Helping others: How local firms give back to community

The Daily Record invited local organizations to tell us about how they gave back to the community during holiday time. Here is what they had to say, in their own words:

Cohen & Dwin

For the second year, Cohen & Dwin P.A. has teamed up with Toys for Tots for a chance to give back to the community.

A new legal assistant at Cohen & Dwin saw an opportunity to forge a lasting relationship with the community and proposed the idea to Harold Dwin. Last year’s haul, over 300 toys and $4,000 raised, through the hard work of the Cohen & Dwin family set the standard for this year’s fundraiser.

The employees of Cohen & Dwin have worked closely this year with Sgt. Hoornstra from Toys for Tots, to make 2014’s fundraising effort larger. Giant Food, Reisterstown Road location, has graciously donated holiday refreshments.

The “elves” at Cohen & Dwin put together gift baskets for a raffle, baking dozens of cookies for decorating and preparing for a fun family event. The Holiday Open House was held on Dec. 6.


Howard Community College

Students are deep into the hustle and bustle of classes and final exams during November and December, so planning a successful, student-involved fundraising event at Howard Community College works best earlier in the fall. The Student Program Board and employees at HCC celebrated the season of giving early by partnering Oct. 20-31 to raise $14,400 to benefit United Way of Central Maryland and its important programs.

The campaign got off to a delicious start with a Chili Cook-Off on the campus quad. With a suggested donation, guests sampled homemade chili and voted for their favorite among the employee contestants. The event also featured popcorn, funnel cakes and cotton candy, along with the opportunity to play corn hole, paint pumpkins and meet HCC’s Duncan the Dragon mascot.

A few days later, the Student Program Board held a cookie contest with employee and student bakers vying for the title of best cookie. Employees and students who made a donation got to sample cookies and vote for the winner.

During the campaign’s final event — the Halloween costume bash — guests made a donation to eat their fill of pizza, popcorn and candied apples and enter their costume into the costume contest.

In addition to these three events, anyone making a donation at an event or online had the opportunity to win a basket filled with donated goods from the campus bookstore and wellness center, as well as handmade items, valued at $300.


Baltimore Convention Center

The employees of the Baltimore Convention Center once again celebrated the season with the spirit of giving at the Baltimore Convention Center/Volunteers of America, Chesapeake Chapter Angel Tree Gift Event on Dec. 17.

The gift giving event was expanded to serve children enrolled in the VoA’s program at Irvington Woods Apartments, as well as the residents of Pratt Street House. Baltimore Convention Center employees chose ornaments from the angel tree, created by the residents of these homes, ages 2 to 17.

These special ornaments included the name, age and one Christmas wish item from each child. Center employees were on track to fulfill wish items for 125 children this year. In 2013, employees purchased and distributed wish list items for over 100 children.


Christmas Village

To close out the holiday season, Christmas Village in Baltimore hosted Make-A-Wish Charity Weekend on Dec. 20-21. Christmas Village will donate a portion of the proceeds from the heart-shaped ornaments hung on the Wish Tree to Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic. The weekend also featured special performances from JoeyDCares Rock Orchestra, among others.

Since 1983, Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic has granted the wishes of more than 8,200 children fighting life-threatening medical conditions such as cancer, pediatric AIDS, spinal muscular atrophy, Duchene’s muscular dystrophy, kidney and heart disease. It is the organization’s mission to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.

Christmas Village in Baltimore supports Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic by asking guests at the market to purchase heart ornaments at the information booth, with 25 percent of the proceeds from the ornaments donated to Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic.



Baltimore Gas and Electric Company’s annual Gift of Energy Program and Fuel Fund of Maryland envelope campaign provide BGE customers looking for ways to give back during the holidays with opportunities to share the warmth of the season with those in need, making the holidays brighter for families throughout central Maryland who may be struggling financially.

In December, BGE launched its giving campaign to support the Fuel Fund of Maryland, an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, through bge.com and via postage-paid envelopes enclosed in customers’ bills. This annual, customer-funded effort makes energy assistance available to limited-income customers who apply for assistance from the Fuel Fund of Maryland. BGE and its customers also support households in need year-round by providing $1 in bill credits for every $2 paid by Fuel Fund and its clients.

Through BGE’s Dollar Donation Fund, customers are able to designate a modest donation to the Fuel Fund and have it added to their BGE bill each month. When a monthly bill is paid in full, BGE will forward the contribution directly to the Fuel Fund.

To participate in the Dollar Donation Fund, visit bge.com to complete a simple form, or call BGE at 800-685-0123.

Individuals may also consider helping specific customers with their BGE bills by donating through the Gift of Energy program. Using a form available on bge.com, customers are able to make donations of any amount to the accounts of specific customers. The donors may notify the recipients or remain anonymous. The Gift of Energy form can be found on bge.com.


Oak Crest

As Oak Crest prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2015, employees ended this year by focusing on those in need in the Baltimore area.

An annual event at Oak Crest, the Erickson Living retirement community in Parkville, the Day of Giving provides employees with a forum to contribute to the surrounding community. On Dec. 11, hundreds of employees took advantage of this opportunity by sharing their time with various charities and causes during town hall meetings.

