Guest Post By Bobbi Shulman
Editor’s Note: Sharing Montgomery is a strategic, donor-led funding effort for community members who want to give where they live. This year the Sharing Montgomery Fund granted out $385,000 to 62 nonprofits that provide educational, workforce development, safety-net or capacity-building services in Montgomery County. Sharing Montgomery Committee members not only review grant applications – they go out into the community to visit the nonprofits making a difference for low-income children, youth and families. In our latest grant round, the Sharing Montgomery Committee went on 33 site visits from October 2018 to March 2019. Bobbi Shulman contributed this post to share her personal experience serving on the committee.
I’ve been on the Sharing Montgomery Committee since 2015. My family has been connected to The Community Foundation for more than five years, beginning when we started our foundation. I particularly enjoy going on site visits because I am constantly amazed by the depth, scope, and professionalism with which organizations do their jobs.
Last January, I visited Rebuilding Together Montgomery County with fellow Sharing Montgomery Committee members. Rebuilding Together offers low-income homeowners (50% of area median income) safe and healthy home repairs at no cost to the recipient. In 2018, they completed 240 projects in 113 homes.
I was under the impression that Rebuilding Together was all about construction and repair of homes. I had no idea of the aggressive wrap-around services they provide by becoming actively involved with the homeowner and engaging a variety of other non-profits to provide them needed services, including facility maintenance. It wasn’t until we conducted a site visit to Jill’s home that I fully understood the depth of their work. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Jill’s house had deteriorated to the point where the house was condemned, and she was forced to move in with friends. Rebuilding Montgomery learned of her difficult situation and pitched in to repair drywall, electrical, plumbing, flooring, and more. The ultimate success of the project allowed Jill to avoid permanent homelessness and return to live in her own home in safe and healthy conditions.
This deeper connection to the community continues to give back, as evidenced by Jill telling Rebuilding Together she hopes to give back by volunteering and paying it forward.
What I learned by visiting Rebuilding Together is just one example of the surprises uncovered in site visits! For the past 40 or so years, my work has been on the policy level, particularly in workforce development. Sharing Montgomery has given me the opportunity to observe organizations doing the work on a grassroots level. I appreciate the opportunity to provide input into improving the grantmaking process. I have seen many positive changes in the quality of the grant applications and in the process of evaluating them.
I’m so glad that Sharing Montgomery has brought me in contact with a group of people who care about improving the lives of residents of the county.