Saint Martin’s Run to “Chase Off Poverty” 5K/Family Fun Run

Saint Martin’s Ministries will be hosting our first annual run to “Chase Off Poverty” 5K and Family Fun Run in Ridgely on Saturday, June 7th 2014. The 5K, a timed event, and the Family Fun Run, a 1 mile event, will be held on the grounds of Saint Martin’s Ministries and The Benedictine School. The event will be a festive, family oriented event with music, vendors and local businesses set up in the runner’s village area. We are currently looking for those interested in volunteering, sponsoring and/or participating in this great fundraiser. More details will be available soon on our Facebook page For more information regarding our “Chase Off Poverty” event, please call us at 410.634.2537 and speak with Deborah Vornbrock (extension 102) or Kim Hopkins (extension 106). Or you can reach us by email at devdirector [at] stmartinsministries [dot] org or assistanthousedirector [at] stmartinsministries [dot] org.

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St. Michaels Running Festival

Saint Martin’s Ministries is very pleased to announce that we have been chosen as a charity partner for the 2014 St. Michaels Running Festival. The St. Michaels Running Festival, now in its 3rd year, is one of the premier destination races in the Mid-Atlantic. Based in one of the oldest waterfront towns on the Chesapeake, runners will be treated to gorgeous water views, a quick mile past charming main street shops for the 10k and half marathon and an after-party in downtown St. Michaels.

Last year, St. Michaels Running Festival raised over $40,000 for its charity partners, and expects to well exceed that amount this year. Saint Martin’s staff, volunteers, residents and clients will be participating in the event. We are currently in need of volunteers to assist with the Running Expo, held on Friday, May 16th, as well as for race day. Any school age volunteers will be given credit for service learning. Saint Martin’s is also encouraging anyone and everyone to join our official race team. The course for each race is flat and fast, and an easy run or walk for anyone from seasoned runners to beginners. If you are not a runner, but would like to support Saint Martin’s in the race, please visit our official team site to sponsor one of our team members, or to donate to Saint Martin’s. (

If you are interested in helping in any way, please call us at 410.634.2537 and speak with Deborah Vornbrock (extension 102) or Kim Hopkins (extension 106). Or you can reach us by email at devdirector [at] stmartinsministries [dot] org or assistanthousedirector [at] stmartinsministries [dot] org.  Please visit our Facebook page for updates about the race and other events.

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Sudlersville Middle School Students Volunteer


Saint Martin’s is grateful for the help from Sudlersville Middle School 8th grade students.  On September 26, a group of 8th grade students spent the morning volunteering and providing much needed help with various jobs.  The Sudlersville students have been coming to Saint Martin’s for a number of years. The time that the spend helping satisfies the hours required as part of their service learning curriculum. They will come again in October and November. We welcome groups of volunteers to help in the food pantry, thrift store and house.

If you are interested in learning about group volunteering opportunities at Saint Martin’s please contact Kim Hopkins at 410.634.2537 or by email at

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2013 Arts Dinner & Auction ~ Fun Under the Big Top


The Arts Dinner and Auction – Under the Big Top – was a wonderful evening filled with exceptional art and good friends.  A special thank you goes to the Dinner Committee for all of their creative efforts and just plain hard work.  The event is an important fundraiser for Saint Martin’s Ministries and has a direct impact on the level of services we are able to provide to those who come to us for help.  This was our most successful year ever.

The Dinner Committee, Saint Martin’s Staff and all of those who are helped by Saint Martin’s offer our sincere thanks to all who attended or supported the event.

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Leadership Changes Announced

Jean Austin and Sister Patricia Gamgort

Jean Austin and Sister Patricia Gamgort

The Board of Directors of Saint Martin’s Ministries is pleased to announce two changes in leadership.  Effective immediately, Jean Austin assumes the new position of President/Chief Executive Officer.  Sister Patricia Gamgort steps into the new position of Executive Director, Emerita.

Jean Austin has been with the Ministries since 2010, serving as the Director of Operations. As Chief Executive Officer she will assume overall direction for the ministries and report directly to the Board. Her career includes work in outreach education, and experience  with non-profit organizations in both Philadelphia and the Eastern shore.

