Running Strong

It’s been a hell of a year for The 6th Branch.

The second full year of our Operation Oliver initiative has been greatly characterized by success. We finished our first major project – the Bethel St. Playscape and Garden, and capped it off with a warm and fun celebration to honor the community, the nation of supporters who made it happen, and the children who sat in the driver’s seat the whole way through. We launched the Oliver Farm Stand, enhancing access to fresh, healthy produce in Baltimore courtesy of Gather Baltimore. We broke ground as well on the Oliver Farm, which, beginning Spring 2014, will specifically benefit Oliver residents who lack proper access to food. We also organized the second annual Global Day of Play and Cardboard Challenge in Oliver, and were once again amazed by the creativity displayed by the young people of East Baltimore. We’ve made significant inroads into the community, and taken great strides to bridge the trust gap between T6B and community members and leaders.

It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing, though; we’ve weathered a few storms this year. I’m confident that we’ve come out on top each time, too. More importantly, not once have we come close to sacrificing our personal or organizational integrity, which we absolutely cherish. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve taken strides to reinforce our organizational structure this year as well, and are primed for a sustainable future. We’ve created and cultivated new partnerships full of promise and reinforced existing relationships based on mutual respect and love for Baltimore City, as well as the veteran community at large. Each one of us has created new, lasting friendships and strengthened longstanding ones through our work. Suffice it to say, T6B and our family are running strong.

Everyone needs a change of pace occasionally and The 6th Branch is no exception. With that in mind, and to punctuate a successful year for T6B, we’re stepping out of East Baltimore this Veterans Day weekend and heading to General Joseph Haller American Legion Post 95 in Fells Point for a service project on Saturday the 9th. True to form, however, this will not be a one-off project without follow-through. We don’t do that at The 6th Branch. We’ve got big plans for Post 95, and our Nov. 9th Veterans Day project is just the beginning. The veteran community in Baltimore City is strong. Unfortunately, there isn’t a place in Baltimore designed to facilitate networking opportunities for individual veterans. Similarly, there isn’t anywhere for the multitude of veteran focused nonprofits and other veteran leaders to promote their organizations and services. Our goal is to make Post 95 that place: a local/regional hub for veterans and veterans organizations alike. In keeping with our collaborative spirit, we have invited our brother and sister organizations to join us on the 9th to begin the task of turning Post 95 into a resource for all veterans.

The coming year promises to be just as exciting as 2013. T6B will make improvements to the Bethel St. Playscape and add an adjacent mountain bike park to complement it. We also look forward to operating a fully functional farm site, and possibly developing plans to grow the operation to more than one site. In addition, we will continue our work to revitalize Ambrose Kennedy Park in the neighboring Johnston Square community. Through these projects we will continue to make the personal connections that are necessary for our Operation Oliver initiative to succeed and build into 2014 and the future with energy, intelligence and attentive response to needs within our shared community.

As always, we are nothing without our extended family and amazing legion of supporters and I would not be able to list a single one of T6B’s accomplishments this year without them. We’ve got plenty of work ahead of us, though. We need every single one of you.

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