Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas is a time for love

I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours at Hope Alive. I was at Hope Alive Christmas morning and it was inspiring to see the love that our families shared. Two of our moms read scripture and talked about the true meaning of Christmas before all the children were allowed to open their gifts. Every child was so excited as they unwrapped gifts that had been donated for them. Amy was thrilled with an art set and Julie loved the outfits that had been picked out especially for her. One mother came into the kitchen with tears streaming down her face after opening a simple gift card that had been purchased for her. With this gift she can purchase food, clothing, even needed medications. Another mother said this Christmas made up for the last four when she and her daughter moved from place to place.

After breakfast, all the moms and children spent the next couple of hours playing games together – laughing and having great fun. It was so heartwarming to see the love between them. As another mother once said, it’s just one big overwhelming family at Hope Alive.

It’s this loving, stable environment that Hope Alive offers that provides our families with the foundation for growth, healing, and the courage to move forward toward self-sufficiency. Thank you for supporting this life-change and for offering hope of a future. Thank you for keeping hope alive and for walking with us on this amazing journey of faith. May you enjoy an especially blessed New Year! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas comes from the heart

Last night I watched a popular Christmas movie – “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. My favorite part is near the end of the movie when the Grinch learns that, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, perhaps Christmas means a little bit more.” As desperate as the Grinch was to steal Christmas from Whoville, he found he couldn’t because it lived in the hearts of the people.

Friday morning as I drove through downtown Frederick for an early morning meeting, I stopped at the traffic light at “square corner” (the intersection of Market and Patrick Streets). What happened right there in the busiest intersection in downtown Frederick was a wonderful reminder of what the Grinch discovered about the true meaning of Christmas. In the middle of the crosswalk, two friends met and embraced with a big hug and smile. In the hustle and bustle of the busy Christmas season, their embrace was a beautiful reminder that love from the heart is the true meaning of Christmas.

The Bible says that love comes from God. And it's His love that God gave to the whole world in the gift of His Son Jesus. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Fod God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17.

Once the Grinch experienced love through the little girl Cindy Lou, he was never the same again. He found forgiveness, joy and meaning for life. How much greater love can we experience and how much more can our lives be changed when we receive the gift of God's Son Jesus as His gift of salvation for the world? Immeasurably more and beyond anything we can ever ask or imagine.

From the board of directors, staff, and resident families at Hope Alive, our prayer for you this Christmas is that you will receive God’s gift of His Son – the Christ child – and know His life-changing love! May your hearts be filled with God’s love this Christmas!

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The spirit of giving

This Christmas season I’ve been especially impacted by the spirit of giving – but in two totally different ways.

Last week one of our resident moms bounded up the steps to the office and presented the staff with a bouquet of roses. She wanted to thank us for everything we’ve done for her and her two young children. Your first thought may be, “Why in the world is she spending money on flowers when she doesn’t even have a home of her own?”

This amazing young woman has achieved so much since coming to Hope Alive. She’s maintaining her budget with controlled spending. She’s reducing her debt and is saving for her family’s future which qualified her for a vehicle from Second Chance Garage. She’s working as a substitute teacher and will earn an associates degree in 2012. She’s shown spiritual growth and maturity and is a godly role model for her peers. She and her children will graduate from the Hope Alive program next spring and live on their own for the first time in their lives. So, her giving in this way was not a foolish waste of money, but a loving expression of her gratitude that encourages the staff and makes her feel even more loved and valued.

I’ve also been impacted by the overwhelming spirit of giving from the community. Like every other Christmas, we’ve been inundated with gifts from generous individuals and groups who want our families to know they are surrounded by a community who loves and cares for them.

But there was one wrapped gift that arrived that I can’t stop thinking about. (If any gifts are delivered wrapped, we unwrap them to verify the contents and make sure they go to the right family.) One such gift was a pair of fashion boots. They were stylish and something that one of our moms or older girls would love. But … they were worn, scuffed, and had a hole in the sole. This gift just broke my heart … mostly for the person who gave it.

I would hope that when we give to others – especially those in need – that we give our best. God gave His perfect gift to us in His Son Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

God did not hold back His best, but offered His one and only Son as the sacrifice for the sins of the world so that we might have new life through Him … all because of His great love for us! May this Christmas be a season filled with the true spirit of giving by giving Him our best in response for the precious gift of love He has freely given to us! May your Christmas be filled with the wonderful celebration of the indescribable gift of Jesus Christ!

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

P.S. There's still time to take advantage of our challenge grant matching dollar for dollar every new gift we receive!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reflections on Thanksgiving

The turkey, stuffing, and gravy was delish, but the most meaningful part of my Thanksgiving was the thanksgiving offered to God for the many blessings in our lives. I’m most thankful for my relationship with God, a wonderful husband, loving children and grandchildren, my mother’s healing, and for the opportunity to serve at Hope Alive.

This Thanksgiving I also thought about what our families at Hope Alive are most thankful for this year. Stability, improved health, a place to call home, loving support, unconditional love and acceptance, new opportunities, peace and hope top their blessings this year.

I found myself thinking about homeless families in our community and what they might be reflecting on this Thanksgiving. Sadly, their thoughts are probably consumed with their housing instability, food insecurity, life chaos, poor health, hopelessness and despair.

My prayer is that together we can respond to the growing, complex, and unmet needs of homeless women and children in our community to help change their lives. Did you know there are 600 homeless children in Frederick County Public Schools this month? That’s an increase from 400 at the start of the school year. The recently released Frederick County Human Needs Assessment identified one of the most urgent needs in our community is for shelter ranging from emergency to permanent affordable housing. I believe God is calling us to work together to meet more of these critical needs and to continue to change the face of homelessness in our community.

Thank you for your support and committed interest in the work God has called us to do. Let’s make every day Thanksgiving by giving praise and gratitude to God for all He has done in our lives! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Through God's miraculous provision

God has provided for His ministry at Hope Alive in miraculous ways over the past 10 years. This year we were blessed to be selected as a beneficiary of the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Program. Today wraps up our first year as a participating charity with the final Walkathon on the National Mall. Just over 500 walkers participated in seven mini walks in October and November and today’s Walkathon – raising more than $15,000 to benefit Hope Alive’s resident families.

Special thanks to all our walkers, Catoctin High Soccer and Cross Country Teams, Lewistown Elementary, Sabillasville Elementary, Thurmont Elementary, and Middletown United Methodist Church for hosting mini walks, and to the many many donors who funded walker registration fees. We are looking forward to even greater success next year!

We are also excited about an amazing opportunity God has provided through the Ausherman Family Foundation. They have awarded us a generous $25,000 challenge grant – matching dollar for dollar every new gift received up to that amount. Just note “challenge grant” on the memo line of your check and your gift will return to Hope Alive doubled. This challenge grant and matching gifts can erase our summer deficit and position us for a strong year in 2012.

Through God’s miraculous provision, He has faithfully sustained His ministry since opening our doors five years ago even through our unstable economic times. In this season of Thanksgiving, we are grateful for God’s faithfulness, mercy, grace, life-changing love, and hope that He alone can give. As you enjoy your Thanksgiving with family and friends, please remember the families who call Hope Alive home and the many homeless families who are struggling to survive right here in our own backyard – and count the many blessings in your life!

