There has been no shortage of challenges we have all faced over the past year and half. From the public health crisis and tragic losses of life, to the disruption of daily routines, to economic struggles, to physical and social isolation, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested all of us. For the Horizon Foundation, one of the things we missed the most was being able to connect with our community and bring people together at events and other gatherings. The pandemic forced us to get creative and learn new ways to make and maintain relationships with each other and with the broader Howard County community.
Though we continue to navigate these uncertain times, we are thankful we were able to host two virtual community events recently that allowed us to collaborate with other organizations and showcase the importance of supporting one another – our Mental Health Film Festival and the 2021 Changemaker Challenge.
The Mental Health Film Festival is always a favorite event of ours, but this year was even more special thanks to partnerships with seven community organizations who served as co-hosts: Oakland Mills Online; Howard County Chinese School; Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County; Temple Isaiah; Howard County Autism Society; Columbia (MD) Chapter of the Links, Inc.; and Alston for Athletes. These groups hosted the screenings for each film and led community discussions with filmmakers and other leaders. Together, we connected with over 1200 attendees to highlight important issues related to mental health and come together to learn how we can all best support the mental health of our community.
The Changemaker Challenge also brought together an incredible group of organizations dedicated to advancing positive social change in Howard County. Ten finalists competed in a Shark Tank-style competition where they pitched their big ideas to make our community a better place – from supporting mental health and people with disabilities, to improving our local environment, to empowering women and girls of color and more. The live virtual event reached over 700 community members, and Alston for Athletes, The 3rd Inc., Kits to Heart and the Community Ecology Institute took home grant money to help bring their big ideas to fruition – you can read more about them and their projects here.
The Changemaker Challenge is a collaboration with United Way of Central Maryland, the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County and the Community Foundation of Howard County – the same groups we have worked with very closely through our COVID-19 HoCo Respond grantmaking. These partnerships have not only been crucial in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, but continuing to work together has also allowed us to scale up our efforts to empower more local groups and residents to get involved in important issues facing our community. Simply put, we go farther when we work together.
Connection with others is something we have learned never to take for granted again. As we reflect on another year marred by the pandemic, we are grateful for our incredible community that is committed to making Howard County a better and healthier place for all. Let’s keep searching for ways to safely connect with one another, bring people together and support each other.