Howard County boasts a plenitude of nonprofit organizations and charitable agencies. Howard Magazine highlights who they are, what they do and how you can help.
Name: Pinnacle Empowerment Center
Who: Heather Comstock, Executive Director
Q: What is your mission?
A: Pinnacle Empowerment Center provides career and life coaching to women who are in need of support and guidance as they navigate changes in their lives. (The center) provides women in transition customized career and life management services and resources needed for lifelong success.
Q: How would you define "women in transition?"
A: Essentially, a woman in transition is a woman who is at a crossroads and in the process of moving from one phase to the next. In some cases it may be a woman going through a divorce, or a stay-at-home mom returning to the workforce now that her kids are more independent. It could be a woman facing the future after the death of a loved one for whom she was the primary caregiver. It is any woman experiencing change who needs support and assistance to determine her vision of her future and charting a course to get there.
Q: How many women have you assisted since opening in March?
A: We have had 21 women complete our “Now What?” program. We have started hosting a series of workshops and a job club, which is free, on the first Tuesday of each month.
Q: Are most of the women you help dealing with being newly divorced, single moms, or what other challenges may they be facing?
A: Actually, the majority of the women in our "Now What?" program are older. Many have been unemployed for an extended period of time. Their job searches have been complicated by family responsibilities. The unemployment has taken a toll on their self-esteem. The key has been helping them to realize their value and to then communicate that value.
Q: Your website indicates that you help clients with their planning and pursuing careers, education and training, and financial management, and also help them connect to other resources in the community. Can you comment on this?
A: From the outset we have been determined to not reinvent the wheel but refer clients to the many great organizations in the county that can provide services. Our goal is to support them through that process.
Q: How many volunteers are part of your organization?
A: Approximately 10 to 15. Our board of directors are all volunteers, and we have been very fortunate to have a number of people agree to serve on committees, as mentors, and share their expertise with us.
Q: How many staff members?
A: We have three staff. Cindy Virtue serves as our career coach, Maria Smith is our life coach, and I am the executive director. Both Maria and Cindy bring years of experience and coaching expertise to help clients explore their interests and link them with resources to accomplish their goals. Maria and Cindy work individually with clients as well as facilitating our classes and workshops.
Q: Do you provide training for your volunteers?
A: Yes! We want volunteers to feel comfortable, and training helps them get acclimated and become empowered to work with clients and help our organization. We also want to match volunteers with opportunities that allow them to use skills they want to share or try new things.
Q: Any important dates or events planned this fall?
A: We are especially thrilled to be partnering with makingCHANGE -- a Financial Wellness Center -- to host our first Women’s Empowerment Conference on Oct. 28 at the Sheraton in downtown Columbia. The event is going to be an amazing day of women identifying what they want from their lives and what challenges they need to navigate to realize their dreams. We will have sessions on career development, financial fitness and opportunities to sit down one on one with experts to address specific concerns. We hope that every attendee will leave feeling inspired to reach toward her goals and with useful information and resources to help her do that.
Q: Has the number of volunteers grown or diminished in the last year due to our economic times?
A: We have not seen any shrinkage in the number of volunteers available. I think now more than ever, people are willing to share their time with organizations.
Q: What is the satisfaction you gain from your role in this organization?
A: It is a tie between two things. First, my favorite thing about nonprofits, and Pinnacle Empowerment Center in particular, is that it is a group of people coming together to affect positive changes in the lives of their neighbors, not waiting for someone else to step in and address the concern. My second-favorite thing is that at Pinnacle Empowerment Center we walk our talk. Not only am I given the much-needed flexibility to balance my work and family responsibilities, but I am encouraged to try new things and have been mentored along by the people in our organization. My goal is to do the same for our staff and volunteers while providing clients with that same level of support and care.
To contact Pinnacle Empowerment Center:
8180 Lark Brown Road, Suite 301
Elkridge, MD 21075
410-799-1097, Ext. 301