Sister Patricia Gamgort has been a part of the leadership for the Ministries since its beginning in 1983.  In her new position as Executive Director, Emerita, she will provide counsel to the new Chief Executive and continue to stay in touch with the Ministries supporters.

Saint Martin’s Ministries helps low income mid-shore families meet basic needs of food, clothing and housing.  In its 30th year in Ridgely, MD, the ministries is a non-denominational, non-profit organization. Saint Martin’s House, a 2 year residential program, helps women and their children transition from homelessness to stability. Saint Martin’s receives support from United Way and United Fund. Visit for more information.


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Help Saint Martin’s Keep Up with the Growing Need for Emergency Food

For the seventh time in the past ten months, Saint Martin’s emergency food program served more than 300 families this month.  About 2/3 of these families have school age children who will soon be losing the extra nutrition and calories provided by school breakfast and lunch programs.

In Caroline County, more than 2000 school students participate in the reduced price school lunch program.  Only two agencies in the county offered summer food service to school age children in 2012. Summer feeding last year reached only 277 students.

The overall poverty rate in Caroline County is 14.9%, with a childhood poverty rate of 12.1%.

Sponsor a food drive to help Saint Martin’s add extra family friendly foods to our food boxes during the summer months.  Check our Food Donation Policy for the list of family friendly foods we’d like to have.

Here are some tips for doing a quick food drive:

  • Think of a group that you belong to that would be interested. The group can be any thing you want – your golf buddies, your church, your bridge club, your 10 best friends, people you work with.
  • Share some of the information in this article to help people understand the need.
  • Select no more than 2-3 foods from the list. Peanut butter and jelly is always a good combination, or Mac’n cheese or low sugar cereal. Folks like to have a choice, so that’s why I say select 2-3 items from the list.
  • A drive can be as simple as everyone in the group decides to bring the items to the next get together. Or as big as you think you can handle!
  • Decide how your group wants to publicize the drive – a flyer, information in the newsletter or church bulletin.
  • Establish a collection place/time/location. Have boxes for the items to be placed in.  Decorate the boxes if you want to – pictures of the food or pictures of children work really well.
  • Be sure to time limit the effort – a weekend, two meetings – whatever is appropriate for the group.
  • Let us know when you want to bring the food to Saint Martin’s so we can get a good picture!
  • Get in touch with Jean Austin, our Operations Officer, at operationsdirector [at] stmartinsministries [dot] org if you have questions or need more information.

If this all sounds like too much to do – here’s another easy way to help: Click on Donate Online on our web site. Be sure to say emergency food, or summer food or just FOOD, in the purpose line on the donation screen.

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A New Look for Thrift Store Check-out

There’s a bright new check-out counter at Saint Martin’s Barn thrift store!

Many thanks to Steve Hovland and his business partner Bob Thomas who donated their time and skills to construct the handsome and spacious counter.  Bob, Steve, and Gina Hovland are pictured in the first attempt to bring the new counter into the Barn.  The main doorway proved to be a little too narrow and the shrubs at the door restricted the ability to turn the counter.

New Sales CounterOur Barn has many doors and the team was able to bring in the base and counter top via another entrance (well, they also had to take off the screen door, interior door and doorframe trim).  Bob and Steve’s professional skills were apparent as they calmly talked about options and Steve’s refusal to cut the base in half.

The new counter provides space for two cash registers, a change that will reduce the long lines on Wednesday evenings.  The cash registers are also an improvement in the Thrift store.  Prices are programmed into the registers and voucher sales are also entered.  This has reduced the work effort at check-out and increased the accuracy of the sales and voucher records.

Ashley Blaine, our intern from Minnesota, served as the cash register guru. Ashley worked with Odette Boyce-Galvez, Barn Manager, to streamline the price lists, program the price codes and conducted all the training.  We will miss Ashley’s quiet competence when she returns to Minnesota later this month.  Olga Hernandez, our main cashier is very happy she no longer needs to record the voucher sales manually.

