Montgomery County’s DHHS; and Andrew Friedson, Montgomery County Council Vice President (Councilmember Friedson is currently the President of the County Council). In February, Dr. Rodney Glasgow led the second in a series of interactive workshops and conversations around how identity, intersectionality, and implicit bias show up in our lived experiences.

In May, CoE and MoCo ReConnect program leadership hosted a community conversation about youth homelessness, highlighting the experiences of individual youth who have experienced homelessness themselves, and also engaging people in conversation who have worked in a professional capacity supporting local youth. Though the conversation was a tough one to have, it was equally enlightening, and we extend a special thanks to the young people who shared their stories.

Community Conversation on Youth Homelessness

R.E. D. Committee

The Racial and Ethnic Disparities (R.E.D.) Committee is tasked with addressing disparities in the treatment of and outcomes for youth of color.

In 2023, the R.E.D. Committee worked with our CoE to organize a series of community conversations about the school-to-prison pipeline in Montgomery County Public Schools. In November, we partnered with Racial Justice NOW! DMV and the County’s Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) to hold a series of community conversations at Bohrer Park Rec Center and White Oak Middle School, with a third conversation in this series held in February 2024.

Community Justice Academy

The goals of the Community Justice Academy (CJA) are to build the capacity of grassroots communities and Montgomery County government to address environmental and climate injustices, and to close persistent equity gaps by giving disadvantaged communities a meaningful voice in government decision-making processes.

For the last two years, we have served as fiscal sponsor for the CJA, which is a collaborative governance model being developed in partnership with the County’s Departments of Environmental Protection and Health and Human Services, three grassroots residents, and five community-based organizations: Everyday Canvassing, CASA, the Montgomery County Racial Equity (MORE) Network, Latin American Youth Center, and Faith Alliance for Community Equity and Sustainability (FACES).

Since its inception in 2021, the CJA has been working to break down systemic barriers to community participation in government processes through the ongoing development of a “best practice” collaborative governance model. This model consists of an integrated set of activities that are currently at different stages of conceptualization and design:

  • A training track on climate justice and leadership development for grassroots community members to be launched in the fall of 2024.
  • A training track for County government staff on equitable community engagement practices and processes, also to be launched in the fall of 2024.
  • Development of a centralized information hub to enhance community connectivity and resource-sharing, and to inform policymaking.
  • Intentional convening of community members and government staff into collaborative governance processes to build trust and co-create climate solutions.

DONOR-PARTNER SPOTLIGHT

In 2023, our MoCo ReConnect Drop-in Center benefited from Patagonia’s Retail and Wholesale Grants Program, which allows nonprofits to purchase coats at a discounted price. Patagonia provides grants to organizations that identify and work on the root causes of problems and approach issues with a commitment to long-term change. Thanks to this Patagonia partnership, combined with financial support from Foundation Housing, we were able to provide high-quality warm winter coats to 50 youth.

BUILDING CAPACITY, BOOSTING POTENTIAL

Advancing Youth Development

Advancing Youth Development (AYD) Training is an intensive four-day professional development opportunity for community youth workers who work directly with youth ages 10 to 24 in school and community settings in Montgomery County.

AYD Training gives participants the necessary tools and skills to understand youth culture. Participants learn how to help youth navigate and use resources, identify their own strengths, and define and achieve their goals. We are proud to have provided this nationally recognized training to hundreds of providers in the county.

VIDEO: Reflections from AYD Training, Nov. 2023

In 2023, a total of 50 youth development practitioners attended AYD Trainings, which were offered in January and November.

The Excel Beyond the Bell (EBB) Collaborative is a public-private partnership created by the Collaboration Council to inspire our youth to realize their full potential by offering safe, quality, and accessible Out-of-School Time (OST) programs.

Our OST team works in partnership with the Montgomery County Recreation Department, Montgomery County Public Schools, and community-based organizations to offer EBB programs in middle schools.

In FY23, Excel Beyond the Bell served more than 1,700 students through 98 programs at eight middle schools.

Out-of-School Time Systems Building
Community Assessment

In 2023, our Out-of-School Time (OST) Program partnered with Arcstratta consulting to perform a community assessment of OST programming in Montgomery County to better understand families’ needs and preferences.

