HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — During the pandemic, so many families have faced new, daunting challenges that have affected children. One community lifeline is helping to take these challenges head-on with, what might be called, “proactive intervention.”

The challenges may be financial, medical, mental health. But the pandemic has taken these challenges to higher levels. The Bester Community of Hope in Washington County — an initiative of San Mar — brought specialists from Colorado and New York to the Maryland Theatre Thursday to share professional perspectives on how to meet these challenges head-on.

Jen Younker with Bester says it’s really pretty basic. “Focusing and prioritizing on prevention, one caring adult can make all the difference in a child’s life,” said Younker.

Participants in the community workshop delivered powerful messages of love, compassion and nonviolence. Arun Ghandi is an international best-selling author who related the oppressive struggles of families in Apartied South Africa.

“There are super big social problems that impact all of our neighborhoods and the ideas are if we can get to those earlier and try to think about the things that work better ultimately we’ll have better outcome for those situations,” said Keith Fanjoy with San Mar Family & Community Services.

And those better outcomes will take involvement from mentors in the community, A project the Bester Community of Hope is eagerly taking on.

“We have a suicide prevention committee, and if that’s of interest to some folks we’ll make the effort to get them connected,” said Younker.

The whole point of this conference, Fanjoy explains, is anticipating challenges before they become a challenge. The Bester Community of Hope can facilitate that by pulling the community together ahead of time.

“At the end of the day a lot of dollars are put into problems after they’ve happened,” said Fanjoy. “What if we put that money into those problems before they started?”

Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the two gunmen responsible for the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, also addressed the conference. She is a passionate advocate for pro-active mental health community programs.

The bottom line here is to identify the early warning signs of a crisis among children and youth and deliver the intervention. Most recently, the Bester Community of Hope has focused its attention on south Hagerstown with initiatives to address child abuse and neglect, the rise of substance use disorder and mental health counseling.