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life-change and hope

While enroute to the Pentagon this morning for a CFC charity fair, I checked my email on my phone and had a wonderful surprise. I had a Facebook notice that Monica (a graduate of our program) posted a comment on the Hope Alive wall. She said Hope Alive was a life changing experience for her. Even more important than her time at Hope Alive were the people there that the Lord used to cradle her and her son and to change the course of her life. Wow!

Interestng "coincidence" that I took copies of our June newsletter featuring Monica's story to today’s charity fair. The front page article – Nothing is Impossible with God – attributes Monica’s inspirational story of hope to the power of God in her life. One woman reached down to pick up a copy being attracted by the half page photo of Monica’s beaming face in the sea of caps and gowns. When she noticed God’s name in the title, she quickly retracted her hand and moved on. How sad that the testimony of God’s power in someone’s life is offensive to her. As she walked away, I prayed that she too would come to know the One who offers hope.

If you want to hear more inspirational stories of life-change like Monica’s, then join us at our Resident Achievement Banquet next Thursday, October 13 at Dutch’s Daughter. To reserve your seat, call 301.241.4005 today! Check out Monica's post and "like" us on Facebook. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Needs of homeless children

If you follow my blog, you may have been wondering where I’ve been for the past several weeks. My excuse is that there’s just too much to do and too little time. Part of the “too much to do” are the grants we’ve been writing and submitting to private foundations. In writing about the needs of homeless families, I’m reminded of the serious challenges homeless children – our children – face.

Research shows that homeless children are twice as likely as middle class children to have moderate to severe acute and chronic health problems. Half of homeless children have witnessed or experienced violence in their lives so it’s understandable that half of homeless school-age children have problems with anxiety and depression and 20% of homeless preschoolers have emotional disturbances that require professional care. Homeless children are four times more likely to have delayed development and behavioral disorders. These needs describe our youngest residents, but despite their serious challenges our children are exceptionally bright and fun-loving and just need a stable healing environment in which to grow and develop to their full potential. Hope Alive offers just that to our children. Once a family finds stability at Hope Alive, the changes that God brings to their lives are amazing.

To hear about this incredible life-change, I invite you to join us at our upcoming Resident Achievement Banquet on Thursday, October 13 at Dutch’s Daughter starting at 6pm. It’s a wonderful celebration of our residents’ inspirational progress and an evening of fabulous food and fellowship. Visit our website or call to reserve your seat today.

We’re also excited about our upcoming Help the Homeless Mini-Walks and hope you can join us on:

Sunday, October 16 for the Hope Alive Mini Walk on our beautiful nature trail in Sabillasville. Join us anytime between 1-4pm at the Hope Alive property for a short walk and to better understand the journeys of homeless families.

Saturday, October 22 at the Hope Alive Corn Maze at Crumland Farms in Frederick between 10am and 3pm for lots of fun on their twisty turny corn maze.

Visit our website to link to the online registration or to download a walker registration for the walk of your choice. You can always register at the walk and every walker will receive a free t-shirt!

Thanks for reading! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Benefit Concert - A Group Called Seneca

Join us Friday, September 9th at Monocacy Valley Church for a special evening to benefit Hope Alive featuring WAMA nominated contemporary gospel artists A Group Called Seneca. The celebration begins at 7:15 with music by Monocacy’s own, Seven Days Running, followed by A Group Called Seneca at 7:30pm! All proceeds to benefit Hope Alive. Come out for an evening of inspirational music and learn about family homelessness and the ministry of Hope Alive. A free-will offering will be taken.

Monocacy Valley Church is located at 9861 Old National Pike, New Market, MD.

You don’t want to miss this!

Also, join us for Rock the Need – Saturday, September 17, 2-8pm - at Westview Promenade for a charity concert and fashion show benefitting Hope Alive, The Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, and Goodwill. Concert features Living Water, Frederick Rock School, and The Freddy Long Band from 2-8pm with the Fashion Show at 6:30pm. Hope to see you there!

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The little fawn

Yesterday afternoon I was returning to Hope Alive after picking up some lunch in Thurmont. (Not a usual occurrence since it means a trip down the mountain.) As I headed up the driveway, a fawn came darting across and ran through the front yard. I watched her go over the hill toward the Joshua Center. As I rounded the corner of the house I spotted her at the playground fence trying to figure out which way to go. When she saw me she turned and took off over the hill disappearing into the safety of the tall field grass.

This reminded me of our youngest residents that often come to us frightened by their housing instability and the uncertainty in their lives. Like the little fawn, they don’t know which way to turn and where safety lies. And like the fawn, they stay close to mom until they feel safe to run. Once our children feel secure, healing begins, they gain confidence and even make remarkable physical growth! I didn’t realize how much growth until I saw the growth chart in Abba’s Angels marking inches in new height within a couple of months for nearly every child!

Before we know it that little fawn will be an adult and before we know it our children will grow into the amazing men and women God designed them to be! What a joy to watch them change and experience new hope!

Here in this beautiful setting, God often uses nature to reveal His presence and encourage us in the work He has called us to do.

One more reminder about our upcoming fall events …

A Benefit Concert - Friday, September 9, 7:30pm - Featuring gospel artists AGCS – A Group Called Seneca and Seven Days Running at Monocacy Valley Church, 9861 Old National Pike, New Market, MD.

Rock the Need – Saturday, September 17, 2-8pm – A charity concert and fashion show at Westview Promenade benefitting Hope Alive and other local charities.

Fourth Annual Resident Achievement Banquet - Thursday, October 13, 6:00pm, at Dutch’s Daughter to celebrate the inspirational progress of our residents.

Help the Homeless Mini-Walks: Maze-a-thon at Crumland Farms - Saturday, October 29, 10am-3pm and Hope Alive Mini Walk – Sunday, October 16, 1-4pm (raindate October 23).

Help us spread the word! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The last of summer fun

This week, our children had one of the most amazing field trips ever! They left Hope Alive Wednesday morning at 6:45am for a pirate adventure in Annapolis! After boarding the pirate ship, their faces were painted and they dressed up in pirate garb. They were given pirate nicknames like Jolly Jaelyn, Dangerous Dan, and Jump Ship James and learned some pirate language like “Argh” for “no” and “Aye Aye” for “yes”. Loud voices were encouraged along with a foot stomp so everyone knew they meant business.

On their cruise in the harbor, they retrieved a sunken treasure chest. They blasted water cannons while a pirate staff walked the plank. They learned about navigation and teamwork and had some plain ole good fun!

They stopped for lunch on the trip home and every child slept all the way back. God answered our prayers for safe travel, an enjoyable time, and for all the children to get along. One major answer to prayer was that our car sick child did not get sick! Everyone – including our amazing children's staff Ashley and Liz and volunteer and prayer warrior Pam Geisbert – had a blast!!

We are grateful to PNC Bank for sponsoring this educational field trip and for their partnership that supports our child development programs. The children will wrap up the summer with three field trips next week (Princess Party for the girls courtesy of The Temple – a Paul Mitchell Partner School, a trip to Adventure Park for the boys, visit to the police station and fire company) and their talent showcase the last day of summer vacation.

