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Hope Blossoms 2022: Meet Our Honorees
St. Ann’s congratulates upcoming Hope Blossoms honorees Judy and John Ritz, who will receive the Mary McGrory Advocacy Award at our May 11 event. This award is presented to individuals whose work brings attention to the needs of some of the community’s voiceless: homeless and vulnerable youth and young mothers.
The Ritzes’ contributions to St. Ann’s are part of their overall work in the region and beyond, having dedicated their time and attention to organizations including THEARC, N Street Village, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Life Connection Mission Haitian Outreach, Fair Chance, and the Trust for the National Mall, among others.
Judy and John, please tell us how you were first introduced to St. Ann’s Center.
Judy first learned about St. Ann’s when she worked as a nurse in the Montgomery County Department of Health in the 1970’s. “I got to know some of the young women who came in for health care during their pregnancies, and realized what a special place this must be,” she says. Both John and Judy knew former board member Nicola Whiteman, who in 2017 invited them to Hope Blossoms. “We were so impressed with the personal stories shared by the residents and Michael Steele. John and I were deeply moved by what we heard.”
What was the moment you decided, “I need to support this work?”
The Ritzes’ involvement with St. Ann’s deepened through “a wonderful evening at Hope Blossoms.” Soon after, they toured St. Ann’s and learned more about the work being done on behalf of vulnerable mothers and their children. “We decided this was a great place to support,” says Judy. John, with his background in property management as president of WC Smith, offered ideas for improved building operations and energy savings. Together they put in action plans to help the residents have the best living experience possible by funding residential living space improvements.
Judy partnered with Susan Norton and her firm, A Different Eye, to put everything together.
“We wanted to make the residents’ stay more fun and comfortable, with new TV’s, carpets, window treatments and furniture, and took Sister Mary’s advice on what was most needed,” she says. Added John: “We got involved with this project to help residents feel prouder about where they live, and to help them re-start their lives.” The end result were redecorated lounges and redecorated lobbies.
What’s been most gratifying to you as you’ve advocated for and supported the needs of our vulnerable young mothers and their children?
“The bravery and hope demonstrated by the young women and their children – women who are brave enough to share the stories of their own personal lives, but who speak for all residents. Their desires are universal: to have a better life for themselves and their children,” says Judy and John.
Judy adds, “I felt we should do what we can to help them feel better and to have a chance, and a choice for their children, and I think St. Ann’s provides that for them.”
What is one thing you’d most like for others to know about St. Ann’s Center?
“Nothing brings you back to the building more than seeing the smiles on the faces of the children living at St. Ann’s,” says Judy. “And I feel we can do that by giving support to their mothers, and seeing them get jobs and homes, and seeing the children smiling and knowing they are safe. It’s the first step on a long journey.”
John says it’s the importance of bringing St. Ann’s to the attention of a broader audience. “When people become aware of it, they are moved by how much is achieved on a tight budget. Your impact can be significant and can go a long way to helping them achieve their vision,” he says.
What advice would you give to others who wish to support St. Ann’s?
“St. Ann’s makes the most of everything they get. To say it’s worthwhile to be a contributor is an understatement. You can help change the direction in the lives of not only those young women, but their children, by having a direct impact on them,” says John. “When they walk in that door, it’s a loving, warm and welcoming environment.” Judy recommends more student service school projects at St. Ann’s: “It is an outstanding example of faith, hope and charity at work. I would invite others to come and take a tour or write a check to support St. Ann’s!”
*5/6/2022: An earlier version of this article had an error. Kammie and Scott Bell renovated the kitchens and other parts of St. Ann's residences.