Starboard Society

The EWE Spirit Foundation is proud to have recently provided a grant to the Starboard Society, a Maryland-based nonprofit organization that helps working people like Mary Preston:

This spring, when the right side of Mary’s body went numb and she grew so dizzy that she

couldn’t stand, her wonderful network of friends was there to take her to the emergency room

and support her recovery. What they couldn’t help her with was the devastating impact the

stroke had on her financial well-being. Her physical and cognitive debilities prevented her from returning to work for five months. A single mom working on commission for a furniture

company, which had already experienced a big hit from the pandemic-related supply shortages, she didn’t have enough savings to continue paying her rent during her recuperation.

Mary Preston and her daughter.

Mary’s retired parents paid for one month’s rent, but she couldn’t lean on them any more than

that. “They’re on a fixed income. That was their retirement savings,” she explains. “It was so

stressful wondering, ‘How am I going to pay my bills? How am I going to buy groceries?’”


Within another month, Mary’s bank account was drained. Like many workers at that time, she

applied for unemployment benefits, but the process was slow and discouraging. Because

commission checks continued to trickle in, she didn’t qualify for any other forms of assistance.

It took her first unemployment check three months to arrive. In the meantime, though, a friend

told her about Starboard Society, a nonprofit dedicated to providing short-term, high-impact

assistance to Maryland working families experiencing financial distress caused by sudden and

unexpected tragedies. After Mary completed their application process, it was only a matter of

days before the organization provided relief. Starboard paid two months of her rent directly to

her landlord.


Without this help, Mary says, “I do not know how I would have kept my house!”


This is one of many stories about people who have benefited from Starboard Society’s timely

support. The organization helps those who fall into the gap between unemployed people who

qualify for various other assistance programs and people who have existing resources to tide

them over during financial crises. (Because Mary’s employer was generous enough to hold her

position open until she was able to return to work, she met Starboard’s criterion for being

employed.) As Cindy Atkinson, the nonprofit’s president and cofounder, says, “Our mission is to help working people who are doing the right thing but don’t have a cushion to survive

unexpected setbacks. We often get the call at the eleventh hour, for example, from people who

are about to get evicted.”


The all-volunteer organization pays vendors directly, on a temporary basis, for their clients’

living expenses, such as rent, mortgage, car insurance, and auto repair bills. It also connects

clients to other available programs and resources for which they might not have known they

qualified.


After weeks of physical therapy, Mary is looking forward to going back to work. “I have a job

that’s fun. I’m a people person and love doing design work. I want to see people!” Now she is

trying to pay the favor forward: “I want to volunteer and help others the way I was helped.”