PARKVILLE — With only a few weeks left before school, Rosedale resident Jada Dubose and Parkville resident Nura Hill paid for 100 backpacks to give away to local schoolchildren. It was the first outreach effort for their newly created program, “Lifting Stigmas and Changing Lives,” which offers help for community problems, mental illness and substance abuse.

“Some people are having a hard time and can’t afford to get school supplies,” Dubose said. “Our mission is to help, and we are trying to reach that base.”

After they posted on social media about the giveaway, donations of school supplies started rolling in from family and friends, and to give it all away, they decided to hold a “Back-to-School” event with free food and live music on Aug. 19 outside of their office space on Harford Road in Parkville.

One of the goals of the program, Dubose and Hill said, is to connect with and help schoolchildren from low-income families, along with other vulnerable groups, including ex-prisoners, the elderly and those experiencing homelessness.

“Mental health was not something that was discussed when I was in school,” Hill said. “We want to have a safe space for students to talk about down days and feel their feelings, and help families learn about resources outside of the home.”

The program, Dubose said, also aims to “change narratives” about stigmatized groups, particularly with those with a history of drug use or addiction.

“Substance abuse affects not only the person using but the whole family dynamic,” Dubose said. “Our organization has a niche for providing substance abuse counseling.”

What sets “Lifting Stigmas and Changing Lives” apart, they said, is that Dubose and Hill both have master’s degrees in social work that allow them to look at things from a different perspective, including human interaction and behavior.

“We see life and situations from the surface,” Hill said. “We want to holistically serve each individual and not just ask why someone feels a certain why.”

Both said that they make a good team, because Dubose tries to find the root cause of why someone is feeling a certain way, and Hill tries to figure out how to improve the situation.

“Jada is more of the ‘let’s talk through it’ type of person, and I am the fixer,” Hill said.

“I am the root, and she is the branches,” Dubose said.

Dubose and Hill met in college in 2016 and found that they had similar interests in mental health promotion and substance abuse prevention. In January of this year, they decided to start a program that focused on both and go through the process to obtain accreditation. Now, as an accredited program, Dubose and Hill are trying to build a presence for it in the community.

“Our mission is to reach as many people in the community as possible and hopefully provide for change,” Dubose said.

In a couple of weeks, Dubose and Hill said, they will begin to plan for what’s next for the program, and they expect to hold more drives, particularly during the holiday season, to give back to the community.

“We like to show others that they are appreciated by us and not just a number,” Dubose said. “If our donation drives reach one kid who would have gone to school without a book bag, at the end of the day, that sits well with me and my heart.”

If you would like to donate to “Lifting Stigmas and Changing Lives,” email Nura Hill at n.hill@lscl.org, or visit the organization’s office at 8409 Harford Road to drop off donations

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