Montgomery County Community Action

Montgomery County Community Action

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Raise Your Voice! Community Action Board Public Forum on Jan. 28th - Register Today!

Register TODAY for the Community Action Board's Public Forum on January 28th!

Click HERE to register or call (240)777-1697.

This event is FREE and open to the public.  
Free food and child care will be provided.
Bilingual Spanish-speaking volunteers will be on site. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

TESS Center to Host Training Session in Spanish about Child Sexual Abuse

The TESS Center will host a training session in Spanish about Child Sexual Abuse Prevention on Thursday, January 15, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM.  Parents, social workers, educators, service providers, and other interested members of the community are invited to attend this training session, which will be led by Jennifer Alvaro, a certified trainer and Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  The training is pre-approved for 3 CEU's by the The National Association of Social Workers and the The National Board for Certified Counselors.  

Training materials will only be provided to those who register by January 1st.  To register, please call the TESS Center at (240)773-8260.  

To learn more about the training, please watch an informational video by following this link Darkness to Light

The TESS Center is located at 8513 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring, MD 20901

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

ACA Outreach at the TESS Center - Dec. 17th 6 PM - 8 PM

The Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER) program will be at the TESS Center for ACA outreach on Wednesday, December 17th from 6 PM to 8 PM

Although no on-site enrollment will be available, outreach specialists will be on hand to share information, answer questions, and provide assistance regarding enrollment in the ACA and other programs.   

Outreach will be provided in English, Spanish, and Amharic.  

The TESS Center is located at 8513 Piney Branch Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20901.  For more information, please call the TESS Center at (240)773-8260.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Open Enrollment Season for the Affordable Care Act Now Through February 15th

The 2014-2015 open enrollment season for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began November 17th. County residents have until February 15, 2015 to sign-up for health coverage through the ACA. Certified health navigators and assisters are available to assist residents at the following County offices:

Germantown Regional Services Center
12900 Middlebrook Road, Second Floor, Germantown
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Piccard Drive Health Center
1335 Piccard Drive, Rockville
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Silver Spring Services Center
8818 Georgia Avenue, 2nd floor, Silver Spring
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Silver Spring Health Center
8630 Fenton Street, 10th floor, Silver Spring
Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Important Information:
  1. Residents may also self-enroll at
  2. Any resident currently enrolled in a private health plan and interested in maintaining their coverage must re-apply by December 18th in order have a plan in place by January 1, 2015.
  3. Uninsured residents seeking a private health plan must complete the application process by February 15, 2015.
  4. Medicaid enrollment will continue year-round. Visit for more information.
ACA Open Enrollment Flyers in English and Spanish

Contact the state’s Consolidated Services Center for enrollment assistance over the telephone. The Call Center is open Monday-Friday: 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday: 8 a.m. -6 p.m. and Sunday: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Call 1-855-642-8572 or 1-855-642-8573 (TTY)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stanford Social Innovation Review Article About Collaboration

Full Article 

The Tactics of Collaboration

Moving beyond platitude and exploring how to operationalize collaboration.
By Steve Wright | 15 | Nov. 4, 2014

Understanding the tactics of collaboration can help make the unique value of working well together real. It’s important because the whole—all of us, humanity—can be greater than the sum of our parts. We often discuss collaboration in terms of its relationship to competition; competition, at its best, can make each part more valuable and more effective, but collaboration adds value to the whole by focusing on how the parts work together.

Effective collaboration depends on effective relationships between humans. If the right people are in the room, and if there is time and space for like minds and potential partners to find and engage with each other, then even the worst-designed gathering can be productive. If the right people are also talented, driven, and a bit entitled, they will make the space they need to be productive regardless of the meeting’s design. However, setting aside time and space is not the whole story. Effective collaboration also requires that all collaborators gain value from collaborating. When the value is reciprocal, other barriers become smaller and the collaboration is easier to sustain.

Now, if we think of conferences or meetings as our tools for offline collaboration, then we need better tools. Our facilitation methodologies need to evolve and professionalize to focus on the experience and needs of participants. In his paper “Creating Participatory Events,” Executive Director of Aspiration Allen Gunn describes the problem like this:

The Internet era has ushered in a broad new panorama of collaborative tools and interaction opportunities in the virtual realm. But live “offline” events such as conferences, given their unique potential for connecting like minds and catalyzing relationships, have remained relatively non-collaborative affairs, employing dichotomous formats such as “keynotes,” slideware presentations, and panels to let one or several speakers relate across a veritable moat to silent and largely passive audiences.

