Episode 1: A Conversation With The Governor’s Office Of Community Initiatives

The Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives talks about the ways they work with the community, including partnerships, events and connections. The Executive Director, Steve McAdams, and Chief of Staff, Winston Wilkinson, talk with Quinton Askew, president and CEO of 211 Maryland.

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Show Notes

1:37 About the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives (GOCI)

Learn how the office supports communities, businesses, schools and nonprofits across the state.

6:27 Day to Serve

The Day to Serve initiative is a month-long effort to support volunteerism throughout Maryland.

10:40 How GOCI supports Maryland through partnerships

Partnerships are the heart of GOCI, as they build bridges statewide.

13:31 Volunteerism

There are a number of volunteer initiatives for those seeking opportunities and organizations needing volunteers.

17:16 Faith-based initiatives

GOCI also works with the faith-based communities statewide on a number of projects like homelessness, prison reform, feeding the hungry and emergency services.

20:44 Community support

Gain insight into several community partnerships and ways to get in contact with GOCI.

Transcript

Welcome to What’s the 211? podcast where we provide you with information about resources and programs in your community. 211 Maryland is a health and human service line for anyone seeking help for themselves or someone else. You can dial 2-1-1 if you need help with food rent or other services. You can also text your ZIP code to 898-211 if you have mental health concerns. If you are someone who is in a mental health crisis or needs help with substance abuse, dial 2-1-1 and Press 1 to immediately be connected with someone.

Quinton Askew (00:43)

And welcome to What’ the 211? where we provide information about resources and programs in your community. 211 Maryland is a statewide resource available by telephone, internet, text and chat to connect with residents about health and human resources. You can dial 2-1-1 from your phone or text your ZIP code to 898-211 for crisis support.  Or, visit our website at 211.org to search for needed services.

Anyone who is seeking crisis services or resources for mental health or substance use, please dial 2-1-1, Press 1 to speak to a call specialist immediately.

Today, we are joined by members from the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. We have Executive Director, Steve McAdams, Chief of Staff, Winston Wilkinson, and Communications Director, Sue Kyung Koo. So welcome everyone.

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Winston Wilkinson (1:27)

Thank you. Glad to be here.

Quinton Askew (1:29)

So, thank you. So please, before we start, if you can just tell us a little bit about your office and sort of what your all’s role is within the office.

About The Governor’s Office Of Community Initiatives

Steve McAdams (1:37)

Yeah, we we’re the Governor’s arm that reaches out to the community and we’re here as eyes and ears and we connect and we make sure that the community has the resources they need to fulfill whatever objective that they have.

Winston Wilkinson (1:51)

Yeah. And my, my role basically is internal. So I kind of run the office and make sure the trains on the tracks and allows the Executive Director to be out in the field and, and to do more. And I do go out in the field, but that Steve major role is to get out and to touch base and to get more involved in the community.

Steve McAdams (2:10)

And I love being external being out in the scene. You know, it’s unbelievable what we see across the state. There are so many great acts of from community members doing things to serve the community. And there’s so many opportunities, other, so many resources that it’s just it’s very empowering.

Quinton Askew (2:28)

Great. And I understand that there are multiple commissions within a department. Is that something you can tell us a little bit about what those commissions are and exactly what, what they do?

Winston Wilkinson (2:38)

Yeah. We have about seven different commissions and they represent the different diversity in the state. We have an African American Commission. We have Native American, Asian, and along those lines and these commissions go out and they reach out to the community. They look for ways to bring the services from the state to the needs of the community. So, we try to find her bring kind of a togetherness between the needs of the community and the the resource that we have from the state.

Steve McAdams (3:11)

Yeah, the Governor really insists that he wants to make sure that we, the government, the cabinet the members of the Maryland state government serve the public and make sure that we work for the public and not for government. So we want to make sure that we go we are extending the extra hand, you know, I need services that for licensing or for a permit or for business or for higher education, you know, we’ll take them about hand call the department and then we’ll introduce them and make sure that they get those resources.