As we end our summer programs, we’re busy planning for our fall events. Plan to join us and support Hope Alive’s ministry to homeless women and their children:

A Benefit Concert - Friday, September 9, 7:30pm - Featuring gospel artists AGCS – A Group Called Seneca - and Seven Days Running at Monocacy Valley Church, 9861 Old National Pike, New Market, MD.

Fourth Annual Resident Achievement Banquet - Thursday, October 13, 6:00pm, at Dutch’s Daughter to celebrate the inspirational progress of our residents.

Help the Homeless Mini-Walks: Maze-a-thon at Crumland Farms - Saturday, October 29, 10am-3pm and Hope Alive Mini Walk – Sunday, October 16, 1-4pm (raindate October 23).

Visit our website for more information and help us spread the word! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Important upcoming events

It’s hard to believe we only have a few more weeks until school starts! Our children are fully engaged in summer vacation and certainly don’t want to hear it’s coming to a close.

The good news this month is that Hope Alive celebrates its nine year anniversary since we were officially formed! It’s amazing to look back over the past nine years and see all that God has done to make His ministry a reality. God has abundantly blessed, guided, and sustained us during these years and through some very challenging times.

We are especially encouraged this year as our resident women are some of the most motivated we’ve ever served. Each one is dedicated to needed life-change that leads to self-sufficiency in areas such as education and vocational training, effective money management, savings, and debt resolution, addressing various health issues, improving parenting skills, strengthening their families, and growing in their faith.

To help us continue serving homeless families, we have several important upcoming events this fall. Mark your calendars and plan to join us for …

A Benefit Concert, Friday, September 9, 7:30pm, at Monocacy Valley Church: Featuring gospel artists AGCS – A Group Called Seneca. Sue Walsh and her band Seven Days Running will also perform. Come out for an evening of inspirational music and learn more about family homelessness and the ministry of Hope Alive. A free-will offering will be taken.

Fourth Annual Resident Achievement Banquet: Thursday, October 13, 6:00pm, Dutch’s Daughter, celebrating the inspirational progress of our residents. Check out our website for more information and registration or call 301.241.4005.

Help the Homeless Mini-Walks: As a new beneficiary of Fannie Mae’s Help the Homeless Program,Hope Alive has a unique opportunity to raise substantial funds to serve homeless families in our community. We need your help! Now through November 6 you can join a scheduled Mini-Walk in our community or host one yourself to benefit Hope Alive. Check out our website or call for a brochure and information.

Help us spread the word! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, July 28, 2011

God speaks through children

God always uses the children to remind me of why I’m here at Hope Alive doing what He called me to do. It was many many years ago that God spoke to me through some precious children that lived at the Frederick Rescue Mission where I served for more than seven years. It was during that time that God broke my heart for homeless women and children and I heard God’s gentle voice calling me to make a difference in their lives.

That was the beginning of the Hope Alive journey. Because God had used these children in such a powerful way in my life, a ministry to meet the unique needs of homeless children was at the very core of the Hope Alive vision. Today, we have a ministry that far surpasses that original vision. Thanks to the passionate leadership of our children’s ministry director, Ashley Benoit, and the dedicated service of our preschool teacher, Susan Hagelin, and assistant, Liz Miesner, our resident children experience love, stability, joy, growth and hope every day!

On Tuesday of this week, Jody (Family Ministry Specialist) and I were talking in the hall. As one of the little toddlers walked by with her caregiver, she stopped and hugged me around my knees. She turned to Jody and did the same and then she went on her way! Then yesterday, I was in the children’s center during nap time and one of our sweet little preschoolers was tossing and turning on her nap cot unable to fall asleep. She then settled down and turned to look at me with a great big smile and blew me a kiss! My heart just melted.

These children and their amazing mothers are the reason we are here. Just knowing that God is changing their lives in such remarkable ways encourages us in this journey. God speaks through them to confirm His calling on our lives to minister to their needs. Thank you for walking with us in this journey of faith and for your loving support and encouragement that God uses to keep hope alive for all of us here in this ministry! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Walk this way

Great news! Hope Alive has been selected as a 2011 beneficiary of the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Program! This means that Hope Alive has the awesome opportunity to raise significant funds to sustain our program services and raise awareness about the issue of family homelessness.

As a beneficiary, we recruit walkers of any age to participate in a local Mini-Walk in our community. For each walker, we receive the walker’s registration fee (minus $5 to support the Help the Homeless Program) PLUS 100% of an incentive award based on the number of walkers registered with Hope Alive PLUS any sponsorships or donations designated for Hope Alive.

For example, if we recruit 1,000 paid walkers – say youth for example –we’ll receive $15,000 in walker registration fees PLUS a $15,000 walker incentive! And if it’s adult walkers we receive even more!

We’re collaborating with the Frederick Rescue Mission this year on three local walks. One is confirmed for a Maze-a-thon at Crumland Farms on Saturday, October 29 from 10am-3pm. So just think … you and your family or friends can come out and enjoy a beautiful fall day and walk the corn maze while helping the hungry and homeless! And you’ll learn about the needs of the homeless while you participate!

Walker registration fees are:

Adults $30
Youth $20 (age 25 and younger)
Virtual Walker $35

So let us know if you’re interested in walking or better yet hosting your own Mini-Walk and we’ll get you plugged in! Visit our website at or email me at for more information. We’ll keep posting the details as they become available!

We’re excited – can you tell? Help us spread the word!! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lifesaving measures

Before Hope Alive ever opened its doors to homeless families, our staff and volunteers worked diligently to develop and implement a high standard of excellence in the delivery of our program services. We researched, wrote and amended what seemed like volumes of policies and procedures and created the needed forms and tools to support that level of operation. Through the process – and continuing today – we view everything through risk management lenses. All the effort to minimize risk to the greater level possible has paid off and even saved lives.

Part of our required staff training includes annual American Red Cross CPR and first aid certification. Our staff is trained during the year at different intervals depending on the employee’s start date. Our last training was held in April and three of our resident moms participated and became fully certified in CPR and first aid. Among this class was one of our newest staff members in our children’s ministry – Liz Meisner. What she didn’t know then was that she would be putting these skills into practice in a few short months.

In the children’s center this week, Miss Liz saw an infant making a noise that she thought was her usual baby talk. But as she listened more closely, she realized the baby was choking. Without a second thought, her life-saving skills went into action. She placed the baby head down on her forearm and gave her five back blows (appropriate for an infant) and then turned her halfway over to see if what she was choking on had been dislodged. Noticing that the baby’s hair beret was missing Miss Liz quickly ran her finger inside the baby’s mouth and felt the beret and pulled it out. Amazing!

Surprisingly, this isn't the first lifesaving measure we’ve experienced at Hope Alive. The first year we opened, another children’s ministry staff came to the rescue of a teen who was choking on a potato chip at lunch. Her CPR skills automatically kicked in as she ran to his side. She administered the appropriate back blows and abdominal thrusts and the chip came flying out! He was shaken, but grateful for her quick response.

I am so proud of the awesome staff God has assembled! I’m amazed at the wonderful children’s ministry team that is so attentive to our children’s every need and loves and cares for them as their own. And I’m grateful to Operations Supervisor Missy Miller for her diligence in keeping our staff training up-to-date on these lifesaving measures.

