In the mid-1990s, Montgomery County leaders were tasked with revitalizing Silver Spring but early on realized that there was no input of opinions from the diverse residents. Traditional civic meetings were alien and uncomfortable to these residents so Montgomery County leaders thought there needed to be new ways to make decisions. It was under this mentality that IMPACT was born.
The Montgomery County leaders that were a part of the “Silver Spring Community leadership Initiative” first set up a pilot multicultural leadership program that began with 8 participants in 1999. The program was renamed “IMPACT Silver Spring” in 2001.
Today, the organization works with Neighborhood Opportunity Network to connect families in crisis with people or organizations that can help them with their issues. It also provides young people with access to sports and other activities through the Long Branch Athletic Association. There are currently 180 children participating in soccer and basketball in the program. The third, and “most exciting”, initiative that IMPACT is working on is the Family Asset Building Network. It is a new program that is supporting organizations creating social, economic, and civic momentum.
“The three together will help people reach and fulfill their potential,” said Ronnie Galvin, Executive Director of IMPACT Silver Spring.
IMPACT recently held its Momentum Awards, which is held every year in the Spring to honor people in the community who are working on building thriving communities.
Jose Dominguez, executive director of Pyramid Atlantic, won the “social momentum” award. In the “social momentum” category, IMPACT was looking for organizations or people that build support and trust in the community. Galvin commented that Dominguez was an outstanding leader that was “using art to bring people together and build a community”.
El Rosal Sewing Cooperative won the “economic momentum” award. IMPACT was looking for leaders in work and job training. El Rosal has been able to build trust and confidence with each other and in the community. One of women involved was a seamstress in Central America and taught the others in the program to sew. The women now send money home, have a shop in Long Branch, and hire other women in the area. El Rosal is a “wonderful example” of microenterprise and IMPACT is looking to replicate it in Silver Spring, according to Galvin.
The “civic momentum” category is defined by process of making decisions that affect the community like voting and PTA meetings. Lyttonsville Community Civic Association won the award for this category. It is an organization that has mainly dealt with a “marginalized group” and has done a stellar job of reaching out to the community, according to Galvin. The organization not only participates but also owns the decision making process.
The winners were not chosen by IMPACT but by a separate committee from different aspects of the community, that received the nominations and selected the winners.
It was not without some difficulties, however. It was a “highly competitive process” and the selection committee had a “spirited dialogue to select this year’s winners,” said Galvin.
IMPACT has relied on strong sponsors like the Adventist Healthcare, Salvin Family Foundation, and the American Beverage Association to keep it going. The award ceremony also serves as a way to reestablish talks between groups and show sponsors what IMPACT is projecting for the year.
“We had a goal of raising $40,000… [IMPACT is] pleased to report that, in tough economic times, we were able to achieve that goal,” said Galvin.
IMPACT will continue to serve the community and the organizations making a difference.
In a community that is made up by a myriad of people and cultures, art can be a common thread.
Pyramid Atlantic had its origins in Baltimore, where artist and educator Helen Frederick wanted to create a space for artists of print and paper to create work. She opened up a place in 1981.
As there was more demand for educational programs, the organization grew. It moved to Washington D.C., then to Prince George’s County, and finally to Silver Spring in Montgomery County.
Jose Dominguez, executive director of Pyramid Atlantic, explained that the organization does “everything from providing a space for artists to create work…to providing arts education in schools as well as in [the] center.”
The studio was built to create a space in Silver Spring for people of different artistic abilities to come together.
Printmaking and papermaking, two skills taught at Pyramid Atlantic, serve as ways for a group of people to communicate with the rest of the world, according to Dominguez. While some people choose painting or sculpting, those who partake in printmaking or papermaking do it to communicate “what is important to them”.
Pyramid Atlantic has a strong presence in the community. It offers some free classes for kids and has some of the lowest prices in the DC metro area. There is also a competitive scholarship for aspiring artists.
“The great thing about Pyramid is that everybody comes here and [they] have a love for this and that’s what defines [them],” said Dominguez.
However, Pyramid Atlantic is not just a space for the experts. It is very accessible and even if someone has never made paper, they can easily jump into a class on papermaking. “That is empowering. That is about learning and growing…and people feel good about it,” according to Dominguez.
While there are many places to go and see art, like the gallery at the Silver Spring Civic Building and Montgomery College, which offers art education, Dominguez believes that Pyramid offers a “place where people of different abilities can come together.”
Dominguez recently won an IMPACT Silver Spring award for social momentum. The award has since garnered increased interest for Pyramid Atlantic.
“I felt very honored…The thing that was most humbling about it was that it was given by an organization that serves so many in front of a room of people that help many,” Dominguez commented on winning the award. He felt it was the highest compliment he could receive.
Dominguez was hired four and a half years ago. He had lived in Silver Spring since moving there with his wife in 1998. At the time, Pyramid Atlantic was looking for a new executive director as the old one was retiring.
Dominguez applied because he was looking for a place in the community where he could help. He had a background in art and eventually went through the interview process and was hired.
“I found a home here and in a way it’s everything I always wanted. It’s a creative home.”