Quinton Askew (3:47)

Right. I know the Governor is really excited about these commissions. And so are the folks who are head of these commissions, are they sort of ambassadors for each commission that you have? Is there someone in the community that sort of facilitates that?

Steve McAdams (3:57)

So each commissioner has approximately 21 members. And the key is, is that they if you will, if we were a business they’re kind of like our reps out in the field that are sourcing opportunity for us. So whether it’s an individual that needs has needs or a business that’s looking to relocate they bring them into us and then we’ll work and vet them and figure out where we can assist them with what agency.

Quinton Askew (4:23)

And in these commissions are statewide.

Winston Wilkinson (4:28)

They give us the chance to be on the ground. So we are out there, we really know what’s going on out there and have that connection through the commissioners. And like Steve was saying, we actually are ambassadors for the Governor. It’s not political, but we reach out touch the needs of those communities.

Quinton Askew (4:47)

Are there particular activities that each commission does throughout the year? Are there certain things or certain activities? They do

Steve McAdams (4:53)

Each commission. Most of the commissions have a heritage month. Okay. And, so they celebrate heritage month. They’ll do a big signature rent for the year. And then in addition that not only do they do business or business events, cultural events faith-based events we’re active all throughout the year in interacting with the community.

Quinton Askew (5:15)

And how do, how do folks normally find out about these specific commissions within a department?

Steve McAdams (5:21)

So they can do a couple of things.

Steve McAdams (5:22)

One, they can come to our website, which is goci.maryland.gov. And on there, it’ll have a list of each specific commission. Or, hopefully, since we’re out interacting with the communities we’ll be at one of their events and they’ll hear us talking and explaining what we’ll do. So we try and go to where the communities congregate and make sure to they know our presence is there.

Quinton Askew (5:51)

Great. And so how do you mostly get involved? Do you hear, or what are some of, some of the feedback that you get from individuals who are a part of some of the commissions?

Winston Wilkinson (5:59)

Well, I get mostly positive feedback, you know, when I’m out in the community. For example, one of the commissions we have that oversees that, we have a Banneker-Douglas Museum and that museum houses a lot of the black artifacts and a lot of history of the black community. So when I go out, I’m able to go to churches and in the black communities, and we get a very positive response from the community.

Day To Serve And Other Events

Quinton Askew (6:27)

Great. And I know that one of the Governor’s big initiatives is the Day to Serve where a lot of folks will volunteer and connect throughout the state of Maryland. Have you seen sort of a big impact from those folks who are volunteering?

Steve McAdams (6:41)

Service is an unbelievable way to give back to communities. It’s a month-long initiative that we compete against the District of Columbia, West Virginia and Virginia. And we’re proud to say for the last five years, we’ve almost beaten the output of all of them combined with service hours.

But the Day to Serve is really a way for people to give back. And for us using the Governor’s platform to promote the importance of volunteerism and helping those in need.

Quinton Askew (7:16)

Are there any particular events that may be coming up that folks should be aware of or that folks should be able to connect to?

Winston Wilkinson (7:23)

Yeah. Well, let’s see, we have legislative night down on Capitol Hill, and so we invite the community to come down and meet with their legislators. And since they were in session for the next three months, yes. So very busy down there, but they get a chance to come down and meet legislators from their communities and be able to again, ask questions and share their needs and just have a direct relationship and contact face to face with the legislative.

Steve McAdams (7:53)

We have several events coming up for black history month, but one that we’re particularly proud of is that we started an awards program for volunteers, African-Americans, who volunteer either through business or nonprofits. We house the award ceremony at Banneker-Douglas Museum, which is a state museum on African-American history.

Last year was our inaugural year on that. This year is our second year. And you know, we had a great response as far as nominations and this year awardees are going to be really tremendous.

And then, in addition to that, we have coming up in May the National Day of Prayer Breakfast, which is just a fantastic morning where we bring all the faith leaders from across the state together. Now, the Governor has a prayer breakfast and you know, you lead the prayer brokers like you’re on top of the world. It’s a great event.