The assessment focused on awareness, availability, accessibility, and effectiveness of OST programs. It was designed to amplify youth and caregiver voices, particularly of Black, Brown, low-income, and Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) Title I communities. English and Spanish online surveys were received from 634 respondents (557 parents and 77 youth ages 11-19). In addition, nine group interviews were conducted with a total of 80 participants (56 parents, 24 youth), and those interviews were facilitated in English, Spanish, Amharic, and Pashto. Everyday Canvassing helped identify and connect us with the community members who participated in the group interviews, which were facilitated by Arcstratta.

While a majority of families did have children enrolled in OST programs, approximately one-third did not. Overall, families enrolled in OST programs were satisfied with the structure, delivery, and content of programming and felt that the programs had important social, academic, and developmental outcomes. Families primarily received OST information through their schools and via email. Communication channels, however, did not effectively inform all parents/caregivers and youth about OST programs. Other barriers to participation included cost, transportation, insufficient slots, limited programming for older students, and disinterest in available programs.

Recommendations to Increase OST Programming Access & Equity

  • Use social media, flyers/mailings, and QR codes in addition to school communications and email channels to reach parents and youth and ensure information about OST services is translated into multiple languages.
  • Provide transportation to programs.
  • Expand program hours, locations, and length.
  • Offer hybrid program options (virtual & in-person).
  • Expand and diversify program options, particularly for middle- and high-school-aged children.
  • Increase program resources (staff, financial support/budget, volunteers).
  • Ensure services are responsive to families’ cultures and needs.
  • Increase the number of program slots available and ensure the registration process is clear and easily accessible for families (e.g., online, through schools and sponsoring organizations).
  • Increase free or low-cost OST programs.
  • Offer financial assistance to middle-income families to increase the affordability of programs.
  • Expand promotion and guidance about available scholarships or other financial support to help parents enroll.
  • Create and adapt programs for adolescents.
  • Develop programs that youth and parents can participate in together and maintain communication.
  • Offer more support programs for parents/caregivers.
  • Continue to collect data on the OST program experiences of youth and families to evaluate implementation and effectiveness and address barriers to participation.
  • Continue broadening partnerships, especially with other County entities with existing resources, such as the Montgomery County Public Library system (i.e., virtual resources).
  • Continue to create spaces and processes to hear directly from County families to shape programming.

Our OST team is drawing on these recommendations to help shape EBB middle-school programs, maintaining and replicating what is effective while looking for ways to better meet the needs of youth and families.

We hope this community assessment will prove useful to a wide range of OST providers as we work together to strengthen the County’s OST system.

Montgomery County Community Youth Support & Engagement (MoCoCYSE)

This program was created in 2021 in response to widespread pandemic-related disconnection from in-person out-of-school-time engagements and to a call for an increase in social-emotional supports for Montgomery County’s middle- and high-school youth. MoCoCYSE leveraged community space and youth service partnerships to provide OST program engagement opportunities and supports for youth and families.

In 2023, nearly 500 youth engaged in spring and summer MoCoCYSE programs, which were delivered by 12 providers offering a range of topics and activities. For example, Kids Kitchen served up a kid-friendly food and fitness program that promoted health and wellness through interactive culinary and nutrition education. Sci Tech 2 U gave youth hands-on experience with 3D printing, combined with team-building activities and exposure to business topics, including financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and patent and trademarks. Girls on the Run engaged girls in physical activity while helping them cultivate critical life skills, including resolving conflict, helping others, and making intentional decisions.

This was the third and final year for MoCoCYSE, which was a public-private partnership working together with the Montgomery County Council, Montgomery County Department of Recreation, and Montgomery County Community Use of Public Facilities.

The Basics is a community-level initiative designed to improve early childhood outcomes by ensuring that ALL children begin kindergarten with the skills and attitudes they need to truly thrive.

The Basics is a free program that consists of five evidence-based parenting and caregiving principles that promote high-quality cognitive and social-emotional development among children 0-5. The purpose of these principles is to emphasize that everyday interactions between children, their parents, and other caregivers provide abundant opportunities to improve early childhood outcomes, including kindergarten readiness.

