Bruce L. Baker is co- founder and Executive Director of Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER). Bruce has led CHEER’s efforts to facilitate a community strategic plan, conduct research on community housing and health conditions, and facilitate community improvement actions to address community priorities through collaborations and partnerships. He is also a co-founder of the Takoma Foundation, a local community foundation that raises money and funds local initiatives that strengthen community and improve quality of life in Takoma Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. Bruce has lived in Takoma Park for 25 years and frequents Sligo Creek Park as a runner, hiker, and occasional biker to appreciate the beauty of the flora, fauna, and friends he finds there. He shares his home by the creek with his wife Mary Lee and enjoys adventures of the mind, body, and spirit with her and close friends.
Before co-founding CHEER, Bruce was an independent consultant with broad public policy experience in public finance, housing, and community development. He reported on state fiscal policy issues, contributed to the development of legislation and regulations on workforce housing and inclusionary zoning, assisted nonprofit and community based groups in developing affordable housing, designed and conducted quality assurance reviews of child support enforcement programs for the State of Maryland, and provided research and analysis to assist neighborhood revitalization projects.
He is a former evaluator and policy analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office where he advised the U.S. Congress on fiscal and economic policy issues. At GAO he developed a framework for analyzing public investment programs, and led a team to advise Congress on this issue. He also participated in a Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board task force on accounting for human capital, research and development in the Federal budget, and wrote a report on capital budgeting in the federal budget that influenced federal budgeting policy.
Director of Health Programs
Kelly Umaña joined CHEER in April 2021 serving as the Community Health Programs Manager. In her role she leads a team of 5 community health workers in designing and implementing public health programs that create equitable opportunities for quality health care access in the community. She currently oversees a wide array of programs including, but not limited to, COVID-19 vaccine access and health education, the Long Branch Healthy Food Access Program, Point of Entry Project, and Case Management. In addition, she holds a significant role in advising the Mid Atlantic LatinX Vaccine Equity Coalition community health worker training and outreach strategies.
Her passion for the health of the community stems from her own experiences growing up in Silver Spring, MD as a first generation Latina. Her parents immigrated to the United States from El Salvador and saw the many challenges and barriers that her parents endured when she was a child that still exist today. This led her to pursue a Bachelors of Science in Public Health Science and a Masters of Public Health in Public Health Practice and Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park. She currently serves as a Board Member at Large for the Maryland Public Health Association. She also obtained her certification as a community health worker from the Maryland Department of Health. Kelly believes that healthcare is a human right and that everyone should have the opportunity to thrive in their community.
Kelly has a longstanding background in various public health professions in the non-profit, private, and government sector. She has designed, managed, and coordinated integrated behavioral health programs in states such as Arkansas and Louisiana which addressed behavioral health care gaps. She has led the public-private partnerships in neuroscience to develop clinical trials in Alzheimer’s Disease and Schizophrenia. In 2016, she coordinated the development of a national resource tool in supporting diversity and reducing health disparities through the Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children Program at the Division of Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development under the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
In her free time, she loves to spend time with her husband, 2 children, and 3 (yes 3!) fur babies Luna, Lilo and Benji.
Empowerment and Leadership Development Program Director
Vanesa is the organizer of all CHEER programming involving community building and networks of support in Long Branch. Before finding her passion in community organizing, Vanesa was an accountant in Bolivia. She is proud to have been that in profession and equally proud to have left it behind as she credits her initial career path as the trigger motivating her to leave Bolivia and find her passion in the United States.
Very grateful for the skills she already acquired and eager to continue learning, she volunteered in different community organizations and elementary schools in Silver Spring advocating for the school community. She has also been teaching Literacy in Spanish to adults for the last 4 years (YMCA Program-LTL).
She proudly can say now that her mission in life is to instill hope and desire for a better quality of life in a conscious and participative community that strives for the common good.
Ray is a consultant with CHEER; his title is Operations Coordinator. For over four years with CHEER, Ray has been the food distribution coordinator for the LBHFAP, the volunteer coordinator and the operations coordinator. Ray retired from a career with the US Department of Agriculture. Afterwards, he operated farmers markets in Takoma Park, Long Branch and Forest Glen