A week before Christmas, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Maryland office staff members volunteered for the day at Bea Gaddy's Women and Children Center in East Baltimore instead of having an office holiday party. They helped the center bag food for homeless people and sorted through several thousand gifts slated to go to children in 300 families in East Baltimore. They organized boxes of toys and carried them to the nearby Patterson Park Recreation Center for a neighborhood Christmas party. Parents could pick up presents, fruit, school supplies, and toothbrushes to give to the children on Christmas Day.
Instead of buying gifts for each other, the Maryland office purchased 100 sets of winter gloves and hats to donate to the Center. It gave them a whole new take on Christmas. "Perspective is a powerful thing," said Kim Coble, Executive Director for the Maryland office. "We were all overwhelmed by the experience."
"This sort of giving is integral to saving the Bay," Kim continued. "These people are our neighbors. They live in the Chesapeake watershed. We tend to think of other people like farmers and anglers as benefiting from a healthy Bay. We don't often think of poor inner city folks as stakeholders, but they are—as are subsistence anglers and crabbers in Baltimore's Harbor, city dwellers, all potential constituents who need clean water just as much as the rest of us do.
"Making a community stronger makes the Bay stronger. We're developing our ties to non-traditional constituents. The first step is reaching out to them in their community, deepening our understanding of how our work can serve them (and in the process, strengthening our own team). This was an out-of-the-box experience for all of us; it brought us back to basics."
Afterward, the team gathered at a staff member's house in Fells Point to exchange gifts, all of which were homemade or locally grown. Gifts ranged from wreaths, tree ornaments, and fresh-baked scones to home-brew and a carved wooden bowl. The simplicity of the gifts and the time together in shared tasks made the day a special experience. "Bea Gaddy was all about giving, about community, and the power of both," Kim remarked. "By spending the day at her center, we gained more than we gave."
Find out more about the late Bea Gaddy, a legendary and remarkable advocate for the poor and homeless in Baltimore.
(top row, from left) CBF staff: Alan Girard, Rob Vaughn, Sandra Smith, Erik Fisher, Marcy Damon, Kim Coble, Jenn Aiosa, Peter Bouxsein, Terry Cummings (bottom row, from left) Bea Gaddy staff: Elaine Martin, Dennis Parish; CBF staff: Rob Schnabel
Photo by Jennifer Donnelly, CBF Staff