Voices for the Voiceless: Alumni Lobby for Nonprofits

Three members of Class of 2001 speak up for vulnerable Marylanders

By Magazine Staff  |  Photo by David Rehor
Group Shot

Lobbying for a nonprofit organization may sound like an oxymoron. For three members of Loyola’s Class of 2001, however, the role comes naturally.

“When I say I’m a lobbyist, sometimes I get a look as if that is a dirty word. Then I say I lobby for Catholic Charities,” said Regan Kelley Vaughan, ’01, director of social concerns and parish social ministry for Catholic Charities of Baltimore. “The connotation that comes with ‘lobbyist’ doesn’t always match the work we do.”

That work—which Vaughan is doing alongside two former classmates this spring during the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session—involves trying to influence policies and shape a state budget that will support their organizations’ clients and others they identify as vulnerable Marylanders.

This is Vaughan’s second session, the sixth for Melissa Chalmers Broome, ’01, MBA ’05, senior policy advocate for the Job Opportunities Task Force, and the fifth for Beth Giordano Morrow, ’01, who is director of public policy and education for the United Way of Central Maryland.

Although each organization has its own goals for the session, they share some common ground.

“We have similar issues,” said Vaughan.

PRESERVING A SAFETY NET

A political science major at Loyola who was involved in what was then the Center for Values and Service, now the Center for Community Service and Justice, Vaughan interned with the Irish Senate while she was studying abroad in Ireland. After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law, she worked as a judicial law clerk for then-Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Kaye Allison.

Last year, during Vaughan’s first session, her largest victory was preventing the elimination of a housing program for people on the verge of homelessness. The original budget called for ending the program, but Vaughan organized a coalition that managed to have it reinstated—though at half the funding.

“This year bills probably aren’t going to pass if they cost the state money,” said Vaughan, who is married to Chris, ’99, MBA’ 09, Loyola’s director of planned giving. “We realize cuts have to be made. At the same time you can’t cut from the social safety net because the most vulnerable are affected by the recession.”

The state budget is always a large issue for nonprofits. “In Annapolis it seems that advocacy always begins and ends with the budget,” Morrow said. “Especially with the downturn in the economy, a lot of the programs are at risk of being cut. Our job is making sure legislators know how the cuts are affecting real people.”

Morrow has seen how public policy work has changed in a depressed economy.

“Ten years ago we were talking about expanding programs and bringing preschool programs to children who had never had them before,” Morrow said. “Now we’re talking about making sure there’s no waiting list for childcare, or no reduction in childcare services. We’re just trying to hold on to the gains that we’ve made.”

As a sociology major at Loyola, Morrow was also involved in the Center for Values and Service, working as a student coordinator for a middle school tutoring center and volunteering in a Head Start program for low-income children in Baltimore City.

“I said I don’t really want to be a teacher, but I do want to do something to bring about systemic change,” said Morrow. “Our mission is to mobilize the community to improve people’s lives.”

FOSTERING CHANGE

Broome thought she would find a career at a nonprofit, but not in policy work. A communication major with a minor in business, Broome was involved in the Center for Values and Service, running an afterschool program for children who were living in poverty in East Baltimore.

“The experiences through the Center and through Project Mexico change the way you see the world. Loyola taught me how important it is to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice,” she said. “I was convinced after my four years at Loyola that I wanted to be in the nonprofit sector and help foster change for vulnerable people.”

While pursuing her MBA at Loyola, Broome received a Kolvenbach Summer Research Grant to study issues related to low-wage workers in Baltimore. That work led her to a position at Catholic Charities, where she met people at the Job Opportunities Task Force.

“When you’re working in the trenches as a service provider and you see the issues every day that people are up against, you realize that change needs to take place at a much higher level,” said Broome, who is married to Shaun, MBA ’08.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS

In 2008 Broome stood and watched Gov. Martin O’Malley sign into law one of the biggest bills she has ever worked on, the Flexible Leave Act. The law, which she and others lobbied for two years before it finally passed, requires Maryland employers to allow workers to use their sick time when their children, spouses, or parents are ill. The new law is projected to have helped more than 500,000 workers throughout the state.

“The job can be incredibly challenging and frustrating at times because you’re often dealing with things that are beyond your control,” Broome said. “But when it works and when you are successful, there’s nothing like it.”

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