We convene The Basics Advisory Committee which includes a dozen public- and private-sector implementing partners. In 2023, the committee developed plans to expand The Basics from a pilot program targeting zip code 20877 to the entire county, starting in July 2024.

The goal is to identify and activate five geographically diverse hubs where parents and caregivers pay, play or pray and to saturate those hub communities with educational materials, outreach, and themed activities around The Basics principles. Expanded programming will also include county-wide outreach and awareness building and target key sectors such as healthcare, family service providers, and employers.

In 2023, in partnership with Nexus Connect, we provided Spanish training in The Basics to community health workers who make home visits to families with young children. This effort helped us share The Basics with 70 new families and enroll them in Basics Insights, a free text messaging program that helps parents incorporate early childhood learning into everyday routines.

Substance Use Prevention

We work in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to implement substance use prevention strategies that educate about the long- and short-term consequences of substance use and misuse, and the importance of safe storage and proper disposal of prescription opioids.

Throughout the year, we support two social media campaigns focused on Substance Use Prevention: Know the Risks, which provides information to parents and caregivers, and Strength to Speak, which is aimed at youth. To help promote proper disposal of prescription medications, targeted social media posts also highlighted a different take-back location each month, as well as promoting National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

In fiscal year 2023, our Substance Use Prevention social media campaigns on Facebook and Instagram had a combined 244,733 impressions resulting in 2,390 user engagements.

Learn more at
KnowtheRisksMC.org

DONOR-PARTNER SPOTLIGHT

In 2023, the NBPA Foundation awarded a grant of $25,000 to support youth sports programs in the Long Branch community of Montgomery County, an area that has been disproportionately affected by the multiple social and health crises of the last three years. This support from the NBPA Foundation is allowing us to invest meaningfully, deeply, and singularly in one of the most under-resourced neighborhoods in the County.

PROMOTING EQUITABLE OPPORTUNITIES & ACCESS

VIDEO: MoCo BOOST participant Daquan shares his story

Montgomery County’s Guaranteed Income Pilot, MoCo BOOST, is an initiative to provide $800 a month to 300 Montgomery County households for 24 months.

BOOST stands for: Building Our Opportunities and Strength Today. The pilot is made possible through a public-private combination of County funding (via a special appropriation by the County Council) and a $1 million private investment by the Meyer Foundation.

In August, we hosted MoCo BOOST back-to-school party at Sligo Park. This gathering featured a school supply “shop” where more than 70 students ranging in age from kindergarten to high school picked out supplies for the new school year, along with lots of with food and fun, including shaved ice and frolicking in foam provided by Happy Hippo Shaved Ice.

In December, MoCo BOOST families celebrated the holiday season with a party at Gaithersburg High School. In addition to food and fun, this gathering gave parents the opportunity to select and wrap gifts for their children. More than 250 gifts were distributed, along with more than 500 pairs of socks donated by Bombas.

Most importantly, members of our community came together to smile and laugh, have a meal, get to know each other better, and celebrate the season.

Healthy Families Montgomery

Healthy Families Montgomery (HFM) is a nationally accredited home-visiting program for first-time parents. HFM, through our partner provider Sheppard Pratt, promotes child well-being through the use of family focused and empathic support provided in the home.

Program participants receive services for three years, and emphasis is placed on health care, child development, parenting education and support, and family self-sufficiency.

FY23 OUTCOMES:

  • 1,845 home visits provided to 93 families
  • 14 of 16 of mothers who delivered a child in FY23 completed postpartum care
  • 97% of children over 2 months old had a primary health care provider
  • 85% of children up to the age of 2 completed immunizations
  • All children in the program were regularly screened for early identification of learning challenges (at 4, 6,8, 12, 16, 18, 20 and 24 months and then every six months after age two) and 18 children were referred to receive early intervention services from the Montgomery County Infants and Toddlers Program
  • 100% of parents demonstrated adequate knowledge of safety as measured on the most recent Home Safety Checklist tool

Pathways to Services

Our Pathway to Services office is a specialized access point that connects youth and their families to community-based supports and services in Montgomery County.

