Non-Profit Power

Powerful women you may not know but need to know!

Article by Katrina Hall

Photography by Edison Manalo Poemtography

Originally published in Columbia Lifestyle

Nette Stokes, Executive Director of Just Living Advocacy

Just Living Advocacy is a non-profit that provides resources to female heads of households who are living in poverty. Nette Stoke, Executive Director, states, “We don’t turn away any single parent; dads, grandparents, you name it. However, we acknowledge that the majority of single-parent households are run by women”.

What inspires Stokes professionally is that she was that single mom. Her mother was that single mom. Stokes’ mother worked in their neighborhood before childcare centers existed, as they do today. Her mother's death at the young age of 54 of a heart attack, had a profound effect on Stokes. Single parents at the poverty level lack access to healthcare and often put themselves last. This often leaves children motherless despite dedicating their whole lives to their families. Just Living Advocacy supports and encourages heart disease care in clients. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Howard County. Bringing awareness to this issue is vital.

Nette says, “Be a champion of hope. Reach out, invest in resources, and don’t believe the negatives that may accompany the cause you are passionate about. You don’t get there by yourself."

Beth Harbinson, Founder of Sobar

Now in their second year, Sobar provides non-alcoholic beverages at social events like festivals and corporate parties. Sobar is thee non-alcoholic bar, hosting social events in a very ‘alcohol-centric’ society. Harbinson states, being in recovery herself, having low-pressure options is critical. Attending an event Harbinson asked herself, “Why aren’t there any creative celebratory beverages for people like me, or for designated drivers?” Sobar was born.

Harbinson reveals she’s inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  “She's a purist, she doesn't go into things with a hard-line idea; she's pragmatic. She interprets the law in a way that's equitable and fair,” Harbinson says.  “Equity is a universal term. I don't care why people come to us or need non-alcoholic options, but I know it’s equitable in its reach to serve them."

Harbinson advises women to seek out advice from people with different skill sets. " Understanding my deficits from the viewpoint of others as it pertains to my nonprofit is so important. Be willing to step out there and collaborate."

Sue Ann Shafley Executive Director of Camp Attaway

Camp Attaway is in its 25th season of providing therapeutic summer camp for children with behavioral challenges and disorders. There is a gap in resources for behaviorally challenged children and their families. Camp Attaway is the bridge that provides resources and programming that allow its participants to be safe and grow.  Activities include nature walks, field trips, camping, and tie-dying. All in a uniquely designed program for a 2 to 1 camper to staff ratio. The counselors are trained to de-escalate situations, with additional staff if necessary. Camp Attaway provides parent education and training groups free of charge.

Sue Ann Shafley, Executive Director, shares how Eunice Kennedy-Shriver inspired her early on in her journey as a mother.  Shriver’s sister (Rosemary) had intellectual disabilities and playing sports and outdoor activities were therapeutic for her. Sargent Shriver and Rosemary lived in Montgomery County and had long championed causes for those with disabilities.  When Shafley’s youngest child showed signs of autism, she began to attend Special Education conferences.   After attending over 100 conferences, Shafley decided to develop programming for her son and raised money for autism research, which then introduced her to Shriver’s work. When Shafley had the opportunity to meet Shriver, she expressed how much she had been inspired by her. Shafley told her how much she had inspired her. “One of the best experiences of my life,” says Shafley.

She advises others to follow their heart and their passion. “My life has been led by connecting the dots. With my own experience as a parent to a child with autism, I connected the dots. Following my heart mattered. Passion matters." 

Laura Bacon, CEO, Founder of The Well

The Well is a non-profit that supports minority women entrepreneurs and creatives by providing resources. They offer membership to a unique co-working space that will serve as a hub for women to network and collaborate. “We meet women where they are, and they don't have to be experienced businesswomen," says Laura Bacon, CEO. The Well provides a space for women in all stages of their business journey. 

Bacon's mother is a constant source of inspiration by modeling how to live life. She states that leading with kindness was taught to her by her mother.  Bacon acknowledges her amazing board of advisors who also provide motivation.  “One of the members is a former student of mine, and now she educates me,” says Bacon. Her teaching style is relationship-based, which is why the connections with her students are so strong.  

Bacon advises, “Get to know as many people as you possibly can." That is her goal for 2020. "Get out there and meet more people and network.”

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