By: Franklyn Baker, President and CEO, United Way of Central Maryland
Across Baltimore and around the region, we are living different experiences depending on our zip code. There are zip codes enjoying growing prosperity at the same time that others are sinking more deeply into poverty. Too many of us don’t cross paths with our neighbors who live in circumstances different from our own, making it challenging for many to envision a region where all of our neighbors thrive. We embrace the values of shared prosperity, but often don’t connect to the actions we can take to propel progress.
The reality is that it does require us – all of us – to take action. To listen, learn, innovate, commit and move forward. All the while remaining agile and ready to respond to neighbors in immediate need.
In my first year as President and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland, I have witnessed families who were once homeless become housed; children who were slipping academically get back on track; and individuals who were once hopeless for the future, regain that hope. This did not happen in a vacuum. This was a result of people and organizations fighting together to improve entire communities…one family, one child, one person at a time. These small victories should be celebrated, yet we must remain committed to bigger goals.
Last year, we released a report that showed fully one-third of working families can’t afford the state’s high cost of living. This report was a resource, rich with data, that helped us educate stakeholders about the scale of the challenge for working Baltimore-area residents. Last February, we relocated our headquarters to Montgomery Park in South Baltimore, moving us out of downtown and closer to communities in need; and allowing us to save more than $2.5 million to reinvest back into these communities over the next 10 years. We, along with partner agencies and organizations, volunteers and donors have made great strides to propel change—continuing our fight for the education, financial stability and health of every person in every community.
But, quite simply…it’s not enough.
We are proud of our history and approach to uniting the community around service. But we risk becoming irrelevant if we aren’t constantly challenging ourselves to make a bigger impact and engage more partners in the fight for the stability that all central Maryland families deserve. Our role in the community, the needs of the community and the way people give back are evolving rapidly. And so, we too, must position the organization for a revolution in our approach.
To do that, we need to be impatient and determined while, at the same time, self-reflective and committed listeners.
This is why, over the next several months, we will transform our organization in partnership with community residents, partner agencies and other stakeholders. United, we will work to identify where and what the biggest needs are, to identify groundbreaking approaches to our most intractable problems and to develop big, measurable community goals.
This initiative, “1,000 Voices,” will include intimate listening sessions and larger community conversations across the region over the next four months. Each community, each neighborhood, each family and individual that wishes to participate will be invited to engage with us.
We don’t have all the answers, but are confident that in partnership with the community, we can marshal our collective intelligence and ingenuity to move the needle for Maryland families. Your input will be the foundation for defining and acting on future goals. Whether you are a long-time supporter, or barely know us, we invite you to join us on this collaborative journey.
United Way unites. We bring together people, communities and neighborhoods. We bring together volunteers, donors and corporations. We bring together resources, experts and non-profit partners. We create the forum and platform for the change we need and want, in Baltimore City, and Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Carroll and Anne Arundel Counties.
Our fight has only just begun.
For more than 90 years, United Way of Central Maryland has been improving lives in the communities it serves: Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County, Maryland.
United Way of Central Maryland is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization! | Tax ID: 52-0591543