And here’s the part that makes event organizers nervous:

Participatory event refers to a gathering where participants shape the agenda before and during the event, instead of reading a fixed schedule beforehand and then shuffling between sessions that have been slotted weeks or months in advance. The focus in such events is placed on peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and network building instead of large group listening.

Participatory events, as Gunn describes them, are not an easier or cheaper alternative than standard meetings and conferences. In fact, they are more difficult and require completely different muscles. Participatory events require vulnerability. Engaging fully in a participatory event requires that those with status risk their social currency by engaging in conversation as equals. It also requires an experienced facilitator. Gunn writes:

If you have folks already in a common frame of analysis, there is benefit in the knowledge arbitrage that comes from surfacing differences and emergent serendipities found in the in-betweens. But if you have heterogeneous value systems, you lean more toward finding common ground and facilitating value exchange in those realms. It's a Venn diagram; you do a lot of the same things in either case, but there are approaches that vary based on the presence or absence of collective norms and shared perspectives.

For humans to work well together, we must pay attention to more than just our own self-interest. This got me thinking about a hierarchy of collaboration. By hierarchy, I mean that we can best move forward not by developing skills or becoming proficient with a specific methodology, but by advancing through stages of moral development, where we learn to weigh personal benefit against collective benefit. Here are the four stages of this development as I see them:


Stage 1: Commitment

In my experience, the first stage of any collaborative effort is to create a context for membership. Either the participants or the convener can establish this, and each member must commit to it to join. Individuals or individual organizations associate their name with the collective’s—for example, prominent organizations make public commitments of action within the Clinton Global Initiative collaborative. This public declaration essentially puts an organization’s reputation up as collateral for the commitment.


Stage 2: Partnership

Give and take defines the partnership stage—each party gives something of value and takes away something value. Formal contracts and trust built over time enable this very market-based stage of collaboration. To fund promising social enterprises, for example, impact investors must structure complex investments into a stack of capital from a range of funders, including government-sponsored loan guarantees, concessionary investment capital, grant money from foundations. In their book Impact Investing, Jed Emerson and Antony Bugg-Levine write:

To make this complex capital stack work, impact investors need to become effective at collaborating with donors and governments. But the providers of these subsidies typically focus on maximizing only public goods and social outcomes, and fail to recognize (or even find suspect) the profit an enterprise could create.

The successful impact investor can sell partnership as a route to improving the risk return calculation for everyone—each partner will get more of what they want, thanks to the dynamics of the partnership as a whole.


Stage 3: Vulnerability

Collaborators must all be vulnerable for trust to develop between them. In her talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and struggle for worthiness, but it is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

We must let go of the myth that sets “my” success as a precursor to “our” success. Vulnerability requires that we let go of control. No one of us can solve the problems we are facing, but few of us are integrating this reality into our work.


Stage 4: Emergence

Emergence occurs when independent and unordered parts come together to form a pattern or an identifiable whole. This is the highest stage of collaboration. The nonprofit consulting agency FSGdescribes “embracing emergence” essentially as an act of faith. Solutions to extremely complex problems such poverty or climate change can emerge from many groups working together to create collective impact—a framework that doesn’t prescribe explicit outputs or milestones, but instead focuses on increasing the likelihood that an unforeseen solution will emerge.

Our problems are bigger than any of us. I hear my friends and colleagues lament the state of the world. I hear in their voices exhaustion and frustration, but also isolation. We must move beyond platitude and operationalize collaboration. We must rethink our tactics, develop better tools for interaction, and summon the courage to evolve beyond competition to understand individual success as an outcome of collective success.

Steve Wright lives in Oakland, CA, loves pie, and has been working in the social sector for 25 years. He was a high school teacher and administrator of 10 years, director of innovation at the Foundation for another 10 years, and spent four years as a vice president at the Grameen Foundation, where he focused on incubating two social enterprises focused alleviating poverty: TaroWorks and the Progress out of Poverty Index. Currently he is consulting, interviewing, writing, and spending lots of time with his kids.

Community Action Partner Organization Begins Construction on New Dormitory

Our House, a Community Action Agency partner organization, has begun construction on a new dormitory to serve the program's participants.  The Brookeville organization provides a residential program for at-risk young men.  Participants, who are referred by state agencies, receive vocational training, life skills training, academics, and mental health services.  The new dormitory will expand the program's capacity from 16 to 24 participants.

