Residents in Towson, Loch Raven, and surrounding areas have been working together since 2011 to help neighbors who have experienced unexpected hardships. Now, after running two successful holiday campaigns, the group has formed a nonprofit organization, The Starboard Society, to provide even greater support and relief to families across the state.
In Nov. 2011, Cindy Atkinson, of Phoenix, and Shawn Dippel, of Sparks, initiated a Christmas appeal via social media to help a few struggling friends. The goal was to contact 20 friends to donate $10 each.
"We were absolutely astounded at the contributions and support for this cause," Dippel said. "Starting with the initial $200 goal, we raised over $1,500. With the help we received, we were able to make that holiday season a joyous one for both of those families, especially the children involved."
In 2012, when Dippel and Atkinson ran another campaign for a family in need, they realized that they, and many other families like them, needed more than just holiday support; they needed a course correction.
"We realized a gap existed in the assistance available for many families in transition because of a loss of income, divorce, a family death, or some other hardship," said Atkinson. "Sometimes these families may have too many assets 'on paper' to qualify for public assistance, yet because of the legal proceedings involved, they do not have the means to support themselves and their children during a period of crisis when their lives are already disrupted."
In Feb. 2013, Dippel and Atkinson called together some friends from their old Loch Raven and Hereford neighborhoods to form the board for the Starboard Society.
"As much as we as a society are made aware of others in need," said co-founder and board president Brad Cox, of Towson, "it is sometimes hard to imagine that these people are closer to us than we think. Our mission is to provide these Maryland families short-term, high-impact assistance. We hope to help these families effect a course correction so they can get their lives back on track."
Besides Atkinson, Dippel, and Cox, other board members include Tammy Larkin and Julie Spiroff, of White Marsh, Sally LaFond, of Sparks, and Dave Wade, of Millers.
The group, while awaiting their 501(c)(3) determination letter, is continuing to help others this holiday season.
On Dec. 5, at 6 p.m., the Starboard Society will be holding a fundraising event in Bare Hills at Earth, Wood & Fire.
"It will be a great chance to come out, meet our team, and hear what we're all about," said Cox, who hopes the event will also encourage people to join their mission and assist in event-planning committees, sponsor and donor campaigns, public relations, administrative work and community outreach.
"Be part of the solution," said Cox. "This is our state, our county, our city, our community. These families need our help. We know them. They are us. Together we can make a difference in their lives."
To learn more about the Starboard Society and their upcoming events, go to http://www.starboardsociety.org.
In the spirit of believing in yourself and never giving up, the Towsontowne U-10 Travel Soccer Team overcame a season of no wins, six losses, and two ties to win the Blue Division of the Fallston Cup on Nov. 16-17, defeating the Cardiff team, 4-1.
This was the first year Towsontowne ran a travel team for U-10 girls. Coach Evan Balkan, of Ruxton, believes the team's success was a result of learning from playing superior teams throughout the season, as well as maintaining a positive attitude.
"They endured a very difficult league season in a very competitive division," Balkan said. "To end the season with a tournament victory is a testament to them. They saw firsthand that hard work gets results. I never heard any one of them utter any negative or discouraging words either to each other or to their opponents during this long season. They represent Towsontowne and the values we try to instill in them immensely well."
Assisting Balkan with coaching responsibilities was Phoebe O'Neill, of Lutherville, who worked with the team throughout the season and the tournament.
1. (bradcox.jpg) Brad Cox, who is currently a board member for Best Buddies Maryland and formerly served on the board for the Maryland Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, is now the founding president of the Starboard Society.