“It’s better to give before you receive. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.”– Keith Ferrazzi
It’s a simple game when it comes to giving back to enrich the lives of others. Being part of a nonprofit you hopefully get to see it from both sides – the act of your service, the result of your labor, the glory of a life changed for the better.
Every nonprofit is a great cause, but the cause resonates more deeply when you know the story.
Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is Storytelling for Nonprofits.
Storytelling for Nonprofits: Making A Difference
Life’s about love. Living is giving. Who can I serve, how can I serve?
For most of her adult life, one that was far from easy, Cherina Truitt-Stevenson has put all of this on display – loving, giving and serving those in need – as a Pregnancy Engagement Specialist for Health Care Access Maryland, (http://www.healthcareaccessmaryland.org/).
HCAM is is a nonprofit agency that connects residents to public health care coverage and helps them navigate services effectively. The programs are designed to bridge gaps in services to pregnant and postpartum women, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, youth in foster care, people with substance use disorders, individuals recently released from jail, and others. Each year the nonprofit also connects more than 145,000 uninsured and underinsured clients to health insurance, health care, and vital community resources.
Cherina has been an instrumental part of HCAM’s history – the nonprofit is celebrating its 20th Anniversary, (https://one.bidpal.net/hcam20th/welcome), and for these two decades Cherina has been there every step of the way. It’s all about helping others. Cherina has seen much in her young life.
“I didn’t have the best experience growing up,” says Cherina. “I come from a home of five children. There was a good deal of trauma I was exposed to as a little girl. Growing up in the heart of the city, a troubled community, it actually inspired me with the courage to finish school and help people, all cultures. I’ve seen a lot even with my personal family experience. I was the only one out of the five children who graduated high school. It was hard growing up in a house where my mom was not able to give me the financial support as other kids my age.” Cherina says her mom suffered with the trauma of domestic violence and she and her siblings were removed from the family home, while her mom sought shelter and refuge at the House of Ruth. We had to go through the process, but eventually we were all reunited.”
Pregnant at the age of 18, Cherina learned first-hand about the challenges of a healthy pregnancy and it’s now one of the reasons she is so adamant about helping others through the process. When Cherina first started with HCAM it was known as Baltimore Healthcare Access. She helped to expand the healthy kids program and became a care coordination associate. It was all about working with nurses and social workers to get the proper care for pregnant women, as well as helping the children to get the quality healthcare they needed, and educating young mothers on the proper care for their babies.
“I’ve always been part of the care coordination program,” Cherina says. “At one time I did the safe sleep program. For example I would go to the home and do demos for the moms to show them how to put their baby in the pack-and-play and to baby proof the home for the new infant. I’d teach them the ABC’s of safe sleep.”
Cherina says she has always loved to help other people and she enjoys the feedback and the appreciation that comes from lending that guiding hand. She has seen it all as HCAM has expanded and grown over these past two decades.
“With HCAM I wear many hats,” she says. “I’ve seen it grow from only three programs, to now about 16 programs. Where there is a need, we try to fulfill that need. I can tell you that I and everyone associated with HCAM go above and beyond to service every client, no matter what. It’s a team. When it comes time to get together and talk the managers listen to everyone’s ideas. There is no “i” in team. We all work together and there are plenty of us who are very resourceful as well.”
Cherina says it’s all about collaboration.
“With my colleagues, my co-workers, being here is like your home,” Cherina says. You are here eight hours a day or more and you get to know the different people and different talents and many times all of those talents put together can make a difference. I see all the potential in my colleagues and I love their drive to want to help. When we come in here we greet each other with a smile. If I have a bad day at home, then seeing my colleagues puts a smile on my face. It’s a blessing to come here. Everyone is trying to help each other. When it comes to work you would never know if there was any animosity, we all pull together to do our job. It’s all about serving people.”
Cherina has experienced many of the same things her clients face and so she is driven and inspired to fulfill her roles at HCAM and make a difference. In her current role as Pregnancy Engagement Specialist, Cherina focuses on intensive outreach. Sometimes she ends up taking clients to doctor appointments. She reaches out to close friends or significant others on their behalf to encourage them to give her client support. It’s all about getting the mother and the newborn the proper to not just survive, but to thrive.
Cherina knows it, because she has lived the health challenges first-hand. Two decades ago, during her own pregnancy, Cherina says there were complications. She ended up giving birth to twin preemies, weighing only 1.6 and 1.8 oz at birth. She was told they were not going to make it, but three months later they all left the hospital together. In hindsight Cherina says she might not have had the pregnancy issues if she had better monitoring. She was stressed by financial issues. She should have been on bedrest but didn’t listen. She says she did not have anyone to ask her, ‘Is there anything I can help you with?‘ Yet this is exactly the question she gets to ask her clients now… and she says it makes all the difference.
“Many people don’t realize how good they could have it if they just open the door to our services. We want to help. It’s all about having a healthy pregnancy. We want to take the stress off of the mother, so she does not feel so overwhelmed. We want those who see us on the streets to know we are here to help, to give, not to take anything away. We only want to help.”
HCAM is making strides every day because of people like Cherina, who are an integral part of the mission. It’s been 20 proud years of helping and serving parts of the community that need it the most. “Knowing that my involvement or participation did change that person’s view of community outreach,” Cherina says. “That’s what is most important to me. It’s all about making a difference in someone’s life.”
HCAM is celebrating 20 years next month, learn more about the special gala and get your tickets: https://one.bidpal.net/hcam20th/welcome
If you would like to become one of the proud members of Healthcare Access Maryland and see up-close the challenging and rewarding work that changes lives, you can click on the link to learn more, (http://www.healthcareaccessmaryland.org/working-at-hcam/).