For years, Brenda Glenn of Fort Washington has used her background in grant writing and consulting to assist others, helping them form their own various nonprofit organizations.
But after seeing too many youths grow up without career aspirations or knowledge of how to apply to colleges, scholarships and jobs, Glenn, 52, cashed in some of her retirement savings to start her own nonprofit, The Changes Foundation, a mentorship organization all about "making changes today for a better tomorrow."
Glenn, who works as director of operations for a Washington, D.C., government relations firm, said she has spent more than $15,000 thus far in creating the nonprofit — renting office space in Camp Springs, purchasing equipment, building a website, and developing mission statements and operational plans.
"It's all due to my son. I'm a single mom and I wanted to make sure he didn't fall into the streets, so I kept him in programs and sports and volunteered as a coach for his little leagues," she said of her son, Jeffrey Rogers, who is now 23. "As he got older, he started making friends and I said, 'Let's see what I can do.'"
The foundation was launched this year, though core programs for students will not start until January. Prior to the launch of the programs, she spearheaded a Thanksgiving canned food drive with other foundation organizers. She said the drive, which served families in need in Camp Springs, Upper Marlboro, Capitol Heights, Oxon Hill, Suitland and District Heights, was a way for the foundation to get acclimated to the area while serving the community.
"We're already prepared for the students to come in, so we said, 'OK, there's stuff we can still do. Even if we don't have the students, we can still get out into the community,'" she said, adding that the drive brought in enough to fill 12 baskets of food.
The foundation, according to Glenn, offers youths from eighth grade through high school free weekly opportunities to learn new skills, become entrepreneurs, study for college testing and learn about scholarship opportunities.
"The kids we're targeting are in underserved communities that may be in trouble with different things going on," Glenn said. "This shows them that it doesn't have to stay like that. It can be better."
For example, students will first learn how to work a heat press used for embroidery, led by Changes Foundation president and director of programs James Williams, who owns Camp Springs-based custom clothing business Changes Collection. Similar projects involving different skills will be held throughout the year.
Kenya Moore, a legal secretary from Upper Marlboro, is the foundation's director of community outreach and said she will be helping students learn about preparing for college and what it takes regarding SAT testing, college admissions and scholarship applications.
Moore said having Glenn lead the group is an encouragement to students.
"She shares the same passion I have for kids," Moore said. "... We thought of each of our own personal resources that we can use collectively to make a difference for everybody."
Glenn said they have partnered with various businesses, including Washington, D.C.-based brand and media agency Got Crank Media.
"The challenge for us is to keep it creative. But we're going to make it fun and show them things that they want to do," said Eric Hinnant, director of marketing for the foundation and president of Got Crank Media.
Hinnant said Glenn is giving children the tools they need to succeed.
"She's the perfect person for this. She's compassionate, she's patient, and that's what you need for this, and she was it," Hinnant said.
The foundation is now accepting student applications to kick-off the program. Students must have a 2.0 GPA or higher and must fill out an application to be a part of the program. Those interested can apply by visiting www.thechangesfoundation.org or calling 301-358-1997.