I received a distressed and disturbing call last night from Heather Sells, outgoing CEO for our beloved Catherine Foundation. Heather informed me that for the second year in a row, the Charles County Charitable Trust denied their application for a nonprofit grant.
If you don’t know, due to the needs of the nonprofit community in Charles County, government-funded grants have always been available to qualified (read: IRS registered 501(c)3 organizations) nonprofits. In 2016, the Charles County Charitable Trust was established to help determine who was deserving of these grant funds.
As an important piece of history, Catherine Foundation applied for and was denied a grant back in 2013, before the Trust was established. From the Trust’s website, they exist “[through] a formal agreement with the Charles County government, [to] manage the Nonprofit Grant Awards Program with a strong commitment to fairness, balance, and transparency. We annually distribute grant funds to qualified nonprofits that provide important services to Charles County residents.” (emphasis mine) So, this is now the third time that Catherine Foundation, a very well-established and non-controversial organization in our Charles County community, has been denied access to available funds to carry out parts of their mission.
One can imagine that a weak grant application could result in a denial letter, but Catherine Foundation employed a professional grant writer this year to request a sizeable $30,000 to help women access prenatal care within their center to ensure healthy pregnancies, help educate soon-to-be moms on how to take care of themselves and their babies (a completely necessary service in the modern era), and to help train their board-certified nurse. Susan Petroff, the Program Director for the Trust, informed Heather that the grant was denied because “Our board has a problem with using tax-payer money to fund pro-life services”.
Here we have a HUGE problem, folks. #1 is that the Charitable Trust exists to help qualified non-profits who can demonstrate that they would have an impact on the quality of lives for underserved populations or residents at large like through the arts.They do not exist to determine if a nonprofit’s mission is too political for their Board. #2 is that the grant application submitted by Catherine Foundation was not for specifically “pro-life services”, it is clearly stated that their were requesting money to enhance their medical and educational services for an underserved population. You know the maternal mortality rate in Maryland is atrocious, right?. #3 Heather reports that the words “pro-life services” do not appear in their grant application and they do not appear on the Catherine Foundation website either.
Where did the program director get the idea that the Board has a problem with pro-life services? Was the grant application even viewed? According to the Trust’s website, there is a strict adherence to a process, in which all applications are treated the same. Their worthiness for a grant, again according to their website, is based on the application. So, when were the words “pro-life” and the grant for healthy pregnancy care ever connected? And why would the board have a problem funding the services of a pro-life organization, when they granted Catholic Charities $50,000 for the Angel’s Watch shelter, which sounds not only like a “pro-life service”, but the Catholic Church is the largest pro-life organization in the world. This denial seems FAR more political than it should be for an organization that exists to support the non-profit sector. Catherine Foundation has been a vital nonprofit organization for 35 YEARS, serving nearly 1200 clients annually at zero cost to the very people seeking their help.
We are not taking this lying down, but the reality is that the Grant funds have been awarded and the Catherine Foundation won’t get another chance until the Fiscal Year 2021 cycle. But you, like me, believe that the work of the Catherine Foundation is critical and needs to continue, with or without the County’s grant. We need to raise that $30,000, and we need to do it STAT. I am calling on ALL of Pro-Life Maryland to step up to the plate. That’s just $100 from 300 people and Catherine Foundation gets to continue their great work without so much as a hitch.
Will you join Charles County Right to Life in raising this $30,000 for healthy pregnancies and families in our community? Will you say YES to funding life-saving work and reject the establishment’s political biases? If so, please go directly to the Catherine Foundation’s donation page and generously give toward their mission as much as you can afford, but no donation is too little! We have 72 hours to meet this goal and we will be updating our social media regularly with progress. When you’ve made your donation, forward this message to as many friends as you can – even if they are out of state. We have to send a message to Charles County that our leaders may not like our work, but the people of our community do and that’s all that matters.
Charles County Right to Life