When people visit SPAN (Serving People Across Neighborhoods), they often come for food or financial assistance to get them though an emergency. But those people often leave with more, having been treated with respect and compassion.
Since 2017, directors Ellen Kinsella and Jennifer Pumphrey have been the faces of SPAN who helped those people. They stepped down from their roles in May, giving new directors Michele Sabean and Maia Grabau a chance to make a positive mark on the community.
“Both of them wanted to be involved in making a difference in the community,” said Kathy Berge, president of SPAN’s board of directors, when asked about Sabean and Grabau. “Both of them are extremely well qualified. Working for a nonprofit would not have enhanced their careers necessarily, so this is something they wanted to do because they enjoy helping others.”
Sabean will serve as director of development. She has worked as director of operations for a charter school operator in Baltimore City and as a program manager who developed math and reading tutoring programs. She is a member of Our Lady of the Fields Church and has taught faith formation classes there for many years.
“I am great with details, data, and implementing systems and procedures to make things run smoothly and efficiently,” Sabean said. “I also love working with people! I look forward to working with the volunteers and this great community to continue to spread the word about SPAN for those who can help and for those who need some help.”
She is excited to branch out to a new area by providing food and financial assistance, while working with passionate volunteers.
“We have wonderful and dedicated volunteers, many of whom are regulars,” Sabean said. “Some work with the clients to understand their needs. Others have great systems in place to keep the pantry organized, stocked and the food sorted by date.”
SPAN’s new director of operations, Grabau has 20 years of experience as a pastor’s wife, serving in church leadership in a variety of settings. She has ministered to people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I loved the idea of working for an organization that serves people who need a helping hand,” she said. “It could be because of job loss, cancer or many other reasons. It can happen to anyone. It can happen to the most hardworking people.”
Grabau hopes to expand SPAN’s client base to help even more people. For example, people without transportation cannot get to SPAN to get the resources they need.
Sabean hopes to continue building community support and spreading the word about SPAN. She looks forward to the Turkey Trot 5k fundraiser returning in the future.
Overall, SPAN is in good shape.
“It seems to be a very well-run organization,” Grabau said. “For the food pantry, it’s almost all volunteers. SPAN has a well-organized board of directors, and there are clear guidelines as far as who we help and how much help to give. Oftentimes when you deal with a smaller organization – whether nonprofit or other group – it can be chaos. This organization is running very smoothly.”
Kinsella and Pumphrey won’t be forgotten. They increased outreach efforts, bringing in needed resources, and made SPAN a welcoming place to all.
“They made it a very pleasant place for volunteers to work, and the volunteers describe it as a family,” Berge said. “They also made it a respectful place for clients and created an environment that made people comfortable.”
Kinsella is proud of how everyone at SPAN worked to make the nonprofit more visible in the community.
“We increased our presence on social media, brought presentations to students, and also began participating in the Shop Local events,” Kinsella said. “With Jennifer Pumphrey by my side, the greatest volunteers in the world, and an incredibly generous community of donors, I believe we have improved SPAN immeasurably!”
They also helped SPAN meet growing needs during the pandemic. They implemented safety changes and conducted business outside.
“One example of that is that the porch was adapted to make it like a drive-thru; clients can drive up and boxes of food can easily be accessed through the porch,” Sabean said. “It is wonderful to see all that we have to offer. In addition to nonperishables, we often give items such as fresh produce, milk, eggs, toiletries and diapers. Sometimes we are also able to give a family a birthday bag, filled with items to help them celebrate their child’s birthday.”
SPAN’s presence has grown, but there are still many people in need of help, and the new leadership will work to address those needs.
“My personal belief is that change is good because it brings new ideas,” Berge said. “It will certainly be SPAN as everyone knows it, but new eyes see things in a different way. I’m excited.”