Olga, Odette and Ashley are pictured smiling happily about the new counter and the Thrift shop’s new look.Olga, Odette and Ashley

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Speakers and House Dinner Feature Successful Women

Successful women — residents, children and speaker Kathy Norman

Successful women — residents, children and speaker Kathy Norman

Saint Martin’s House residents enjoyed two programs this month featuring successful women. The first, a house dinner, hosted by Board members Margie Palazzolo and Suzanne Gregory and their husbands,  featured three former Saint Martin’s House residents. Each woman shared the story of how they (and their children) came to the house and made changes to achieve more productive lives. These invited guests offered sage advice to current residents. As one former resident stated, “Saint Martin’s gave me a second chance at life, and I took it.”

In the on-going series of “Successful Women” community members are invited to tell their stories to provide role models and inspiration to current House residents. Kathy Norman, owner of The Cleaners, a local cleaning business is the most recent speaker.  Kathy not only shared her story, but also spoke on dependency and the mentality of being a victim. Some of the previous speakers include attorney Anne Ogletree, realtor Dawn Lednum, and Fresh Start founder/director Tori Brummel. The speakers offer encouragement to the residents by sharing their life stories and describing the hurdles they may have overcome to become a success.

Current and former residents

Current and former residents

Anyone interested in participating in the Successful Women series should contact Kim Hopkins, Assistant House Director, by phone at 410-634-2537 or email assistanthousedirector [at] stmartinsministries [dot] org.

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Saint Martin’s House FAQ’s

1.  How does St. Martin’s House differ from a shelter?

  • Residents are not required to leave the grounds during the day, but are expected to attend classes, meetings, or go to a job or volunteer job.
  • Programs are held, focusing on life skills.
  • St. Martin’s House is a more structured environment. Residents complete a weekly schedule, do assigned chores and participate in monthly case management reviews.
  • Length of stay- 2 years @ St. Martin’s House vs. 30-90 days @ shelters.

2.  What is the application process?

  •  Step 1- Phone Inquiry — Potential resident must call. General information is captured and an appointment for an interview is given.
  • Step 2- Personal Interview — Potential resident comes to St. Martin’s House to meet with Director of Operations, House Director and Assistant House Director in order for staff to learn about the potential resident’s history and goals. The House guidelines are reviewed and a tour of the facility is provided.
  • Step 3- Background Check — Upon completion of the interview, potential resident will be asked to sign a release of information form to allow for a thorough background check. After background check has been completed, the House Director will inform potential resident if she has been accepted into the program.
  • Step 4 – Admission Requirements – If accepted into the program the potential resident must fulfill admission requirements. These include basic documentation and safety requirements such as clean drug test, recent physical exam, and birth certificates and immunization records for children.

3.  Do you accept everyone who applies?

No, we accept any woman in need of housing who would benefit from our program and meets the eligibility criteria, including a willingness to follow the program.

4.  Do you accept men?

No, only women, and women who have children.

5.  Are there any age limitations for children?

We don’t accept male children over the age of 10 due to the communal living aspect in our units. Female children over the age of 18 are considered adults, so St. Martin’s House would consider a woman with an 18 year old daughter as separate adults.

6.  Is this a religious program?

No, St. Martin’s House serves women regardless of their religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

7.  What are the living arrangements?

St. Martin’s House can house up to 12 families. There are 3 units that can house up to 4 families per unit. Each unit has common living, dining, kitchen and play areas. Each family has their own private bedroom and powder room, and share a shower/bath with 1 other family.

8.  Are visitors allowed?

Yes, on weekends. Each resident must have a current, approved visitor list on file. Male visitors must be family members, such as uncles, brothers or fathers.

9.  Will the father be allowed to visit his children?

Yes, we have conference rooms where the father can visit the children undisturbed, or with the mother’s permission, he can take the children off grounds for a visit. St. Martin’s House must be provided with any applicable custody agreements.

10.  Is there a fee to reside at St. Martin’s House?

Yes, there is a $350 Move-In Fee, as well as a monthly basic fee of $60. Residents receiving income will be charged a rental fee of 30% of their income per month. Transportation fees (minimal) will be added to the rent for any transportation provided by the house.

11.  Will you take my food stamps/monies to purchase needed items?

No, you are responsible for purchasing any items for your family/personal needs. $100 of the Move-In Fee is set aside in an account for the resident to use in emergency situations such as running out of diapers, medicine, etc. Shopping trips are scheduled around the dates when residents receive their food stamps.

