On MLK Day 2012, I volunteered on a cleanup project with The 6th Branch (T6B) in the Oliver neighborhood in Baltimore. After the project, then- Executive Director Rich Blake gave me this OpOliver coin. It meant a lot to me. It showed the character of the organization, the value they placed on a volunteer.
Originally, I thought of T6B as a cool way to spend some downtime. A place to go, put my head down and sweat. I’d done the math—they were invested in our shared community. They had shit that needed to be picked up, I had arms. I wanted to show up, work and leave the thinking for my career. T6B was uncontroversial and it became my gym.
Eventually, we stopped picking shit up and started building it.
So I kept showing up. And because I have a mouth, I started talking. Deeper conversations were had, deeper connections made. I became a board member based on mutual convictions about character and the city we live in.
So last Friday, after…
…the successful completion of the Bethel Street Playscape and Garden
… a year of helping provide residents with free local produce
… countless late night conversations
… entirely too many emails of five or more paragraphs
… a few respectful arguments that never ended in the phrase “agree to disagree”
… about a million local Baltimore beers
… a phenomenal 4 hour shift on a Bobcat leveling ground for the Oliver Farm (which is flatter than planet Earth circa the year 500 and on its way to being a fully functional 2-acre farm in the middle of Baltimore City in 2014)
… and a successful GiveCorps campaign to raise funds for 60 rain barrels in Oliver (all of which are bought and most of which are in place)
… I jumped out of a plane with this coin in my pocket to hold up my end of the deal.
Thank you T6B, Rich Blake, Dave Landymore, Stephanie Region and too many more people to possibly mention without oversight.
T6B was my gym. Now it’s my family.