Winston Wilkinson (8:46)

We also have the Asian American community because, you know, our First Lady is from Korea. And we are gearing up for a Lunar New Year and that’s a big thing. And they had just had a kickoff at the Governor’s house. Steve was. And, so that’s one big event. They are really busy, so that’s going to be busy for the next three months. So we invite everybody to want to come involved. And we have a big event over in Gaithersburg in the mall over there. And the first Lady comes out to Lakeforest, and we might have thousands thousand people plus that come out to that.

Steve McAdams (9:22)

The great thing is that you know, all the different cultures and ethnicities and people that we have in the state, it just, it makes us stronger. And it makes our state so much richer and important you know, in the aging community. There’s probably another more important tradition in the Lunar New Year celebration. And we held last week at government house, the celebration for that had community leaders from all over the state, come in and had a great celebration, had representatives from the various embassies come in. And Lunar New Year is actually the kickoff is this Sunday, the 26th. And we have a lot of great events to celebrate the community

Winston Wilkinson (10:04)

And each commission. They have their own events. We native American, they have some big events. Okay. And they invite the community to come out and learn more about Native Americans and African-Americans and Asian and Middle Eastern. And so each one has their own taste of their culture. Okay. And so the community can come out and get a taste of their culture with his food, her language, or just experience these different cultures that are here in their communities.

Steve McAdams (10:30)

And, the African Diaspora is a very strong commission and doing a lot of great events all around and very, very proud and giving community as well.

How GOCI Connects Maryland Through Partnerships

Quinton Askew (10:40)

Yeah. So it just sounds like a great opportunity for folks to be able to come out and learn about others, but also experience the culture, which I’m sure is great. And so, I’m assuming these are all for all ages, kids, and adults able to come out to understand and learn. Yes, absolutely. Which is a great opportunity. And so how big is the office? How big is your particular office?

Winston Wilkinson (10:59)

We have about 30 employees. And most of them are mostly in the field most of the time. Okay. So I don’t have a lot to manage. Okay. So, to make sure that everybody’s out and everybody’s touching base.

Steve McAdams (11:13)

On a daily basis the folks that work in our office, you know, build bridges in several different ways. Not only do we work with community members directly, but we work with business foundations, nonprofits and community groups. So that way we can kind of act as a facilitator so that we know when we come across someone, hey, we know a great fit for them. And, we’ll be able to pair them together.

Winston Wilkinson (11:38)

So for example, Steve does a great job for us. Some little community over in Seat Pleasant. And so he’s worked with that little community where I grew up at, and he was able to go in there and work with the Mayor and do international, almost international stuff to try to bring business into that community. So in terms of community engagement, business engagement, some international flavor in there too. So, Steve tried to do a lot of that because his background is business and he works with these municipalities to try to help them as they try to benefit the economic base.

Steve McAdams (12:09)

Yeah. We try and listen, try to understand what you’re doing. Try and discover. Someone calls up and talks to us about what you’re doing. Like, hey, why don’t we come out and see and walk through your facility or your organization.

Because a lot of times they may not even know really what to express, where certain people are looking at. It just enables us to connect people.

But, the Mayor of Seat Pleasant, he is just an unbelievable guy. And he has built the first smart, small, smart city in America where he’s now traveling around the world, speaking about it. IBM’s working with him and whatever else and what’s going on in Seat Pleasant. And it’s just, it’s just really empowering.

Quinton Askew (12:49)

That’s great. And so, it sounds like really a lot of the work and the backbone of your office is the partnerships and the folks in the community that you work with that sort of help builds and facilitates a lot of the work that you all are doing.

Steve McAdams (13:00)

Yes. So, it’s all partnerships. We don’t have any grant money and we don’t have any effect on policy, but what we are charged with is, you know, while the Governor is working. He can’t be out in the field all time. And, you know, we’re his reach to get deeper into all the different communities, because the Governor insists that all communities across the state be heard and that we’re to work with all of them. He wants to make sure that we’re again, he wants to make sure that we’re working for the people and not working for ourselves.

