For Black History Month, the AFRO presents a series of articles highlighting important local heroes. We start off this week with Shannon Morgan and Valarie Matthews, two sisters trying to make a difference in Northwest Baltimore
Catherine’s Family and Youth Services is a family run non-point organization founded by Valarie Matthews, 25, and Shannon Morgan, 34, in the memory of their late grandmother, Catherine Matthews. CFYS provides family assistance and youth outreach to low-income and minority families in impoverished neighborhoods within Northwest Baltimore.
Families receive help with basic needs, such as rent and utilities, clothing banks, and food pantry’s. In addition CFYS, accommodates families with job referrals and resume assistance to help families obtain employment.
“It is important for us to give back in order to help others, especially these particular neighborhoods because their basic needs are overlooked. There’s talented and smart individuals within these communities, we hope to contribute to those who go unnoticed,” Morgan told the AFRO. “We want to be a sense of hope and safe haven to those who seek to achieve a better quality of life and family,” Matthews added.
Youth between the ages 11-17, within the 21215 zip code of Northwest Baltimore are the targets of CFYS’s youth development programs. CFYS provides year around access to programs varying from health education and wellness programs to afterschool programs.
CFYS was founded in March of 2015. The two sisters organized a community trash pickup, collecting over nine thousand tons of trash in the Park Heights and Belvedere community. Just before winter began, the organization donated hats and gloves to multiple elementary schools, and for the holidays provided toys and Christmas dinner for minority families in the Park Heights area.
The charity from CFYS doesn’t stop there.
Mathews and Morgan are advocates for real community changes that will empower and educate minority families. They both recognize the many community problems and aims to be closely engaged with families and residents.
“We are noticing the boundaries of trust and the disconnect between the community officials and residents of Park Heights. Residents don’t have a sense of hope and belongingness; they don’t even feel safe. We want to create relationships and make residents cognizant of our services. We must tackle simple concerns in order to create change and confront larger issues within the Northwest community,” Morgan said.
Both Matthews and Morgan are present within the community. The two actively attend community association meetings and team up with local organizations to help better the Northwest communities.
“The residents are embracing our efforts, they know who we are and they know we are trying to create change with positivity. We’ve been able to partner up and meet other non-profits; it has made this journey humbling,” said Matthews.
Both sisters, along with other local organizations, intend to promote and improve unity between the Park Heights communities. With unity throughout Park Heights, advocacy opportunities for bigger problems can be addressed.
Their immeasurable work ethic and outstanding dedication to help minorities makes Valerie Matthews and Shannon Morgan, from CFYS local community unsung heroes.