UM SSW Partnership Strengthens Baltimore Nonprofits
A group of young people selected for their leadership skills has completed the inaugural program of Public Allies Maryland, a partnership between the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW) and a national program supported by AmeriCorps. Working in ways to strengthen the capacity of nonprofit organizations, the 20 Allies have put in more than 30,000 hours of community service in the Baltimore area.
They were applauded during a ceremony on July 30 by representatives of several of the 18 nonprofit organizations and by relatives and members of the SSW staff and faculty. The setting for the tribute, over box lunches at the Southern Management Corporation Campus Center, was the same as for the program's launch last October.
Dean Richard Barth, PhD, MSW, sent greetings in which he recalled the exhilaration that surrounded the induction last fall. Barth described progress in the initial year as "nothing short of spectacular," in remarks delivered on his behalf by Dick Cook, MSW, director of the School of Social Work's Community Outreach Services (SWCOS). Cook urged the Allies to use the experience as "a building block" for the future and congratulated them for making "a tremendous difference" in Baltimore.
SWCOS runs the program, which includes weekly training on campus, under the direction of H. Ted Busch, MSW, a clinical instructor for the School and for SWCOS. He summed up the work over a 10-month period. Public Allies Maryland helped more than 10,000 people and recruited nearly 1,000 volunteers to help further the work of host organizations, some of which he named.
"These Allies have helped underserved populations receive earned benefits through their work at the Baltimore Cash Campaign," Busch said. "They have helped young students build their self esteem and increase their connection to the education system through their work at Community Law in Action and Stadium School Youth Dreamers."
Christina Drushel, an Ally at Youth Dreamers, has blogged about the sense of excitement as Baltimore teens helped push through renovation of a house as a youth center. "I can see it every time there is a new furniture delivery or the students finish a project in the house; and I can hear it whenever the students laugh and cheer for their accomplishments." In helping the teens to engage the surrounding community, Drushel also facilitated building a horseshoe pit to give neighbors outdoor recreation.
Working in three teams, Allies improved life in several parts of the city, including Stadium Place and Fells Point. In Southwest Baltimore, they helped create a "Cleaning and Greening" day, holding workshops for kids to paint pots and fill neighborhood planters with plants.
Cris Ros Dukler, MS, chief operating officer for Public Allies, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that is the groups' parent organization, congratulated each participant and urged the group to derive lifelong satisfaction "in the neighborhood, not the marketplace." Public Allies is an AmeriCorps grantee that has expanded nationally from 18 sites last year to 21 this year.
Locally the program will grow from 20 to 25 slots, for which more than 120 applicants are competing. Their interest has been fueled in part by the making of a recruitment video that pitted Public Allies Miami against Public Allies Maryland. The latter's senior program manager, Laura Bumiller, MSW, said the contest was decided by measuring each group's use of social media to promote itself. The outcome: Maryland beat Miami.
Participants receive a monthly stipend, among other benefits. Funding of $510,000 for the 2009-2010 program included $151,200 in federal stimulus money. Support also comes from the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Charitable Funds and Bank of America.