Enjoy the beautiful weather that’s forecasted for the weekend and stay safe! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, July 8, 2011

Loving encouragement from God

It’s not uncommon for our staff to hear from a resident mom who comes in the office and announces, “I got the job” or “I got an A in the class”. We are equally thrilled to watch as our resident children engage in new activities such as their recent improvisation exercise during their “drama week” in the school-age program. It’s these types of successes that encourage us in the day to day work of the ministry of serving God’s people in need.

But on days when a mom or child is having a particularly difficult time or there are more problems with the computers or an overwhelming workload, discouragement can creep in and the stress mounts for our overworked staff. I had one of those days yesterday. It’s at these times that we need to take a break and refocus ourselves (myself) on God, knowing that He is in total control of His ministry and we are just the tools of His hands. It’s not about the “doing”, but more importantly it’s about the “being” with Him that matters most. When I do this I find my attitude changes and peace returns.

Yesterday in the middle of my pity party, God reminded me of His constant presence with us. I opened a donation that we received in the mail from a generous couple with a note saying it was given in honor of the great work that we do. I couldn’t help but cry at the loving touch from God through this faithful couple. I ended my day with a greater sense of peace than I had felt all week.

I just wanted you to know how much your loving support and encouragement means to us and how deeply we appreciate your committed partnership. Thank you for walking with us on this journey of faith. We love you!

Hope you enjoy the weekend. I think the heat is getting to me as I found myself following Kate Middleton's top fashion looks on the royal couple's North American tour. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Experiencing success

This morning at our annual Community Partner Breakfast, two of Hope Alive's moms shared their stories. One mom has been in the Hope Alive program for a full year and - as she shared - has experienced much success from improved health, stabilization for herself and her young daughter, educational opportunities for both in HeadStart and pre-kindergarten and at Frederick Community College, and now as a leader in the house with the other resident women.

Our second speaker was a program graduate now living on her own for the past year in independent housing and having graduated from Frederick Community College with her associate's degree. Through tears she thanked Hope Alive and the donors that were present and gave God the glory for her life transformation. She shared her plans to pursue a doctorate degree which we're convinced she'll acquire.

What I hadn't remembered was that three years ago next week, she was homeless and contemplating camping in a tent behind WalMart. She was on her last night in a motel placement by the Department of Social Services and felt she had no other option but to move to a tent and place her son with family members until she could find housing. She heard about Hope Alive and was the quickest intake we've ever done - moving her in within two days.

This morning she reminded us all that she was homeless and desperately hopeless and in just a short three years, she has a beautiful home, a college degree, good job, healthy relationships with her adult children and new grandson, and most importantly faith, hope and success of a future.

It made me think about the contrast we see often with women who want nothing more than a roof over their families' heads believing that a job is the answer to their problems ... to the women who are as determined as both of these wonderful ladies who spoke today. The work of life-change is tough and beyond challenging and as badly as our staff wants this change for them, they have to want it for themselves.

Right now, our Hope Alive house is filled with positive and motivated women and energetic and loving children who are embracing the wonderful unique opportunities that help them realize they are special in God's eyes.

Special thanks to our 2011 Community Partners that we had the privilege to recognize at this morning's breakfast. God uses their commitment to our mission and dedicated resources to make this ministry possible.

To all who love summer as much as I do ... enjoy this holiday weekend and stay safe. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer update

If you follow my blog, you've probably been wondering where I've been. After a much-needed 10 day vacation, I'm finally back on track! There's always so much going on every day, so here are just a few updates as we start our summer at Hope Alive.

Our children's programs are in full swing with all of our school-age children home for the summer. They join our infants, toddlers and preschoolers in a full-day program including field trips, educational programs, recreation, arts, crafts, and just plain fun! All of our school-agers attended Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week. It's fun to hear them come through the door singing songs about God's love. I asked one of our older children how she was enjoying VBS. She said she just loved it but was sorry it was almost over. But she told me how much she is looking forward to summer camp that she'll be attending later this summer with our older children.

Thanks to a generous gift from PNC Bank, our children are not only enjoying new mulch on our playground but they will have the privilege of going on several educational field trips this summer. Catoctin Zoo donated tickets so all our moms and children could enjoy the animals. Thanks you Catoctin Zoo for sponsoring their visit last Friday.

Two of our resident moms are taking college classes this summer at Frederick Community College. One mom is especially ambitious taking 4 classes so she can graduate with her associate's degree next spring. As one mom patiently waits for the results of her GED exam, she and another mom are enrolling for fall classes. One mom is enjoying her new job and has already been recognized for her leadership qualities. They are all finding such confidence in their successes.

God has abundantly blessed one family in particular. A mom and two of her three children came to live at Hope Alive months ago. Her oldest daughter was living with other family members due to their housing instability. They had an emotional reunion last week when she joined her mom and siblings at Hope Alive.

I'll keep the updates coming and additional news. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, June 2, 2011

48 Hours to Meet the Need

This morning at 11:15, there was a prayer service and community rally to publicize the upcoming 48 Hours to Meet the Need event to raise awareness about the needs of the poor and homeless in our community and the County budget cuts impacting housing and nonprofit services. I’ve reprinted Pastor Jonathan Switzer’s email here so you’ll have all the information first-hand. (Pastor Switzer is the 48 Hours to Meet the Need organizer and Pastor of Crossroads Valley Chapel.) Please help us spread the word to bring our community together to respond in our neighbor’s hour of need.

“I want to share with you this week an important community-wide effort to raise awareness – 48 Hours to Meet the Need. For those just tuning in, on June 16 and 17 we have asked the Commissioners, Senator Young, Kai Hagen, Chamber of Commerce, non-profits, as well as Catholics, mainline denominations, evangelicals, Muslims and Jews to join us for a 48 hour fast. During those two days, everyone is asked to give whatever money they would normally spend on food for their family to whichever non-profit they feel is best positioned to care for those most in need in our midst. This is a response to the $370,000 of cuts that the current County Commissioners have made to local non-profits. Our website is for more information! If only 8% of the 87,000 family units in Frederick County gave, we would cover the cuts that have been made.

On WFMD on June 16 and 17, Blaine Young, Ron Young, Bob Miller, Kai Hagen and I will be joined by non-profits, community leaders and others to promote involvement in the fast. I also am asking you to join us on those days on air!

This is a unique chance for unity in Frederick that we want to fully maximize! We are Americans and neighbors together in Frederick County, MD. We can do this.

Let’s hope that our work together will really make a big difference during this season in Frederick. Whatever happens in future election cycles, may this 48 hours help to cover the shortfall for this cycle.”

I hope you will help us spread the word. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Hope Alive milestone

In a few minutes I’m headed out the door to one of the most exciting events of the year! One of our graduate moms is achieving a milestone for Hope Alive resident women. She is graduating from Frederick Community College this evening with her first college degree!! I say first because she has her sights set on earning a doctorate degree and as determined and motivated as she is I believe she’ll do it!

I know when she and her son came through our doors nearly 3 years ago that she never imagined this day would arrive. At that time she merely dreamed of attending college. Since then, her hard work and determination has been recognized with numerous awards, scholarships and superb grades! Now that she has an associate’s degree under her belt she feels that anything is possible! And beyond that, she has hope of a wonderful and successful future for herself and her family. She'll be the first to give all the credit to God and the wonderful things He has done in her life!

