Today I drove in to work the same way I drive everyday: from Lutherville, through Towson, Stoneleigh, Belvedere, and the blur of neighborhoods that I am sorry to say I do not know the names of. And I’ve never bothered to learn.
Even now, some three years after becoming involved with a community-based organization that is in the most materially depressed parts of Baltimore, I still don’t know the names of all the neighborhoods I travel every day.
There’s always room to grow.
I drive in to work these days wondering and worrying–wondering what is the next step for the City of Baltimore, and worrying that there isn’t one, or (perhaps just as ineffectually) that there are too many in divergent directions. As Jim Collins would say, the good can be the enemy of the great. Having spread myself too thin for decades, I’m a firm believer in going deep before going wide.
Today as I drove in I also thought of Kira (a pseudonym). Kira is a young lady I met over the past two months in a group I participate in called Let’s Thrive. This group is a financial mentoring small group experience for parenting female youth (yep, you read that right, parenting youth is a real demographic), who reside at the Geraldine Young Family Life Center in the now infamous Baltimore City zip code of 21217. It’s a nine-week program offered twice a year at Geraldine Young. And it needs to grow. I worry about its growth.
Back to Kira. Kira is an amazing young woman. She’s a single mom and obviously very young. She’s younger than my oldest daughter, who is home from her sophomore year in college. She runs a household, earns money, attends school, takes care of her toddler son, and comes to Let’s Thrive every week, hungry for conversation and listening.
Let’s Thrive provides conversation and listening. The volunteers are not financial experts, but they use a vetted curriculum for a discussion of financial principles that promote well-being in all facets of life. One topic we talk about extensively is that money is emotional.
We usually start out by recalling our earliest memories of money. I remember mine well. My parents had divorced, and I wanted a skateboard. I had it in mind–a new, cool, early 1970s plastic skateboard (OK, it was cool at the time). I begged for one. Somehow I knew the money wasn’t flowing quickly at that time, yet I begged anyway. My mother told me we couldn’t afford it, but eventually she caved and bought me a wooden one.
And I was not thankful.
Today, that is what I remember, that I was not thankful, despite the sacrifice my mom made for me. I still feel the twinge of guilt related to that childish moment. I was, of course, an actual child, so my reaction is understandable, yet the guilt lives on.
We all have a first memory of money, and it is often hinged directly to how we currently relate to money and others when money is at hand (or not at hand, as the case may be).
Kira’s was a remarkable story–sad, and related to issues of abandonment and parental dynamics. It is too private to share.
What impacts me most about Let’s Thrive is that these lovely young women have such decidedly grown up stories about money, relationships and how one impacts the other. Too grown up, and it makes my heart hurt for them. But they are striving to overcome these situations and are moving into thriving. They pay rent, they have jobs, and they have accountability within their transitional housing experience. And they are, to me, children themselves with adult responsibilities who are rising above what outsiders may see simply as their “lot in life.”
I worry that, in Baltimore, whatever momentum, sad as the source may be, will be lost if we don’t find and support the successful organizations that were there in 21217, are there in 21217, and are committed to being there in 21217.
I have committed to raising funds for the provider of the Let’s Thrive curriculum and program, HopeSprings. Why? Because they were there, they are there, and they will be there.
The week before the unrest in Baltimore, Hope Springs sponsored three events in 21217, one the night before the most serious unrest. One of those events was Let’s Thrive. Another was an inter-generational HIV education and training at St. Martin’s Church of Christ (see the cute picture below), as well as another community event at Druid Heights Community Development Corp. at North & McCullough.
HopeSprings was there, is there, and will be there. As a member of the HopeSprings Development Team, the first-ever group assembled and focused on raising awareness and donations to support its vital mission, I am excited that we are half-way to our financial goal of raising $40,000. We are poised for success and could use your help with a donation of any amount to further build capacity and encourage greater volunteerism.
Here is how your gift could impact the City of Baltimore. For example:
- A gift of $500 trains 40 individuals in HIV 101, thus providing education out to a community where everyone is affected by (or infected with) HIV (the statistics and the related effects of HIV are harrowing; check them out here and here).
- A gift of $25 a month would help enable Let’s Thrive to replicate itself in other transitional housing organizations in 21217 and the City.
- Consider a recurring gift if that is possible, as that helps HopeSprings build capacity steadily and steward its resources in the most responsible way.
HopeSprings is a lean, mean organization. They do a lot with a little. It’s time to empower those organizations that do a lot with a little so they can do a lot more.
They were there, they are there, and they will be there.
To donate, click here.