On a break from politics after a tough loss in November, Courtney Watson is diving into a new form of community service: connecting charitable organizations to people eager to donate their time, money or talent.
Watson, a former County Council member and Democratic county executive candidate who lost a close race to Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, has created a new Facebook page, Bridge to Give.
The page, which launched on Sunday and has already garnered more than 560 "likes," has a goal of encouraging "simple giving in Howard County," according to its mission statement.
"The idea was to try to set up a platform where we could share simple giving, or targeted micro-giving, where we won’t ask anyone to donate more than $25 any month," Watson said of the project. Instead of large sums of money, requests for help could include calls for donated food, clothes or time.
Bridge to Give doesn't collect any money or donations; instead, it uses Facebook as a tool to help raise awareness of need in different areas of the community. Watson said the project might expand to other platforms down the road.
Watson formally announced the project at her induction into the Howard County women's hall of fame on Thursday night.
She's running the Facebook page along with her sister, Mary Catherine Cochran, who was recently hired as executive director of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway; former legislative aide Terry Chaconas; and Cindy Ardinger, an attorney who serves on the board of the Friends of Howard County Library.
Inspiration for the project came after Watson posted an appeal to her Facebook friends asking them to help prepare food for the viewing of a local paramedic, Erik Steciak, who died on the job earlier this year.
"I put that post up and the response was amazing," Watson said. She got pledges from friends and acquaintances promising to drop off salad and brownies, even though they didn't know Steciak or his family.
"Then they wrote -- where is West Friendship again?" Watson said.
"That response was so overwhelming, it made me think," she added.
Watson said her time in office heightened her awareness that need still exists in one of the nation's wealthiest counties. She said she's been "very surprised" by the number of requests that have come in so far.
In the six days since the page launched, Bridge to Give has suggested followers donate unwanted clothing to Savage Mill-based thrift store Charity's Closet, alerted them to the disappearance of a Baltimore County boy and announced the "Scouting for Food" drive by the Baltimore Council Boy Scouts.
Watson said she hopes to see the project grow as more people become involved.
"Sometimes you have people who say, 'I made a New Year's commitment to give back more in my community.' They can follow this page and see one or more simple, easy ways to give back to the community," she said.