Eastern Shore Freedom Rowers Met with Governor O’Malley on Monday, March 22nd

Freedom Rowers, an Easton-based youth rowing team that attracts area athletes from the sixth through twelfth grades, met with Governor Martin O’Malley on Monday, March 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm at the State House in the Governor’s Reception Room on the second floor.

The purpose of the visit was for the rowers to present the Governor with thank you notes as a result of the State of Maryland offering the team State Tax Credits through their Community Investment Tax Credit program. The importance of this tax credit is twofold. First, it marks the first year that the tax credit is being extended to individuals, whereas in the past, only businesses could take advantage of the program. Second, Freedom Rowers is the only program in Talbot County this year to be granted the right to extend a tax credit to donors.

The State awarded Freedom Rowers participation in this program so the organization has the ability to encourage community-minded individuals (as well as businesses) the opportunity to invest and support the rapidly-growing, community-focused, and youth-enriched team. Individuals or businesses that donate to the team can earn tax credits equal to 50 percent of the value of the funds contributed. These tax credits are in addition to deductions on both Federal and State taxes as a result of the charitable contribution. Based on the income and tax structure of the individual or business, the net cost of the donation could be as low as $0.27 for every $1.00 contributed.

Diana Lobien, head coach, explains, “This tax credit provides Freedom Rowers an incredible opportunity to raise much needed funds for equipment, staff and promotional efforts to continue to get our name out in the community. So far we have attracted 36 team members (32 rowers and four coxswains) to our program from seven schools that are in Talbot and Queen Anne’s Counties. We are looking to expand our program to 120 rowers so that we can create racing teams from each school so that the rowers will be able to participate in scholastic regattas. Collegiate coaches scout their new recruits from scholastic regattas, which are not open to racing teams with rowers from different schools. For example, an eight-person shell (that also includes a ninth seat for the coxswain) can be as much as $20,000. The ability to say that we can offer an individual or business this tax credit in exchange for a donation to the team strongly supports our planned fundraising efforts.”

Regarding visiting the Governor, Emlyn Mackenzie, team captain (who also presented the Governor with a team sweatshirt) says, “It was such an honor for all the Freedom Rowers to meet the Governor and present him with our individual thank you notes. Each of us had the unique opportunity to shake his hand, give him our personal note and have a photo taken. Governor O’Malley was so great in talking to each one of us individually and asking different questions about the team, our schoolwork and community activities. It was an experience of a lifetime for all of us.”

Governor O’Malley was impressed by the hard work of the team and extended an invitation for the entire group to visit his personal office where they were also able to see first-hand the Wye Oak Desk, which by coincidence, the father of a previous team member was part of the effort that made the desk. After learning some of Freedom Rowers’ achievements to include a recent team up with the after-school program, Building African-American Minds, to teach young African American boys how to swim so that they can tryout for the team, Governor O’Malley said to Coach Lobien, “This team is an incredible group of kids. They obviously give back to their community and are worthy of the tax credit.” When addressing the team as a whole he promoted to stay loyal to the team and continue to work hard in school, as education is the basis for future success.

About Freedom Rowers
Freedom Rowers (http://www.freedomrowers.org) is an Easton-based youth rowing team for sixth through twelfth graders that was established in 2004. Currently, the team has 36 members from seven Talbot and Queen Anne’s Counties schools and is led by head coach, founder and veteran rower Diana Lobien. Indoor training takes place each winter at the YMCA of Talbot County with spring training being on the water with launches out of Evergreen Cove Holistic Learning Center in Easton. Freedom Rowers welcomes rowers from Talbot and surrounding counties. A strong competitive team, Lobien instills a sense of teamwork, pride, challenge, success and community support and partnerships in all the rowers. To learn more about Freedom Rowers or the team’s meet with Governor O’Malley, contact Mary Ann Henker of The Henker Group, at 410.253.7023 or mahenker@thehenkergroup.com.