A few of our staff will be present and you can bet we’ll be cheering the loudest as she walks across the stage to receive her degree. You might want to check out our June newsletter as we’re hoping to include a photo with her in cap and gown and what I bet will be a big wide smile! Time to go! Can’t wait! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hope in the midst of discouragement

The work of this ministry is always challenging and on occasion very discouraging. So a visit I had this past Tuesday with a graduate family was especially uplifting after a difficult weekend.

Last Saturday, one of our resident moms abruptly announced that she and her two young children were leaving the program. We were well aware that this mom had “hit a wall” in the painful work of healing and recovery. This often happens with our resident women as they address the life-controlling issues at the root of their homelessness. The normal response is either “fight” or “flight”. Unfortunately, this particular mother chose “flight”. Needless to say we were all greatly saddened and discouraged at the choice she had made.

Then on Tuesday, I stopped by to visit one of our graduate families. This mom proudly showed me around their new home and really felt it was God ordained that their spacious home was provided so she could help someone else in need. She felt good to be able to give back and help change the life of another. She and her son continue to work hard as they both finish classes this semester. They are on their own and filled with hope and a future.

It’s amazing how God provides hope in the midst of discouragement. I never forget the verse in Joshua 1:9 that I wore around my neck for years as a constant reminder to be strong and courageous and not to be overcome with fear and discouragement because He is with us wherever we go. What an amazing promise that brings light and hope to our lives! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, May 5, 2011

National Day of Prayer

Today is National Day of Prayer – actually the 60th Annual National Day of Prayer! The early morning prayer breakfast I attended (sponsored by One in Christ ministry) provided a focused time in prayer for our nation and leaders and a stirring message by the keynote speaker, Cynthia Dunbar. As an educator and attorney, Ms. Dunbar’s mission is to return our country to the faith of our founding fathers that our government was established on in the constitution and declaration of independence.

A highlight of the morning for me was a comment made that the Maryland International House of Prayer (MIHOP) staff and prayer warriors pray constantly for Hope Alive! We cannot do what God has called us to do without prayer and God’s presence and power in this ministry and our lives. It’s so encouraging to know we are covered in prayer!

By prayer, God sets the captives free and brings hope and healing to every mother and child we serve! By prayer, our resident moms feel there is the promise of a future and new life! By prayer, our families experience God’s unconditional love and acceptance that leads to peace and new hope!

Thank you to all who pray for this ministry and the families we are called to serve. We are grateful to God for the prayer warriors He raises up on our behalf. May you know the God and Father of our nation - the One who sets us free and gives new life through His Son Jesus Christ! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Peace in the midst of the storm

I tend to panic in storms. The wind, rain, tornado warnings, flash flooding and mud slides over the last two weeks claimed lives and caused wide-spread flooding, damage and debris.

Thankfully Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27 have brought me peace in the midst of the storms: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

Jesus’ words assure us that if we build our lives on Him, then we can weather any storm no matter how great the wind, rain and floods become. His words remind me of the storms of life our resident moms at Hope Alive have faced. They can choose to rebuild their lives on the Savior and find healing, love, hope, and peace from the storms that have shaken their foundations. As they come to know Christ, their lives change in amazing ways! Or sadly, they can choose to continue to live on shifting sand with no firm foundation.

Please pray that every homeless family – whether at Hope Alive or struggling to survive in our community – will see Jesus reaching out His hands to them in the midst of their storms. Pray that the storms they face in life will move them to build their house upon the rock – Jesus Christ! May you know His peace in the midst of the storm. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Rescuer

Psalm 34:7 reads, The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.

King David in the Bible wrote this psalm after he was driven away by Achish king of Gath by feigning madness to protect his life. David knew that it was the Lord who had rescued and delivered him out of the hands of evil. This was part of my scripture reading this past Tuesday morning. Just hours later, this verse would have a whole new meaning for me.

In the pouring down rain, I left a meeting in Frederick about noon and headed north to Hope Alive. A very serious accident on Rt. 15 just north of Seventh Street detoured traffic onto Thomas Johnson Drive and Hayward Road. Just as I was turning right into the merge lane on Rt. 15 from Hayward Road, my car suddenly accelerated. I quickly assured myself that I had my foot on the brake and not on the gas pedal, but the car continued to lurch forward as if someone had stomped on the gas pedal. To avoid hitting the car in front of me in the merge lane and trying to steer my car that was quickly speeding out of control, I swerved into the traffic lanes. For the next few seconds - but what seemed like minutes - I panicked trying to think of what to do to stop it.

But just as quickly as it all started, the accelerator released and I slowed to a crawl with my emergency lights flashing. I pulled off on the shoulder of the road and sat there crying and thanking God for rescuing me and saving my life. If you know Frederick at all, the intersection at Rt. 15 and Hayward Road is famous for serious and sometimes fatal accidents. But at this particular moment, no cars were coming as I veered out onto the highway. God miraculously rescued me from danger!

Since then, I’ve thought of little else and have shared this experience with everyone I’ve talked to giving praise to God for being my Rescuer! But God was not only my rescuer this past Tuesday, but He is my Rescuer from sin and death and has delivered me to new and eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It’s this week that we celebrate the cross where Jesus freely gave His life and took on the punishment for the sin of the world so that we might have eternal life if we believe in Him.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:16-17

Jesus is my Savior and Lord and my Rescuer! I have much to praise God for this Easter - the gift of His Son, His sacrifice for me, and His Resurrection that promises me eternal life! May you receive our Rescuer by faith this Easter and celebrate with me the eternal life that He came to give!

Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Saying good-bye to a friend

We heard early this week that UpCounty Family Partnership in Emmitsburg, MD will close their doors the end of May. UpCounty has been an important partner to Hope Alive since we received our first family more than four years ago. They’ve provided GED classes and exam preparation as well as the Nurturing Parenting course for our resident mothers. Two of our moms completed this 12-week course already this year. It’s inspiring to watch them apply all the effective and positive skills they’ve learned.

We understand UpCounty Family Partnership lost a significant source of their funding through a state grant. Following Head Start’s closure in Emmitsburg the end of February, this will be another devastating loss to northern Frederick County and Hope Alive families. We want to thank the amazing staff at UpCounty for all their loving support and training for our resident mothers over the years. It’s been a privilege to partner with them to meet the needs of our community’s families. Their closure will leave a tremendous gap in our community and in Hope Alive’s needed services. We wish their staff well as they start this new chapter in their lives. We trust God will provide for their needs as well as ours!

On a happier note, it’s not too late to register for our upcoming Visions for Hope event on Thursday, April 28 at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center. The artwork that we’ve received will provide a beautiful selection of special items for bidding. Visit our website at or call 301.241.4005 for more information or to purchase tickets. It’s a really fun family-friendly event that you don’t want to miss. Hope to see you there! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rekindling the vision

Nine years ago this week, God told me it was time to step out in faith. On Sunday, April 7, 2002, my pastor preached a sermon on “rekindling the vision”. For me, the vision was one of a new women and children's ministry that God had birthed in my heart two years earlier - a ministry that was located outside the city of Frederick in a safe and secure nurturing environment where homeless women and children could find healing, recovery and hope of a future. By the end of the two years leading up to April 7th, I had lost hope that the vision would ever be fulfilled because nothing seemed to be happening to make it a reality.

