BERLIN – A local suicide prevention organized has received statewide recognition for its work in the community.
Each year, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot presents the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award to one agency in each county devoted to helping those in their community. The 2021 award for Worcester County was given to the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund for its work in suicide prevention education and support for local mental health services and training.
“We are delighted that the comptroller has chosen to recognize our work,” said Memorial Fund President Kim Klump, “but the real reward comes when someone says to us at a class, or at a community event, that we have saved lives and given others hope of a brighter future. Those kind words, plus the honor of this award, are the things that keep us committed to protecting other families from the tragedy suffered by mine.”
The Jesse Klump Memorial Fund was founded in 2009 following the death by suicide of a 17-year old Snow Hill High School senior. In the years since, the fund’s Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness & Prevention Program has become the leading nonprofit on the lower Eastern Shore focusing on suicide prevention, with a variety of services, classes and a support group for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.
In an interview this week, Klump said the nonprofit was notified earlier this year of its nomination for the Schaefer Award. She said her initial reaction was one of shock.
“It feels good to be recognized, especially after the year we’ve had …,” she said. “On behalf of myself and the organization, we would like to thank whoever nominated us.”
Corresponding Secretary Ron Pilling said the recognition was particularly meaningful, as it followed a challenging year that tested the mental health of many in the community.
“I’m sure those in the decision-making process realized how badly mental health and suicide prevention services were needed in all of this,” he said. “It’s a real honor to be recognized as one of the leading suicide prevention organizations on the Eastern Shore.”
Pilling also applauded community members for their role in promoting the organization.
“We want to thank everybody, not just the board members and volunteers and staff, but everyone in the county who helped us raise the visibility of the Memorial Fund and the importance of suicide prevention and mental health care,” he said. “They should be the ones getting this award.”
Officials with the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund said operating throughout the pandemic did not come without its challenges. As public engagements, classroom sessions and workshops were canceled, the organization turned to farmers markets and tabled events to promote their mission.
“The past year was difficult because we had to try and figure out how to reach the public during COVID …,” Klump said. “Like everybody else, we tried to learn new ways of doing things.”
Now, as businesses and schools reopen and activities return, Pilling said the Memorial Fund has plans to broaden its outreach.
Later this year, for example, the organization will implement a new program aimed at families of elementary-aged students that have experienced severe trauma. Officials say the pilot program begins next month, when they will begin training 15 local therapists who will implement the program in local schools.
“’Bounce Back’ is a proven counseling practice that, with the help of our partners at the Board of Education and the Health Department, will be in place in two Worcester County elementary schools, with the hope of expanding to every school in years to come,” Pilling said.
The organization will also host its 13th annual Jesse’s Paddle event on Sept. 18. The 2021 fundraiser will be held at the Pocomoke River Canoe Company in Snow Hill.
To learn more about the fund, including news about the 13th annual Jesse’s Paddle fellowship and fundraising gathering, visit www.jessespaddle.org.