The “Howard Seven” Rotary clubs will receive a “Holland Award” on Oct. 20 from the Community Action Council of Howard County (CAC) for their commitment to a Summer Enrichment Program that extends the regular academic year of Head Start.

The award, which recognizes humanitarian service, is named for the late Rev. John Holland, pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle of Cooksville and former president of the Howard County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Head Start is a program that promotes school readiness for young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community. The Rotary-supported Summer Enrichment Program provides health, nutrition and educational services to children ages 3 to 5.

Studies from the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness show that Head Start participants have better cognitive, social, emotional and educational outcomes compared to their low-income peers. Head Start parents have greater quality of life satisfaction, increased coping skills and fewer health issues. Furthermore, children enrolled in early childhood development programs such as Head Start and the Summer Enrichment Program experience more favorable long-term effects on graduation rates, grade repetition, and achievement test scores.

The seven clubs include the Sunrise club in Ellicott City, as well as the Clarksville, Columbia Patuxent, Columbia, Columbia Town Center, Ellicott City and Elkridge clubs. The CAC is a private, nonprofit organization serving more than 35,000 low-income individuals and families in Howard County.

The Rotary clubs have a diverse and enthusiastic membership, said Bita Dayhoff, CAC president. “The Howard Seven have consistently found new ways to make Howard County a better place to live,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have such strong community organizations and leadership.”

The 21st annual Holland Awards Dinner will be the evening of Oct. 20 at the Turf Valley Conference Center.

The Power of 200 Rotarians

The Howard Seven has spent the last couple of years solidifying their work together, said Charlie McCabe, Rotary’s area governor for Howard County. “There is a lot of power working together as 200 Rotarians in seven clubs.”

Howard County has a full spectrum of clubs, he said, not only meeting at different times and locations but with different characteristics. This reflects a trend toward more diversity in Rotary worldwide, said McCabe. “For example, I belong to the Patuxent club, which is a fairly traditional breakfast club. Contrast that with the less formal clubs that meet for happy hour with no formal meal, which I believe attracts more young professionals.”

Receiving this award has boosted excitement among local Rotarians even more, he added. “I’ve attended a lot of Holland dinners in the past, and this award was a total surprise. I’ve seen a lot of great people get the award.”

Rotary will continue to strive to make a long-term sustainable difference in the county, he said. “We think the Summer Enrichment Program meets those goals.”

Rotary and CAC: Working Partners

The Holland Award has come as a total surprise, agreed Ron Carlson, president of the Sunrise Rotary Club of Ellicott City, but Rotary’s relationship with the CAC is longstanding and strong. “We’ve worked very, very closely with the CAC over a long period of time and regard them as working partners in every sense,” he said. “To have this bestowed is a surprise and a reason for celebration.”

The Summer Enrichment Program is the largest-scale project to date on which the seven Rotary clubs have collaborated. “When the Sunrise club reached the level where it had to broaden its net to support the Summer Enrichment Program, much to my delight, the other Rotary clubs embraced it as their signature program as well.”

As members from the various clubs sat together and discussed what they intended to do to support the program, they reached a new level of support and rallied. “It’s the kind of model that could be replicated elsewhere in the state,” said Carlson.

With the help of the Howard Seven, the seven-week Summer Enrichment Program has been extended to 11 weeks. “You never know the outcome when you’re going to bring a group of people together,” said Carlson.

Profound Level of Gratitude

Alice Harris, director of education for the CAC, said she is “absolutely ecstatic” about the growth of the Summer Enrichment Program and the support of the Howard Seven.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express the level of gratitude I have. You really have to have that commitment and that level of involvement from stakeholders outside of your schools. The Rotary clubs on every level exemplify what that looks like.”

Rotary is a community partner that has been sitting at the table with the CAC for a long time, Harris added. “Two years ago we were serving 264 children in our Head Start program, which was a combination of part-day and full-day programs,” she said. “Now we have 17 classrooms serving 322 students year-round.”

This has been accomplished because the CAC was not sitting at the table in isolation, she said. “There is so much at stake in this process and with the investment that our partners make. We have to do it right. It’s an important task we have on our plates.”