When I heard my pastor’s message that Sunday morning, I knew God was speaking to me. My pastor challenged each of us in the congregation with this question: “What’s keeping you from seeing the vision fulfilled?” God answered the question for me. He told me it was my fear of loosing a paycheck. I knew at that moment that God was asking me to step out in faith, leave my job, and start this new ministry as a full-time volunteer. That’s when Hope Alive, Inc. was born.

I wonder what would have happened if I had not been in church that morning or if I was preoccupied during my pastor's message and didn’t hear God speak to me. Or what if I assumed his message was for someone else thinking God couldn’t possibly be speaking to me! April 7, 2002 changed my life. The nine years since that time has been tremendously challenging, but incredibly rewarding and spiritually life-changing! What a privilege to watch what God can do to make His vision a reality. What a blessing to be used by God to serve His people in need when we say “YES” to His call. And what an honor to serve alongside so many of God’s faithful servants in the kingdom work He has called us to do.

What about you? Is there a vision God has laid on your heart that you’ve lost hope will ever be fulfilled? As my pastor asked me that Sunday morning nine years ago, “What’s keeping you from seeing the vision fulfilled?” Believe that with God all things are possible and listen intently for His voice because He is speaking!

Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Join us for visions

It’s only a few short weeks until one of my favorite special events of the year. Hope Alive’s signature event, Visions for Hope, is scheduled for Thursday, April 28 at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in downtown Frederick. This fun family-friendly event is an annual art auction of children’s artwork to benefit Hope Alive’s child development programs – even featuring the artwork of our very own resident children! Young artists under the age of 21 are invited to submit up to three pieces of original art. The works are sold by silent auction with bidding beginning at 6:30pm. Last year’s event raised more than $15,000 to support homeless children and help change the lives of our youngest residents.

I’m excited to announce that we have an anonymous donor who will match every dollar bid on artwork (up to $5,000) the evening of the event! Just think – your bid will double and will go twice as far to meet the unique needs of homeless children. We also have some great items for auction on our community table including tickets to Six Flags and Sight & Sound Theatre.

Tickets are only $25 for adults and this year children under 12 are free! Visit our website at and click on “Call for Submission entry form” to submit artwork or “More Information” to become a patron sponsor of the event or to purchase tickets. I hope to see you there. I can’t wait to see who takes home “Wood Man” this year!

Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, March 25, 2011

Looking for that special someone

On my drive to Hope Alive earlier this week, I was listening to radio talk show hosts discuss the importance of children having positive male role models in their lives. They said that children who do not have father figures in their lives are emotionally handicapped. We agree and know this to be true at Hope Alive.

The day after listening to the radio discussion, God reminded me of the importance of this need among our youngest residents. My husband came to Hope Alive after work to address some property repair issues and when he came into the house, several of the children ran to greet him with books in hand wanting his attention. Seldom are female volunteers or staff greeted with such excitement.

Of the 66 children we’ve served since opening our doors, many of them have emotional challenges attributed in part or in whole to the lack of a positive father figure in their lives. I’ll never forget one such child. This youngster’s abandonment by her father was the source of the emotional issues she wrestled with. Her biological father had dropped in and out of her life so often that at her young age she knew she couldn’t depend on him for the security and loving support that she desperately needed. A father figure stepped into her life in a very healthy way to fill this painful void and she‘s now finding healing.

But what about the children who are still searching for that special someone to help meet this important emotional need? Every child deserves the chance to experience unconditional love, acceptance and happiness so they don‘t grow up to be emotionally handicapped adults. It's this father-figure - or lack thereof - that gives children (and adults) an understanding of who our Heavenly Father is. I believe we can do and need to do more for our youngest residents in this area. Let me know if you're feeling called to respond.

On a similar note, everyone can help meet the needs of our youngest residents by attending our upcoming Visions for Hope annual fundraising event on Thursday, April 28 beginning at 6:30pm at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in downtown Frederick. This fun family-friendly event benefits Hope Alive’s children’s programs that are designed to meet the unique needs of our resident children. Check out our website at for more information or to register to attend.

Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig Founder and Executive Director

Friday, March 18, 2011

News from the state

This week I can’t help but continue on my soapbox of budget cuts and the devastating fallout that I believe will follow some our public officials’ decisions. Just yesterday I received an email alert from the Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute. The title is, “Steady Diet of Cuts is Making Maryland Sick - Also Homeless and Uneducated: Maryland falls short on essential services”. (Source:

This article reports that major reductions have already been made that reduce essential services affecting “public schools, hospitals treating Medicaid patients, local governments, and many other state-funded services.” Cuts to early learning programs and wait lists for child care subsidy could mean more low-income parents will enter the roles of the unemployed. The state already made significant cuts in K-12 education in previous fiscal years resulting in “a slow degradation of education quality and a renewed widening of the performance gap between schools in rich and poor areas.”

Direct impact to the resident women at Hope Alive and those who call searching for help will most likely include the following:
  • Unmet addiction treatment needs and inadequate treatment services
  • $9.5 million loss to community mental health services
  • Medical assistance provider rate reductions forcing more and more medical providers to stop serving Medical Assistance patients and losing their access to care
  • Elimination of $500,000 in rental assistance to low-income recipients from the Department of Housing and Community Development’s current FY 30% cut in rental allowance program that is used to end chronic homelessness and prevent homelessness for low-income families facing eviction. (A woman calling Hope Alive for services this week reported that the Department of Social Services has posted signs in their lobby notifying clients that "no housing help is available".)

The Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute appropriately responds by stating “education from early learning to higher education is not wasteful spending. Medical treatment and related services are all necessary. Housing is a human right that all Marylanders must have access to. Frankly, none of these programs are exactly ’fat and happy’ and do not represent wasteful spending. In fact, they all have their own compelling stories of critical unmet needs.” The Institute promotes the critical need to look for a balanced approach to balancing the budget and presents viable measures to increase revenue.

We praise and thank God daily that He provides Hope Alive as a safety net for homeless families and sustains our core services to the escalating number of women and children who so desperately need our help. Thank you for your faithful support and commitment to our mission and thanks for listening. I’ll keep information and updates coming your way. Check out our website for information about our upcoming Visions for Hope fundraising event on Thursday, April 28 benefitting our child development programs. It's a fun family-friendly event and all for a really great cause! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, March 4, 2011

More county cuts

Early this week Hope Alive – among many other community nonprofits – received official notification from Frederick County that the total funding for the Grants for Human Services Program awards to nonprofit organizations has been cut by 25% for FY2012. This memorandum also warned grantees that the County expects “to see similar reductions to the Grants for Human Services Program of approximately $125,710 or 25% in each of the future fiscal years beyond FY2012.” And don’t forget about the 19% reduction that happened previously in FY2011. The bottom line? It’s no secret that the current Board of County Commissioners’ (BOCC) intention is to cut all funding to Frederick County nonprofit human service organizations. (Hope Alive’s $7,030 county grant was cut from the FY2011 budget, but our FY2012 application was recommended for $4,335 in funding.)

