Meet Our Board: President, Candace McLaren Lanham

Candace McLaren Lanham was elected President of the Calvary Women’s Services Board of Directors in October, after three years on the Governance Committee. Candace will join the new administration in Maryland in January as Chief Deputy Attorney General working with incoming Attorney General Anthony Brown. Pending her upcoming admission to the Maryland bar, she will serve as Chief of Staff. When she’s not working or serving with Calvary, she is fully focused on her family, which includes her toddler son, Kai. Calvary sat down with Candace to talk about her experiences and hopes for Calvary, both now and in the future.

What drew you to Calvary Women’s Services?

The past President and I were in a group for women lawyers of color and she put out a call for anyone who might be interested in joining the board. I had newly returned to the area from New York and was interested in finding ways to get grounded and involved again. It sounded like an amazing organization that spoke to the issues I had seen as a prosecutor when I was handling a great deal of domestic violence and sex crime cases. I saw how homelessness and many of the issues that can lead to it – such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, underemployment, a lack of educational opportunities, mental illness, and domestic violence – are the same things that Calvary was seeing in its homeless female population and working to combat from a holistic standpoint.

Calvary is not just about putting a roof over someone’s head. It’s about addressing the whole woman. And I loved that. I loved that because so many of the domestic violence and sex crimes victims with whom I’d worked at the Manhattan DA’s Office had come from unstable environments marred by child abuse, poverty, neglect, poor self-esteem, and poor educational opportunities. As Calvary understands that nexus, I knew it was an organization that I could really get passionate about.

What do you think the future holds for Calvary?

We want to continue to spread our footprint to make sure that we have additional beds and a variety of residential offerings for the women in our programs, depending on where they are in their lives and the issues with which they might be dealing. We constantly challenge ourselves to make sure that we don’t get complacent; to make sure that we are being the best that we can be so that we can continue to serve these women every day, to the best of our ability.

And, of course, we’re also very excited that Our Hope Awards event was held in person once again, after being relegated online by the pandemic for two years. It’s one of our major fundraisers and it’s always a really good time so that is something that will always be on Calvary’s agenda.

Why do you think the work that Calvary Women’s Services does is so important, particularly now?

As we talk about possibly heading into a recession and what that means for people who are at or below the poverty line, I, unfortunately, believe that we are going to see our homeless population rise. Most homeless organizations are geared towards men or women with children; very few are geared towards single women on their own. That often leaves women in very dangerous and precarious situations. Organizations like Calvary are even more important now because the stakes are higher. I think things are going to get even tougher for a lot of people.

We have to be ready to meet all the unique challenges that society is now handing us from a racial standpoint, from a political standpoint, from an economic standpoint. Calvary doesn’t just put a woman in an apartment and expect her to somehow thrive; it really works with her to address the underlying issues that lead to her homelessness so that, when she’s placed in a home, she’s equipped to hang on to it for the long term and grow, and then grow out of it and into another one.

If you could think of one word to describe Cavalry what would it be and why?

I really think it would be “transformative.” We help women find or re-find their best selves and give them a leg up in a way that not every organization does. And it’s certainly not to knock other organizations that are more about meeting the woman in the moment. We just try to be more long-term in our approach and in the help that we give.

The organizations, businesses, and corporations that have partnered with Calvary are beyond integral to this whole process. We’re so indebted to the help that we’ve received from the community and beyond – especially with the past two years being so hard on so many people.   It really is a testament to the goodness that there still is in society.

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