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‘Big shoes to fill’

By SUSAN CRATON

Staff writer

The goal is a smooth transition. Beth Slick of Mechanicsville has been shadowing Cheryl Keen in her job since mid-September as Slick prepares to take over as executive director of Carenet Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland. Keen will be leaving the position Nov. 1 after 17 years at the job.

“I’m very excited,” Slick said during an interview with both women Sept. 25 at the nonprofit’s Lexington Park office.

Carenet’s mission is to provide “practical help, accurate information and lasting hope to women and families facing unplanned pregnancies and related issues,” Keen said. That assistance ranges from providing diapers, formula, clothing and equipment to mentoring for mothers and/or fathers to sonograms and STD and pregnancy tests. The center also offers abortion recovery support group weekends (the next will be offered the first weekend in December). Carenet offers client advocacy and information about all pregnancy options; however, it does not offer or refer for abortion services.

All Carenet services are provided free of charge.

Slick noted that she has “big shoes to fill” in taking over Keen’s position. “The legacy she is leaving is amazing, and I’m very humbled to follow in her footsteps,” she said.

“We interviewed for 11 months, and we interviewed some wonderful people,” Keen said. “There was a unanimous consensus that Beth was the right person.”

Starting in 2009, Slick worked at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown as a registered respiratory therapist and as the facilitator of the Better Breathers Club. Prior to that, she worked at the Catherine Foundation in Waldorf, a nonprofit similar to Carenet, and opened its ultrasound program. Until recently, she was a member of the Catherine Foundation Board.

She’s a runner. She’s a brand-new grandmother. And she’s a member of Living Word Community Church in Mechanicsville.

“My heart is for the community and helping hurting people,” Slick said.

Kenneth Senechal of California, chairman of Carenet’s board, said he was impressed with Slick’s background with the Catherine Foundation and with her enthusiasm for taking on the job. “We have confidence that she will to a great job,” Senechal said.

While Slick said she wants to keep all of Carenet’s current programs running smoothly, she also has some dreams for the future as she takes over the nonprofit’s top position. “I have a lot of ideas,” Slick said.

She talked about getting area Christian churches together for united purposes — spreading the gospel and sharing Carenet. She dreams of establishing a maternity home, where young mothers could stay and learn life skills, “to help them get their feet on the ground,” Slick said.

“If we help our families, I think it makes the world a better place,” she said.

As Keen prepares to leave the executive director position at Carenet, the most vivid memories she has, she said, are the people. “Clients, volunteers, staff, board members, members of the community ... That’s what I take away,” Keen said. “It’s been an amazing blessing.”

Keen said she has plans for once she leaves Carenet. “I have eight grandchildren all under 9. None of them are close by. So, I hope to be more available to them,” she said. In addition, she hopes to tackle a long list of projects at her home as well as do some writing.

Carenet was established in St. Mary’s County 22 years ago and was originally called Crisis Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland. “It has grown a lot,” Keen said.

The nonprofit started in a small office on Route 235 and then moved to the Exploration Buildings in Lexington Park, before relocating to its current location across the highway from Patuxent River Naval Air Station, between gates 2 and 3. Since then, Carenet has also opened an office in Prince Frederick and, three years ago, another in Leonardtown.

Keen noted that Carenet handles more than 300 visits from clients each month, now. “When I started, we would probably see that number of clients in a year,” she said.

Senechal said that Keen will be very much missed as she leaves Carenet. “I cannot put into words how fantastic a job she did for us,” he said.

scraton@somdnews.com



To learn more

To learn more about client services offered by Carenet Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland, see www.carenetsomd.org. All services are offered for free and are confidential. To learn about volunteer with and donating to the nonprofit, see www.friendsofcnpcsm.com. Call the Lexington Park office at 301-737-4604.