Volunteerism

Winston Wilkinson (13:31)

I’ll let Steve talk more about within an office. We also have an office within the Governor’s Office of Service and Volunteerism, and also Maryland Volunteer. It’s an entity within our office where we try to work with different nonprofit schools and all of that and look at their volunteer needs.

And, that office actually goes out to partner with them and try to help them to develop and train the staff to understand volunteerism, how to bring more volunteerism and build capacity within the office. So we get AmeriCorps members, we train them to go in and to train these nonprofit and schools or wherever there’s a need in the state.

Quinton Askew (14:15)

And so, so for all of the nonprofits that are underfunded, because of course with nonprofits, it’s always a funding issue and then those who are looking for additional staff and volunteers, that your office can

Steve McAdams (14:24)

Actually, help support them with volunteer staff training to help support their mission and work.

Steve McAdams (14:31)

So, the Governor, all Governors, all 50 states receive funding from the National Service Corporation, a federal government agency, and they fund the AmeriCorps programs. So we have 19 programs in the state. We just hit a record this year, cause we just, we just hit a milestone and we’re over $5 million in funding.

And the programs and the mission is that we want to fund the AmeriCorps programs who go out and like Winston said, they build capacity with bringing in volunteers for a specific program. And or if you’re a smaller program that can’t afford for staff and to build that capacity, there are volunteer centers in each county that we help build capacity with where you could go work with them and they could direct you on whatever specific need that you have.

But, in addition to receiving the money for the service, Governor Hogan is very big and he knows that the way we can make the biggest difference, the quickest is by volunteerism when we can, when we can get corporations whether it’s a financial corporation or a food corporation that go out and teach people how to be financially literate or how to cook properly and be healthy. Or, how to exercise, or simply go out and paint a building or pick up trash or volunteer to read in schools. You know, that’s where we can really make a huge difference without any cost.

Steve McAdams (15:57)

And we can do it in real-time very quickly.

Quinton Askew (16:00)

Well, what impact does that have on businesses as far as economically being able to provide this volunteer base to nonprofits and so forth?

Steve McAdams (16:07)

You know, we’re seeing over the last five years, we’ve seen a huge switch with companies. There’s a big, there’s a big push, especially for those coming out of college where people want to volunteer. And it’s almost part of the culture of most businesses and growing.

So, in most parts, if a larger corporation doesn’t have a volunteer arm or robust where they’re working, they have a hard time attracting talent. So we’ve been very key and being able to connect with opportunities. We’ve been keen on bringing those corporations to the table where they can discuss and collaborate on ideas, or they can stack their programs where they can be in a target zone where they can make a bigger difference. So it’s tremendous what we can do. And it’s tremendous what volunteerism does to the culture.

Quinton Askew (16:58)

And just making folks feel good for some of the work and the impact that they’re having. And especially with, with the school systems as well, and so for folks who have an interest, if there are nonprofits in schools who have an interest in, you know, working with your office to obtain volunteers, or just find out, it’s just basically going to the website or contacting your office to see how to get them?

Faith-Based Initiatives

Steve McAdams (17:16)

Yeah, absolutely. Yep. Contact us. And you know, the other sector that we can’t leave out is our wonderful faith-based community. We have a faith-based outreach arm in our office. And first, we want to say thank you to all the faith-based communities, because you know what they do day in and day out to help people out and be the fabric of a lot of communities is just, I mean, it’s just amazing the volunteers they have and what they do. So very robust. We work with all the different religions and we bring people together and we make sure that we are trying to break down some silos if you will where they’re starting to partner and do things together. And it’s just you know, it’s just very refreshing to see.

Winston Wilkinson (18:01)

And I’m saying the Governor is very lenient with his time, because he tries to be at a lot of the events that we have and the staff puts a lot of time in and, you know because we have to go out and we try to give out citations, Governor’s citations, things like that, to let the community to know that the Governor is aware of what they’re doing. And so we give them certificates as we go to their events. And so we, we out on the road a lot.