Among the nonprofit organizations supported were the Baltimore Humane Society, Helping Up Mission, House of Ruth and the Parkville Food Pantry.

“It’s been said that snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together,” said Todd Sullivan, director of philanthropy.


Maryland Association for Justice

The Maryland Association for Justice New Lawyers Section supported Back on My Feet — Baltimore this holiday season. Back on My Feet — Baltimore is a 501(c)3 organization that works to empower people to transition out of homelessness. There are four homeless shelters in Baltimore city that participate in the Back on My Feet program.

Residents of those shelters can apply to the program, which provides an opportunity to take charge of their lives through running. Participants commit to run at 5:30 a.m. three mornings a week with other participants and nonresident volunteers. The goal is to build accountability and well-being among program participants. Participants must maintain 90 percent attendance while enrolled and are subsequently provided with financial literacy and job skills training, and assistance with job placement.

Learn more about Back on My Feet — Baltimore at www.backonmyfeet.org.

Maryland Association for Justice, an association of more than 1,300 trial lawyers, partnered with Back on My Feet to support the Baltimore Running Festival held Oct. 18, Sneaker Week from Nov. 17 to 21 and the annual Holiday Dinner for BoMF team members on Dec. 12.


Maryland Live Casino

Maryland Live Casino and The Cordish Cos. have partnered with diverse groups of local charitable organizations, including Susan G. Komen Maryland, the USO, the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, the Casey Cares Foundation, Opportunity Builders and the Anne Arundel Community College Foundation, to name a few.

Maryland Live and The Cordish Cos. gave total cash contributions of over $2.6 million to local charitable organizations in the Baltimore region in 2013.


Maller Wealth Advisors

Maller Wealth Advisors’ generosity can be felt from Baltimore to South Africa with giving totaling more than $100,000 to charitable causes in 2014.

This year, Maller Wealth Advisors is the presenting sponsor of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras. Launched in 2012, the BSYO comprises three orchestral ensembles, consisting of 210 of the mid-Atlantic region’s most talented musicians. The BSYO serves as ensemble-in-residence at the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson.

Farther from home, CEO Peter Maller helps establish schools in the poorest areas of his homeland of South Africa, where only a small percentage of children go to school due to difficulty of access. Not only is Maller helping to build school buildings, but providing transportation, uniforms and food as well.

Maller Wealth Advisors also supports the Reading Village organization in Guatemala. Reading Village transforms lives through literacy. Its mission is to empower youth to eradicate illiteracy and lead their communities out of poverty.

Closer to home, in 2014, Maller Wealth Advisors supported more than 35 causes, including Chabad at Johns Hopkins, Paul’s Place, Ford’s Theater Society and the Wounded Warrior Project, the Salvation Army, Carroll Hospice, American Diabetes Association and Broadway Cares.



On Dec. 6, Santa Claus landed his reindeer and sleigh to spread holiday cheer to help raise $5,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation during Applebee’s Breakfast with Santa.

Seventeen regional Applebee’s locations participated in this event, giving parents and their children the chance to meet and greet with Santa and his elves at the unlimited pancakes breakfast — all while helping to raise a combined total of $5,421 for the heartwarming cause that is Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Participating locations included Bel Air, Crofton, Easton, Ocean City and Salisbury.


Notre Dame-AmeriCorps

This holiday season, Sisters of Notre Dame, AmeriCorps members and countless students across the country have celebrated the season as families unlike what you might expect.

Notre Dame-AmeriCorps is a service organization that engages 400 individuals in a year of intensive service in 23 underserved communities across the U.S. These NDA members serve full-time in schools, community centers and educational initiatives to broaden access to education in communities where it’s needed most.

NDA members work alongside the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who established the Notre Dame Mission Volunteer Program in 1992. This year marks the Sisters’ 20th year in partnership with AmeriCorps, a national service program that engages 75,000 Americans in service to their communities.

The NDA family includes nuns, government partners, volunteers of all ages and experiences, community members of all backgrounds and friends at schools and nonprofit organizations across the country. In each community, these people form a special bond, a relationship upon which they build to empower individuals and neighborhoods who otherwise would not have the same opportunity.


Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service launched its “Hope for the Holidays” campaign last month with the goal of collecting and distributing 1,700 holiday cards to each of the women and children being held in family detention facilities awaiting immigration hearings. As of the middle of December, the Baltimore-based nonprofit had far surpassed its goal, having collected over 9,300 cards from individuals, congregations and organizations all across the nation offering messages of hope to mothers and children who have sought refuge in the United States.

Over the past year, there has been a marked increase in the number of children and families fleeing their home countries in Central America, with over 64,000 children and 6,000 families crossing the border into the U.S.

“It is our hope that in some small way the cards will help to combat feelings of isolation and hopelessness that many detained families will feel at this time of year,” said Liz Sweet, director of LIRS’ Access to Justice program. “The compassion we are seeing from people all over the country who are supporting this effort has truly been heart-warming.”