Letters to the Editor - Sept. 29

September 29, 2011

Loss of tenant will hurt Girls Inc.

To the editor:

Under the direction of the county, Girls Inc. and the Commission on Aging (COA) entered into a partnership in August 2008 with the understanding we would house a temporary senior center until a permanent senior center was built. The Girls Inc. board of directors understood this to be a mutually beneficial arrangement, to strengthen both organizations and make the most out of limited resources.

As a result, COA has been able to provide the senior citizens of our community with a facility that includes a full-size gymnasium, classrooms, computer lab, full kitchen and parking; and Girls Inc. would be able to offset the added cost of accommodating the seniors’ activities and use the remaining funds to serve more families in our community who desperately need our help in these challenging times. In our opinion, a small investment in these young girls’ lives at an early age pays great dividends to our community as they grow older. Having quality, low-cost after-school programming helps parents who are employed and teaches young girls to be strong, confident, productive citizens as they grow older. As United Way partners, it seemed to be the perfect win-win situation for the people who depend on organizations like ours.

When the County Commissioners approved the funding for the 2011-12 fiscal year, it was our understanding, as in years past, that the contract would be in place for 12 months based on the amount allocated in their budget and the minimum construction time required for any new facility. Last week, we received a message from COA notifying Girls Inc. that their board was planning to terminate the agreement in December 2011. This came as a surprise, as there has been no discussion with us prior to this message of prematurely ending our partnership and moving to a new, rented location. After talking with several county officials, we learned that the majority of commissioners were not aware of the decision of the COA board and that the commissioners would need to approve any change in the current lease arrangements. This would not take place unless the issue was put on the commissioners’ meeting agenda and all sides would have the ability to make their case.  

Girls Inc. takes great pride in the fact that we take as much of the money we receive as possible and invest it into programming for our girls. That’s why Girls Inc. recently received a “Top Five” ranking by industry experts as an outstanding nonprofit for at-risk youths. As a result of our partnership with COA, we were able to budget additional funding into our after-school program and accept more girls for the school year currently under way. Should the rental income go away before the end of  the school year, Girls Inc. would undoubtedly face the problem of having more girls in the program than we could financially support and would have to cut 36 percent of the girls from our program in January.

As the school year has already begun, a loss in this funding will put us in a very difficult situation. Girls Inc. takes our commitment to our families very seriously. Parents count on us to transport their children from school to our center. How do we tell the parents of 45 girls that they will no longer have an affordable, safe place for their child to go after school, or have access to tutoring for their child, a nutritional supper, and can’t participate in critical, educational programs? Worse yet, how do you tell the girls?  

If our board had any indication that the senior center was considering moving in the middle of the fiscal year, our operating budget and business plan would have reflected this possibility. Understandably, Girls Inc.’s programming challenges are not the responsibility of the Commission on Aging board as their ultimate mission is to improve the quality of life for seniors, not children. We recognize that the COA is another valuable community organization that has worked diligently to offer much-needed programs for the growing population of seniors. However, making a decision to move forward with relocating without any dialogue with Girls Inc. has created unnecessary hardships for our organization, should this move be supported by the commissioners. If the funding is lost mid-term, we would look at every option to find new funds to keep these families in our program for the full school year. However, in today’s economy, we realize that would be a significant challenge.

Girls Inc. is proud of the work we have done in this community for more than 63 years. We owe a lot of our success locally, to the many in our community who have supported us with their time, talent and resources. We appreciate the partnership the commissioners created with the Commission on Aging and Girls Inc. and the value each dollar spent brings to both organizations. We believe those in leadership at each entity strive to do what’s best for our community, and we are committed to work together on this issue for the benefit of all concerned.

Maureen Grove, Girls Inc. executive director
Alan Levin, president, Girls Inc. board of directors

LWV urges citizens to make Clean Air Promise

To the editor:

Every summer, dirty air alerts arrive with the heat. Children shouldn’t play outside and the elderly risk their health.

Clean air standards work to help prevent polluters from dumping millions of tons of toxic and harmful pollutants such as mercury, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide into the air. In addition, clean air standards will save as much as $100 billion a year. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to update clean air standards and reduce this unhealthy pollution, but some officials are trying to undermine these efforts.

Clean air standards work. According to the EPA, the Clean Air Act saved 160,000 lives last year, and multiple studies have demonstrated that efforts to clean up the air not only protect our health but also provide a significant economic benefit to the country. The public wants clean air and wants to be assured that their health is a priority for our nation’s decision makers.

The League of Women Voters is asking Americans from all walks of life, parents, grandparents, voters, elected officials, and community and business leaders around the country and here in Washington County to join us in making a simple promise — the Clean Air Promise. We call on Maryland’s elected representatives to make this promise to protect our children and families from harmful air pollution. You can learn more about the Clean Air Promise at

Barbara Rice, president
League of Women Voters of Washington County

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