This program supports youth experiencing emotional and/or behavioral health challenges, as well as developmental disabilities. Youth requiring a higher level of intensive services are referred to the Collaboration Council’s Local Care Team (LCT), which is a coordinated interagency team designed to assist parents/caregivers with accessing and coordinating services, as well as developing plans of care for community-based services.

The LCT also serves as the access point to wraparound care, a strengths-based, family-driven process that puts in place an array of services and informal supports to help strengthen families and address emotional and behavioral concerns. The goal of the LCT is to ensure that every family feels supported, valued, heard, and respected.

FY23 OUTCOMES:

  • 463 calls received by Pathways to Services Office
  • 96 cases referred to and reviewed by Local Care Team (LCT)
  • 34 LCT cases were referred for wraparound services

In August 2023, we launched a redesigned infoMONTGOMERY, which is a searchable database of more than 1,500 programs and resources in Montgomery County.

The new infoMONTGOMERY features a streamlined, user-friendly interface that allows users to search by keyword or within six topic areas that include 28 categories. The new platform is designed to be responsive and mobile-friendly, which is essential because more than 30% of visitors view this resource on their phones. The top three category searches on the new site in 2023 were housing & shelter, food & nutrition, and mental health care.

Visit the site at infoMONTGOMERY.org

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: LISTENING & LEARNING

Community Needs Assessment

Every three years we conduct a Community Needs Assessment (CNA). This triennial CNA – required as part of our designation as a Local Management Board by the State of Maryland – informs and shapes our priorities and ensures that as the community changes, we are being responsive to its emerging needs.

As we approached our next CNA in fall 2023, we knew we wanted to do it differently: this time we wanted to conduct the CNA with community. We entered into a partnership with Everyday Canvassing, a local nonprofit whose staff and volunteers knock on doors all year round to learn and record people’s stories, and who were already working with us on the Community Justice Academy. Everyday Canvassing connects people to local activism and services at their door and ensure local representatives listen to people’s stories – as told by people themselves.

With Everyday Canvassing on board, we began to envision and design a CNA process that would support a sustained, relationship-based approach to understanding community needs. Everyday Canvassing helped us assemble Upcounty and Downcounty cohorts that began meeting in December 2023 – the start of a process that is continuing in 2024. As 2023 came to a close, we also laid the groundwork for assembling a Youth Cohort and hiring a full-time Community Organizer – a newly created position that aligns with our new strategic framework – to support and shape the CNA process and other community engagement work.

What we learn from the three CNA Cohorts will be combined with other data sources to inform our strategic investments and actions, and hopefully inspire us all to identify additional ways to act. We look forward to releasing the CNA report in 2024 and to continuing to engage in work that truly centers community voices in a deep and meaningful way.

DONOR-PARTNER SPOTLIGHT

The community-led approach to our Community Needs Assessment (CNA) has been made possible with a grant from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation – dollars that have supplemented the state funding we receive for the CNA, allowing us to partner with Everyday Canvassing to do this essential work in a very different way than we have in the past. The Marriott Foundation’s support of the CNA is part of a multi-year grant supporting work aimed at creating significant, lasting and transformational change. We are excited and honored to partner with the Marriott Foundation, which is committed to sustaining vibrant, healthy communities where all people have the opportunities and means to achieve their dreams and make a positive difference in the world.

In Memoriam: Alicia Church

After a hard-fought battle with cancer, Alicia Church passed away surrounded by friends and family on May 31, 2023.

Alicia joined the Collaboration Council in 2006 and was known by not only our staff, but also by many who have worked with us over the years. Her face often would be the first one you would see upon entering our office space; her voice was the one answering the main line if you called us. You received her email reminders about meetings or reminders for the timely submission of proposals. Whether or not you knew her, she was familiar to you if you engaged with us. She will be truly missed.

We thank retiring Board member Carol Walsh for her many years of devoted service to the Collaboration Council and the people we serve, as both a former Executive Director and then as a valued community representative on the Board of Directors. 

THANK YOU FOR VISITING OUR 2023 ANNUAL REPORT

WE INVITE YOU TO EXPLORE OUR MAIN WEBSITE TO LEARN MORE