This year, Frederick’s Child marks its 30th year of publication. This accomplishment is no small feat for this local parenting magazine. Whether you read us in print or digital form, Frederick’s Child wouldn’t be Frederick’s Child without the commitment and dedication of its founding publishers Donna and Roger Strong.
The Strongs had no intentions of becoming magazine publishers. If it wasn’t for a spur-of-the-moment decision in the 1980s to pick up a bingo magazine at a grocery store, you wouldn’t be reading this issue of Frederick’s Child.
Curiosity in the bingo magazine got the better of them. After some research, Donna and Roger discovered that more than 500 bingo games were being played regularly within a one-hour to 90-minute radius of Frederick. These bingo games served as major fundraising sources for nonprofit and civic organizations, such as the American Legion, Eagles Club, Elks Lodges, churches, synagogues and more. But the only ways bingo enthusiasts could find the games were through a few ads in newspapers, word-of-mouth and signs in front of buildings.
Recognizing a community need, Donna and Roger created Bingo Bulletin in 1988. This free magazine for bingo players was distributed at bingo games in parts of four states for 22 years. In each issue, readers could discover bingo game locations and special game offerings.
Prior to publishing Bingo Bulletin, Roger worked as an insurance agent for 13 years. Before becoming an insurance agent, he taught high school for five years. Donna worked for an attorney. Although the couple didn’t have formal writing or photography training before starting Bingo Bulletin, they soon acquired publishing knowledge and skills by learning on the job.
Donna and Roger visited the bingo games to photograph and write articles about the players who believed bingo was an enjoyable family activity for grandparents, children and grandchildren. They especially liked sharing stories of fire companies and their new fire engines, rescue trucks and ambulances purchased from money raised through the bingo games.
Pursuing a Parenting Publication
As they witnessed the growth and positive reception of Bingo Bulletin in the communities the magazine served, the Strongs thought carefully about another growing segment of Frederick’s population: parents. Where could new moms and dads go to find information and resources for raising their families?
“We liked having niche magazines and felt that a parenting magazine would be helpful to parents as a resource guide,” Roger says.
Building on their Bingo Bulletin experience, the Strongs decided to leave their jobs to become full-time magazine publishers. In 1991, they published the first issue of Frederick’s Child.
“It was an instant success,” says Roger. “Many businesses were interested in advertising in the magazine and some wanted to write articles. We got great feedback from parents saying they learned a lot from the articles and found many things they were looking for … the doctors, child care centers, schools, classes, camps and events offered by the advertisers.” Some of these businesses and individuals are among the founding advertisers.
From the beginning, child and family professionals, including attorneys and educators from the Frederick County area, penned articles for the magazine. “Local professionals liked contributing their expertise and offering helpful information to parents,” Donna says. “Later, we added some writers who provided articles to parenting publications across the country.”
Donna and Roger worked together on each issue. She handled business development and sales, cultivating relationships with the advertisers. Roger managed circulation and deliveries. “He did most of the delivery of the magazines and loved it when both advertisers and parents got excited seeing each new issue,” she says.
Producing Frederick’s Child was a labor of love that Donna and Roger engaged in wholeheartedly.
“When we first began publishing, photos had to be turned into halftones and pasted in place. Color pages had to be separated,” Roger says. “At some point, magazines started to be done digitally on desktop computers. Although intimidating at first, we found it made publishing much easier.” The introduction and development of the internet gave Frederick’s Child a web presence in 2010.
Old Friends, New Horizons
Publishing a magazine is a lot like raising a child — it requires attention and nurturing to help it grow and develop. For 28 years, Donna and Roger were devoted to helping Frederick’s Child become the most trusted parenting resource in the Frederick County region.
“Our favorite memories,” Donna says, “are the experiences we had with the many people we met throughout the years. Many of our advertisers were in the magazine for many years, and when we spoke with them, they felt like old friends. We often think about them, and one of us says to the other, ‘“Remember when …’”
Many of those “old friends” still recall the relationships they built with Frederick’s Child.
“Donna is one of a kind,” says Sue Mogard, owner of Educare Learning Center in Jefferson. When she moved to Maryland from Iowa to take a position as director of an early childhood program at Frederick Country Day in 1996, Mogard spent time calling different businesses and organizations to learn about resources for children in the community.
When she discovered Frederick’s Child and was introduced to Donna for the first time, Mogard quickly recognized the value of the magazine for Frederick-area parents.
“Actual parents who moved to this area could pick up the magazine and see what Frederick is about in regards to children,” she says. “As a child developmentalist, the magazine gave me great insight into who and what was out in the community.”
“Frederick’s Child has been a strong partner with Hood College for the past three decades as we’ve educated students from pre-K through to our doctoral program,” says Laurie Ward, vice president for marketing and communications at Hood College. “Donna and Roger Strong’s vision with this publication ensures that Frederick families have access to the knowledge of all that the community offers.”
The Strongs further connected Frederick’s Child with their community by setting up the magazine’s booth at many local events.
“Two of our favorite events were the annual Children’s Festival, where we had a booth with a giant bubble-making machine for the kids to play with, and the Children’s Health and Safety Fair and Safe Kids Bike Rodeo, where we gave out Tiny Ties, which men, women and children loved to receive,” Donna says.
After 28 years of publishing Frederick’s Child, the Strongs decided to enter a new phase of their lives—retirement. With this decision came another: What should happen with Frederick’s Child? The magazine meant so much to the couple, and they wanted to find a way to have it continue after their retirement.
The couple’s youngest son, Robert, made a call to Mid-Atlantic Media (MAM) CEO and publisher Craig Burke. MAM’s publications portfolio includes three parenting magazine titles: Baltimore’s Child, Washington FAMILY and MetroKids, which MAM acquired earlier this year. After several meetings and discussions, Frederick’s Child was officially welcomed into MAM’s family of publications in 2019.
Ever dedicated to ensuring the best for Frederick’s Child, Donna offered to assist with the transition of the publication’s management to MAM.
“We’re happy that Mid-Atlantic Media and its staff have added fresh ideas, a new look and a tremendous amount of internet and social media presence,” Roger says.
Today, the Strongs are enjoying their well-deserved retirement. But their connection to the magazine continues. Donna says she’s still referred to as “Donna from Frederick’s Child” when she’s out and about in the community.
“We are grateful to the businesses that supported the magazine by advertising in it, to the local professionals who wrote the articles for many years and to the photographers who provided many beautiful photos,” she says. “We appreciate the parents who read the magazine, sent in photos of their children and had so many wonderful comments about how the magazine helped them. We could not have done it without all of them.”