12.  Does St. Martin’s House provide transportation?

We encourage use of local public transportation such Delmarva Community Transport or All American Ambulance to get to medical appointments. St. Martin’s House has a fleet of house vehicles, and utilizes volunteer drivers for other transportation needs. Residents indicate transportation needs on their weekly schedule.

13.  Do you offer child care on site?

Residents are responsible to obtain child care for their children. From time to time, volunteers can assist with watching children during special house programs.

14.  What do residents do during the day at St. Martin’s House?

When residents do not have any appointments scheduled, they are expected to work on parenting any children that are at home, daily chores, homework, job searches, securing any needed services by phone or email, etc. We encourage our residents to be active during the day.

15.  What agencies partner with St. Martin’s House?

St. Martin’s works closely with many state and local agencies such as: Department of Social Services, Family Support Center, Chesapeake Voyagers, Workforce Investment Board and local drug rehab facilities. These partnerships allow us to offer our residents full access to many services, depending on the resident’s individual needs.

16.  What classes are offered at St. Martin’s House?

Parent/child activities, health/nutrition, writing, Successful Women Series, gardening and many other classes assisting residents in improving life skills are offered regularly.

17.  What happens if my child becomes ill, and I have to go to work/class/meeting?

You are ultimately responsible for creating a backup plan for child care, but staff will work with you in certain situations to assist you. If your child becomes ill during the night, staff will be available to assist you.

18.  If I decide to leave St. Martin’s House, would I be able to come back?

That decision is handled on a case by case basis. Some residents have been allowed to return, and some have not.

19.  Can residents be evicted from St. Martin’s House?

Any use of alcohol or drugs, or exhibiting threatening behavior towards other residents and/or their children, staff members or volunteers can be cause for eviction.

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Janice Spanish Honored

Saint Martin’s house resident Janice Spanish, Lt Gov Anthony Brown, Melissa Jones-Harris, Caroline County DSS Supervisor of Child Care Subsidy and Work Opportunities In Annapolis before the Governor’s State of the State Address

Saint Martin’s house resident Janice Spanish, Lt Gov Anthony Brown, Melissa Jones-Harris, Caroline County DSS Supervisor of Child Care Subsidy and Work Opportunities In Annapolis before the Governor’s State of the State Address

Governor O’Malley’s 2013 State of the State started out by recognizing and sharing the stories of people he called remarkable Marylanders.  The second person in the Gallery that he recognized is one of our very special Saint Martin’s House residents, Janice Spanish.

Here is what the Governor said:

Two years ago, this next Marylander and her children were homeless. Today, she’s turned a temporary work placement into a good, full-time job.  Please welcome Janice Spanish from Caroline County and the dedicated state employee from our Department of Human Resources who helped her secure this opportunity, Melissa Jones-Harris.

(You can read the whole speech or watch the video here.)

Here are some additional details that the Governor’s speech didn’t have time for:

In addition to the support she received from Melissa at DSS, Janice has been supported for the past two years by the dedicated and caring staff at Saint Martin’s House.

Her full time job became possible because at Saint Martin’s House we emphasize the importance of vocational education.  We directed Janice to the Work Force Investment Board where she was able to receive financial support to earn her Certified Nursing Assistant Training.

Janice used one of Saint Martin’s House vehicles to commute back and forth to her classes in Cambridge for her CNA training.  In case management we worked with Janice to think about how she would set up space in her room so that there was a place for her and her daughter to do their homework. Janice’s CNA classes started just as her older daughter began school.

Saint Martin’s House staff is working with Janice to build her savings and plan for her move into a home of her own at the end of this school year.

Melissa Jones-Harris helped Janice obtain a car using the program.

Janice is ready! She has a good job, a dependable vehicle and two years of coaching and counseling and support from Saint Martin’s House staff.

Supporters of Saint Martin’s Ministries who attended the 2011 Arts Dinner heard Janice tell her story in her own words. She tells it again in our video from the 2012  Art’s dinner. Check out the video, here on the web site.

Celebrate with us in the Governor’s recognition of Janice’s success and in the successes, small or large, of all of the families who call Saint Martin’s House, home.

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