The President's Message

President's Message, Bruce Jarrell

Each month, The President’s Message updates the UMB community on University initiatives; spotlights faculty, staff, and student achievements; and promotes upcoming UMB events.

Celebrating Community Engagement and Ringing in the New Year

January 2023

I speak frequently about UMB’s commitment to the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore, most recently in my President’s Message column in December and my State of the University Address in November. In both instances, I said that I hope to see even more positive change in Baltimore and around the state. And, because of UMB’s commitment as an anchor institution and commitment to our West Baltimore neighbors, I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the inspiring ways that UMB created some “holiday magic” for our neighbors.

Every November, UMB’s Staff Senate and Office of Community Engagement (OCE) collaborate to provide Thanksgiving meals for our neighbors in West Baltimore. In 2022, UMB combined efforts with the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) — another important anchor institution in Baltimore — and WJZ-TV to maximize the reach and impact of the annual Thanksgiving Drive. The goal was to raise $45,000, which the team of UMB, UMMC, and WJZ-TV surpassed by raising $54,769. Because of this effort, 1,484 families in West Baltimore received Thanksgiving baskets that contained a frozen turkey, a box of fresh produce from Hungry Harvest, and a booklet of heart-healthy recipes.

In December, UMB opened its annual Christmas Store at the Community Engagement Center (CEC). The store, which is a collaboration between the CEC and the Foundry Church, added WJZ-TV as a partner in 2022. The Christmas Store works directly with parents so they can pick toys and gifts for their families. Donors purchased more than 1,000 full-priced toys through an online gift registry, then parents were allowed to buy the toys at a steep discount, with most of them between $1 and $5. This model allows neighbors to select gifts for their loved ones and makes parents the “heroes of Christmas.” The money collected from the purchase of toys is donated back to the West Baltimore community, with the 2022 recipients being youth organizations such as 10:12 Sports and the Safe Alternative Foundation for Education. In addition, the Maryland Book Bank set up at the Christmas Store and allowed every shopper to pick a book for each of their children and a holiday-themed book to read as a family at no charge.

To top it off, on Dec. 19, children and families from West Baltimore received free tickets to ride the Polar Express Experience, an immersive holiday-themed train ride at the B&O Railroad Museum based on the book and animated movie “The Polar Express.” The 76 tickets were provided by a sponsorship from UMB in a collaboration between OCE and the Office of Communications and Public Affairs. Each participating child received a copy of “The Polar Express” book and a set of Christmas pajamas in their size to wear for the ride. Dancing chefs brought out hot chocolate and cookies for everyone, and the ride culminated with a visit from Santa Claus and the gift of a silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. Once off the train, families could explore the museum’s Roundhouse, which was decorated like the North Pole, and get a photo-op with Santa. It was a joyful experience not only for the families who participated, but also for the UMB folks who made it happen.

These are but three instances of how UMB made a little holiday magic happen for our neighbors, but there are countless other ways we can support one another throughout the year. As we start a new year, I am energized in thinking about how UMB will continue to expand our impact to create positive change in West Baltimore and throughout the state.

We are committed to Maryland, to Baltimore, and to our neighbors — and I hope that you are committed to getting involved.


Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS