New Mediation Center board members are striving for peace

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Special the Dorchester Banner/Mid Shore Community Mediation Center
Mid Shore Community Mediation Center’s Board of Directors, from left: Jim Adams, Jack Donahue, Jan Hardin, Cynthia Jurrius, Linda Webb, Alisha Johnson, Broughton Earnest, Deborah Halvis and Kason Washington.

EASTON — Mid Shore Community Mediation Center has four new board members with a big goal for the small organization — world peace. Judge Broughton Earnest, Deborah Halvis, Jan Hardin and Alisha Johnson all have stepped up to three-year terms on the board of directors, helping to guide an organization dedicated to a peaceful method of resolving conflict, whatever the scope of the dispute.

They join in their board service President Linda Webb, Treasurer James Adams, Secretary Jack Donahue, Members Dion Banks and Kason Washington, and Executive Director Cynthia Jurrius.

Now retired after six years on the Talbot County Circuit Court, Judge Earnest has seen that mediation can be a better way to resolve disputes than litigation. He described the process as a win-win situation, where parties at odds are able to resolve problems faster and at less cost than going through the court system. Approximately 70 percent of the cases referred to Mid Shore Mediation from the courts reach full or partial agreement.

“The biggest benefit,” Judge Earnest added, “is that a settlement requires both parties to agree. The agreement can’t be forced on them, which happens with a judge or jury. When they have the ability to decide their own fate and determine their own destiny, they are far happier with the outcome.”

Alisha Johnson brings to the board her experience in helping people reach the common ground that leads to that agreement. A Fine Arts teacher in the Dorchester County Public Schools, she also serves as a building representative for Dorchester Educators, acting as a liaison in bringing teacher and staff concerns to the Board of Education.

She emphasizes the importance of enhancing local awareness of Mid Shore Mediation’s work. “This is a free service to people who truly need it,” she said, adding that, even as a small organization, it speaks to the larger issue of achieving unity and peace within the community and throughout the world.

Judge Earnest, too, sees mediation’s benefits going beyond the individual parties and extending to the community and beyond. He would like to explore ways to broaden the organization’s reach within the Mid-Shore to try to prevent situations like Baltimore’s ongoing violence from occurring here. “Our community is plagued with problems the same as others,” he said. “Mediation can play a terrific role in addressing them.”

A key tool in creating a culture that reaches out for mediation before violence erupts is teaching youngsters the conflict resolution skills that can last a lifetime. Mid Shore Mediation has been working to do that with its “Peace Teams” in the Dorchester County Public Schools, and Judge Earnest hopes to help extend that program to the other school systems in the organization’s service area, those of Talbot and Caroline counties.

Expansion of its services into the other school systems would be one more step in Mid Shore Mediation’s rapid growth since its founding in 2005. In addition to youth and school-related activities, its range of free services to the community now include parenting plan and elder mediations; resolutions of parent-teen, workplace, landlord-tenant and neighborhood disputes; small claims; public policy facilitations and more.

Most of these services depend on the generosity of volunteer mediators in donating their time and passion to the effort. A trained mediator herself for more than three years, new board member Jan Hardin describes her fellow volunteers as “amazing individuals,” adding, “It’s not a job; they aren’t doing it for pay. It’s coming from the heart. I feel privileged to be working with people like these.”

She especially appreciates the positive effects for families from parenting-plan mediations. “It’s wonderful to be able to give this opportunity to people who don’t have the financial means to settle these things,” she said. “We try to work past the hurt, anger and pain so prevalent in parental breakups and help children weather that instability.”

Sustaining the expansion of Mid Shore Mediation’s services requires more than just an increase in the number of those dedicated volunteers. It also requires the financial support of the community it serves.

Happily retired from a 35-year career working in development and philanthropy with various nonprofit organizations and universities, Deborah Halvis is focusing on using her fundraising skills to build that community base of support.

As the new chair of Mid Shore Mediation’s Development Committee, Halvis understands the challenges of competing with more than 400 other Eastern Shore nonprofits for contributions. In explaining how to present the organization’s mission to donors, she said, “If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be? To find a way to resolve conflict. It touches everyone at all levels of their lives, from the individual to the world.”

Board President Linda Webb welcomes the enthusiasm and varied perspectives these four new members bring to Mid Shore Mediation’s board. She applauds the continued efforts to recruit individuals representative of the various communities the organization serves, and who have diverse talents that will support its efforts.

Ms. Jurrius added her appreciation for the support. “Our entire staff is so thankful to be working with this outstanding Board,” she said. “They bring great depth and diversity of experience, as well as commitment, energy and heart to this important work.”
Ms. Webb noted that goals for the organization identified in recent strategic planning included broadening its sources of case referrals to ensure the organization is addressing community needs; focusing on fundraising from individuals and businesses to supplement grant funding; reviewing operations to make sure there is adequate support for the staff; and engaging volunteers, whether as mediators or in other capacities.

However, the new members also describe a broader goal to their service. As Deborah Halvis explained, “We need to show what an investment in mediation can mean for the community and the country as a whole. We really are raising money for world peace.” For more information on mediation, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mediator, call Mid Shore Community Mediation Center at 410-820-5553 or visit www.midshoremediation.org.

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