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May leads San Mar board

August 02, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - In April, The Baltimore Sun published a glowing article about the San Mar Children's Home, describing it as a model in Maryland, where some group homes have come under fire for failing to protect the very youngsters the system was designed to serve.

"We were thrilled with that story - now we have to live up to that," said Robert May.

On July 1, May officially began a two-year term as the new president of the San Mar board of directors. But his involvement on the board goes back four years and his contact with the home near Boonsboro goes even further back than that.

May, associated with Criminal Justice Institute Inc. since 1999, said he was approached by his office landlord, Ron Sulchek, who first inquired about what he did for a living and then asked May to join the San Mar board in 2001.

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Sulchek told May that the board only meets four times a year so May agreed and was voted onto the board.

Right away, May learned that the San Mar board is a working board. No one just comes to meetings four times a year and nothing else.

"We seek out board members who have an area that is needed," May said.

His law enforcement background and knowledge of San Mar was one of the factors that led to his entry onto the board.

As for longtime San Mar executive director Bruce Anderson, May said he has been a key factor in the group home's continued success.

"He works well with the board and we trust him," May said.

The 15-member board gets involved when needed and responds when Anderson seeks the board's direction, May said.

"I became chairman of the personnel and program committees," May said.

Dealing with staff concerns is one of May's responsibilities.

May said listening to grievances filed by the girls is also part of his role.

"It is very important to know why there are problems and then finding ways to fix them," May said.

First known as the Washington County Orphans Home, San Mar was begun in 1883 by private benefactors concerned about the welfare of poor and parentless boys and girls.

An all-girl group home now, San Mar serves teenage girls who were runaways, alcoholics and truants, either abandoned by their parents or abused by them. The home offers therapy, tutoring and a family-style atmosphere while they learn skills to allow them to succeed in society.

Today, San Mar is home to approximately 30 girls from around Maryland, housing them in contemporary ranch houses on the 60-acre campus. When the newest building is completed, San Mar will be able to accommodate about 40 girls, May said.

Bids for the work were opened July 26 with a goal of Aug. 12 for groundbreaking, May said.

"We have a waiting list of between 30 and 100 girls but we don't like to be at capacity - it puts a strain on everyone, especially staff," May said, who said hiring and keeping good staff is vital to San Mar's success.

While San Mar is state funded, May said the board actively directs fundraising efforts to supplement that money. "We operate based on the rates the state approves through Department of Juvenile Services and the Department of Social Services," May said.

Donations are sought and recently, a capital campaign was launched to fund the current building project.

A Hagerstown native, May, 50, was a Washington County Sheriff's Department deputy from 1976 to 1985. He is married and the father of one child.

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