In addition, the BOCC announced in their 2/24/11 work session that an additional $108,536 for Non-County Agencies was “voluntarily” relinquished by the Department of Social Services (DSS). The word from DSS is that the county funding was not “voluntarily” relinquished, but that they were told to do so. So this week, DSS reduced their housing unit from 5 workers to 1.5 eliminating the rental assistance program that prevents evictions.

For some nonprofits, these decisions have far reaching financial impact forcing some organizations to reduce critical services to Frederick County residents. For all nonprofits, the service impact will be devastating placing the escalating demand for services on the backs of the already strained nonprofit sector. Comments from the BOCC in televised work sessions basically state that the nonprofits and churches will need to do more.

I agree with other nonprofits that if you are refused services from nonprofits and non-County agencies due to cuts in County funding, call the BOCC offices to let them know the impact. At Hope Alive we are already seeing the fallout from the BOCC’s earlier decision to relinquish the $2 million federal Head Start grant back to the federal government. The Emmitsburg Head Start program where Hope Alive’s 3 and 4 year old resident children attend half-days, closed its doors this week. Parents were told their children’s names would be kept on the waiting list if and when the center reopens. Thankfully, Hope Alive has a safety net for our children that attended Head Start as they now spend more time in our children’s center, but they will still miss the important supplemental services Head Start provided such as medical screenings, parent support and family advocacy.

On a more positive note, I'm so glad God is in charge and He is our provider and sustainer!

Please plan to attend our upcoming Visions for Hope event on Thursday, April 28th at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in downtown Frederick. This is an important family friendly and fun fundraising event benefitting Hope Alive’s child development programs. You can read more on our website at Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tough week

It was a tough week at Hope Alive. It started with our newest staff member breaking her leg requiring surgery, pins and plates. Ouch! She's on crutches and hobbling around the best she can and trying not to overdo it.

Then, another staff member had a stove fire in her apartment requiring a visit by the fire department. No one was hurt, but she was left needing a new stove and smoke smell in everything.

It was also an unusual week of having to make some really tough decisions involving residents. When it involves the lives of others, the decisions are especially difficult to make. Then God brought about a major heart change and that's what it's all about!

Then there was more disappointing decisions made by the Board of County Commissioners this week with their 25% cut to the County's Grants-In-Aid program providing critically needed funding for nonprofit services. This follows last year's funding cut to nonprofits with another 25% projected cut for FY13. Hope Alive submitted a grant for the current funding cycle so if it's rated and ranked among the highest, our funding from two years ago may be reinstated.

And every week we continue to hear the heartbreaking stories from families who are struggling to survive in our own backyard. This week, among others, we received calls from a mother dying of cancer and living on the streets with her two children and a woman with three children needing to flee violence in their home.

Even though it was a tough week, we were blessed to see the positive changes and continued determination of so many of our families as they press forward toward healing, recovery and self-sufficiency.

Please continue to pray for us, those we serve, and the many families who are homeless and on the brink of despair who need our help. Pray God will meet their needs and fill their lives with His life-changing love and hope of a future. As we've witnessed so much lately, we know God hears and answers our prayers! Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, February 18, 2011

This week's highlights

This has been a week of exciting news! One of our resident moms passed her learner’s permit test and her pre-GED tests allowing her to register to take the state GED exam! She’s thrilled that she'll be driving soon and that college is now within reach!

Unlike most of us, one of our resident moms was anxious to visit the MVA this week to get tags and title for her very own car provided by Second Chance Garage in Frederick. Not only does this organization donate vehicles to families in need, but their required basic car care and budgeting classes help each recipient to keep their vehicles on the road. For our resident family, this is one more step forward toward independence and self-sufficiency!

And one more highlight of the week was the phone call we received from the Knott Foundation in Baltimore of their generous grant award to Hope Alive to fund our case manager position - a.k.a. Family Ministry Specialist! We are so grateful for the Knott Foundation’s belief in our mission and partnership in our service to homeless families. We'll feature this foundation in an upcoming newsletter.

I hope you’ll plan to join us for our upcoming Visions for Hope event on Thursday, April 28th. This is our really fun annual silent auction of children’s artwork - including our own Hope Alive children - to benefit our child development programs. Check out our website and Facebook page for more information on ticket sales, entry forms for children’s artwork, and event sponsorships. Hope to see you there!

I hope you're following the news of the Board of County Commissioner's decision last week to relinquish the federal Head Start grant and turn over the operation of this program to a federal contractor. We'll keep you updated as we start to see the impact and fallout of their decision in the coming weeks. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, February 12, 2011


This week I was speechless. It doesn't happen very often and doesn't last very long, but this week there were just no words I could find to adequately describe the decision and comments made by Frederick County's Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) at Tuesday's work session regarding the relinquishing of the federal Head Start grant. As a result of the commissioner's 4 to 1 vote to relinquish the funding back to the federal government, the Frederick County Head Start program will be turned over to a new federal contractor effective March 1, 2011. Commissioner David Gray was the only vote against it arguing they were making a rash decision.

Here are the facts presented by County employees at the BOCC worksession. Frederick County's Head Start program has operated in the county for nearly 40 years as a federal grantee and is a nationally recognized model. It's a 10 month program now serving 282 three and four year olds who are income qualified based on the federal poverty level. This is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, and social and other services to enrolled children and families. The program employees 80 people and operates with an annual budget of $4,516,442 of which $2,223,451 comes from grant revenue including $2,003,686 from a federal Head Start grant. The county's contribution to run this model program is $2,293,093.

So by cutting this program, the savings to the county are $2.3 million which is the sole purpose for relinquishing the federal grant and all other associated grants.

What leaves me speechless is the decisions they made to relinquish the federal grant with seeming disregard to the impact on the children and families served. As of March 1, 2011, Head Start will be operated by a federal contractor as the interim operator (Community Development Institute Head Start - a Denver-based contractor) for about a year or more until a new contractor and federal grantee is awarded. Eighty county employees will loose their jobs effective February 28, but "hope" to be picked up by this new operator. I guess it's supposed to be comforting that this new operator will hold a "job fair" for these 80 employees slated to loose their jobs at the end of the month. These are not only "county employees", but teachers and advocates dedicated to serving disadvantaged preschoolers and families in Frederick County - including our very own Hope Alive children!

What leaves me speechless is that the BOCC believes the nationally recognized Head Start program won't be significantly impacted by the $2.3 million cut from county funding. With the move back to the federal government, funding will be limited to the $2 million federal grant, but the County Commissioners assured citizens that services for county children and families in the program would continue. The math doesn't work and and no program can sustain that
level of funding cuts and maintain the quality of its program and core services. In a meeting with Head Start parents Thursday night, the new interim operator warned parents that "without the county funding, he is unsure if all the services Head Start provides will be available when it takes over." It's also surprising that Commission Young believes that nonprofits should pick up this program. I guess he's not aware that nonprofits have been struggling to survive for the past three years to sustain critically needed county services that the government doesn't provide.

