Building stronger communities through mentorship, advocacy and disaster relief

Published Dec. 11, 2013
Baltimore District employees provide mentorship, advocacy and disaster relief to their communities

Baltimore District employees provide mentorship, advocacy and disaster relief to their communities

From sensitive Santa and whitewater rafting to football and post-disaster relief work, the employees of the Baltimore District are giving back and building stronger communities every day.

Throughout December we will highlight employee efforts to make their communities healthier, happier, and more resilient. Inside and outside of work their shared passion for enriching the neighborhoods around them lends inspiration to the workforce.

“I get back so much more than I give,” said Arthur ‘Santa Jim’ Flinn of the personal enrichment that his volunteer work provides.

When a Texas fertilizer plant exploded earlier this year, Santa Jim and his fellow Texas-based Santas travelled to the devastated area with more than 3,000 gifts in tow for children affected by the blast. Each Santa was paired with one of the 350 children who showed up, walking them around tables piled high with toys and ensuring that they left with board games and stuffed animals.

Flinn not only acts as a “second responder,” as he calls it, but provides monthly support to charities that serve children with critical health issues. He has teamed up with a local grocery chain and a women’s auxiliary group, which in turn provides snacks and hand-quilted blankets, respectively.

Creating robust teams to support community efforts is something that another one of our employees – Steve Brown – is practicing on a daily basis. Brown, whose three sons have autism, has helped build a nonprofit organization that functions across multiple states with help from coworkers, friends, family and complete-strangers-turned-partners.

“Social change is about building relationships based on trust and cooperation so that your mission is more sustainable in the long run,” said Brown.

He sees strengths in everyone and recognizes that the skill of one can help sustain the work that his group is trying to accomplish. Whether it is the coworker who can paint, or the neighbor that has carpentry skills, each person has something that they can contribute, said Brown.

It’s not just the adults he views this way either.  

“These kids have talent, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to build upon that strength,” said Brown of the special needs youth that built their Halloween parade float from the ground up.

One young man, and an avid drawer, contributed the dragon design for the float. 

Brown has already turned his attention from one holiday to the next. As the winter holidays approach, new opportunities to develop relationships with the community present themselves. Further down the road, Brown churns out ideas for how to support the youngest and oldest members of the organization through future endeavors.

The future is a deadline that another employee – Mikell Moore – is increasingly aware of.

“I’m only going to be in these kids’ lives a moment, but hopefully that will change their lives forever,” Moore said of the time he has to teach and coach the young men who have become like sons to him.

Moore started out looking for a local football team for his son to join. Within a few weeks not only had his son signed up as a player, but he himself had become a coach.

Moore quickly started working with his players as much on the field as off.

He realized that some of his kids were coming to practices and games hungry. This led him to host a weekly Sunday dinner where everyone pitches in to prepare a healthy meal – from scratch. These dinners not only provide sustenance to growing bodies, but also impart valuable life skills.

Sunday is a time to cook, to watch football, but also a time to study, said Moore. He mentors his players about the subjects that they struggle with most. Further, the players with more proficiency in a subject go on to help their teammates to build skill and confidence.

Mentorship is a passion shared by Moore’s colleague Ingrid Bauer – another District employee – who has been affiliated with the Girl Scouts since she was a child.

As an adult Bauer has volunteered with the Scouts to put together science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) events and chaperone trips that include camping and whitewater rafting. 

“I organize events for girls so that they can interface with women in STEM, have role models and see it’s something they can do,” Bauer said.

Last year, Bauer involved her Engineering sorority by making videos to answer girls' questions about studying and working in STEM fields. Initiatives like this create positive images of women in science and the workplace. Additionally, they not only serve to foster a zest for the sciences but also instill a sense of confidence in the girls, according to Bauer.

Her passion for STEM outreach is shared by numerous colleagues who lend their talents to events reaching thousands of K-12 and college students annually. 

“These four employees represent a smattering of the hundreds of experiences District employees undertake each year,” said Colonel Jordan, Baltimore District Commander.

“As we take time in this season of giving to reflect upon those efforts and look forward into the New Year, I encourage every employee to pledge support to the neediest around us,” Jordan continued.

This and every other day, we will be here to partner in building stronger communities.

To view more photos related to this story: