Robin and Jimmy Wood

Robin is an OSI-Baltimore Board Member

Robin Williams was a California girl and Jimmy Wood, a native Baltimorean whose grandfather, Carl Murphy, published The Afro-American newspapers. Both attended the University of California at Irvine—she as an undergrad and he for med school after earning his bachelor’s degree from then-named Morgan State College. They met through mutual friends and re-connected later when she was in law school at UC-Berkeley and he was doing his orthopedic residency in San Francisco.

They moved to Baltimore in 1995, when Jimmy had the opportunity to return to his hometown to become director of the orthopedic faculty practice at Sinai Hospital. For the past five years, he has been chief of orthopedics at Harbor Hospital and Robin threw herself into nonprofit work in Baltimore, first with the Community Law Center. She has served on the boards of Associated Black Charities, Safe and Sound, the Baltimore School for the Arts and the Baltimore Community Foundation boards. In 2008, Robin joined the OSI-Baltimore board of directors. She is also now attending the University Of Maryland School of Law.

What motivated you to try to help solve Baltimore's problems?

Robin: When we moved to Baltimore, we really wanted to live in the city and be part of the city's renaissance. Kurt Schmoke was mayor—Jimmy had grown up playing Little League with him—and it was an exciting time. Baltimore was known as a great place to live if you were in a certain socio-economic strata but a very hard place if you weren't. I was looking to be involved with organizations trying to change those dynamics.

Jimmy: In my work, I see the results of the city's problems—the gunshot wounds and broken families. When I ask patients about their children, I often hear mothers and fathers talk about one being killed or lost to the streets. I hear about how substance abuse has played a devastating role in families' lives. What we see in the hospital are the consequences of doing too little to solve the underlying problems. But I firmly believe that change can happen if we have the will.

Why OSI-Baltimore?

Jimmy: When you listen to OSI people and you look at the problems they are attacking and the way they approach it, it's a rational, realistic, comprehensive approach.

How did you get involved with philanthropy?

Robin: We've always been supportive of organizations with which we have had some affiliation. We both have family legacies of stepping up to address the challenges of our communities. I think individuals can and should make an investment in improving where they live. Baltimore has difficult problems to solve but they are solvable problems.

Jimmy: If people have the will to help their fellow man, they should be willing to give resources, which could be money, ideas or time.

What are the greatest challenges facing philanthropy?

Jimmy: Making it relevant to people of means and making them feel they can have a meaningful impact.

What observations can you make about African- American philanthropy?

Robin: In black culture, we often make a huge commitment to our churches and to sororities or fraternities, and many people do internal philanthropy such as taking in a troubled sibling's children or underwriting a relative's college education. It's more personal and urgent. I also think a lot of people feel Baltimore has these huge problems that are hard to tackle. A program like 'The Wire' reinforces that. To me, it's important to show people that there is all this great work going on, and a huge pool of knowledge about what works—and that if we are committed, we can do it. We want more people to have a sense of that.

What inspires you most?

Jimmy: One of my great inspirations is watching people improve. I see the glass as half full. I love seeing a change in people's attitudes, seeing hope instead of despair. I love seeing people work hard at being their best, and I love the change that comes because of it. How do you see the city's future?

Robin: If we decide this is something we want to do as a community, we can do it. It's a question of how many people are going to get on that train. Is it more important to play another round of golf or can we make some time to be part of work that can change all of our lives in a positive way?