What also leaves me speechless is that all the preliminary discussion was done behind closed doors. Tuesday's BOCC worksession was the first opportunity for public comment on the proposed cut and parents and teachers only received word the day before that this program was up for final vote at Tuesday's work session. The interim operator is already at work transitioning the program back to the federal government. The cost for the county to relinquish the Head Start program is estimated to be between $650,000 and $695,000 to fund annual leave payout, severance pay, and unemployment insurance.

I'm sure most folks realize this is just not a preschool program, but it ensures every disadvantaged preschooler that's enrolled is prepared for kindergarten and has the best chance at school success. I speak and write often about the needs of very low-income including homeless children - even through this blog - and the great disadvantage they have compared to children from moderate income families. The Head Start program prepares disadvantaged preschoolers in Frederick County for school readiness and is used and needed as a supplement to Hope Alive's child development program to address the unique needs of homeless preschoolers and ensure they have the best start in school and chance for success in life.

And finally, what really left me speechless were the comments made by two of the County Commissioners in response to tearful parents' pleas to preserve county funding and operation of the program. I'll let their comments speak for themselves. I don't even want to reprint them here. I know the Commissioners' comments were not intended to be offensive, but they were. Check it out for yourself on the BOCC work session video at, the County press release at, and the Gazette articles at and The Frederick News Post articles are also available on their website.

It wasn't long before I found my voice again and I've been talking about it ever since. I'd love to know what you think. Better yet, let the Board of County Commissioners know what you think and let your voice be heard loud and clear! Thanks for reading. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, February 4, 2011

Moving forward toward hope and a future

For the past few months, one of our resident moms has been taking GED classes in preparation for the state exam. This week she took the pre-test exams and passed all the tests with flying colors! This means she can now register to take the state GED exam. Earning her high school diploma is one step toward her goals and dreams that will allow her to move on to college classes and pursue a new career. Prayerfully, she'll be proudly wearing her cap and gown this May at the Frederick County graduation ceremony. We can't wait!

One day on her way to GED class, this mom and Jody Julian (our Family Ministry Specialist) were chatting about her spiritual life and how God has intervened these last few months. In this mother's young faith and wisdom she said, "You never really know about God until you are really that down." God is intervening in her children's lives too. They are happy and well adjusted at Hope Alive and look forward to spending their days in our Children's Center. Just this week, the oldest of the two proudly sang the ABC song with another preschooler as we gathered for prayer. She was thrilled that her mom was there to hear her and beamed as we all applauded.

This mother's nightime panic attacks have now been replaced with peaceful sleep and she often speaks about the opportunities her family is blessed with now they have a secure, happy, and safe environment in which they can grow and thrive.

Please pray for this young mother as she prepares to take her state exam in the coming months. Pray for hers and every family who calls Hope Alive home as they dedicate themselves to important life-change and moving forward toward hope and a future. Thank you for walking this journey with us.

Let me know if you have any questions. I'll be happy to respond to them in my weekly blog or feel free to call or email me anytime. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, January 21, 2011

Healing from the inside out

Life change is the goal for our resident families which paves the way for them to permanently exit the roles of homelessness and experience self-sufficiency and hope of a future. Pursuing higher education, exploring new careers, and learning job readiness skills and effective money management - including debt resolution and savings - are all significant and measureable goals they need to accomplish. But the real life-change that God desires happens from the inside out. This is often the hardest work to do and for our moms it's the most painful and difficult.

Most of our resident women commit to this challenge in order to find true healing. This work involves exploring their personal faith journeys through a deepening relationship with God as well as identifying and addressing their emotional barriers to health and wholeness.

This week, four of our resident moms took a giant step in this direction by attending a "Walk Through the Bible" class at a local church. They signed up weeks ago because of their desire to know and understand more about God through His word. After dinner and clean-up, they packed up the van with all the children and headed off to church. In addition to their weekly worship attendance, this is a critical part of their journeys to healing from the inside out. I know God will meet them face to face as they desire to know Him and His Son Jesus.

Please continue to pray for our families as they dedicate themselves to this often painful life-change in order to find true healing and recovery and hope of a future. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More work to do

Today I was reading a National Survey from the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness. Some of the data for Maryland I was well aware of and reference it often when I speak to groups, but some of the data was surprising. Here are the facts that I think paint a bleak picture for low-income families in Maryland:

1. Nearly 25% of MD families are one-parent, female headed households.
2. The median family income in MD is $82,404 with an average income of $103,236.
3. The fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,102.
4. To afford this rent the income needed is $44,080.
5. Nearly 11% of children under the age of 5 and nearly 10% of children 5-17 in MD live in poverty.

(Source:, retrieved 1/13/2011.)

I guess the good news is that the national averages for children living below the poverty level are almost doubled that of Maryland’s. (Keep in mind the 2009/2010 federal poverty level for a family of 3 is $18,310.)

As I reflect on the data, I come up with more questions than answers. What happens to very low income families living at 30% of area median income? With a fair market rent of $1,102 and a needed income of $44,080 to afford this rent, how can a single parent/low income family survive? And where do they go to find affordable housing? I’m sure you’ll agree with me that one child living in poverty in MD – or anywhere in this wealthy country – is one too many, yet nearly 11% of children under the age of 5 in MD are living BELOW the poverty level.

One thing I do know is that the work of Hope Alive is critically important to transform the lives of single parent/low income homeless families. Without the ability to earn a “housing wage” and find healing from the inside out, their prospects of achieving and maintaining self-sufficiency and independence are questionable at best. There’s so much more work to do and I sense God is calling Hope Alive to do more in 2011 to meet these needs. I look forward to see where God will lead us in this New Year.

A quick update on our babies … our first baby (born in December) was joined by our second baby when he came home from the hospital this past Monday. Babies, moms, big brothers and sister are all adjusting well.

Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reclaiming the life of a child

In preparation for a speaking engagement today, I was reviewing data and information about family homelessness in America and in our own community. When I speak to a group I like to paint a picture of family homelessness highlighting the serious issue that it is not only across this country, but right here in our own backyard.

In 2009, the National Center on Family Homelessness published a study citing that one child in 50 is homeless in America. They go on to report that, “It is virtually impossible to reclaim the life of a child who has spent his childhood without a home.”

In reflecting on our own statistics, Hope Alive has served 34 homeless families including 64 children since opening our doors four years ago. These children have ranged from newborn to 17 years of age. We’ve not only had one newborn at Hope Alive, but three with the second born last month and the third scheduled for delivery tomorrow. I wonder what it feels like for a mother to bring her newborn baby home from the hospital when home is a “homeless shelter”. Our hope – and what we are called to do – is to help facilitate the life-transformation that God wants to bring to each family’s life so every child we serve will not spend their childhood without a home.

We know of many families who have left Hope Alive and returned to permanent affordable housing and are doing well. I just saw a former resident yesterday. This mother happily said her children were healthy and growing. Praise God! But for some, the cycle continues as mothers find that it’s too hard or too painful to embrace change. For their children, the cycle will continue.

Please pray for the youngest residents we serve. They are the innocent victims of this devastating problem that more and more families find themselves facing in this economy. We ended 2010 with a 49% increase in calls for help over the previous year. Our continuing economic challenges will only make the calls for help increase. BUT God is using all of us as His vessels to reach out to families in need to reclaim the life of every child. Thank you for your continued interest and support and may God bless you with a purpose-filled New Year! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director