Steve McAdams (18:23)

And he reminds us all the time. He reminds me all the time. He says, Steve, if we don’t have money, and if we don’t have policies and do things that doesn’t mean that we can’t move the needle. The greatest thing we have is our platform and our message. The simple fact that we go out and we’ll meet and take the time to let an organization or a nonprofit or individual know what you’re doing matters and give them that citation. It can completely change the trajectory of their program and the energy that they have, which will make, go out and do things even more. So the government reminds us every day, you know, why we’re on this platform, make sure that we get out there and touch people and let them know how much they’re appreciated at the highest level of state.

Quinton Askew (19:04)

Yeah. And that is great. I know also with your interfaith office is that a lot of the work they do is around homelessness, prison reform, feeding the hungry, and emergency services, which is, again, as you said, with, you know, money, there may not be tons of money, but these interfaith folks that have partnerships feet on the ground and have a great understanding of what those individual communities need. And just really help support your office.

Steve McAdams (19:26)

Where we were working with the Maryland Black Caucus, the Chair of the Caucus, Darryl Barnes. And he came out with the idea last summer that you know, they felt that there are too many kids possibly when they get home playing video games or being distracted. So, he felt that it would be a great thing for us and to partner with the Governor, to put together a volunteer group that would go out to schools.  Individuals, professionals, and talk to them, not necessarily about, hey, you need to read this book or, hey, we’re going to measure how well you’re comprehending. But, just simply getting the additional message out all the time, reinforce support of reading, reinforce what reading and comprehension has done in order to have somebody advance their skills, to get a professional job so that they would understand the benefit. You know, if you read and you focus. We had a great success last year in our first year. We’re going to build on it more to share. We have several corporations that are going to come up, give out some Chromebooks, but it’s very important that we get the message to the kids in many different ways over, it was over a 30 day period. That reading is very vital to your future. And try and reinforce what they’re getting taught in the school.

Community Support

Quinton Askew (20:44)

Are there things that corporations or organizations do to help support that?

Steve McAdams (20:48)

Absolutely. You know the big thing with the corporations we’ll be working to list them. It’s in October. So, we’ll be working on the campaign here shortly. But the big thing is that when you, the corporations can talk to the professionals, the people they employ and encourage them to go out and spread a message to the children’s school or the Boys and Girls club or whatever club they may want to go to. That message getting put into the kid’s head over and over again about the importance of reading is where, you know, we feel that we can make an impact with no resources, but the presence. The influence of an adult and given that message.

Quinton Askew (21:29)

And I know the Governor focuses a lot on collaboration and bringing the community together within the offices and also throughout the state as abroad. And are there any particular, maybe misconceptions or folks, things that folks may not know about a lot of the work or a lot of the work that your office does throughout the community of ways that they can support the standard that they just may not know about all the great work or just what else they cannot possibly support some of the work that you’re doing?

Winston Wilkinson (22:00)

Well, I would just tell them to come on our website and just see what we’re doing and whatever we’re doing, does that fit their needs? Cause it’s hard to, you know, it’s gotta be kind of a partnership, right? And, they have to do something too. They have to go online or whatever. And if they’re trying to find help and resources, then you know, they can come online and see what we do and things that we offer.

Steve McAdams (22:22)

And now I’d say you know, there’s a lot of resource available at every level, whether it’s county, city, state, but the one main thing that people should know about our offices that we can introduce you to where the opportunity is, but it’s up to you to make whatever it is you’re trying to make happen. So we can introduce, but we can’t actually guarantee somebody is gonna, you know, get something, whether they’re applying for a grant or whatever. But we can tell them where the opportunity is or, you know, if they’re a business and they’re looking to bid on state contracts, we can direct them to where it is, but we can’t guarantee that they’re going to get something.

Quinton Askew (23:04)

Great. And in your office really has something for everyone. So whether you’re a business, a nonprofit organization, a school, university, or education system, your office really has something for everyone that someone could fit in to either give back or to be a part of any particular commissions that you all have.

