This column visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amelia Blades Steward has been a freelance writer in our community for over 15 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore who she has met along the way.
In 2003, a group of people founded the “James M. Bryan, Jr. Building Dreams for Youth Foundation” through the Mid-Shore Community Foundation to commemorate the life of James “Jimmy” M. Bryan, Jr., a well-known and respected member of the community who passed away unexpectedly that year at the age of 56. During his lifetime, Jimmy was an enthusiastic and generous supporter of local youth programs, recognizing the importance of such programs in developing values among young people.
Jeff Weller, former Bryan Brothers employee and friend, as well as Board Member Emeritus on the Foundation Board, recalls, “Shortly after his death, his brother and I were recalling how much he enjoyed life and how much he loved his children. We wanted to find some way to memorialize his life and to reach out to others, as Jimmy had done so many times. We decided to establish a foundation – a foundation that would benefit local children.”
Tragically, Jimmy’s brother Kenny passed away in 2004, just one year later. Brothers Bill and Allen, Sr., passed away in 2010 and 2011 respectively. In 2013, the Foundation’s Advisory Board made the decision to rename the Foundation “Bryan Brothers Building Dreams for Youth Foundation” to commemorate all four of the Bryan Brothers. Over the last 15 years, the Foundation has grown tremendously, improving the lives of many of our region’s youth through their outreach and support.
Allen M. Bryan, Jr., Director of the Bryan Brothers Building Dreams for Youth Foundation,” comments, “Mid-Shore Community Foundation helped launch the Foundation and we are very grateful for them getting it kick started. We give everything we raise back to the community. It has been very humbling for me to see how the foundation has grown and who it is helping across the shore.”
Now its own nonprofit organization and independent of Mid-Shore Community Foundation, the Foundation predominately services four Mid-Shore counties, including Talbot, Dorchester Caroline, and Queen Anne’s. Its mission is to help ensure that all children on the Eastern Shore have the opportunity to experience personal growth through participation in youth sports, recreation and development programs.
The Foundation is multi-faceted in its approach. In some cases, working through established service organizations, grants are provided to children and families that find themselves in emergency situations. In other cases, the Foundation acts in a more pro-active fashion, identifying exceptional youth programs and assisting in their growth and increased outreach. And in still others, it responds to requests for program support.
One of the programs that the Foundation launched three years ago, The Bryan Brothers Foundation Community Challenge for Kids, has raised almost $100,000. The Challenge is a fundraising effort among local businesses in Talbot, Caroline, Queen Anne’s and Dorchester counties. Each business is charged with raising as much money as they can to help shore kids. Businesses can employ any fundraising methods they want throughout the year such as bingo and paint nights, company yard sales and other hosted fundraising events. The Foundation looks at the challenge as a win, win opportunity for the business and community. Local businesses get the opportunity to employ team building activities, while the community is afforded more grant and funding opportunities by the foundation. Businesses compete against each other to see which one raises the most money.
According to Foundation Board Member Sharon Poore, “The Community Challenge for Kids ends each year with the winner being announced at our Annual Spring Event held in April. Each participating organization is also able to earmark 25 percent of their raised funds for a children’s cause of their choice.” She adds, “It has really opened the doors to new businesses supporting us and has been great exposure for us to new people in the community.”
This year marks the Foundation’s 15th Annual Spring Event and Live Auction to be held on Saturday, April 7 at The Oaks in Royal Oak. The event features food and drink, live entertainment, as well as live and silent auctions. In addition to the winner of the Community Challenge for Kids being announced at the event, the winner of the Foundation’s annual car raffle will also be announced. Preston Automotive Group donated the car. Tickets for the Annual Spring Event are on sale for $100 per person, but seating is limited.
Sharon states, “It is amazing how much money we have raised over the years with this event. We have such local support. It is a true reflection of who Jimmy was – he was a friend to everyone. It is also a reflection of the whole family.”
Another fundraiser for the Foundation is its Maryland Eastern Shore Plates program. The license plate features the familiar blue crab emblem and the letters “MES” which stand for Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Not only do the plates display drivers’ pride in the Shore, but they commemorate the memory of a special person and raise funds for Mid-Shore youth programs. The first plate sold was numbered 0001 and was sold at auction for $20,000. To date, close to 5,000 of the 9,999 plates available have been sold. The program will raise $300,000 for the Foundation. License plates require a one-time fee of $50 per set ($25 is tax deductible). The application can be downloaded from the foundation website at shorekids.org and sent to Bryan Brothers Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 973, Easton, Maryland 21601.
From the funds raised, the Foundation has been able to give back through both grants to local organizations that impact, mentor and develop youth in our area and scholarships to local students who attend Chesapeake College. Since its inception in 2003, the Foundation has provided over $1,200,000 in grants.
According to Allen, the grant recipients vary from year to year, but usually reflect the organizations which help the most kids. Over the past few years, one of the issues the foundation has targeted is the opioid issue, giving a $10,000 grant to Talbot Goes Purple. The largest grant the organization has made in its history was to the YMCA of the Chesapeake for $100,000 for its Thomas E. Hill Center for Youth Development. Grants from the Foundation are awarded during two, three-month grant cycles each year. The first cycle is from April 1 to June 30, and the second is from September 1 to November 30. In 2017, $80,891 in grant funds were awarded to 26 organizations, ranging from sports organizations, to public schools, to environmental and arts organizations. Allen adds, “These grants help keep my family’s dreams alive by reaching out and helping our youth.”
The Foundation also awards the annual William O. Bryan Scholarship, named after brother Billy Bryan, who attended Chesapeake College and was very supportive of the college during his lifetime. This year’s scholarship was awarded to Mya Mothershead, age 19, of Easton who is completing her second semester at Chesapeake College. She will be attending Towson University or Stevenson University, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in accounting. Mya comments, “My sister and are first generation college students. We have had to work for everything we wanted. I started to work at age 12. My family and the community has really supported me in my journey to attend college. I want to give back to the community by working as a CPA, helping citizens with financial advice and guidance. The community has supported me every step of the way. This scholarship is amazing and has really helped me start my journey.”
For further information about Bryan Brothers Building Dreams for Youth Foundation, its events, grant program, license plate program or scholarships, email email@example.com, visit shorekids.org, or call 410-819-3780.