Our House Website

Construction is expected to begin in early January on a new dormitory at the residential program on its 140-acre Brookeville farm, which will allow it to expand from 16 to 24 teens and young men.
Our House has been changing the lives of at-risk young men for more than two decades. Soon, it will change even more.
The turnout at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony — more than 60 people came, about double what was expected — speaks to the program’s success.
Speakers included Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Calverton, who first visited the program 10 years ago.
“Benny and his staff have figured out the secret recipe for what young people need in this world—love and discipline,” Kaiser said, referring to Richard Bienvenue, its founder and executive director. “I’d love to see this program replicated across the state, but it seems that magic ingredient is Benny himself. He changes the lives of these young men, who become productive members of society.”
The crowd included representatives of businesses, community groups, the Olney Chamber of Commerce, Scout leaders, elected officials and other friends of the program.
“I knew this day would come. I just didn’t know when,” Bienvenue said. “We started this about five years ago during a recession.”
Although he had to navigate a long process to secure a zoning variance and several other applications and permits, the biggest challenge was raising the $2.7 million for the project.
Bienvenue said that thanks to many generous donors, Our House is within $600,000 of that goal.
The builder is Scheibel Construction of Huntingtown. Bienvenue said the company was selected, in part, for its willingness to allow the residents to participate in all aspects of the project, which was important to him.
“It will be part of their legacy and what we are training them to do,” Bienvenue said. “Every contractor and subcontractor has agreed to work with our guys, even though it will probably slow them down.”
He estimates the dorm will take about nine months to complete.
The building, which will feature sleeping quarters, offices and a lounge, will be built to green standards.
“It costs more, but saves in the long run,” Bienvenue said. “It is the right thing to do and as an educational institution we want the guys to understand why this is important.”
The residents now sleep in a former cinderblock garage, built in the 1920s.
The old building will be used for classrooms, and a few of the bedrooms will be saved for graduates in need of a temporary place to stay.
The supervised and structured learning environment operates around the clock, year-round.
The residents, ages 16 to 21 and in need of specialized help and a new start, are referred by state agencies.
“Our House is a valued partner of the Department of Juvenile Services,” said Eric Solomon, a department spokesman. “They offer a unique program that includes vocational training, which is very beneficial to our kids as it provides them with essential training for the future.”
The highly structured program includes five eight-hour days of “hands-on” training in trades such as carpentry, drywall and roofing, plus life skills training, academics and therapy sessions in the evenings.
Most of the residents’ carpentry and construction work is done is done for other nonprofits, free of charge.
Each Saturday, the trainees perform community service, and they also help out at many Olney events, having earned appreciation and respect from the community.
Donation and other information is at

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

VITA to Participate in Free Financial Literacy Programs Dec. 6th & Dec. 13th

Community Action's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program will participate in two financial literacy programs on December 6th and December 13th.  Staff from the VITA Program will be available to answer questions and provide information about the free, year-round tax preparation services offered by the VITA program.

Presented by Ronald Jennings

Saturday, December 6th, 1 PM - 3:30 PM
East County Regional Services Center
3300 Briggs Chaney Road
Silver Spring, MD 20904
*To RSVP and for more information, contact Anita Mwalui at or (240)777-8478

Saturday, December 13th, 1 PM - 3:30 PM
Gaithersburg Library, 2nd Floor
18330 Montgomery Village Avenue
Gaithersburg, MD 20879
*To RSVP and for more information, please contact Paola Bichara at or (240)777-4959

Each seminar will cover the basics of using your money effectively for your current needs, as well as planning for the future.  Topics will include setting goals, budgeting, emergency funds, insurance, using credit, investing, tax planning, saving for college, retirement planning, and estate planning.  After the seminar, agencies will be on hand to answer specific questions about:

  • Paying for College
  • Money Management
  • Income Tax Information (including services offered by the VITA Program)
  • Unfair and Deceptive Business Act

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Maryland Alliance for the Poor Releases Poverty Profiles Report

The Maryland Alliance for the Poor has released the 2014 Poverty Profiles report.  The report includes statistics and information regarding the needs of low-income residents across the state and within each county.  To view the full report, please click HERE

The Montgomery County profile is included below.