CAPITOL HEIGHTS – State officials showed a lot of love to Mission of Love Charities last Friday. Comptroller Peter Franchot presented the Capitol Heights-based nonprofit with the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award in recognition of the impact it has had on the community. The award, begun by Franchot in 2012 to honor public service […]
CAPITOL HEIGHTS – State officials showed a lot of love to Mission of Love Charities last Friday.
Comptroller Peter Franchot presented the Capitol Heights-based nonprofit with the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award in recognition of the impact it has had on the community.
The award, begun by Franchot in 2012 to honor public service in Maryland, is given to one honoree in each county and Baltimore City. Schaefer, a former comptroller and governor who passed away in 2011, was well-known for his personal commitment to helping those in need.
“He was known for ‘do it now,’ he was known for representing the little guy, he was known for always opening his wallet up if someone approached him in the street. He really believed in strengthening the community through individual, small acts of kindness,” Franchot said.
Gov. Schaefer’s tombstone simply reads, “He Cared,” Franchot said, a motto exemplified by Mission of Love.
“This organization is represented by those two words, and I think it’s entirely appropriate that they’re given this award because of the unwavering commitment of this organization – not just to Prince George’s County – but also to citizens wherever they walk through the door,” Franchot said.
State Sen. Joanne Benson, who represents the area, was also present to praise Mission of Love.
“I am immensely proud. I told myself, ‘I’m coming over here because it’s important.’ It’s important for Reverend (Douglas) Edwards and the staff and the community to know that I have a heart for the Mission of Love,” she said.
Delegate Angela Angel also sent a representative with her congratulations.
The honor also coincided with the organization’s 25th anniversary, and staff members used the opportunity to unveil a portrait of Mission of Love founder Dr. Edwards, a former federal government employee and a pastor. Edwards was humble in accepting the honors.
“I really appreciate this. I’m almost lost for words,” he said. “There has been a lot of great people that have supported this organization. The only thing I can say is thanks to all of you.”
Mission of Love provides donated food, furniture, clothing, school supplies and other needed goods to no and low-income people. But Edwards said those are only part of the help his nonprofit provides. After intake interviews, the individuals are given counseling, financial literacy, training and more to put them in a position to support themselves later on.
“We don’t want them to have to be struggling all of their lives. We move from there into finding out exactly what their needs are,” Edwards said. “We have a training program because some of them need life-skills training, need other kinds of training to elevate them to a level of where they become self-sustaining. We’re sort of a one-stop place to try to help a person to go from rags to riches.”
And Mission of Love has helped its volunteers and staff members as well, whether by making them feel good about helping others or realizing their own strengths. The first executive director, Vanessa Bright, said that was how the organization helped her.
“(Edwards) actually gave me an opportunity to step into a position that was very new for me, so he helped me develop some skills that I didn’t know I had. So I’m very grateful for that,” she said. “I always tell people that’s my greatest job.”
But the path hasn’t been easy for Edwards and Mission of Love. He began running the charity out of his own home, and then moved to a small warehouse about one-tenth the size of its current building on Old Central Avenue.
Bright said the organization has had to shutter its doors multiple times due to financial constraints.
Benson and Franchot both called on the state government to provide more aid to Mission of Love.
“We’re a rich state, a wealthy state, but we have all sorts of needs. We’re not perfect, we have flaws, and we need those flaws addressed,” Franchot said. “What you do saves the state money, but importantly it does so much good.”
But Edwards says that hardship won’t stop him from continuing in his work, which he said stems from a promise he made to God upon retiring from the government.
“I would, from that day forward, devote my life to helping others. And that’s where I am right now. I want to help people. That’s what it’s about,” he said.