Steve McAdams (23:20)

Yeah. And you know my position is a cabinet-level position and both Winston and I have a great relationship with all the secretaries across the state. So if we find someone that needs help, we can call the secretary directly and say, hey, who would you recommend in your department?

Quinton Askew (23:39)

And, and some of the things lastly with the office, there are events that go on all year long. And based on the particular, there is something that’s always going on that folks would always find something about. So this is just not sort of a spring, winter, summer. You have initiatives or events through all of your commissions that there’s really spreads throughout the year?

Winston Wilkinson (23:56)

We have a small office like I say, we have 30 employees. But, we have over maybe over a hundred commissioners. So, so we go out in full force. So we, we go all over the state.

Steve McAdams (24:05)

And we, we attend probably a little over 700 events a year throughout the year for the Governor. And that could either be us or our commissioner. So we’re very active, lots of things going on. You know, during business days it could be education or it could be business events during the evenings and weekends, it could be cultural events or it could be religious events where it could be holidays. So we kind of celebrate what the communities are. Okay.

Quinton Askew (24:32)

And so, and again, like how are able, I know through the website. Are there other social media handles or names that we could share with folks in the community to be able to connect with you?

Speaker 6 (24:41)

We are very active on social media, Twitter, and Facebook both have the same handle, MarylandGOCI. And we also have a YouTube channel. We have recently started a GOC ITV, which unpack monthly impact we make with our commissioners and all the partners across the state. So you can watch it on our YouTube channel. So simply it just visit our website and that you can find whole social media channels and YouTube. So make sure that you like and enjoy and subscribe. Also, we have a monthly newsletter, which is called community corner. Okay. So there’s a lot, a lot of things that you can subscribe to. Okay.

Quinton Askew (25:19)

And in the newsletter, is there sort of highlights and updates of activities from your commissions and activities? Exactly.

Speaker 6 (25:25)

And then that also includes upcoming announcements events. So you can simply be part of our initiatives. Okay.

Quinton Askew (25:33)

And, so for folks who are interested in being Commissioners, is there a particular process to become a Commissioner? Within the office?

Steve McAdams (25:42)

What they would want to do is they would want to reach out to us. And then last time they would be interested in meeting the commissioner. And what we’ll do is we’ll, we’ll have them fill out an online application and now they’ll go into the appointments office. And then based on who’s rotating off the Commission and where they’re located, geography-wise, you know, we look to match up and put people in that way. Okay. Okay.

Quinton Askew (26:08)

And so, I definitely would encourage folks to, to visit the website and also to like the pages. And so I know you mentioned also with the YouTube page and also the activities that you all do across the state. And so is there anything that sort of, you know, stood out from other states that you all were competing with that we can sort of talk about that sort of puts Maryland on top?

Steve McAdams (26:29)

Yeah. I think the biggest difference with our office that we’ve heard is that we’re very proactive in going to people. And then we also will follow through to make sure that they get the services or if they’re having any. And even when we introduce people to the programs, we’ll come back a year later, whether it’s a business or someone else, and see, okay, how have you grown now? And did you know, we possibly have additional resources that could help you grow? So I think the biggest thing with us and what we hear from our counterparts is, you know, how do you guys always keep hardening an opportunity and making things happen? And it’s just simply we’re out in the community and listening and discovering.

Winston Wilkinson (27:10)

The most popular Governor in the country.

Quinton Askew (27:13)

And so it, it has definitely been great and very great to share the information from the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. And we definitely want to encourage folks to visit the website, also the social media pages, and definitely want to thank you Executive Director, Steve McAdams, and Chief of Staff Winston Wilkinson, Communications Director Sue Kyung Koo. And for those folks who are nonprofits in the community and school systems, organizations, or just our everyday citizens, we want to encourage you to really take a look and become more involved and just really be a part of the great work that this office is doing. So we definitely want to thank you and thank everyone for coming.

Speaker 1 (27:50)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for listening and subscribing to What’s the 211 podcast? We are here for you 24/7/365 by calling 2-1-1.

Speaker 6 (28:12)

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