Some of the most vibrant social entrepreneurs in Baltimore City are also OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows. They’re a corps of more than 200 activists, artists, leaders, and conveners dedicated to serving underserved communities in Baltimore. Not surprisingly, many are pivoting, adjusting, or refocusing their mission to respond directly to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mariah Bonkowski (2019 Fellow), who was recently profiled in the Baltimore Sun, continues to provide hygiene products through her project Parts of Peace pantry locations to those who can’t afford them. Learn more here.
Rebecca Yenawine (1999 Fellow) recently began a campaign with the Teacher’s Democracy Project in coordination with the Baltimore City Public Schools, to collect used tablets and laptop for students in the City Schools.
Soccer Without Borders, founded in Baltimore by 2011 Fellow Jill Pardini, launched a Stay At Home Season which aims to help their young athletes cope with the lockdown by giving them a sense of belonging alongside their teammates and coaches, helping them build a routine that is physically and mentally healthy, and establishing fun moments to look forward to each week.
Wide Angle Youth Media, founded by 2001 Fellow Gin Ferrara and now headed by Susan Malone, is working with their students to help them to continue to learn and earn income through stipends and virtual work while on lockdown.
Two alumni Fellows, Sarah Hemminger (Thread, 2009) and J.C. Faulk (Circles of Voices, 2016), are working on Food with a Focus, a grocery distribution effort with houses of worship distribution network. The pilot program was launched by Circles of Voices and New Psalmist Church and has now expanded to 13 sites.
Next One Up, founded by Matt Hanna (2013), is providing several levels of support for its students, from loaning laptops, supplemental materials, and test prep to help with educational development to daily workout challenges and fitness suggestions to keep their athletes engaged in physical activity. Staff continues to have daily remote check-ins with students and the organization recently distributed over 600 trays of chicken, pasta, meatballs, salad and bread to over 125 Next One Up families.
Dent Education, co-founded by 2018 Fellow Jackie Bello, has set up an operation to have students build PPE at home. Currently, 18 students have started to make over 2,000 face shields, and the organization is quickly ramping up and on track to reach their goal of 10,000 face shields in one month.
Gianna Rodriquez (2016), founder of Baltimore Youth Arts, has moved its programming on-line. The organization is still paying staff and students for their work and are preparing to accept 10 new young people from the juvenile justice system into the program. They are also posting COVID-19 information and resources on their website.
As a member of the Cherry Hill Crisis Response Team, Black Yield Institute, founded by 2017 Community Fellow Erik Jackson, led an effort to support elders, children, and families nun Cherry Hill and beyond by facilitating the sharing of nearly 5200 meals, along with 200 total bags of activities and hygiene products in just a 5-day period.
Marvin Hayes (2019), who’s program, Baltimore Compost Collective is part of the recently-saved Filbert Street Garden, founded by 2011 Community Fellow Jason Reed, is looking forward to continuing to be a food resource for the surrounding Curtis Bay community during the pandemic. Read about the progress of the garden here, after it was nearly replaced by a DPW pumping station.
Clay Pots, founded by 2009 Fellow Dwayne Hess, is a neighborhood center that provides space for growth through education, art, and community building. Currently the organization is moving their GED preparation classes and tutoring online. They have also been offering other online opportunities such as yoga, and their Narcotics Anonymous group has creatively reinvented itself to follow guidelines for social distancing while continuing to meet in person as not everyone has the technology to join an online meeting.
Debbie Ramsey’s (2016) Unified Efforts is working to develop their summer camp in ways that will still serve the community of the community, families, and their children while still staying within the social distancing guidelines mandated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Intercultural Counseling Connection’s founder Lauren Goodsmith (2012) is working to make sure her organization continues to provide remote pro bono therapeutic services for asylum seekers and other forced migrant survivors of extreme violence and trauma in the greater Baltimore area. Clinical staff and volunteer therapists are also making check-in/wellness calls to clients and coordinating with our partner organization, Asylee Women Enterprise, to ensure that basic needs are being supported through delivery of groceries and/or store cards, household and baby care supplies.
Access Art, co-founded by 2003 Fellow Shawn James, is currently serving as a temporary food bank. The organization had been given a grant to restructure and rebuild the food bank in a partnering school, but since schools are closed, Access Art has been distributing to the public.
Kendra Summers (2019 Casa Amable) has been working with Mera Kitchen Collective, World Central Kitchen, and the Greater Baybrook Alliance to safely distribute 100s of hot dinners (every Monday to Friday) to Latinx families in Brooklyn and Curtis Bay. The group is also passing out donated supplies (face masks, toiletries, school supplies, etc) and also reminding people to complete the census for their household while explaining the importance and safety of it. Summers is also working with School 203 in Brooklyn to support Latinx families that need assistance using their school provided Chromebooks, linking into online classrooms on their own devices, answering questions about completing school work with their children, and linking them to various resources to make getting through this time easier.
Baltimore Youth Kinetic Energy Collective (BYKE), (Chavi Rhodes, 2015) under new leadership of Jasper H. Barnes, launched a mobile bike repair service to Baltimore city youth and community residents, BYKE InsideOut. BYKE also launch a social distancing bike ride challenge, Spokenrides. Participants are instructed to use a GPS systems to ride (write) out letters and words to our writing prompts.
Dinorah Olmos (2019) has taken the work with her organization, La Escuela, sus Hijos y Usted, online, doing live interviews every Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm to provide information to parents about distance education on Facebook and will soon begin on-line workshops.
Wanda Best (Food System Development, 2001), as Executive Director of the Upton Planning Committee reports that the Upton community is currently supporting several outreach efforts for food security by providing all of the community school staff with healthy meals on days that they have to report to schools to distribute study packages and notebooks. The Committee also partnered with the University of Maryland Medical Center to distribute meals, facilitated getting Freshly meals to the City at McCulloh Apartment Complex for Seniors and the Disabled, coordinating with several faith-based organizations and the YMCA to provide weekly food distributions to residents, and working with small businesses along the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor create e-Commerce platforms.
Writers In Baltimore Schools, founded in 2008 by Fellow Patrice Hutton has moved its programming online and were recently able to shift transportation funding to buy the students laptops at their Calverton site; however, many of their middle school students in their in-school/after-school programs don’t have devices and wifi at home. WBS is actively fundraising money to buy laptops for students at other partner schools.
Bikemore, founded by 2012 Fellow Chris Merriam (now lead by Liz Cornish), is teaming up with Real Food Farm to deliver food to elderly Baltimore City residents who might be wary of going into public spaces during the pandemic.
Matthew Burke, 2017 Fellow and founder of Food Rescue Baltimore, is working with 4MyCity and SoWhatElse to coordinate free food pickup for groups working in struggling neighborhoods, who are not currently operating with any major food supply base of their own and/or who have additional resources that they are able to share with others in this respective network, like toiletries, diapers, clothes, volunteer support, and the like.
Amy Tenney, another 2017 Fellow, who developed RICH in Music: Refugee – Immigrant Connection & Healing to provide music therapy for refugees, asylum seekers, and other humanitarian migrants in Baltimore, is continuing to provide positive music experiences virtually.
The Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts and Entertainment District, led by Brion Gill, poet, activist and 2015 OSI Community Fellow, has been hosting a series of free virtual concerts via Instagram Live (@officialblackartsdistrict), featuring Tate Kobang, Deetranada, Davon Fleming, and George Lovett.