The summer heat may be just starting to sizzle, but community engagement at the Wills Group is ablaze with activity. After thoughtful consideration, our Community Impact Committee has identified seven nonprofit partners and projects to receive Wills Group Corporate Community Engagement grants totaling $450,000. Each project provides crucial food resources to Mid-Atlantic communities in need and reflects our commitment to Nourishing Children and Families, one of our Community Engagement Signature Programs.   

Our second Community Engagement Signature Program, Reimagining Outdoor Spaces, is also turning up the heat. Our team has been making strides in revitalizing Tanglewood Park in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and we can’t wait to share with you the latest progress.

We’re also pleased to announce that for the third consecutive year, the Wills Group received the Washington Business Journal’s 2023 Corporate Philanthropy Award, ranking #14 in the mid-size company category for our giving in the greater Washington D.C. region. This recognition underscores our dedication to giving back and highlights our commitment to making a difference in the communities we serve. We are honored to be recognized on this prestigious list and humbled by our staff’s remarkable dedication to community engagement and charitable giving.

Grant Recommendations: Addressing Community Needs

The Wills Group, and our Dash In and Splash In locations, remain deeply committed to understanding the needs of the communities we serve. We take a hands-on approach when it comes to community engagement, not only providing grant funding but also actively participating in the selection process. 

Our Community Impact Committee conducted a comprehensive assessment of the region’s food assistance landscape. They aimed to understand the ongoing and prolonged need for food assistance, as well as opportunities to support sustainable access to food.

As the cost of living rises and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits decrease, more individuals and families struggle to put food on the table. Recognizing this pressing issue, the Wills Group has allocated $450,000 in grants for seven nonprofit organizations that address both immediate hunger concerns and long-term solutions to combat food insecurity. 

Each partner organization has demonstrated exceptional accountability, integrity, and previous successful application of grants from the Wills Group. Specific programs such as school pantry initiatives, nutrition education, food delivery services, and fresh food distribution for children are highlighted as areas where the grants will make a significant impact.

The organization and supported projects are as follows:

Maryland Food Bank – The funds will support the Pantry on the Go program for the 2023-2024 school year and the FoodWorks class. Maryland Food Bank distributes millions of pounds of food and meals across the state. 155 schools participate in the Pantry on the Go program, which ensures that children and their families have access to food. The FoodWorks program offers culinary training and job placement assistance for low-income young adults.

Capital Area Food Bank – This grant will assist in food purchases and support their nutrition and garden education programs. Capital Area Food Bank distributes 41 million meals annually and aims to provide nutrition education to elementary school students through its garden and outdoor food studio. By expanding the program, more students will learn about sustainable food production and sourcing.

Food Bank of Delaware – The funds will aid innovative food delivery efforts and the development of a community farm. The Food Bank of Delaware has transitioned to a primarily mobile food distribution model, utilizing a partnership with Amazon for meal deliveries. They are also building a new facility that will serve as a community gathering place and provide access to fresh food.

Feed More – This grant will support nutritious food distribution for students through Feed More’s new Kids Market Bus program. Feed More focuses on reaching children and families with limited food access in Virginia. Their Weekend Backpack program serves 1,500 students per week, and their School Market allows children to “grocery shop” for fresh and nutritious foods. Their new program, Kids Market Bus, will introduce mobile markets for children to access fresh and nutritious foods.

Lifestyles of Maryland – This grant will support the purchase of water and food for over 60 families in Nanjemoy who lack access to groceries and running water. Lifestyles of Maryland continues its efforts to ensure access to food for vulnerable communities in Southern Maryland.

Farming 4 Hunger – Farming 4 Hunger focuses on increasing food production in Southern Maryland through their college-based greenhouse gardens and chicken-raising initiatives. This grant will be used to purchase a commercial freezer/fridge that will keep food fresh while it waits for community distribution. 

Southern Maryland Food Bank – The Southern Maryland Food Bank continues its outreach programs to serve isolated and resource-limited communities. Due to the closure of most partner food distribution sites, they have expanded their Meals & Hope mobile meal truck program, providing around 150 meals per week. The program rotates its site locations weekly to reach diverse regions. In addition to food, they also provide basic necessities. Funds from the Wills Group will support their Snack Sak program, which provides food to children who face hunger when school is not in session. 

Other Ways the Wills Group is Giving Back This Summer

In addition to the $450,00 in grants distributed this summer, the Wills Group and our family company Dash In donated $20,000 to Melwood, a leading employer and advocate in Charles County, Maryland, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Camp Accomplish – the organization’s fully-inclusive and accessible summer camp for children with and without disabilities. The Wills Group was honored to be the title sponsor of the 25th Anniversary event held on June 17, which brought community leaders, families, and donors together to reflect on the invaluable impact of Melwood’s approach to inclusive and empowering camp programming. We are also planning a cooking demonstration and workshop at Camp Accomplish later this summer with celebrity Chef Spike Mendelsohn.

Progress at Tanglewood Park

Tanglewood Park, a community project initiated by the Wills Group as part of our Reimaging Outdoor Spaces Signature Program, has made substantial progress toward its transformation into a vibrant and inclusive space for all. The local park is undergoing a comprehensive revitalization to enhance its accessibility and amenities. The Community Impact Committee is pleased to report the following progress and next steps in this reimagined park space:

  • To engage the community in the process, the Wills Group organized an artist meet and greet event, inviting local artists to contribute their creative ideas for the park’s revitalization. 
  • To ensure a fair and thorough evaluation of the proposed art installations, the Wills Group formed an Art Review Committee comprising community members, local art experts, and representatives from the Wills Group. This collaborative approach allows for diverse perspectives and ensures that the chosen design aligns with the community’s feedback and vision.  
  • We are also thrilled to have secured paint donations and roller covers from Sherwin-Williams. These donations provide substantial cost savings and have allowed us to do more with the funds already allocated. 
  • We provided an additional investment to add an ADA accessible path from the parking lot to the court and installed brand new benches for seating throughout the park. 

Looking ahead, on Saturday, July 8, we will host a Community Day at Tanglewood Park, in which we will officially unveil the revitalized park to community members and partners. We are grateful for the employee and community volunteers who helped with the transformation of the park. It’s a great way to support an important cause while getting outdoors and building camaraderie.

More About Keeping Lives in Motion 

Community Engagement work at the Wills Group is focused on addressing food insecurity for our most vulnerable neighbors and creating vibrant outdoor spaces that people can be proud of. We achieve this through grant-giving, employee volunteering, and in-kind giving of management resources, such as those required to spearhead the Tanglewood Park refurbishment. We are proud to give back to the communities we serve, and are continuously inspired by our employees who continue to drive this work to ensure our communities have access to the resources they need to move toward their goals and dreams, what we call keeping Lives in Motion

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