Baltimore chapter of Continental Societies, Inc. celebrates 59 years of community service
Andrea Blackstone | 1/13/2015, 6 a.m.
Since 1955, the Baltimore Continentals have devoted their time and resources to help empower children. The Baltimore chapter’s annual Christmas Gala was held on December 28, 2014 at Martin’s West. Approximately 750 people attended the formal affair, which featured a live band, dancing and dinner, while supporting the nonprofit organization’s charitable programs.
Continental Societies, Inc. was founded by a small group of African American women. Members of the Baltimore chapter have maintained the tradition of upholding the founding principles of the organization, under the current leadership of their Baltimore chapter president, Dr. Joann Christopher Hicks, and national president, Edna Lee Moffitt. Moffitt is also a member of the Washington D.C. chapter. Approximately 49 members of the Baltimore chapter primarily work with elementary, middle and high school students in Baltimore and surrounding counties. In turn, family, friends, supporters and leaders showed up to offer much-deserved holiday support shortly after Christmas.
“I think you see a cross section of the Baltimore community here. We get dressed up, but it’s for a good cause. I think it’s very worthwhile for us to be here prior to the end of the year. It’s a good thing to know there are some excellent groups out there doing good things in the community," Del. Adrienne Jones, Speaker Pro Tem of the Maryland House of Delegates said. “I think you saw an effort a whole lot this year of paying it forward. I think it’s not a catch phrase. It’s something that we as society can be doing 365. There are a lot of groups that are doing a lot of great things. I think collectively we can do a whole lot more for people in need.”
Forty-eight Continental chapters are located in the U.S. and Bermuda. Continental members reach youth through H.E.E.R, which is an acronym for their five point programmatic thrust— health, education, employment, recreation— plus arts and humanities. In the Baltimore chapter, the health component addresses total health and fitness through a variety of services.
Free dental screenings are offered through a mobile dental van called Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures. Members of the Continentals encourage the joy of learning through an education component. From September through April, Baltimore Continentals read to students monthly, and distribute books through The Book Buddies program at the Empowerment Academy in Baltimore city. The program has existed for ten years.
Career awareness and career development support is offered through the organization’s employment component. A recreation component offers healthy, safe and active leisure-time activities. The final component, arts and humanities, is an eclectic mixture of educational entertainment including musical instrument instruction, dance, drama and public speaking.
“Each of our communities is supported by the projects that we do. Each chapter dedicates their time, their efforts and their monies to putting together innovative programs to help the children in each of those areas. Baltimore is an extremely successful chapter, because they have tremendous support in both the community and with this event. All of the people who support them throughout each year come after Christmas, in essence congratulating themselves and us on the wonderful job they’re doing,” Moffitt said. “Because we’re so dedicated to children, and children are so disadvantaged in this current environment, we’re trying to change the paradigm shift and improve the way our children are treated across the country. We have 48 chapters and we’re doing that to the best our abilities every day.”
Dolores Winston, who has been a member of the Continentals since 2001, was this year’s recipient of the Continental Memorial Award. The founder of the Empowerment Academy is currently a member of the Baltimore Continental's education committee. Among numerous contributions that she makes, Winston works on the employment committee, the scholarship committee, and with Book Buddies.
“The award is given to persons within the community who have given a lot of service to children and youth. This year is the first time someone was selected within the group,” Winston said. “I’ve been involved with children for a long time.”